I always get rather giddy when I buy an antique. Not to sound corny, but there is just something about owning a piece of history that gives me chills [the good kind]. You never need an antique, you just want it. It is often instinctual and irresistible -- the siren call of the past? For me, it feels less like owning something and more like taking care of something that needs love.
This past weekend, after browsing lustfully through the beautiful antique jewelry in Wicked Darling's shop, I was overcome with curiosity and an unexplainable desire to own this bizarre, but lovely trinket pictured above. It is called a Stanhope [dating from around 1900], and it is a miniature photographic lens inside of a pendant...
I had never even heard of Stanhopes before this discovery, so I was surprised to learn that they were popular trinkets in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Each one contains several tiny photographs, and in order to view them, you hold the Stanhope up to a light and peep through the tiny hold in the end [they were also referred to as "peeps"]. The Victorians were quite enamored by photography, so it makes sense that these fairly inexpensive novelty items would have been popular with travelers and tourists. The one I purchased from Wicked Darling has 4 photos of Niagara Falls inside [probably purchased by a couple on their honeymoon!?].
This image of a Ferris Wheel is an enlargement of a microphotograph used inside of a Stanhope.
In 1862, a man named Rene Dagron established a factory in France to produce Stanhopes, which were then sold all over Europe and and the U.S. Stanhopes could be found inside a wide variety of objects, including: crosses, writing equipment, jewelry, smoking paraphernalia, perfume bottles, and more. To learn more about Stanhopes, check out this website on their history and manufacturing.
These are a few lovely Stanhopes for sale on ebay right now:
Examples of other "peeps" from the Stanhopes website and Camera Oddities:
This is an enlarged image of the the lens of a Stanhope that Wicked Darling was gracious enough to send me. It is truly such an amazing invention!
I cannot wait to receive my own little "peep" into the past...I will definitely take photos when it arrives!