We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


The last 150 years of world history can perhaps best be understood by studying snow globes. The first of the objets, invented in France around 1850, were expensive and delicate. But across the Alps, Bavarians were bulwarking their globes with sturdy bases of metal and wood. To early collectors, the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 came as no surprise. While Germany maintained its domination of world snow-globe production into the 1920s, by 1927, the United States had put its industrial might to the task. The same Yankee know-how and innovation that would be put to use on the Manhattan Project stunned the world with the first globe in which something other than the snow moved—the revolutionary “jiggling fish” design. Ominously, across the Pacific, the Japanese were learning lessons from both reindustrializing Germany and Depression-mired America; they quietly added a sophisticated, high-tech ceramic base to their globes. But American globe behemoth Atlas Crystal Works appropriated the base after World War II and led the States into a 15-year hegemony. By the ’60s, however, cheap labor shifted the snow-globe locus to Hong Kong, where “figurals” literally broke the mold by putting the snow globe inside thousands of objects and characters. The Pacific Rim was now a global player. While the ’60s and ’70s brought both the stagnation of plastic globe production and war in Indochina, the ’80s saw peace and a return to splendid excess, with snow globes acquiring motors, lights, and music. Pick up a chunk of twinkling, kitschy history at Snowfair ’99 from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Childe Harold, 1610 20th St. NW. $5. (202) 483-6700. (Janet Hopf)