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Wonders of the World
Wonders of the World is a subject matter I return to frequently. A wonder of the world is just that, something to marvel at. In 1938 Churchman produced a set called Modern Wonders but that was not the last set they produced on the subject. Read on...
Churchmans, World Wonders Old & New
World Wonders
Old & New
Incredibly we did not test it on our own shores

The Second World War effectively put an end to the cigarette card. Even though they were no longer distributed in cigarette packets they were still be printed, on a just in case basis. Actually tens of millions were printed on this basis. Some of the subject based cards from this final run of cards actually have cards which were just not covered by other sets available.

One such set is Churchmans, World Wonders Old & New. A series of 50 cards it was never issued.

Ancient Wonders

The first few cards of the set are the Seven Wonders of the World we all learnt about at school.

Card 1 starts most properly with, 'The Pyramids of Giza.' The card points out it is the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that still exists.

This makes card 2 an interesting choice, 'The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.' The card goes into quite some detail as to how this edifice was created and supported. Today it is a generally held belief the hanging gardens of Babylon did not exist in the form we consider them today.

Card 3, The Tomb of King Mausolus, who consequently gave us the word mausoleum. Now this is just a site of crumbling remains.

Card 4, The temple of Diana at Ephesus (No, I have not misspelled Althrop.) Built of white marble it was destroyed by Herostratus, 356 BC. A second building was constructed (this being the one mentioned in the list of the seven wonders.) Something of a repository for fine things it had many priceless works of art within it. The statue of Diana, itself, was said to have fallen from heaven.

Card 5, The Colossus of Rhodes. Towering over the harbour to some 105 feet it was made of bronze. Often this great statue is shown as straddling the harbour. This is an impossible situation and one the Churchman card does not replicate.

Card 6: The statue of Zeus at Olympia. This is considered the masterpiece of a master, Phidias. Made of ivory and gold it was reputedly 40 foot from base to top and richly decorated with the jewelry of the day. It existed till the early middle ages and then disappeared. Today no trace exists of it save for a few representations on Roman coins.

Card 7 and the last of the ancient wonders, The Pharos of Alexandria. A lighthouse which has been estimated at between 350-600 feet in height. The card does not mention the fact the lighthouse stood for 1000 years, before disappearing in 1500, although it had been damaged by earthquake earlier in its life.

It seems most logical to have the original wonders as the first cards of any set dealing with such things. The Pyramids always being first, as they are the only ones still standing in anything like a condition in which we can imagine the full majesty of what they were.

Not so though. Cohen Weenan, Wonders of the World [1908] & [1923] is a series of 30 cards which leaves the pyramids till card 27. I am prepared to admit defeat as Players, Wonders of the World [1916] leaves the Pyramids till card 20 of a 25 card series.

After completing the seven ancient wonders of the world there is something of a choice for those compiling 'wonder lists' Modern wonders have a rather nasty habit of becoming rather ho-hum. It was seem that to have any real chance of being a world wonder something has to be tempered in the fires of time for some considerable period.

Churchmans keep to the formula of 'old' stuff. The ancient civilizations of Egypt and Rome yielding the next four cards. Which includes King Tutankhamens Tomb, few people would disagree with that one I suspect.

We then shift Easter Island and the strange carved statues that are its sole inhabitants. It was discovered by the Dutch on Easter day 1722. These figures are the subject of more TV documentaries that you can shake a stick out with various theories as to why they exist. Not mentioned on the card is the modern theory the inhabitants managed to kill themselves off by destroying the ecosystem by cutting down all the trees on the island. Let that be a lesson to us. Again though I doubt there would be too many people in disagreement.

Stonehenge and The Great Wall of China follow. The card notes Sir Cecil Chubb presented Stonehenge to the nation in 1915, ever since then the nation have been trying to keep the public away. Its purpose is discussed as possibly a Druid's temple for sun-worship. About as likely as it being a cinema really as the builders had heard of neither druids or films. Cohen & Weenen remembered to include Stonehenge but Players did not. Players does mention the Shway Dagon Pagoda in Ragoon as does Churchman, deciding to spell it, Shwe Dagon. One, if not both of them are wrong but I'm not qualified to say which.

Natural Wonders

The original seven wonders were all man made which is fairly much the standard approach for these things. However with 50 slots to fill 10 went to natural wonders in the Churchman set. Card 32 illustrates a tidal wave which the card claims was observed in the Pacific in Sept 1947. Both the Players and the Churchman sets include Victoria Falls. Both agree Livingstone found it in 1855, Churchmans adding it was 17 Nov. Churchmans also states the natives name for the falls, Mosioatunya (smoke sounds there). Although Players decline to spell the native name they state it translates into, smoke is sounding. Clearly Players spoke to another native, perhaps he had a lisp.

Cohen & Weenen mention the Victoria Falls, as do Churchman.

Card 40 is a new one on me, The Asphalt Lake, Trinidad. Covering an area of 100 acres it has a hard asphalt crust. Forming a considerable part of the countries export drive this lake can be dug with pick and shovel. When this happens molten asphalt bubbles to the surface and hardens once again. Shame we cannot make roads as self-sealing. The card states the supply of this stuff is thought to be inexhaustible. Those were the days.

Modern Wonders

Churchmans chose to call their set World Wonders Old and New and so far I have only discussed things as old as the hills, literally in the case of Mount Everest and The Minaret Stalagmite NSW.

So what were those modern wonders?

Perhaps you would expect them to mirror the set they issued called Modern Wonders just before the Second World War. Then again perhaps things had moved on a bit.

Lets see...

RMS Queen Elizabeth to start with. A liner in the White Star line it was to sail between England and the USA. Built in 1935 the card explains it spent its early years transporting troops. Capable of carrying 15000 troops a time it carried 811325 souls, totaling a distance of 492635 miles. The card states here first voyage with paying customers was 16 Oct 1946 then it accommodated 2315 passengers and 1250 staff. Decide for yourself if this is a world wonder, although to those troops it brought safely home I bet it was. Dams were something of a wonder and two get a mention. Card 29 the Dnieper Dam recalls the misery of war when it explains that the Russians blew up this dam (Aug 1941) in the face of the German advance. The other dam being the Boulder Dam. Card 27 shows the Panama Canal. Now this really can be considered something of a modern wonder in my book. Taking ten years to construct it cost $366,650,000. The original idea of making the cut had been put forward in the 16th century.

The Empire State building gets a mention as the tallest building in the world. The building still gets a mention today probably kept in the public eye by reruns of King Kong. I'm a Chrysler building man myself.

Countdown too...

The final ten cards bring things up to date and this is where an unissued set has the edge. As I said before it was clearly compiled after the Second World War so is a set of cigarette cards that mentions, jet-propelled aircraft. Card 46 states, on the 15th May 1941 a Gloster aircraft E28/39 flew for 17 minutes, its motive power being jet-propelled gas turbine. Not sure it is a world wonder as I would put The Wright Bros. ahead of this development. Cards 47/48 has the Flying Bomb and the Rocket bomb respectively. Showing the V1 & V2 bombs which did so much damage to the South of England during the war it mentions the fact the V2 could fly at 3200 mph weighing 12.5 tons meaning you never heard it coming.

Card 49: The Atom Bomb.

It states the 6th August saw the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A second bomb fell on Nagasaki. The card does not state the motives behind this bombing which seems likely to have been done to show the Russians what could happen to them if they stepped out of line. The fact the Russians had fought and sustained vast casualties during the Second World War as allies meant it was not a good idea to drop the bombs on them.

The card does mention the British tested the first bomb on 3rd October 1952. Incredibly we did not test it on our own shores. Incredible that is if you read some of the very 'British' methods of trying to contact the nuclear genie. It is the sort of story that could make you pull your hair out, if it did not fall out in the first place.

This card also gives the latest date for the set, being November 1952 when it states the US announced the of testing Hydrogen bomb for the first time.

The final card is Penicillin. The first breed of superdrug which was going to save the world. When the cards were compiled this was no doubt the received wisdom. Now it seems we have squandered most of the power of these drugs and created new strains of virus that are even more unpleasant than the original stuff.

I cannot help but think these things are not true wonders. The Cohen & Weenan set actually includes 'The Man in the Iron Mask' as a Wonder of the World. Interesting but a wonder?

Related pages
Modern Wonders
Engineering Wonders
Ancient Egypt

Set Details:

Number in Set:

The last V2 rocket landed on British soil on 27 March 1945. 1,115 had landed killing 2,511 people and seriously injuring 5,869.
The death toll includes my old headmasters father. For some reason he decided to tell a bunch of 11 year olds that his father, upon hearing the doodle-bug coming in made a dash for the outside toilet. Unfortunately this haven was directly struck by the bomb and that was that. Imagine that.

Wednesday, 20th August 2008