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Steampunks Invade the Dickens Fair

This annual event transforms San Francisco’s Cow Palace into Victorian London

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Steam Man, a Time Machine and the dubious inventions of Prof. Phineas J. Flockmocker are among the highlights at the 36th Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party, which finishes its 2018 run this weekend at Cow Palace in Daly City, California, near San Francisco. The event transforms the Cow Palace exhibition halls into a representation of 19th century London, complete with Dickens characters, Victorian-themed shops, live music and theatrical performances. It’s been running every weekend since Nov. 17.

Bay Area steampunks staged a quiet invasion of the fair on Dec. 2, but with so many attendees in Victorian garb, hardly anyone noticed. Some made a beeline for the workshop of Prof. Phineas J. Flockmocker III, where they could marvel at inventions such as the Advanced Gravitational Amplification Device and the World’s First Transportable Pencil Sharpener.

The professor was on hand to discuss his contraptions—and to ensure that everyone appreciated the undeniable genius behind these and other inventions. He’s also a man of medicine, as evidenced by his Healing Cigarettes (“Guaranteed to cure asthma, hay fever, sore throat, colds, bronchitis, ear aches, coughing, sneezing, hiccups. Ingredients: Finest camel dung, potato skins, prize winning horse manure, saw dust & shredded asbestos.”)

His greatest achievement stood motionless in a storage room next door. That was the Steam Man, an eight-foot tall (allegedly) steam-powered robot. At 2 p.m., the Steam Man emerged under the watchful eyes of the Professor and his assistants. After some tinkering by the Professor, the Steam Man walked slowly but steadily through the hall, drawing a large crowd.

The Time Machine, built by Richard Murillo of Novato, California, was modeled after the one from the H.G. Wells novel. For $5, you can sit in the contraption and have your picture taken as you travel through time.

The Fair also provides copious opportunities to (happily) drain your bank account, including purveyors of Victorian apparel, artisan crafts, and even magic wands. In the Adventurers Club, you can hear from 19th century luminaries such as Lewis Carroll, Ada Lovelace, Oscar Wilde, Mary Shelley, and Edgar Allan Poe. Throughout the day, actors portray scenes from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

See the photo gallery below for scenes from the fair. Thanks to Clara Blackheart for providing some of the photos.


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