Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures
Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures

In the 1930s, a Mono-Named Mannequin Took New York by Storm

Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures
Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures

Forget Ginger Rogers and Joan Crawford. The most sought-after celebrity of the late-1930s was a mono-named socialite called Cynthia. She was invited to the most elite parties, including the posh wedding of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII of England. She received freebies from Tiffany and Cartier. She had box seats to the Metropolitan Opera. She was featured in LIFE. She was also a total dummy.

No, really — an actual mannequin.

Cynthia was a 100-pound plaster clothes hanger designed by a soap sculptor named Lester Gaba. As one of Lester’s “Gaba Girls,” Cynthia was a new type of mannequin designed to be realistic — Cyn had freckles and different-sized feet — while not melting under the sun like wax models did. In order to boost his status as an artist and cement his place in the New York social scene, Gaba began squiring his creation around town as if they were on a date.

As you might imagine, people took notice. It probably didn’t hurt that Gaba was very close friends with Vincente Minnelli (Liza’s dad), so the quirkiness spread to the city's trendsetters pretty quickly. Cynthia was soon a mainstay at galas and dinner parties, where, in keeping with her real-girl status, people tried to chat her up. Gaba would apologize profusely, explaining that the blonde beauty had laryngitis.

Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images; See More Photos Here

Sadly, Cynthia met an untimely end when Lester Gaba went off to fight in World War II. Before he shipped off, Gaba decided that his main girl would take a sabbatical to Hannibal, Missouri, to live with his mother and de-stress from the frantic socialite life. Though she was on hobnobbing hiatus, Gaba left his mother explicit instructions to treat Cynthia like the star she was. She was to receive weekly beauty treatments, including styling at the best salon in town. It was there that, tragically, Cynthia slipped from a chair and shattered onto the hair clipping-filled floor below.

According to LIFE.com, newspapers reported Cynthia’s death as if a real person had died in an unfortunate accident. Though Gaba later recreated her and even installed equipment that allowed her to “talk,” he couldn’t recapture the magic. The country’s obsession with the plaster princess was over.

And if you’re wondering how the U.S. managed to get so worked up over such an empty object to begin with, well, Barney’s New York Creative Director Simon Doonan can explain:

“It’s not that big of a leap to go to a window mannequin from The Real Housewives of Orange County,” he told the New York Times in 2010.

C’mon. What does an artificial glamour queen with no brain and nothing to say have to do with... oh.

[via Gothamist]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Scientists Just Found the Oldest Known Piece of Bread
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen

An old, charred piece of long-forgotten flatbread has captured the interest of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians around the world. Found in a stone fireplace in Jordan’s Black Desert, this proto-pita dates back 14,400 years, making it the oldest known example of bread, Reuters reports.

To put the significance of this discovery in context: the flatbread predates the advent of agriculture by 4000 years, leading researchers to theorize that the laborious process of making the bread from wild cereals may have inspired early hunter-gatherers to cultivate grain and save themselves a whole lot of trouble.

“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen, told Reuters. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”

A report on these findings—written by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London, and University of Cambridge—was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was once thought that bread was an invention of early farming civilizations. A 9100-year-old piece of bread from Turkey was previously regarded as the oldest of its kind. However, the Jordanian flatbread was made by a group of hunter-gatherers called the Natufians, who lived during a transitional period from nomadic to sedentary ways of life, at which time diets also started to change.

Similar to a pita, this unleavened bread was made from wild cereals akin to barley, einkorn, and oats. These were “ground, sieved, and kneaded prior to cooking,” according to a statement from the University of Copenhagen. The ancient recipe also called for tubers from an aquatic plant, which Arranz-Otaegui described as tasting “gritty and salty."

[h/t Reuters]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios