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victorian review • Volume 34 Number 1 56 We might say that these designs,with their repeated references to social conduct ,functioned to achieve more in the realm of social governance than they did in the realm of fire safety.But too much of an emphasis on social regulation risks imposing this familiar aspect of Victorian culture—one based in determination, in fixity,in mind over body and matter,and in space over time—upon the lesserstudied and yet remarkably sophisticated Victorian awareness of the material world, in particular the Victorians’ attention to the mutual and indeterminate affectivity of material bodies (human and non-human) as they move and transform in time.In fact,it is in returning to Victorian material inventions like these now-obsolete fire escapes that we come to realize how things and events are not opposed,or even necessarily distinguishable.Rather,things are moving bodies, bodies always by nature subject to change according to the movements of the bodies around them. Fires were frequent events in nineteenth-century North America, so much so that the Québécois architect Charles Baillairgé insisted that fire be considered an “eventuality that might never occur,” as if fire was to be considered present as a potential event in the future of every building, one that needed to be addressed by architects in the design stage of all of their building projects, even if not every building would actually catch fire (2). In response, fire-escape designers created escapes that were events also, escapes that sought to augment, rather than determine and repress, the potential for a multiplicity of productive interactions between bodies in motion. Works Cited Baillairgé, Charles.“A Practical Solution of the Great Social and Humanitarian Problem: Escape From Buildings In Case of Fire.” Paper read to the Royal Society of Canada. Quebec, 1887. CIHM microfiche series, no. 90206. Braidwood, James. Fire Prevention and Fire Extinction. 1830. Rev. ed. London: Bell & Daldy, 1866. Keating, Edward Henry. Fire Departments,Fire Apparatus,and Fire Escapes,A Report on the Means of Preventing the Loss of Life and Property By Fire. Halifax: Morning Herald Printing & Publishing Company, 1883.Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, University ofToronto. Pardessus, S. J. Pardessus’Double-Passage Quick Fire Reach and Practical Fire Escape. NewYork: S. J. Pardessus, 1883. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. 89-B8389. Wermiel, Sara E. The Fireproof Building:Technology and Public Safety in the Nineteenth-Century American City. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2000. • Gas Cooker A n n e Clen din n ing • To find a gas cooker in a home was relatively unusual in the early 1880s. Just twenty years later, however, domestic gas cookers numbered in the hundreds of thousands. What circumstances led to their widespread accept- 57 Victorian Things: Clendinning ance? Why did Victorian housekeepers and cooks, who for years remained suspicious of the gas cooker and its toxic vapours, finally embrace the black cast-iron box, dubbed “the silent servant” and “housewife’s friend” by gas marketing officials?Technological changes in the construction of gas cookers and improved methods of manufacturing coal gas created a better appliance and a fuel that was more suitable for cooking purposes. In addition to these practical changes, the use of mass advertising, women sales personnel, and new methods of billing customers also encouraged the widespread adoption of the gas cooker in the lateVictorian era. By the 1860s, gas lighting had transformed the Victorian public sphere: better-lit streets were safer for night outings, illuminated shops and factories operated for longer hours, and theatres and concert halls catered to patrons of all classes long into the night. But while gas lighting was common for public use, at mid-century it remained relatively unusual in the Victorian home. Hot, dirty, smelly, and potentially damaging to furnishings, books, and decor, interior gas lamps required adequate ventilation to prevent the accumulation of sulphur gas, the result of impurities in the gas and leaks from defective fittings. Gas companies and appliance manufacturers tried to remedy these faults by developing more efficient gas fittings and improving the gas purification process.They also tried to reduce manufacturing costs via corporate amalgamations and, where possible, the closure of the older gas works.The...


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