SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
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About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Eerie Orb: 1925

The Eerie Orb: 1925

April-May 1925. Washington, D.C. "NO CAPTION." If you stare at this long enough, you really don't need a caption ... caption ... caption ... caption ... Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5


...something I recognize on Shorpy! I've seen this crystal ball up close! As a kid in the '80s my family and I visited the Smithsonian; the sphere was on display in the minerals and gems collection. Heck, I might have even touched it (I remember it just being out in the open (it's not like anyone was going to stuff that thing into a pocket and walk off with it)).

The gentleman in the picture

He looks to be George P. Merrill (1854-1929)Dept. Mineral Sciences, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Museum listing

The Smithsonian still has custody of this item, per the catalog entry.

Mystery solved

This is (allegedly) the world's largest perfect crystal sphere. LOC has a captioned photo (dated 1930) of the orb on display at the Smithsonian.

The Evening Star ran a May 7, 1925 story, while the Post seems not to have addressed the subject until Feb. 28, 1926, when it published a very long (& in my view extremely overwrought) rumination on the sphere & Oriental divination.

The Star's story:


So how do you get the water and fish in?

Mesmer Eyes

I want to be the first to say that it did not go unnoticed that you spherized the Shorpy logo at the bottom left.

Papa Escher

"M.C., when will you stop fooling with that thing and make something of yourself?"

New from Apple

The iBall.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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