One recent introduction in our tv diet is Canadian detective fiction series Murdoch Mysteries. It’s based on novels by Maureen Jennings and set in Toronto during the 1890s and early 1900s. The series includes historical characters (Winston Churchill, Alexander Graham Bell, Emma Goldman and others), inventions (fingerprinting), and events (the Great Fire of 1904 in season 10) in their fictitious plots, and often hints at or spoofs future phenomena (telefax, sonar, Area 51).
Although not without issues, Murdoch is fun and interesting in its approach to history. Even if the Victorian era hasn’t ever really been my cup of tea, the production manages to make the era feel alive, not stuffy or staid.
And while I know just barely enough of Victoriana to say that feature X in Dr. Ogden’s dresses looks a little odd, or feature Y on that building appears historical, most of the time I’m guessing. It’s therefore nice to run into a historical detail that looks to have informed elements on the set, like this beer refrigerator from 1899:
The image comes from a catalog of by L. H. Mace & Co. of New York, currently in the Smithsonian Libraries collections. (It’s also very interesting to note that this fridge was actally sold and marketed as a beer fridge, specifically.)
In the earlier Murdoch seasons, there used to be an ice cabinet for storing smaller body parts in addition to larger cadaver drawers. I don’t happen to have a screenshot handy, but fortunately the fridge appears in the background of a few random shots on the Internet: in the photo below, behind Dr. Julia Ogden and Detective Murdoch on the right…
…and behind Dr. Emily Grace in the photo below:
It looks almost identical to the L. H. Mace & Co. beer fridge. Really very, very cool!
It’s such a great detail it’s a shame that at some point when the set was re-decorated it seems not to have made the cut. I will have to try to get a better screenshot of it when we re-watch.
Images: A beer fridge from 1899 via The Smithsonian Institution on Tumblr; Dr. Julia Ogden and Detective Murdoch via Scannersuniverse; Dr. Grace via Pinterest
Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.