Marshmallows : the Treat of Pharaohs, Kings, and Campers

Almost as synonymous with camping as mosquitos, it’s hard to imagine that the marshmallow, that sticky confection, was once only available to Egyptian Pharaohs. Later, candy makers in Asia Minor would create “Turkish Delight”, a nut-filled sweet, light as a sultan’s summer dream. Early marshmallows were cut in squares or rolled into logs and sliced into rounds. It was the French who first took sugar, egg white, gelatin, and high-pressure extrusion technology to make the white sugar pillows we know today. And on this day each year, we celebrate these sweet morsels with National Toasted Marshmallow Day.

While summer is the ideal season for marshmallow toasting, that doesn’t preclude one from enjoying this treat during cold weather months. The Indoor Flameless Marshmallow Indoor Marshmallow RoasterRoaster produces campfire-worthy toasted marshmallows without the open flame that can quickly turn your treat into gelatinized, gooey napalm. The controlled, even electric heat from the stainless-steel unit makes perfect toasted puffs, ideal for s’mores. And happy campers.

With sugar cravings satisfied, you and your friends can amuse yourselves with the leftover marshmallows and The Rapid Reload Double Marshmallow Blaster. Its 30-foot range and popgun power enable combatants to square off in harmless duels, or to shoot empty soda cans off the picnic table into a well-positioned recycling bin.

Still Following the Yellow Brick Road, 74 Years Later

Few movies conjure so many memories in so many people as The Wizard of Oz. This film has truly stood the test of time, remaining a favorite since its national release on this date in 1939.Wizard of OZ Books

Beginning less than two decades later, The Wizard of Oz has been shown annually on television, making it one of the most-viewed motion pictures in history. But fewer people know much about The Wizard of OZ books on which the film was based.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first written by L. Frank Baum in 1900. Like most screenplay adaptations, the novel and the book have several differences. Perhaps the most significant departure is the prominence of the Wicked Witch of the West in the movie. The role was increased in the film to add dramatic tension and unify the plot.

Baum’s book was just one in a complete series of novels he authored about the Land of Oz. And now, Hammacher Schlemmer has made available to you The Exact Reproduction of the Wizard of Oz Library. Reuniting readers with Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow, this is the exact replica edition of Baum’s complete Wizard of Oz series. Originally published between 1900 and 1920, the 14-volume library assembles all the Baum titles in one collection, reissued for the first time in their inaugural form. The books meticulously recreate every detail of the first editions, including the typeface, endpapers, and even typographical errors that were later corrected. The original artwork by William Wallace Denslow and John R. Neill is intricately reproduced, complete with the brilliant full color and metallic inks that were hallmarks of the initial printings.

Classic films like The Wizard of Oz usually don’t become classics based on the screenplay alone; the soundtrack also serves to make a movie memorable. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” earned an Academy Award for Best Song for Yip Harburg, who wrote the musical numbers in the movie. In his lifetime, Harburg also wrote the lyrics for such notable songs as “Stormy Weather”, “April in Paris” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon”.

Lesser known than these tunes, but no less indelible, is a humorous poem Harburg wrote during the Cold War era about a fictitious Hammacher Schlemmer shelter “worthy of Kubla Khan’s Xanadu dome”.

Today, we sell real shelters that help you enjoy much more benign activities in the great outdoors, such as The Scandinavian Backyard Gazebo that will turn your yard into an all-weather retreat.

The Transcontinental Railroad : When Rails Linked The Nation

Transcontinental Railroad Gold Spike

Mega-engineering projects have always united our nation and brightened our future. The Erie and Panama Canals, the transatlantic cable, the interstate highway system, and the space program are just a few examples of these visionary endeavors.

In 1862, President Lincoln believed the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad would bind our nation after the Civil War and create economic prosperity. This great project was completed seven years later, on this day in 1869.

The Transcontinental project is just one facet of our nation’s growth on rails. The History of American Trains is the 24-documentary set of DVDs that explores the power and importance of American trains, from the golden age of locomotives to modern-day superliners.

The sweat and muscle for the Transcontinental Railroad was provided by 20,000 laborers: blasters, drillers, gandy gangs, spikers, and shakers plowed through dizzying mountain passes and deep swamps to open inaccessible lands on the prairie for plows and cattlemen. The mountains were now open to mine gold and silver, making railroad barons rich men. Carpenters, draftsmen and engineers laid down gravel bed, sleepers, and rails to the sing and ping of 9-lb. sledges. The famous spike maul of John Henry fame later competed with steam drills and air hammers. Each mile of track used about 40,000 spikes!

The rail companies Central Pacific from the west and the Union Pacific from the east were forced by Congress to link up at Promontory Point, Utah, partially to get the lucrative Salt Lake City mining business. With raucous celebration, there was a great preponderance of champagne and libation.  One gold spike from California, one of silver from Nevada and Arizona iron were spiked to a tie of California laurel wood. In spite of the magnitude of the ceremony, the railroad’s actual completion didn’t occur until a few months later in Comanche, Colorado. At last, the railroad reduced the journey across the continent from about six months to four days.

Dignitaries from the Central Pacific railway were transported to the ceremony in a Jupiter wood-burning locomotive. We’ve captured the essence of this iron horse with The Holiday Tradition Train. This working locomotive provides a festive holiday display of motion, sound, light, and color. Made by Bachmann, known for its high-quality model trains for over 40 years, this G-scale train has a working headlight, puffs smoke, and makes a “chuffing” sound. The 20-piece track creates an oval that surrounds even the fullest of Christmas trees. Your family will appreciate the beauty and nostalgia of America’s early railroads for years to come.

Cecil DeMille : Celebrating a Hollywood Pioneer

Arguably, one of the most influential directors of Hollywood films was Cecil DeMille, born on this day in 1881. DeMille began his career in 1900 as a stage actor on Broadway. By 1914, DeMille had moved on to direct silent films, including Paramount Films’ first production, The Squaw Man. He actually directed this film twice, doing so again as a sound film in 1931.

Known for movies that included spectacular set pieces, perhaps DeMille’s mostCecil Demille memorable work is The Ten Commandments, featuring the parting of the Red Sea and thousands of extras. Unfortunately, this movie was also his last effort. During filming in Egypt in 1956, Cecil DeMille suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Against doctor’s orders, he returned to the set within a week. He finished the film, but never fully recovered and died of a heart ailment in January 1959.

Cecil DeMille’s works are likely found in the collection of any serious movie buff. A collection of this magnitude deserves to be displayed in style: The Sliding Door DVD Library is the Mission-style media library that stores up to 700 CDs, 336 DVDs, or 132 VHS tapes. Eighteen adjustable solid-wood shelves can be raised or lowered to any height, for custom storage configurations. The Library is also available in a model that holds up to 1,050 CDs or 504 DVDs for the serious fan of film.

The Smithsonian Institution: The Nation’s Attic

Hammacher Schlemmer SmithsonianMany artifacts of American memorabilia are found in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC: Archie Bunker’s chair, Dorothy’s ruby slippers…and a hard-bound copy of the 1912 edition of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. At 1,112 pages, this is the catalog that established us as the most complete source for hardware on the East Coast.

Founded on this day in 1846, the Institution has been nicknamed “the nation’s attic” for its eclectic collection of 137 million items. Overall, the Smithsonian is a group of museums, research centers and a zoo administered entirely by the U.S. government.

Some of the earliest items amassed for the collections of the Institution, which was known as the United States National Museum at the time, were scientific apparatus for demonstration purposes. A few years later, the Institution made a major purchase of fine arts prints, along with the addition of plant and animal specimens collected during the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. The historical items in the museum expanded quickly, with one of the most notable acquisitions Abe Lincoln’s famous top hat, worn to the Ford Theater the night of his assassination.

Among the most famous items found in the Smithsonian is the Hope Diamond. The Institution also holds in its collection many items whose value is sentimental, including both the first teddy bear, made in 1903 in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, and Sesame Street’s Kermit the Frog. A more recent item to join the Smithsonian, acquired this June, is professional skateboarder Tony Hawk’s first skateboard.

Hammacher Schlemmer is extremely honored to be housed in the Institution that was established “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge” and to have our place in American history.

Channeling The Champion Swimmers Of Yore

Athletic training has come a long way since the early 20th century. Considering advances in conditioning, nutrition and psychological strategies, the feats of athletes nearly 100 years ago are all that more amazing.

When gertrude-ederleGertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel on this day in 1926, she completed an extraordinary achievement many “experts” claimed no female could do. What’s more, she did it faster than any male swimmer of the time.

Ederle, known to her friends and family as Trudy, stepped ashore on the English coast 14 hours, 31 minutes after beginning her swim from Cape Gris-Nez, France, smashing the previous record of 16 hours, 33 minutes. More than 2 million people lined the streets of New York City to greet Trudy with a ticker-tape parade when she returned to the U.S. In 1924, Trudy went on to medal in three events at the Olympic Games in Paris.

As amazing as her record time was in its day, in 2006 her time was sliced nearly in half by the current women’s world record holder. Yvetta Hlavacova of the Czech Republic who swam the Channel in 7 hours, 25 minutes.

Needless to say, consistent and frequent training is a key factor in athletic performance. While we can’t promise Olympic medals, The Swimmer’s Treadmill is the swimming pool that allows you to practice laps in a space no larger than an SUV. The pool sets up in garages, backyards, basements, or rec rooms. It uses a harness that wraps around a swimmer’s waist and a flexible elastic tether that suspends swimmers in the water, providing varying resistance–stronger strokes and kicks yield more resistance.

The swimmer’s comfort is also important to getting the most out of a training session. The Photochromatic Swimphotochromic-swim-goggles Goggles have tinted lenses that automatically brighten or darken in response to changing lighting conditions. The photochromatic lenses, common in sunglasses but unique in swim goggles, quickly darken in bright sunlight or harsh fluorescents but lighten in dimmer conditions or when the sun hides behind a cloud.

Some of us may prefer to be on the water than in the water. The English Channel Pedal Boat is the water craft that set a Guinness World Record for the fastest pedal-powered crossing of the English Channel. Possessing superior nautical qualities that enabled navigation through the Channel’s notoriously inhospitable waters, its ballasted keel provides superior stability in windy conditions for up to three passengers.

Or perhaps you’re one to sit poolside with a good book. For you, we have The Turkish Cotton Chaise Lounge Cover. This is the lounge cover made of the same superior cotton as the renowned Hammacher Schlemmer Turkish robe. Imported from Turkey’s Denizli region, a global textile center renowned for producing cotton with exceptionally long-staple fibers, the terry fabric is uncommonly soft, plush, and readily absorbs moisture. The cover provides a sumptuous resting place, while you watch the would-be record-breakers wear themselves out in the pool.

The Water Skiing Innovator Awash With Success

Skier-Controlled-BoatFor many of us, summer memories start with a lake. For some, those memories include skimming along the surface of said lake on water skies.

In 1922, a Lake City, MN, teenager named Ralph Samuelson wondered if skis could glide across water the way they do on snow. He experimented with a number of designs before finding the one that worked. Using two 8′x9″ pine boards from a lumberyard, Ralph steamed the front tips of the planks in his mother’s copper kettle so that the ends could be curved upward, keeping the skier from pitching face-first into the lake. He met with success and a sport was born!

Ralph had assistance perfecting this new sport from his brother, Ben, who drove the boat and helped his sibling practice for hours on end. It may be said that you can’t have a good water skier without a good boat driver, but we’ve found another way. The Skier Controlled Tow Boat is the unmanned water skiing boat that’s controlled entirely by the skier. A six-button control panel on the tow rope handle sends signals to the boat, allowing skiers to start, accelerate, decelerate, turn, or stop the vessel with slight thumb movements. The nearly 8′-long boat achieves speeds up to 40 MPH, creating wakes for jumps and other tricks.

Samuelson attracted his share of attention locally, performing at summer weekend water carnivals, but he never pursued patenting or otherwise publicizing his invention.  A few years later, Fred Waller of Huntington, NY, developed Dolphin Akwa-Skees and got the credit and the commercial success for the invention.

In 1966, the American Water Ski Association recognized Samuelson as the world’s first water skier and inducted him into their Hall of Fame in Winter Garden, FL, in 1977. By that time, of course, the sport had evolved to a popular show feature at warm-weather venues like Cypress Gardens in Florida and Tommy Bartlett’s Thrill Show in Wisconsin.

Have you always wanted to try a little water skiing, but you’re not sure if you have the balance and upper body strength to do so? The Waterskiing Chair is the patented chair that is mounted to a pair of water skis, allowing beginners and experts alike to ski from a stable seated position. Introduced almost 50 years ago, the chair consists of a backless seat connected to broad, widely-spaced skis by a pivoting steering mechanism. Leaning to one side in the chair automatically causes the skis to carve the water in the same direction. The chair only requires riders to hold a tow rope and maintains its balance even when crossing a boat’s wake.

However you create this summer’s memories, the season soon will be coming to a close, so be sure to get on the lake this weekend!