The concept behind the GPS – where am I, anyway? – is nothing new. Guidebooks and maps have been available for centuries to aid travelers. Few maps, however, are as unique as this one: a Victorian lady's glove that promised to keep the wearer from becoming lost by placing directions literally in the palm of her hand.
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations that took place in Hyde Park, London, in the summer of 1851 was one of the first of the grand international exhibitions of the 19th c. Over six million people attended the Exhibition, streaming into London from every corner of the world. These gloves were created by George Shove as a fashionably discrete way for an out-of-towner to find her way about town. The map printed on the palm shows not only the famous Crystal Palace, the center of the Exhibition, but also other popular tourist destinations like Kensington Gardens, the British Museum, and St. Paul's Cathedral: an amusing, useful souvenir of London.
Those are the facts behind this handy map. But, being a writer with the usual writer's over-active imagination, I can't help but think of other, fictional purposes for such a glove. What about a pair for the hapless maidservant who, although fleet of foot while on errands for her mistress, could never quite recall directions to his destination? Or even more intriguing, why not for the young gentleman setting out on a night of entertainment, his gloves ready to guide him home again no matter how much he over-indulged?
Glove Map of London, George Shove, 1861, The National Archives of the United Kingdom
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.