Depicting a coterie of modernising autocrats, this poster by an unknown 19th Century engraver subsequently served as unaccredited inspiration for many a Manhattanite artiste and plagiarist.


Working by special appointment, the House of Fabergé supplied a variety of ordinance for the Tsar’s personal elite Lieb-Gvardia {Life-Guards} regiments. These hand grenades, while commonly lethal, also ensured a generous pension for anybody who survived an encounter with them in combat, provided said survivor retained sufficient presence of mind to request any extracted shrapnel from the attending surgeons. This no doubt accounts to no small extent for the zeal with which revolutionary fighters laid siege to Romanoff palaces during the uprisings of the early 20th Century.


Progenitor of the foodtruck, the LK {Luftküche, or Aerial-kitchen} series airships produced by the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH throughout the first quarter of the 20th Century offered the distinct advantage of being able to serve hungry patrons in any locale equipped with a small mooring mast. This fragment is all that remains of the LK 8, “Das Luftwaffel” as it was popularly albeit ungrammatically christened, known for its top-notch breakfast fare. Sadly, the combination of open-flame stoves and hydrogen proved to be inhospitably volatile.


When a quarter century of intensifying pogroms and exclusion acts culminated in the Siege of Chinatown, Empress Dowager Tz’u-hsi found herself incapable of further resisting calls to protect her overseas subjects. Hence the decree to mount the Gold Mountain Relief Expedition – comprised of allied Chinese, Siamese and Yogyakartan marines supported by expatriate Hawaiian and Pinoy guerilla cadres -- which succeeded not only in lifting the siege, but also in returning home with innumerable crates of pisco, the contents of the San Francisco Mint, and the heartfelt apologies of Emperor Norton the First. This medal, featuring a depiction of City Hall razed during the Sack of Market Street, was awarded by Commanding General {and future Hung-hsien Emperor-for-three-months} Yuan Shikai to all victorious combatants. Note the appearance of the simplified Chinese character 里 in lieu of the traditional 裡 in the upper inscription of the central medallion {c.f. the period photographic detail magnified and retouched below}, exposing this otherwise exemplary specimen as a counterfeit of recent manufacture.


At the start of his tragically brief dramaturgical career, Alfred Jarry penned a bouffant farce centered upon the grotesque character of a disintegrating polity’s ludicrously mendacious and irrepressibly truculent despot. Set in the solipsistic and fugacious hermit kingdom of “Manna-hata-upon-Mauritius – that is to say, nowhere convinced it is all and everywhere,” Jarry’s closest absinteurs prevailed upon him to relocate the tale somewhere “less psychically and fiduciarily disheartening, say for example Poland.” In time the play’s first draft, complete with illustrations in Jarry’s own hand, was rediscovered by a family of itinerant Palatinate thespians, who now perform it to great acclaim in its intended original setting as a work of “invisible theater”.


Sims’ Anestheticless Uterine Anchor, a purported remedy for hysterical psychosis attributable to a wandering womb, was perhaps the most frequently prescribed yet commonly noncomplied with prosthetic in gynæcological history.


In the wide and bloody wake of the First Indian Uprising, and of Queen Victoria’s subsequent imposition as Empress of India, there emerged an imperative to persuade restive subcontinentals to their status as imperial subjects. To this end, Britain’s India Office enlisted the respected print artists Muruyakani and Parrab to legitimate the new domestic political reality through a melding of their own popular religious iconography with a range of Britannic signifiers. Owing to lingering indigenous resentment, however, this effort proved less than successful with all but a comprador class.

Thus, a second edition was commissioned, in which representations of more broadly “western” artifacts were substituted for those of a distinctively British character. While these revisions proved similarly problematic for local sensibilities, the image’s widespread diffusion ultimately provided inspiration to innumerable authors and illustrators as far away as Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff.


This tasbih, assembled of improvised components in the field, provided both comfort and quantitative reckoning for participants in the First Persian Antarctic Expedition. Conducted under posthumous imperial sponsorship of Qajar Shah Nasr-ed-Din, the expedition effectively demonstrated the suitability of Bactrian camels for prolonged polar excursions. It proved rather less successful, however, at such tasks as locating Makkah upon establishing camp at the South Pole.

Such importation of exotic fauna, it must be noted, was itself a rare accomplishment. Continental authorities are notoriously zealous in their defense against foreign contagion and infestations, as evidenced in the photograph below of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition’s rigorous pre-disembarkation screening by a wary local quarantine agent.

 
 

While much is known of the marked distaste for militarism shared amongst certain fractions of the French and English intelligentsia, as exemplified by the writings of such luminaries as Verne, Moorcock, and Wells, similarly dissident sentiments were no less prevalent further afield and far earlier. This poster stamp was issued by the Preußischer Bund gegen Kaiserismus {Prussian Alliance Against Caeserism}, founded in the late 18th Century by exiled rogue mineralogist and author Rudolf Erich Raspe.

Conversely, while the Americans and their own roguish authors took up the cause with their usual uniquely ingenuous enthusiasm, they did so belatedly, distracted as they were by such polite euphemisms as “manifest destiny”. This anonymously mass-produced “Imperial Carte-de-Visite” of Samuel Clemens, in mufti during sojourn through the Celestial Kingdom, references his subsequent address to New York’s Berkeley Lyceum preparatory to accepting the Vice-Presidency of the American Anti-Imperialist League, and was to be found announcing opposition to foreign adventurism from household display cabinets all across the United States.


Typical of devotional jewelry worn by congregants of the Heterodox Church of the Tropics, this amulet venerates “the uncounted and uncountable martyrs who died at a distance of two thousand yards for our sins.”


The tactically muted guidon here reconstructed, based upon the Nahuatl glyph for night and decorated with an escalloped edge referencing the obsidian or flint blades of a maquahuitl {war club}, was that of the storied 7th Demi Brigade Tirailleurs Auxiliaries Azteques, zealous ‘Meshiqais’ partisans smuggled across the Atlantic for deployment in Napoleon’s Peninsular War against the Iberian Kingdoms. The exploits of the 7th, most notably its enthusiastic dedication to excardiating foes under cover of darkness, ensured its banner became an inspiration for much later ones flown by Levantine and Balkan fighters {as in the example illustrated below, of the 28th Syriac Cameline Artillery} to ensure good fortune in combat. The widespread belief that this vexillogical diffusion can be attributed to the French occupation of Egypt, however, has proven erroneous. Rather, recent discoveries point towards the same Damascene Armenians responsible for the introduction of kibbeh into the Yucatan.


This Christmas greeting card is amongst the more controversial of its genre, having given rise to the first recorded use of the phrase “zu bald, viel zu bald.”


Amongst the mutilating gears, puncturing needles and scorching furnaces of production, there can also invariably be found the Bodhissima della Morte {Bodhileh fun Toyt in Yiddish}, whether as votive pendant or figurine, safeguarding the welfare of her industrious devotees. This lightly singed faux-jade example, typical of those manufactured en masse for export by the Lucky Eighty-Eight General Manufactory of Kiautschau prior to its lethally accidental immolation, was recovered from a tangle of charred seamstresses wedged against the inside of a barred and bolted exit door of the Kindly Gent Detachable Collar Factory of Lower Manhattan.


Pinback button badges such as this, no matter how ingenious their palatable understatement of the candidates’ affiliation, were woefully inadequate to salvaging what proved to be the most heartbreakingly, and in retrospect lamentably, star-crossed presidential campaign in American history. Nor was the campaign aided by the fact that both candidates were almost as deeply inimical to electoral politics as they were to government in general, let alone that neither was a native-born United States citizen.


Crafted from ersatz barbed wire joined to campaign medal bars appropriated off Schutztruppe {colonial Protective Force} combatants, bracelets in this genre -- many specimens are known to exist, the more common bearing inscriptions like “Hereroland”, “Gross-Namaland” and “Kalahari 1908” -- are commonly misidentified as apotropaic fetishes worn by the indigenous peoples of Deutsch Süd-West-Afrika {German Southwest Africa} to ward off incursions by Mitteleuropean settlers. But the fact that these bracelets are found predominantly on the opposite side of the sandveld, in Great Britain’s adjacent Bechuanaland Protectorate, suggests instead their wear ex post facto by the rare surviving indigenous refugees from said incursions. Thus, such bracelets are more correctly classified as Wilhelmite mourning jewelry.


Entitled “Geleneklerin İhaneti” {“The Treachery of Traditions”}, painter Mustapha Kemal Pasha created this work during his Republican Period in response to the lingering horrors of the Great War. Although highly influential in both the artistic and sartorial arenas, this piece’s impact upon the latter proved less than salubrious with the subsequent discovery that, when confronted with such mishaps as a sudden steam-boiler failure, goggles are far more difficult to lower in a timely fashion from above the brim of a top hat, bowler or homburg.


Once considered extinct or, at best, a living fossil unchanged for four-hundred millennia, the discovery of this unprecedentedly endearing specimen swimming unmolested in a Batavian fish market ignited an equally unprecedented scientific kerfuffle. Marking the species' heretofore unseen evolution of an exaggeratedly doe-eyed countenance and of disproportionately oversized fins yielding the most adorably bumbling of movements, all clearly visible in this hand-tinted illustration from Kawaii Dobutsugaku Zasshi {可愛動物学雑誌, the Journal of Winsome Zoology}, discoverers attributed the specimen’s continued survival to ingrained aversion for slaughtering and devouring any creature of such whimsically delightful aspect. Academic rivals, however, contended that the specimen never would have been consumed regardless its physiognomy, given that high levels of urea and wax esters render the flesh both unpalatable and explosively diarrhetic. The resultant schism, pitting advocates for Survival of the Cutest against those championing Survival of the Yuckiest, has plagued the field of natural history ever since.

Academic debates notwithstanding, admiralties of the Great Powers {as well as that of the United States of America, evinced by the souvenir mailing-card displayed below; similarly cf. the Dai Nippon Teikoku Kaigun’s Kawaii Noir class frigate Badtz Maru} lost no time applying this novel ichthyological lesson to tactical ends through the conscription of surrealists as camoufleurs, ultimately culminating in the most bloodlessly indecisive naval battle in recorded history: upon encountering one another off the coast of Cameroun, the crews of the HMS Adorable and the SMS Kuschelbär proved incapable of even contemplating so heartless an act as opening fire upon one another’s vessels.


It was a well-kept state secret that, due largely to centuries of endogenous breeding, the Hapsburg dynasty had developed a predisposition to such congenital maladies as vampirism, lycanthropy, and even zombifaction. As a result, successive emperors guaranteed the wellbeing of the Austro-Hungarian body politic by specifying that, immediately upon their demise, their internal organs be extracted, sealed into k.u.k. {kaiserlich und königlich} canopic jars such as this, and dispersed to various cathedrals and palace chapels across Vienna and beyond.


To underscore the literal implementation of wakon-yōsai {和魂洋才, roughly translatable as “Japanese spirit, Western techne”} in the presence of the Emperor himself, the Kunai-shō {Imperial Household Ministry} took charge of repopulating the palace precincts with only the most up-to-date of domesticated tsukumogami {tool-spirits}. While objects of everyday use naturally acquire souls only after the passage of a full century, the Kunai-shō succeeded in adapting the latest imported technologies so as to condense the process into a few short weeks. This ambrotype depicts one such resultant imperial tsukumogami, a shinchōchinobake {new-lantern-ghost} availing itself of a rare solitary moment to pay respects to its inanimate ancestors.

Such enlisted tsukumogami proved a similarly potent means to secure the restoration of imperial authority beyond the palace grounds, as with the tennōnomokumokuren {heavenly-sovereign’s-lord-many-eyes} here so engrossed in the act of domestic intelligence gathering as to have overlooked the stereographer entirely. Created as a less unsavory replacement for outcaste okappiki police informants, tennōnomokumokuren were particularly adept at scoping out homegrown malcontents and seditionists.


Created with the gentleman expeditionist in mind, Morgan & Appleton’s Cultural Cognizance Cards were claimed to provide a compact and ready reference system “…whereby the weary and befuddled traveler, through the most cursory observation and cataloguing of superficial differences plainly evident to even a schoolchild, may gauge with scientific accuracy the condition of the society in which he finds himself deposited.” These cards, of which only a small sample is displayed here, proved so popular – endorsed by such celebrities as Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton and routinely issued by military high commands, colonial offices and ministries of foreign affairs – that decks were ultimately produced not only in the original English {British and American editions} but also in the French, Dutch, Portuguese and, belatedly, German and Italian languages. Conversely, the Russian language edition was considerably less successful, and a grudging attempt to adapt the deck for Japanese usage was exceedingly poorly received.


Friction, whether temporal, spatial or mechanical, is the greatest threat to overseas commerce. As the earliest truly circumnavigational power, the Spanish Crown was well aware of this problematic and, in so being, arrived at the ineluctable solution: lubrication. This was supplied most expeditiously by  Spain’s own overseas indigenous subjects, rendering immense per annum yields of grasa humana used for everything from salving wounds, to greasing rails and engines, to oiling industrial machinery. The extraction process was not, however, an aesthetically pleasant one, necessitating posters such as this to enlist both popular enthusiasm and personnel for the task.  Such propaganda campaigns continued uninterrupted until the seizure of Nueva España’s grasa humana reservoirs and refineries, by the United States of America, some four centuries after the industry’s foundation.


Kiosks such as this were both fruit and sentinels of the early 20th Century’s revolutionary fervor, dispensing guaranteed minimums of sustenance in the form of a regularized “worker’s energy provision” {Пролетарская Энергетическая Заготовка, i.e. Prolyetarskaya Enyergyetichyeskaya Zagotovka, most commonly referred to for reasons of convenience simply by its three letter acronym} from the east bank of the Elbe River to the Alashan edge of the Gobi Desert. Having long since fallen into utter disrepair, however, they stand now as inert and emptied cenotaphs to the dialectical contradictions inherent in the practical implementation of any utopian ideal.

While commonly associated in the popular imagination with the redistribution of material sustenance of all forms, Karl Marx himself was first and foremost a skilled milliner specifically concerned with the broad and equitable provision of headdress, in keeping with his compatriot Friedrich Engel’s own admonition that in matters of liberation {as with anything else} “…one can’t do that, without a hat”. Therefore, and contrary to the assertions of detractors, it cannot be emphasized sufficiently that Herr Marx distributed only the most innocent of hats, becoming ones at that, and certainly not some manner of cleverly dissembled consciousness-expanding helm that caused the wearer to perceive the presences of all manner of stubbornly hindsighted angels of history. {Somewhat less improbable are hypotheses that Herr Marx was in actuality Frederick Douglass slumming in whiteface or, alternatively, that he was of blemmye heritage but passing behind ingenious prosthetics and an extensive peruke.}


Whether coordinating joint naval maneuvers with the Samoans, negotiating the marriage of a favorite niece to a prince of Japan, inviting haole business elites to a poker party or merely checking surf conditions, the Hawaiian monarchy depended upon sustained rapid communication. Powered by mana, this rechargeable field telephone reliably served King Kalākaua the First until the summer of 1887, when its catastrophic failure during the armed imposition of the Bayonet Constitution revealed that the unrelieved presence of American missionaries, merchants and sailors had depleted the islands’ reserves of mana almost entirely. But even with its functionality so drastically reduced, the telephone to this day ensures the user need never forego the sound of the ocean within easy reach.


As improved ballistics gave rise to trench warfare, so did that in turn incite the development of materiel - no matter how radically experimental, retrogressively folkloric, or even some combination of the two - for surmounting those trenches. Brainchild of the Bilibin Company Iron Works and Abattoir, ‘Babui Yagi’ ironclad landships like the one in this illustration boasted multiple turret- and sponson-mounted 7.62mm Maxim machine guns {the Yagi’s male variant, the ‘Koschei’, replaced those in the turret with a single 76mm M1900 field gun} and a prodigious stride that rendered them devastatingly effective in any no-man’s land. Although particularly vulnerable to enemy fire below the belt, downed Yagis yielded the additional unforeseen benefit of providing a much-needed {and, with the addition of a nice khrenovina or satsivi sauce, particularly delicious} protein source for the Imperial Russian Army’s otherwise woefully ill-supplied personnel.


These ‘like-buttons’, indicative of the wearer’s ‘friending’ by various crowned heads of state, were amongst the most sought-after complements to any court dress. While attainable through such endeavors as the painting of a bowdlerized portrait or the sycophantic dedication of a musical composition, like-buttons were most readily acquired by means of being oneself an aristocrat and, therefore, more or less distantly related to awarding monarchs and better stationed to award reciprocal ‘friendings’ in turn. While normally given as enameled and bejeweled badges of precious metal, the examples displayed here decorate an aviator’s greatcoat. Thus, they are instead embroidered in gilt and silver thread to preclude clasp-punctures to the leather, sharp edges liable to catch on control protuberances and, in instances of extreme popularity {such as those illustrated below}, being abruptly dragged under in the event of an emergency egress over water.


If it is true that hospitality never ceases so long as there remains hot water in the samovar, what could be better than to keep that water hot perpetually? Expatriate Polish physicist Marie Skłodowska-Curie, in pursuit of this question, dropped a concentrated distillate of pitchblende down the chimney of her own samovar in lieu of the usual burning coal and, thus, the radium-fired tea urn was born. This rare but durable heating element’s brewing efficacy subsequently impelled extraction and refinement in quantity by the Congo Free State’s Union Minière du Haut-Katanga, although the product was decried for costing an arm and a leg – especially those of native miners, whose own were subject to removal as incentive for meeting quota. Water temperature was regulated by manual insertion and removal of a control rod like those shown here {right, a simple ‘samāvar’ rod from Borujerd; left, a spring-guided self-sheathing rod from Tula}, which after some use itself served double duty as a compact portable heater.


From the moment of its first formulation by Sir Francis Galton, eugenics captured the imaginations of the more miscegenophobically nationalist statesmen ascendant across Europe and North America. As this photograph {on indefinite loan from the Bess Institute for the Study of Vexedilology and Questionable Deceptive Patterning} clearly evinces, however, protracted publicly-sponsored experimentation with the discipline’s strategic and tactical applications yielded startlingly unexpected - albeit in hindsight entirely predictable - outcomes, especially in smaller and more demographically homogeneous states with already limited breeding populations. Resultant deficiencies on the battlefield, however, were compensated for by contributions in the field of mass popular entertainment, most notably to the inception of synchronized dance crews.


Eburnean friability, characterized by extreme hysteraminic response to the merest mention of certain unsavory topics {e.g. the chequered origin of one’s own inherited perquisites} conjoined with the absence of any response whatsoever to a panoply of others {e.g. constabulary malpractice}, symptomatizes an underlying malady known as epidermal enervation, wherein insufficient cutaneous pigmentation gives rise to debilitating tenuity of the skin. Prior to the revelation that achromatophores implicated in the disease are in fact chromatophages {cf. early theological interpretations of pallidity as “the Mark of Japheth”, divinely inflicted as punishment for rapacious avarice and, in the most extreme hermeneutic interpretations, aposematically signifying soullessness}, arrays of dubious salves, balms and ointments – like that advertised here, professedly formulated to render the user critically immune – were opportunistically proffered to unwitting sufferers, rarely to salubrious effect.


While genies of good virtue and fidelity are not uncommon {cf. Surah 72}, no less common are the sort prone to harassing travelers, marauding the dreams of unwary slumberers and, upon more than one occasion, assuming the office of President for Life of small arid republics, this last being particularly troublesome given the genie’s near-inexhaustible longevity. Hence the development of genie atomizers, predicated upon the simple biological fact that, unlike humans, genies are constituted not of clay but of smokeless fire. The hand pump atomizer displayed here, marketed under the trade name Djinn-O-Cide, includes a lateral reservoir for fluid toxicant {e.g. water} and an adjustable nozzle for delivery of anything from a disciplining mist to an exterminating stream. Despite their antiquity, such Djinn-O-Cides remain readily available, widely utilized and, provided the user recollects to employ incombustible liquids exclusively, startlingly efficacious to the present day.