The Cultural Work of the American Home Aquarium, 1850 - 1970
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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My interest in the home aquarium was spawned by deprivation. My parents would not let me have one, and the reason for this deprivation was excess. The aquarium was too much: too much mess, money, space, and time. It was too watery, too chemically, too much a potential replication of too many flushy good-byes to bleached...
Chapter 1: Promiscuous Vision: The Visual Affinities of the Home Aquarium
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H. Noel Humphreys assured his English and American readers that, to engage the full potential of the aquarium, “it is the seeing that is everything.”1 But when it came to the home tank, seeing was not simple. As the preceding epigraph attests, this was not a matter for “vulgar eyes.” It was not enough to merely look. The allure of...
Chapter 2: Rural Rambles and Rustic Adornments: Early British Aquarium Writing
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The home aquarium functions rhetorically as landscape painting does in Barbara Novak’s landmark study Nature and Culture, the source of the preceding epigraph. The aquarium contains and harmonizes a wide range of issues and anxieties associated with imperial modernity. But whereas Novak describes a genre of painting...
Chapter 3: The Toy of the Day: American Aquarium Writing, 1850–1915
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The American home aquarium predates the Civil War. News of the Ward Case and its watery relative appeared in an eclectic range of American periodicals in the early to middle 1850s, nurturing a “domestic” aquarium practice in multiple senses of the term. These writings, along with the first commercial public aquariums in Boston...
Chapter 4: Toy Fish
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The gulf between Ida’s and Paula’s views of home aquarium fish is, in one sense, historical. Mellen, one of the few female public figures in the early American hobby and professional aquarist at the New York Aquarium from 1916 to 1929, is, in many ways, heir to a Gossean strategy of representing one’s personal specimens through...
Chapter 5: The Domestic Aquarium
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The aquarium’s effectiveness as a surrogate for managing modern dilemmas comes not only from its multiple visual affinities, the expansive rhetoric of early practitioners, and the representational fungibility of toy fish but also from its function as a home and the ways “home,” in this context, operates as a set of nested, mutually reinforcing...
Chapter 6: “Foreign in the Domestic Sense”: Tropical Fish and the Transnational Aquarium
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With the introduction of so-called tropical fish in the 1910s, the American home aquarium gained the potential to contain the global south and a whole new set of relationships, tropes, and visual affinities. Its prior associations were not abandoned. On the contrary, the garden, the window, the stage, the home, the seeming immutability...
Conclusion: Reefer Madness
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The faithful assembled at the halfway point of the 2006 International Marine Aquarium Conference (IMAC) to hear featured speaker Mike Paletta describe “setting up a LARGE aquarium.”1 How large? So large he could actually submerge in it; so large that it required consultation with a structural engineer and the sides had...
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Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 5 line art, 10 halftones
Publication Year: 2011