Modern Marvels, circa 1885

A lovely long weekend to you my colleagues!  As always, I’m quite happily spending mine poring over Ladies of Mischief artifacts for you.  And I have a very exciting update today regarding Miss Coraline Hackworth’s arrival at The Great Exhibition.  As you recall, she traveled all the way from London with a pit-stop in New York for some exploration and tea, followed by the mid-flight discovery of a charming stowaway.  Let’s see what discoveries the Exhibition itself holds….


17th of June, 1885

Dearest Ladies of Mischief,

The Great Exhibition is fabulously exhilarating! The building itself is a mechanical marvel; the great hall doors have an astounding clockwork frame that will open the doors at the touch of a button. They seem ridiculously inefficient, but the makers swear that such “automatical doors” will be all the rage in the finer cities of the world. I wonder what impact such a change would have on the door-opening etiquette of the day? Fortunately Mr. Thistleby is possessed of wisdom as well as wit, and he merely bowed and stood aside as I pressed the button. What noise! Steam flew out of whistling tubes while gears clicked and ground together. The massive spectacle ended with the doors sliding sideways in a very unusual fashion. While we passed through the doors, I closely examined the frame, as it had some very interesting construction. I became so engrossed that I didn’t notice as the doors started closing again, and nearly became trapped when they closed on my bustle. A vigorous tug from Mr. Thistleby was required to dislodge me. I’ve always found the bustle to be a rather silly fashion but I have never before been endangered by one. I find myself pondering the practicality of an external, detachable bustle. After all, a Lady of adventure must not be so easily caught!
But enough about Fashion- this exhibition is all about Science! I had thought that the doors made an amazing racket, but the exhibition hall noise was beyond comprehension. It was somewhat like standing in the airship engine while making a steep ascension, with an entire percussive symphony playing their instruments at the same time. Startling and thrilling!
After my experience with the door, I was careful not to get too close to the many exciting inventions on display. The local mining operations must be quite dangerous, as I saw several different mechanical arm replacements. There were some attempts to harness the aetherical energy for communication, but nothing as advanced as we Ladies already enjoy.
There was an entire wing of mechanical beasts, ranging from giant clockwork draft horses to something that resembled a small mechanical badger. The clockwork beasts seemed realistic, in that they were as ill-tempered as live animals, and several of them had managed to break out of their cages. Between the rampaging badgers and the copious amounts of oil on the floor, I deemed that wing too dangerous to visit today. Perhaps tomorrow they will have wound down enough for viewing.
I’ll save the most intriguing area of the exhibition for tomorrow’s letter. I want to spend more time delving deeply before I even begin to describe these inventions.

Miss Coraline Hackworth


Thank goodness Mr. Thistleby was on hand to save Miss Coraline in her fashion emergency, as it were.  Perhaps that’s the reason why bustles and mechanical doors don’t both exist in this day and age – it’s a logistical impossibility!  Ahh, science, fashion and technology.  No wonder she was willing to make such a journey (I certainly would!)  I hope she was able to discuss some of her new Airship technology with the other attendees.  But perhaps that will come in the next letter, if the mechanical badgers allow.  Now that’s a phrase I never though I’d find myself writing!  And on that amusing note, I’ll leave you until next time.  Many exciting collaborations in the works and much to share with you soon!


Science Fiction Double Feature

Greetings my colleagues!  I hope you had a lovely Mother’s Day last Sunday.  Sorry I didn’t check in, but I needed some extra time to prepare this next update.  And what a find I have for you!  Tucked away in a small compartment in the trunk, I found a lovely and well-preserved portrait of none other than Dr. Erma Melanogaster!  I was able to identify her by an exciting an illuminating tale, written in her own hand, attached to the back.  And it is my great pleasure to share both of them with you now.

The Tale of Dr. Erma Melanogaster

Where to begin?  The beginning, I suppose, is most appropriate.   It will certainly make the most sense for those unfamiliar with this story, or portions of it.  Well, it seems that’s settled then.  The beginning!

I was tinkering away in my lab in a most usual fashion for myself; in this particular instance that involved affixing a tiny clockwork timing mechanism to the circuitry panel and power source for one of the greenhouses.  The power source itself is the very compound being produced by the plants in the very greenhouses whose environmental regulation is powered by the compound!  And that is what we call An Elegant Experiment.  Elegant.

As mentioned, I was soldering away (soldering, not soldiering, though one must soldier through research occasionally) when I turned for a brief moment to adjust the flame on a burner.  Well, a brief moment is all it takes for a sudden and unexpected Ka-Blooey!  and the next thing one knows, one is regaining consciousness on the floor of one’s lab.  The One in this case being none other than myself, an experience I would not readily wish on anyOne.

So there I found myself, knocked entirely backwards, lab stool and all, on the floor.  I began a quick assessment of my well-being whilst simultaneously returning to the upright and seated position to which I am accustomed.  I was, fortunately, successful in both endeavors, and soon found myself to be in proper spatial orientation and (mostly) good health.  As expected, I was sporting the “Erma tried to blow herself up again” makeup/coiffure the Ladies are familiar with, complete with the ringing ears and slight dizziness that so often accompany it.  Slightly more unexpected, however, was the small gash under my mandible (just west of my windpipe, jugular, and other important bits, thank goodness), which upon gentle probing proved to be quite deep.

Motivated by both my great unease at this development, and my constant companion Scientific Curiosity, I hastened to my first aide/medical testing station to investigate further.  It is not often I get to be the subject of my own — actually, I take that back.  As my dear companions reminded me in their last intervention, I am quite, quite frequently experimenting on myself. See Ladies?  I remembered.  Pat on the back for Erma.  But I digress…

Unable to ascertain just how far my little puncture wound went by surface examination, I fired up my old Proprietary Scanning Device and took a few quick snaps of the contents of my head (accidental experimentation – it doesn’t count!)  All the cranial essentials appeared present and intact, but with the unsettling addition of a new component.  Quite incredulous, I hastened back to my workbench to take stock: soldering iron, exploded burner, forceps, circuit panel, wires… surely I was just overlooking it… but an exhaustive search of the bench and nearby blast radius confirmed what the scans had shown: the wee clockwork mechanism, along with an ample power reserve, was now quite happily lodged in my left temporal lobe.  Yes indeed.

Thank goodness the force of the blast tipped me backwards, or you might instead be reading The Untimely End of Dr. Erma Melanogaster (which I greatly hope one of my dear friends pens on my behalf when the time undoubtedly comes, though they seem intent on delaying it a good long while.)  Even with its not-instantly-lethal trajectory, the odds of me surviving such a blow are astronomically slim; I have only read of one other such case involving an (un)lucky railroad worker, Phillip or Phineas or some such.  His projectile was many times larger, and he did just fine! (if I’m remembering correctly)

I was initially quite alarmed at the notion of going through life with a clockwork mechanism embedded in my brain, and attempted to remove it myself (as one would do).  Alas, those slim odds that allowed my survival ensured that moving the object would prove decidedly catastrophic.  And I rather like my brain functioning, thank you very much.  I was able to discover, however, that the explosion severely damaged the timing mechanism, which now only activates sporadically rather than on the circadian cycle to which it was originally constructed.  Good news, as I have also discovered that the activation of the mechanism results in a temporary dramatic decrease in fear response, inhibition, and emotional control!  Ha ha! Ha.  Um… yes. 

I am learning to live with the effects, as are those around me, as it doesn’t appear I have any alternative.  Fortunately, the occurrences are few and far between, and tend to only last a short while.  Still, all the more reason to continue my research on the compound and determine just how long the power source might last.  Though being a natural compound, I can only speculate as to how it might interact with the human brain.  Fingers crossed it doesn’t extend its viability indefinitely!

And that, dear friends, is my story, in my own words, as you have so often requested.  The moral?  Oh, perhaps something like: a watched pot never boils, but take your eye off your experiment for a second and it’ll explode and nearly kill you?  Yes, that sounds about right.

Yours in Mischief,

Dr. Erma Melanogaster

What a story!  And what a delightfully eccentric Lady she turned out to be.  It’s wonderful to have some more information on her and her research at last, since we’d had just two brief references previously.  I sincerely hope there were no additional effects from her accident!  And there’s yet another thing to add to my search list: find out if she ever found a “cure” for her new clockwork brain.  Though it sounds as though the other Ladies were looking out for her whenever she got too caught up in her academic pursuits.  I’m sure I have no idea what that might be like.  Fortunately, there are very few explosions in my field of study.

Until next time,
~The Archivist

A Most Useful Cozy

A lovely spring day to you, my colleagues.  As promised, I have treat for you today!  You may recall Miss O’ Hare mentioning a favorite tea cozy of hers, yes?  Well, while investigating the trunk a short while back, I found none other than that very cozy (or one in the same pattern) along with her knitting instructions!  As you might imagine they were a little worse for the wear after so many years, and the notes needed some modernization, so I handed them off to a dear knitter friend Aimee Skeers to touch up.  She did an outstanding job, and I’m thrilled to share this lovely Mischief Recreation Artifact with you!  It’s both adorable and quite ingenious, much like its creator.  Here are her original notes on the clever design:

From Miss Anna Roisin O’Hare to the Ladies of Mischief:

Dear friends, I know you will appreciate the difficulties of keeping one’s tea piping hot and one’s teapot protected when one lives a lifestyle such as ours. Fed up with other cozies, I set out to design one that would fulfill my needs. With this clever little thing I can pour my tea without removing the cozy, while the lacing allows me easy access to the top of the pot for brewing. It can be left on at all times, as well, in order to protect the pot when turbulence rattles the dirigible. On my last trip to the Arabias I found my inspiration for the pattern. I do so love to look at the cozy and remember my travels while I have a cup of tea.

View the pattern on Ravelry or 

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