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15 Beautiful Objects We Don’t Use Anymore

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The beauty of an object can’t guarantee its usefulness. Some of these beauties were left behind by improved technology or changing fashions. Some were odd novelties that were hardly even used in their own day. But all are exquisite samples of the culture they existed in.

1. Strawberry Grabbers


Silverperfect.com via Pinterest

A fancy little silver pincher made by Tiffany around 1900. They fit like little gloves on your fingers, to protect your fingertips from the dangers of picking strawberries out of a bowl. Can’t imagine why they didn’t become a kitchen staple.

2. Sterling Silver Salt Set


Oneofakindantiques.com

Salt wasn’t always shake-able. In the early part of the 20th century, the Morton Salt Company of Chicago added magnesium carbonate to their salt to make it flow. Before that, salt was clumpy and rough, served in little containers (salt cellars) that you’d pinch your serving out of. Of course, if you were fancy, you’d have something like these silver seashells, with accompanying tiny spoons.

3. Sholes & Glidden Typewriter


Cornell.edu

Inventors dabbled in trying to create a manageable personal type-set machine for most of the 19th century. It wasn’t until around 1870 that Christopher Latham Sholes invented the little beauty above. The carriage (the part that moves) was operated by a foot pedal, and the paper was placed too high to actually see while typing. Still, a skilled user (with fingers of steel) could type far faster than a person could legibly write, starting the slow decline of handwritten correspondence that continues to this day.

4. Lace Bandeau Brassiere


Whitakerauction.smugmug.com via Pinterest

Just as fashion has forced women to bind and constrict themselves, in the 1920s, it was demanding they let it all hang out. This beautiful bra (30B) offered no support to its wearer. It would, however, allow a woman to achieve the popular narrow rectangle figure of the day by allowing the breasts to sag (as opposed to popping forth as was popular before and after this era) without appearing indecent.

5. 19th Century Vinaigrette


Janeaustensworld.wordpress.com via Pinterest

These beauties, carried by delicate people of both sexes, held vinegar-soaked sponges inside. This was because urban living in the 18th and 19th centuries required being able to live amongst unspeakable filth and stench. If you ever felt faint you could hold the vinaigrette up to your nose to block out the offending odors.

6. Pattern Molded Inkwell

Peachridgeglass.com via Pinterest

You probably know what this was used for. And if you’re a calligrapher or a hipster you might still use one. But it’s rare to encounter one as beautiful as this 1825 example.

7. Chatelaine


steclub.ru via Pinterest

Chatelaines were worn around the waist of well-to-do housewives in the middle class, and head housekeepers of the upper classes, in the 19th and early 20th centuries. From the belt chain would hang everything a woman might need in her day, from sewing kits to keys to coin purses. The quality of your or your servant’s chatelaine was an excellent indication of status.

8. Asparagus Tongs


Antiques & Uncommon Treasure

The strawberry grabber might have seemed a little much, but this 19th century French sterling silver asparagus server actually makes some sense. Stabbing each stalk with a fork is so brutish.

9. Denture Minder


Electricedge.com via Pinterest

We might be stretching the definition of “beautiful” with this circa 1795 French denture holder. But we don’t dare call it anything else. It looks bitey.

10. Praxinoscope-Théatre


Liveauctioneers.com

Invented in 1877 by Emile Reynaud, the Praxinoscope-Theatre gave the impression you were watching a teeny vaudeville show. It was a predecessor to cartoons, where images moved (juggled, danced) against a static background. Read more here.

11. Bell & Howell Filmo


John Kratz on Flickr

The Filmo 75 dates from 1928, and was designed by the (still existing) film mechanical supply company Bell & Howell to be a portable movie camera suitable for amateur use. It weighed 3 pounds and could “fit in a coat pocket.” To use it you’d wind it like a watch with a permanently attached key that fit into the side of the camera. It cost as much as a car.

12. Victorian Dress-Lifter


Country Living

Skirts were huge and streets were disgusting in the Victorian Age. Plus there were all sorts of stairs a lady would have to climb. So she’d have to lift her skirt a bit, and these devices helped make it charmingly complicated to do so. The tongs were connected to the hem, the loop at top connected to a belt (or chatelaine). There was a pulley system involved where the lady would pull one end of the chain to lift the skirt. How this was superior to simply lifting your skirt with your hands, only a Victorian would know.

13. Odhner Pinwheel Calculator


Vintagecalculators.com

The Odhner Calculator was invented Willgodt T. Odhner in St. Peterburg, Russia, in 1874. It was used in Russia for nearly a century. How it was used is … better explained by someone else.

14. Bathing Houses


Wikimedia Commons

Not to be confused with bath-houses, bathing houses (or bathing machines) were simply dressing rooms on wheels. Victorians of a certain class would never stomp around a public beach in their revealing swimwear, so they used these carriages. They changed inside, and then were wheeled directly to water for disembarkation. After swimming they were able to quickly hide back inside and change again.

15. Lancaster Watch Camera

Pinterest

Made in 1886, the watch camera was an excellent way to take covert pictures. It looked like an ordinary pocket watch until the tab was turned. Then the camera shot out, immediately taking a photograph. Though clever, the camera didn’t take great pictures and was only in circulation for four years.

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entertainment
17 Electric Facts About MTV Unplugged
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Michael Stipe of R.E.M. goes Unplugged.
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Making its debut in 1989, MTV Unplugged—in which famous musicians perform stripped-down arrangements of their biggest hits—was a hit for both the cable network and the music industry, particularly in the early- to mid-'90s. Though it lost its regular time slot in 1999, in the near-20 years since, a handful of artists have popped in for brief revivals. But now it looks as if Unplugged is ready for a reboot; MTV has announced that the series will be back beginning on September 8, 2017, with Shawn Mendes as its first guest. In the meantime, here's a look behind the scenes of the music series that became a phenomenon.

1. OPINIONS VARY ON WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA.

Singer/songwriter Jules Shear has said that he came up with the concept for MTV Unplugged to promote his acoustic album, The Third Party. In 1992, The New York Times wrote that Shear was inspired by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora's two-song acoustic set at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.

That's all well and good, but producers Jim Burns and Bob Small claim they got the idea for MTV Unplugged after Bruce Springsteen treated the two—and the thousands of other fans at one of his concerts—to a final encore featuring just himself and his acoustic guitar. (Springsteen would find his way onto Unplugged in 1992.)

Executive producer Joel Gallen has referred to Unplugged as his "baby" as well and, like Shear, was inspired by Bon Jovi and Sambora's VMA set, which he called a "jumping off point." In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, Small said: “Please do not credit Bon Jovi for creating Unplugged. Jon Bon Jovi thinks he was the inspiration for it. He wouldn’t even do the f***ing show until almost 20 years later.”

2. BOTH HBO AND PBS SAID NO.

HBO passed on Unplugged when Shear proposed the concept to the pay channel. Burns and Small pitched the series to PBS after MTV initially said no. PBS simply echoed MTV and HBO. It was only when Burns and Small ally Judy McGrath got a promotion at MTV that a pilot got a greenlight.

3. IT WAS A CHEAP PILOT TO SHOOT.

Bob Small said he had just four hours to set up for the Unplugged pilot, with another four hours to film it—and all on a budget of $18,000. "I couldn't get money to hire a director," Small said. "They said, 'You direct it.'"

4. THERE WAS A HOST FOR THE FIRST 13 EPISODES.

None other than Jules Shear was the undisputed master of ceremonies for the first season. He also joined in on some songs.

5. THE FIRST GUESTS DIDN'T QUITE GRASP THE CONCEPT OF UNPLUGGED.

Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford from Squeeze were the stars of the first episode, which aired on November 26, 1989. But they were unprepared. "Chris and Glenn showed up for rehearsal with electric guitars," Alex Coletti, who would end up producing the show through 2001, recalled. "I said: 'Very funny, guys. Where are the acoustics? It’s Unplugged.' They looked at each other and went, 'Riiight… Make a phone call, quick!'"

6. PRODUCERS SCRAMBLED TO GIVE JOE WALSH ACTUAL FRIENDS.

"The fifth episode was billed as Joe Walsh and Friends, and Joe showed up with only one friend—Ricky, his bass player," Coletti remembered. "We thought it meant his famous friends, but apparently that got lost in translation." Walsh had been a member of The Eagles, who had an infamous falling-out, but Walsh's claim of buddies gave MTV employees false hope. Producer Bruce Leddy found Dr. John recording at a neighboring studio and convinced him to come on and be Walsh's "friend."

7. DON HENLEY WAS NOT HAPPY THAT WALSH PLAYED "DESPERADO."

Walsh's former Eagles bandmate wrote "Desperado," as well as a three-page fax explaining to MTV that he didn't want Walsh to play it and he was refusing permission to air the performance. It was after the fax that the network invited Henley to come on the show himself to perform it. Henley was the first artist to get an entire half-hour on his own as the only artist, which quickly became the status quo for Unplugged. In 1994, when The Eagles reunited, they appeared on an MTV Unplugged special.

8. LL COOL J HAD NEVER WORKED WITH A LIVE BAND BEFORE.

The first Unplugged featuring rap artists took place in 1991. Pop's Cool Love backed LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. “[It’s like] you drink milk for 10 years and then [you have to] drink fruit punch,” Quest's Q-Tip said about performing with the band. “It’s not that the fruit is bad, but you have to get used to it.”

But LL seemed able to adapt. "We rehearsed the night before and LL Cool J had never worked with a live band," Coletti said. "Before long, he was calling the shots like he'd been doing it his whole life."

9. LL COOL J KNOWS YOU SAW HIS DEODORANT.

"People have teased me about the deodorant for years, but I love it," he said. "It was raw! It was nasty! At least you know I wasn’t stinking.”

10. PAUL MCCARTNEY WAS THE FIRST ARTIST TO OFFICIALLY RELEASE HIS UNPLUGGED SET.

Before Paul McCartney, no other Unplugged artist body had thought to release their acoustic set as an album. But after he performed in 1991, the former Beatle was worried about it getting out to the masses illegally. “I figured that as Unplugged would be screened around the world there was every chance that some bright spark would tape the show and turn it into a bootleg, so we decided to bootleg the show ourselves," he admitted. "We heard the tapes in the car driving back. By the time we got home, we’d decided we’d got an album—albeit one of the fastest I’ve ever made.” He even titled the live performance collection Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).

11. ERIC CLAPTON WAS HESITANT TO RELEASE HIS SHOW AS AN ALBUM.

"Slowhand" performed to acclaim in 1992, but he initially didn't think it was good enough to be released officially as a CD. So naturally, his live album Unplugged won the Grammy for Album of the Year. His "Tears in Heaven" performance in particular won Song and Record of the Year. Two years later, Tony Bennett followed suit, winning the 1994 Album of the Year prize for his time on the show.

12. NEIL YOUNG WALKED OUT ON HIMSELF.

Neil Young's Unplugged was supposed to have been taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York on December 12, 1992. Instead, on that night—at that venue—the audience saw something they would probably never forget: Neil Young walking out the door after numerous mistakes. The "stunned" crew members managed to get him to come back to try again that night. Young opted to junk the performance entirely, and tried again two months later—this time with a band, and with much more success.

13. TORI AMOS WALKED OUT, TOO.

Amos was thrown off and "couldn't harness the energy." But unlike Young, she was able to walk back onstage, perform, and not have to try again with another set on a different night. As the singer/songwriter remembered it, she and her manager paced "beneath the MTV thing" backstage thinking about the problem. "Then my [lighting director] came down and said, 'Something just doesn't feel right. I can’t put my finger on it,'" Amos told Worstgig.com. "For 700 shows over the five years (prior to that), I'd played with the lights down. So all the lights were up to catch the audience and I felt like somebody was watching me take a shower. So they dimmed the lights, I felt better. By that point because I'd made the choice to stop it and make some changes, I felt like I began again. And I turned the whole show around."

14. ALEX COLETTI FOUGHT TO CUT "THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD" FROM NIRVANA'S EPISODE.

"Maybe I shouldn't give this secret away, but I built a fake box out in front of the amp to make it look like a monitor wedge," Coletti admitted to Guitar World in 1995. "It's an acoustic guitar, but he's obviously going through an amp," he added, talking about the now iconic David Bowie cover. "I actually fought pretty hard to leave that song out [of the final edit of the show], because I felt it wasn't as genuine as the rest of the songs. But I'm a huge Bowie fan, so I couldn't fight too hard against the song."

15. DAVE GROHL WAS ALMOST UNINVITED TO NIRVANA'S SHOW.

The Nirvana drummer remembered that it was a minor miracle that the band's Unplugged performance went so well. “That show was supposed to be a disaster,” Grohl said. “We hadn’t rehearsed. We weren’t used to playing acoustic. We did a few rehearsals and they were terrible. Everyone thought it was horrible. Even the people from MTV thought it was horrible. Then we sat down and the cameras started rolling and something clicked. It became one of the band’s most memorable performances.”

As Coletti told it, Kurt Cobain was thinking of just replacing Grohl behind the kit, or maybe not using a drummer at all. “What I didn’t know was up until the day [of the Unplugged performance], there was talk of Dave [Grohl] not playing at all in the show,” the producer revealed in 2014. “Kurt wasn’t happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn’t like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks."

But Grohl turned up the day of filming, and Coletti gifted him some brushes and sizzle sticks to give his drumming a softer sound. "I was afraid Dave would just roll his eyes, like, 'Oh great, the a**hole from MTV is trying to be my friend,'" the producer remembered thinking. "But instead he opened the package and said, 'Cool, I've never had brushes before. I've never even tried using them.'" The album Unplugged in New York won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996. It was the band's lone Grammy win.

16. YES, THEY TRIED TO GET ROBERT PLANT AND JIMMY PAGE TO PLAY "STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN."

The Led Zeppelin bandmates reunited in 1994 for the Unplugged special: No Quarter: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Unledded, which at the time was the highest-rated episode of the series ever. MTV suggested they film it in Queens, New York. Plant suggested Morocco and Wales because it was where he wrote "Kashmir" and "Down by the Seaside," respectively. Network executives explicitly requested "Stairway" but were shot down. "I think we're in a disposable world and 'Stairway to Heaven' is one of the things that hasn't quite been thrown away yet," Plant said in 1994. "I think radio stations should be asked not to play it for 10 years, just to leave it alone for a bit so we can tell whether it's any good or not."

17. LIAM GALLAGHER HECKLED HIS BROTHER.

Oasis lead vocalist Liam Gallagher backed out of the Royal Festival Hall gig in London at the last minute due to a "sore throat," so songwriter/guitarist/brother Noel took over the vocal duties. Noel would later disclose that Liam in fact appeared an hour before showtime "sh*tfaced," and when he tried to sing it sounded "f**king dreadful." Liam watched the performance from the balcony and at times jeered the band. Noel told him to shut up. Coletti thought it was all for the best. "There's something when the songwriter himself sings it. Maybe he's a little more connected to the song."

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