All Thanks to the Victorians
The Victorian age was a time of massive political and social change, driven in no small part by the expansion of industrialisation and empire. This expansion also led to the creation of a larger and more influential middle class with middle-class pursuits. With the world celebrating 200 years since the birth of Queen Victoria, here are a few innovations of the era that have made our lives a little more fun.
Chocolate Easter Eggs
People have been drawing ornate designs on eggs for thousands of years and it's only natural that this practice would be adopted into religious customs. However, it wasn't until the Victorian era that the chocolate Easter egg was finally revealed. This was thanks to the innovation of J. S. Fry & Sons, a chocolate company based in Bristol. The company produced more than 200 chocolatey items in its day but the introduction of the chocolate Easter egg in 1873 is perhaps the invention for which children today are most thankful.
The Penny Farthing
The first vehicle to be referred to as a bicycle, the enormous-wheeled penny farthing is an iconic item of Victoriana. Although an instantly recognisable product of the times, the penny farthing was a relatively short-lived innovation, its popularity rising and falling within the space of two decades. However, its influence on the hobby and sport of bicycling is inarguable and the bicycle ushered in a freedom of movement not experienced before.
A favourite treat of the Doctor in the Doctor Who TV series (who, in one episode saved Queen Victoria from becoming a werewolf), jelly babies are a distinctly British sweet. Though it may surprise you that the idea for the gummy, sugary snacks are said to have come from an Austrian confectioner. As the story goes, in 1864 the Austrian in question (whose name may or may not have been Steinbeck – accounts differ) was living in Lancashire and was asked to make new molds for jelly bears, or 'gummy bears' as they are sometimes known. The resulting sweets looked a little more human than bear-like and were initially known as 'unclaimed babies' then 'peace babies'. It was not until after the Victorian era that the 'jelly baby' name really stuck.
References to ice cream in England can be found a full century before Queen Victoria's birth, appearing in a cookbook known as Mrs. Mary Eale's Receipts: Confectioner to her late Majesty Queen Anne in 1718. However, there's no doubt that the popularity of ice cream rose significantly during the reign of Queen Victoria. In the late 1800s Englishwoman Agnes Marshall wrote a number of books that included ice cream recipes, helping to bring this tasty treat to the middle-class masses.