Century-Old Graffiti Written by Hotel Waiters Discovered on the Walls of Florida Museum

iStock
iStock

Today, the historic Hotel Alcazar building in St. Augustine, Florida exists as the Lightner Museum, which is dedicated to fine and decorative 19th-century art. But when it was first built in 1888, the luxurious hotel served as a playground for sun-worshippers on holiday. More than 25,000 guests flocked to the Alcazar during the 1890s to waltz across its grand ballroom, enjoy its bowling alley, and splash in what was then considered the world's largest indoor swimming pool.

Not surprisingly, hotel life at the Alcazar was different for its staff, many of whom were immigrants from Ireland or Italy. These seasonal workers lived in a dormitory on the hotel's fourth floor—and their graffiti, recently discovered by a mason repainting rooms, sheds new light on what it may have been like to wait on America's vacationing elite.

According to The St. Augustine Record, the mason was sanding and smoothing the hotel's plaster walls when he noticed faint penciled words—some hidden inside closets—that had been whitewashed over decades earlier. Dating all the way back to 1915 (the Alcazar closed in 1932) are servants' names, signed next to a year. Other workers sketched their work schedules, restaurant menus and prices, and even poetry across the walls.

And of course, there are complaints about the guests—some of whom were probably not accustomed to the practice of tipping, according to Lightner Museum curator Barry Myers. "They were more polite than we are today, so the rudest comments described customers as ‘a pain in the neck' or a ‘pain in the back,'" Myers told The Record.

So far, workers have discovered graffiti in three of the museum's 44 fourth-floor rooms that once housed staff. Museum educators have instructed workers to leave the markings alone, and are working on translating phrases written in Italian and Spanish. They plan to incorporate the century-old scribbles into a living history exhibit—and if even more writing is discovered, open the fourth floor to visitors.

Learn more about the historic discovery by watching The Record's video below:

[h/t The St. Augustine Record]

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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Victorian Women Worked Out, Too—They Just Did It Wearing Corsets

Opening a door was nearly as taxing as an actual 19th-century workout.
Opening a door was nearly as taxing as an actual 19th-century workout.
ivan-96/iStock via Getty Images

The next time you’re gasping for breath in the middle of a cardio routine, try to imagine doing the same thing while decked out in a flowy dress and corset. That’s what female exercise enthusiasts faced in the 1800s.

According to Atlas Obscura, tailors weren’t churning out loose leggings or stretchy tracksuits for women to don for their daily fitness sessions, and workout guides for Victorian women were mainly written by men. To their credit, they weren’t recommending that ladies undergo high-intensity interval training or heavy lifting; instead, exercises were devised to account for the fact that women’s movements would be greatly constricted by tight bodices and elaborate hairstyles. As such, workouts focused on getting the blood flowing rather than burning calories or toning muscle.

In his 1827 book A Treatise on Calisthenic Exercises, Signor G.P. Voarino detailed dozens of options for women, including skipping, walking in zigzags, marching in place, and bending your arms and legs at specific angles. Some exercises even called for the use of a cane, though they were more geared towards balancing and stretching than weight-lifting.

To Voarino, the light calisthenic exercises were meant for “counteracting every tendency to deformity, and for obviating such defects of figure as are occasioned by confinement within doors, too close an application to sedentary employment, or by those constrained positions which young ladies habitually assume during their hours of study.”

Nearly 30 years later, Catharine Beecher (Harriet Beecher Stowe's sister) published her own workout guide, Physiology and Calisthenics for Schools and Families, which encouraged educators especially to incorporate exercise programs for all children into their curricula. Beecher was against corsets, but the illustrations in her book did still depict young ladies in long dresses—it would be some time before students were expected to change into gym clothes at school. Many of Beecher’s calisthenic exercises were similar to Voarino’s, though she included some beginner ballet positions, arm circles, and other faster-paced movements.

Compared to the fitness regimen of 14th-century knight Jean Le Maingre, however, Victorian calisthenics seem perfectly reasonable. From scaling walls to throwing stones, here’s how he liked to break a sweat.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]