Heidi was “conceived” in 1880 just in time for the snow globe craze. The first snow globe probably appeared at the 1878 Paris Universal Exposition; a local glassware company took the paperweight one step further with an objects like “paper weights of hollow balls filled with water, containing a man with an umbrella.” When you shook this ‘paperweight’ white powder fell in imitation of snow. What fun!
Austrian inventor Erwin Perzy is, however, considered the father of the snow globe. Trying to perfect the lightbulb–make a brighter version to be used in medical surgeries–he happened upon a better way to build a snow globe. He used semolina flakes as his snow and in 1900 patented the first Schneekugel. By 1905 his firm was turning out dozens of these delightful handmade objects; in 1908 Perzy was officially honored by Emperor Franz Joseph I. for his contribution to Viennese knickknacks.
However, by the middle of the 1900s, Americans were ruling the snow globe industry. Practical Yanks manufactured them by the thousands using injection molding and plastic snow called “flitter.” Brands commandeered them for advertising purposes; Walt Disney got on the bandwagon in 1959 with a snow globe containing a tiny Bambi. Hollywood loved them, too. Remember Citizen Kane? Well, the globe Kane was holding at movie’s end, which shattered on the ground when he died, was made by none other than Erwin Perzy.
This pretty combo of figurine and toy continues to be popular. Only problem: the souvenir cannot now be taken on airplanes (because of liquid content). So when Heidi goes from NYC to the Swiss Alps to visit Grandfather, she may have to bring another kind of gift: maybe medical marijuana?