Thursday, October 16, 2014

Peter Carl Faberge: One of History's Most Important Jewelers

Equestrian Faberge Egg
Equestrian Egg for Alexander III
Courtesy of Stan Shebb
Peter Carl Faberge, or simply Carl Faberge, is the jeweler behind Faberge eggs. His creations have been highly sought after for more than one hundred years. He crafted many wares, but his eggs were, and remain, his most popular items. They were so popular during his lifetime that the last tsars of Russia purchased at least one a year after Faberge's talent was discovered and before the October Revolution in Russia. At that time, Carl's talents were no longer needed. His royal patrons were dead. 

Peter Carl Faberge was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on May 30, 1846. His father was a jeweler who had opened a shop in St. Petersburg in 1842. The family was of French descent, but they would find their fortune and fame in Russia. They moved to Dresden, Germany in 1860. At that time, Carl went to school to learn his father's craft. He also did his goldsmith apprenticeship in Germany - at the House of Friedman, to be exact.

Carl Faberge completed his education in 1864, at which time he returned to St. Petersburg and began working in his father's shop. He took over the business in 1872. He spent roughly the first ten years of his career cataloguing the objects in the Russian coffers. He also created pieces of his own, most of them of the style that was popular at the time--nothing like the intricate pieces he began creating in the 1880s. Carl had a younger brother named Agathon who also became a jeweler. He came to work with Carl and the two of them made the business famous.

Agathon and Carl Faberge decided to make pieces that were far more detailed than what was available at the time. When they brought some of these to an exhibition attended by Tsar Alexander III and his wife, their surname became famous. Carl became the jeweler to the tsars in 1885, under Tsar Alexander III. He made (or had his skilled artisans make) one egg for the tsar every year, which Alexander gave to his wife. After Alexander died, his son--Tsar Nicholas II--continued the tradition, but he required two eggs a year. He gave one to his wife and one to his mother. Faberge also made an egg to commemorate the last tsar's coronation. Inside the egg was a small golden replica of the coach Nicholas rode that day.

Carl Faberge's star had risen. He hired talented artisans to handle his commissions and expanded his business beyond Russia. He became Sweden's Court Goldsmith in 1897. In 1910, he got the same position in Russia. Unfortunately, seven years later, the monarchy in Russia was destroyed. Shortly after, many of the Romanovs were murdered. Rather than see if the Bolsheviks would be kind to the man who supplied bejeweled Easter eggs to Russian royal family, Carl went into exile. He died in Lausanne, Switzerland on September 24, 1920.

Today, Carl Faberge's objects are kept in museums and auctioned to wealthy collectors. Some of them are worth millions of dollars. What's more important is their historical significance. Many of these eggs belonged to a family that went from being the most important family in Russia to being slaughtered by angry revolutionaries.


Faberge-Art, retrieved 12/13/10,

The World of Peter Carl Faberge, retrieved 12/13/10

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ernest Hemingway's Childhood

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway circa 1905
Ernest Hemingway is one of the most beloved and talented American authors of all time. He was born on July 21, 1899 to Dr. Clarence Hemingway and his wife, Grace Hall Hemingway. Ernest was born in the house that was built by his grandfather on North Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois. He had one older sister at the time of his birth and would eventually have three more sisters and one brother.

Ernest grew up in Oak Park, which was a tight knit religious community. Ernest would refer to the town later in life as a place that contained “wide lawns and narrow minds.” His mother taught music to the children in the community and she also taught music to her children. Ernest took voice lessons and learned to play the cello from his mother. However, the influence that Grace Hall Hemingway had on her son was not all good.

Until Ernest was six years old, his mother dressed him and his older sister Marcelline as twins, which they were not. The oddest thing about this behavior was that she would either dress them both as girls or both as boys. Grace was also exempt from doing household chores, which Clarence would take care of for her, despite his work as a doctor. Rumor has it that Grace nagged her husband relentlessly. Ernest apparently blamed his father’s suicide in 1928 on his mother. He said later in life that “My mother is an all time all American *expletive deleted* and she would make a pack mule shoot himself; let alone poor bloody father.”

Ernest’s relationship with his father was quite different from the one he had with his mother. Clarence spent a lot of time teaching his son how to fish and hunt in the Lake Michigan area. The Hemingways spent their summers at Windemere, the family’s summer home. Ernest spent that time fishing and hunting with his father or on his own. His love for the outdoors would continue throughout his life.

Ernest Hemingway attended the Oak Park public schools. He kept notebooks and journals as he got older and by the time he was in high school, it had become obvious that Ernest wanted to be a writer. He wrote for the school’s newspaper, the “Trapeze” and he also wrote for the school’s yearbook, the Tabula. Ernest also played several sports in high school. He wasn’t bad, but he was never a star athlete either. He graduated high school at the age of seventeen.

After Ernest’s graduation his parents expected him to go off to college, but he had different plans. He immediately went to work at the Kansas City Star. That was the start of his long and prolific career as a journalist and an author.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Apollonius of Tyana: An Alternate Jesus

Apollonius of Tyana is said to have been a neo-Pythagorean philosopher, miracle worker, teacher and traveler. Some compare him to Jesus Christ. Others say he was the inspiration for the story of Jesus Christ. Others still say that Apollonius of Tyana was dropped in favor of Jesus Christ when the Christians decided who to believe was the true son of God. Like Jesus Christ, the story of Apollonius of Tyana's life is in question. The story is real enough and quite old, but what about the man and his miracles?

The precise birth date of Apollonius of Tyana is unknown. The birth date of Jesus Christ is also unknown, but sometimes asserted and speculated upon. However, it is generally thought that the two lived around the same time. The most common estimates for his birth put it around 15 CE and his death around 100 CE, though some quote his lifespan as "more than 100 years," which would make those dates inaccurate. Another kink in the estimate is that some say he was older than Jesus Christ. The above dates would make him slightly younger than the commonly cited date of Jesus Christ's birth. Since there are no contemporary sources for either of their births, there is no way of knowing which, if any, of these estimates are correct. We can say that if Apollonius of Tyana lived, he did so in the first century. If Jesus also lived, he did so in the same century as Apollonius of Tyana.

Apollonius of Tyana is credited with similar qualities as Jesus Christ. They both are said to have ascended to Heaven. There are stories of both performing miracles. They were both spiritual teachers. However, they did not have identical beliefs. Jesus taught his followers that God answers prayers. Apollonius of Tyana believed in a god who was pure intellect and taught his followers that the only way to converse with God was through intellect. He taught that prayers and sacrifice were useless and that God really did not want to converse with men. In this way, they would have been in competition with each other if they preached in the same areas. Some say that they were and that they did.

Apollonius of Tyana's name stems from where he was born -- Tyana in Cappadocia. That is in modern-day Turkey. It is said that he also traveled to Greece and Syria. Jesus traveled in the Middle East as well. There are also claims that he went to India during the years of his life for which the Bible does not account. Therefore, there is a chance that the two did cross paths and compete with one another for followers. However, the similarities could also be explained by crossover stories. Furthermore, there is absolutely no mention of Apollonius of Tyana in the stories of Jesus and there is no mention of Jesus in the stories of Apollonius. Apart from speculation, there is no reason to believe the two ever met, if they existed.

When it comes to the miracles of Apollonius of Tyana, the veracity of those claims falls to personal beliefs. It is said that he saw a vision of the death of Emperor Domitian as it occurred. He reportedly cleansed a boy of demons or a demon. Some stories of his demise, which is also quite a mystery, say that he disappeared while on trial for "magic" and ascended into Heaven. These stories cannot be proven. If Apollonius were found to have not existed, it would be easy to say these miracles did not happen. Otherwise, it is a personal choice to believe them or not to believe them.

The most pressing question, which is that of his existence, is actually the least complicated mystery concerning Apollonius of Tyana. The most extensive and earliest lengthy biography on the man is a work by Philostratus written in 225 CE. That does nothing to prove his existence. There is no way to say whether the sources Philostratus cites truly existed or whether he was making it up. He certainly never met the man. Nonetheless, there are numerous letters and pieces of work by Apollonius of Tyana that exist to this day. In this way, Apollonius is more provable than Jesus Christ. Many of the proposed documents are likely to be frauds. However, at least one in particular -- an excerpt of his "On Sacrifices" -- is regarded as genuine, as in a piece written by Apollonius of Tyana himself. It is by no means absolutely certain that Apollonius of Tyana lived. Nonetheless, it is easier to entertain than stories of other miracle workers that appeared in history hundreds of years after their deaths and who left behind no contemporary writings.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Amelia Earhart: America's Most Beloved Aviatrix

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was a record-breaking aviatrix who was smart, beautiful and a wonderful role model for young women of her time and beyond. She was a pioneer in aviation and set new standards for female pilots. However, she did not only break records for women; she broke records, period. Anything that hadn’t been done before, she would try.  She also organized flying competitions for women, and she was the founder of the famous Ninety-Nines. Today, she is mostly known for her unfortunate death, but she led a much more extraordinary life.

Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 to Amy and Edwin Earhart. She was born at her maternal grandparents’ home in Atchison, Kansas while her father was away working as a lawyer. She had one sibling, a younger sister named Muriel. Amelia and Muriel stayed with their grandparents and went to private schools that were payed for by them. When Amelia was ten, her mother went to live with her father in Des Moines, Iowa. It would be two years before Muriel and Amelia went to live with them.

When Amelia was ten, she and her sister joined their parents in Des Moines. Shortly thereafter, Amelia Earhart saw her first airplane while at the state fair with her father. Unfortunately, Edwin Earhart wasn’t very successful in his business life and he was disliked by his in-laws. He began drinking heavily and by the time Amelia was sixteen, Edwin was jobless and a full-time drunk. Her mother decided to take her and Muriel to Chicago, where they stayed with a friend of Amy’s.

In 1917, at the age of twenty, Amelia decided to go into training to become a nurse. Upon completion of her training, she volunteered at a military hospital until the end of the first World War. The following year she began medical studies at Columbia University. Soon after, in 1920, Edwin and Amy got back together and asked Amelia to come live with them in California. She took them up on the offer and abandoned her studies to be with her family.

A few months after moving to California, Amelia and Edwin Earhart went on a plane ride. It was the first time Amelia had ever been up in the air and she loved it. She began taking lessons with an accomplished female instructor soon after. Around this time she bought her first airplane, a Kinner prototype, which she famously crashed. The plane was easily fixed and she continued with her lessons, later flying solo until her father filed for divorce and Amelia chose to sell her plane to buy an automobile.

The women of the Earhart family decided that they should move to Boston. Muriel went ahead of Amelia and Amy to established a home for them there. The other two drove across the country to Boston in Amelia’s new car. After Amelia arrived in Boston, she joined the Boston chapter of the National Aeronautic Association. In 1926, Amelia got a phone call that would initiate the changing of history. Captain H.H. Riley called to ask her if she would like to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, she did.

On June 18, 1928, Earhart left Nova Scotia on her first trip across the Atlantic Ocean. The trip was successful. A new record had been set. However, she had only been a passenger and this did not suit headstrong Amelia. She went back home and did publicity tours, continued flying, wrote a book and formed the Ninety-Nines.

During this downtime between record-breaking flights, Amelia met and fell in love with editor George Putnam. This must have been difficult because he was married when they first met. There were rumors of an illicit affair, but it is likely that they were just friends at the start. Putnam’s wife left him eventually. Afterward, he proposed to Amelia several times before she finally said yes. The couple got married on February 7, 1931. A little over a year later, she was back to making history.

On May 20, 1932, Amelia Earhart left on the flight that would make her the second person (the first being Charles Lindbergh) to fly solo across the Atlantic. She not only succeeded, but she did so in record time. Two years later she was the first person to fly from Hawaii to California. She then set her sights on a trip around the world.

It was on July 2, 1937, that Amelia Earhart left on her ill-fated trip around the world with her navigator Fred Noonan. The pair made several stops to refuel and get provisions. Nearly two-thirds of the journey was complete when they ran into some trouble. They were having difficulty establishing their location and made several radio transmissions in an attempt to recover, the last of which was heard at 20:14 GMT on July 2, 1937. Amelia Earhart was never seen or heard from again.

It is estimated that she must have gone down within 100 miles of Howland Island. That means she made it an astounding (for the time) 22,000 miles before disappearing. She broke at least one record on this flight, but it was overshadowed by loss. Attempts were made to locate the beloved aviatrix, her navigator and her plane, but no traces of any of them were ever found.

Amelia Earhart was only 40 years old when she died. She broke many records during her short life, but more importantly she set an example for young women that still has significance more than 70 years after her tragic death. She left behind an amazing legacy that is truly a gift to American history.


Amelia Earhart 1897-1937, retrieved 8/16/09,

Biography of Amelia Earhart, retrieved 8/16/09,