As the World Turns
Dec 18, 2019 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Vintage globes have always intrigued me because the boundaries and names etched onto the surface act like gateways. These portals lead to interesting stories, people, and events. Looking at globes speaks to the rise and fall of great empires and the perseverance of the human spirit. Today we’ll look at a few tips for dating vintage globes and discuss the particulars around an iconic manufacturer. Join us for a slice of history as the world turns…
Chances are the first question you’ll ask when you see an old globe is: how old is it? This website can help you determine its age with precision, but here are some quick guidelines you can keep in mind while you thrift. It’s important to note that globe manufacturers weren’t always timely with updates, so while dating efforts aren’t entirely scientific, these historic milestones will give you a good start.
- Manufactured before 1930
- The globe lists Istanbul instead of Constantinople (name was changed to Istanbul in 1930)
- Manufactured after 1935
- Globe lists Iran instead of Persia (Iran established in 1935)
- Manufactured after 1948
- Globe lists Israel instead of Palestine (Israel established in 1948)
- Manufactured after 1957
- Globe lists Ghana instead of Gold Coast (Ghana established in 1957)
- Manufactured after 1972
- Globe lists Sri Lanka instead of Ceylon (Sri Lanka established in 1972)
- Manufactured after 1984
- Globe lists Burkina Faso instead of Upper Volta (Burkina Faso established in 1984)
- Manufactured after 1990
- Globe lists Germany instead of East & West Germany (Reunification occurred in 1990)
Naturally there is a plethora of circumstances behind each of these above turning points, but we’ll present a few tidbits here for context. Istanbul was originally known as Byzantium from as early as 700 B.C. This outpost between the Aegean and Black Sea was always heralded as a strategic trading and commercial hub, catching the eye of the Romans who conquered it in 193-196 A.D. Generations later (approximately 330 A.D.) Emperor Constantine christened it as the new capital of his empire. Fast-forwarding to 1923, the Republic of Turkey was founded and seven years later they reclaimed an ancestral name for this prosperous city. When translated, the word Istanbul means “into the city.”
The world was experiencing tremendous change following the end of WWI and nearly every corner of the globe was facing challenges and fresh starts. Case in point was Persia. Following a coup in 1921, the country welcomed a new leader (Reza Shah) who sought to carve a new chapter for a region that was more recently controlled by British and Russian interests. This new administration decided to reclaim local pronunciation and be recognized as Iran.
The historical record of the next region we’ll explore was first composed by the Greek historian Herodotus. He is credited with the first literary reference of the word Palestine (the origin of this name comes from the Hebrew word peleshet, which means “rolling” or “migratory”). Herodotus is often referred to as the “father of history” because he applied a scientific-like rigor to his investigations. I like to think of him as one of the first reporters – seeking the facts & reporting observations. If Herodotus had the chance to pen an epilogue he would note that Israel was established in 1948 following a complicated arrangement known as the British Mandate for Palestine. (An agreement made after WWI which encompassed both modern-day Israel & Jordan.)
The Gold Coast, like so many locations you can pinpoint on a globe, was once controlled by a remote empire. The British ruled this part of the African coast from 1867-1957. When you read more about Ghana, descriptions of its natural (and man-made) beauty are overwhelming. Lake Volta (created in the 1960s) is the world’s largest man-made lake and comprises nearly 4% of the country! Many national parks dot the landscape and the country is known for its export of cocoa beans.
Sri Lanka was first controlled by the Portuguese in the 16th century, then the Dutch, followed by the British. They declared their independence as Ceylon in 1948 and changed their name to Sri Lanka less than a quarter of a century later. One of its most interesting man-made marvels might be the “nine arch bridge” (often referred to as the “nine skies bridge” by the locals). This public works project was engineered by the British, but due to the war efforts, could not use any steel or metal in its construction. It’s impressive to consider the scale of this bridge in contrast to its materiality!
Burkina Faso (which borders Ghana to the North) was a French colony and is known for its artistic achievements. Ranging from cinematic contributions, a thriving handicrafts industry, or theatrical influences – this country strives to be a reflection of its motto “unity, progress, justice.” Their country’s name is translated to “land of honorable people.” This artistic hub is also known for its national drink that goes by the very snazzy name of zoom-kom (which loosely translates to grain water). Check out how it’s made here.
In just a few paragraphs we’ve taken a spin through half a dozen countries, full of rich histories waiting to be explored. As a collector of globes you get the chance to pick a new spot everyday to explore – no passport required! So who can we thank for cultivating the explorer in us? One such company who made vintage globes (and continues to lead the industry) is Replogle Globes, Inc. This company started in 1930s Chicago and continues to employ American artisans in the creation of their wondrous orbs. During the Great Depression its founder, Luther Replogle, worked as a school supplies salesman. Luther may have been inspired by watching children’s eyes light up as they spun their globes, landing their finger on some far-flung place or perhaps it was the power of knowledge or the value of a worldly perspective. Whatever the reason, Luther and his wife Elizabeth made a bold choice and went into business for themselves. Can you imagine the bravery required to do something like that in a time when people were struggling to just get by? But, as they say, fortune favors the bold and Luther was no exception. His battle cry for a globe in every home laid the groundwork for an indelible legacy. Each globe that the team researches and crafts becomes a snapshot of our lives and a vehicle for examining new cultures and places. There is something special about spinning a globe and seeing where it rests, so tell me dear reader where would you travel to next as the world turns?