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Thursday, April 24, 2008


James Kern

An unusual form of entertainment was enjoyed by Vallejaons 140 years ago this month. On April 11, 1868 the Vallejo Weekly Chronicle ran the following short article:

WAX FIGURES - “Alexandri & Co. have been exhibiting during the past week wax figures and cosmoramic views, to the people of Vallejo. We were the recipients of tickets from the gentlemanly proprietors, through the medium of the urbane town crier, and availed ourselves of the opportunity offered and visited the show. After looking at the different figures, we attempted to take a squint at the cosmoramic department, but there were so many children that seemed so eager to see, we refrained from disturbing them, and, after amusing ourselves by playing the organ-grinder for a few minutes, we gently left.”

Cosmoramas were a popular form of amusement in the Victorian era. They featured diorama-style depictions of historic events or exotic places, often viewed through a special lense and dramatically lighted to create a more realistic effect. The Cosmorama on Regent Street in London was a popular attraction and P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in New York featured a Cosmorama Room. Unfortunately, the Vallejo newspaper does not describe the subject matter of the cosmorama enjoyed by Vallejoans in 1868.