Italian Tea Caddy
This late 19th-century Italian tea caddy is made of mahogany, horn, and brass accents. The empire-style chest is poised on small lion’s feet and lion-head ring handles adorn its sides. The interior features two deep compartments lined on the bottom with fleur-de-lis paper. This elegant caddy also features a tiny keyhole. Before the advent of plastic in the 20th century, horn was a popular form of material used in the creation of merchandise. Lightweight and semi-transparent, cow horn was the most common type of horn employed to produce combs, cutlery, and other small goods. Flat sheets of horn were created by heating the material over a fire until it was soft and malleable enough to press between weighted boards or a special press. The charred, blackened horn was then scraped and polished to reveal a pale, semi-translucent material. When paired with mahogany, horn gleams with subtle graduations of colour. Once an exclusive, upper-class pastime, tea-drinking in Britain grew in popularity throughout the 18th century. Decorative tea caddies were typically placed on a table during teatime. A burst in the production of wooden tea caddies occurred between the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Britain as tea became more widely accessible. These small, wooden containers often featured two lidded compartments for storing different teas. However, simpler constructions existed alongside highly elaborate caddies, which contained additional slots for sugar. This beautiful, two-compartment caddy strikes the perfect balance between modesty and sophistication in its use of horn, exotic mahogany, and gleaming brass details.
At this time Italian inventor and engineer Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937) developed the first successful long-distance wireless telegraph. After years of experimentation with radio wave-based wireless communication, Marconi was able to successfully organise the reception of a transatlantic radio signal in 1901. This discovery ended the isolation of ocean travel, and ultimately saved the lives of hundreds, including the survivors of the Titanic. Marconi shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909 with Karl Ferdinand Braun (1850–1918), for their respective work in wireless telegraphy.