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Vade Mecum: 19th-century tourism

Before Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor, travellers in the 19th century would use a handbook or guide titled Vade Mecum (translation from Latin = go with me). For example, The New Zealand tourists' vade mecum: being a handbook to the services of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited (4th edition, 1891) is... Continue Reading →

The Faust Family of Acrobats

How Lillian envied their freedom. She didn’t notice the heat, the dust motes shimmering in the shafts of light or the smell of stale sweat. Their poise and agility, their triumphant shouts as they flipped, twisted and spun across the stage entranced her. It looked more like fun than work. She wished she could remove... Continue Reading →

Six Books about Ballooning

While I was writing and researching The Aerial Queen I read quite a few books about ballooning because I reasoned that if I read enough books, then there was no need to take an actual balloon flight was there? Here are some of my favourites: Enduring Love (Ian McEwen): Who can forget the horror of... Continue Reading →

Harry Rayward: Ventriloquist

The next morning, Lillian’s head ached with a pounding throb, her back was stiff and every movement an effort; but her spirits lifted when a bouquet of flowers arrived. ‘Better if the Professor doesn’t see this.’ Ruby snatched the card before Lillian could stop her and read it aloud. ‘Mr Stiggins offers his sincere commiserations... Continue Reading →

Leila Adair at Palmerston North

Within minutes the balloon started to collapse. Frank hastily emptied it, and Lillian returned to her dressing room. In no time at all Frank was pounding on the door, ‘Leila, they’ve stopped the cab and locked the gates. The crowd is hooting.’ ‘Didn’t you tell them we needed more chemicals?’ ‘Dunk says the shops will... Continue Reading →

Social Issues of the 1890s: Larrikins

Her debut, if measured by the reaction of the larrikins up in the gallery, was a huge success. They cheered, stamped their boot heels on the floor, catcalled over the heads of the more respectable crowd below, and made some rather indecent remarks. Lillian, her cheeks flushed by her exertions and with the same unreal... Continue Reading →

James William Price: Balloonist

‘I’m loathe to raise this with ladies present, Price, but I’ve received a letter from your child-bride, the delightful Georgia Angell, enquiring of your whereabouts. She’s most anxious to ascertain that you weren’t involved in the tragic events in Honolulu. It seems she’s lost contact with you since you left Salt Lake City and very... Continue Reading →

Park Van Tassel: Aeronaut

‘There’s nothing the public likes more,’ Professor Park Van Tassel declared, ‘than the possibility of witnessing an accident.’ He plucked a chrysanthemum from the waiting bouquet, slotted it into the buttonhole of his double-breasted suit, and leaned towards the mirror to adjust the waxed tips of his moustache to a jaunty angle. ‘You must believe... Continue Reading →

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