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Globes in the 20th Century

Technological Innovations

Illuinated-GlobeThe 20th century saw a great many shifts in the globe industry. For one, in the 19th century, electricity had become almost ubiquitous in the Western world, allowing illuminated globes to become invented. However, that also took away their usefulness in helping students understand how many hours of daylight were available given a specific latitude during a time of year, as most streets and rooms were now able to be lit at any point of the day with electric light bulbs, making that information not as necessary to know. Also, in the 20th century, radio based sea navigation allowed ships to get where they were going without relying on the constellations, rendering celestial globes redundant for sailing. However, as technology made some of the old uses of globes obsolete, new innovations brought them to an even wider audience.

Globes in the Home and School

Capture32While globes that were used for specific educational and navigational purposes became less common, with mass production, globes became much available for the middle class household. As a result of becoming less expensive to own, they were no longer novelty items for the upper class gentleman or the politician; they started being used in schools and households everywhere. Suddenly, every kid was learning about geography with a globe. Also, in the 1960's, satellite images of the earth from space was starting to confirm what centuries of perilous exploration had shown us about the world's geography. Suddenly, more accurate information about the coastlines of the continents and the underwater ridges of the oceans became available, and found their way onto globes, making them richer and more accurate.


Columbus Innovations in the 20th Century

glass-blowerColumbus Globes, which began in 1909, was central to many of the innovations that shook the industry in the 20th century. For one, Columbus invented their DUO map technology, which put two maps on one globe. That means that when the globe is not illuminated, one map is shown, but when the light switch is activated, another map comes to life on the surface of the sphere with light. This technological insight is one of Columbus' main achievements and signature of their style, and has since become widely copied across the globe industry. Furthermore, in the second half of the 20th century, Columbus became the first company to construct globes out of acrylic plastic. While some models made by the German manufacturer, like the Jena, is made from acrylic, Columbus to this day remains the only company that still has craftspeople that hand-blow glass globes, like the beautiful Weimar model. In this way, Columbus has not been afraid to take risks, while also retaining their artisanal roots.

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