The first volume in the Kits for Cultural History series, the Early Wearables Kit prompts people to reverse engineer and reassemble an electro-mobile skull stick-pin intended for cravats, designed by Gustave Trouvé, built by Auguste-Germain Cadet-Picard, and exhibited at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Powered by a 1.5-volt zinc-carbon battery located in the wearer’s pocket, the skull on the pin was said to snap its jaws and move its eyes. To animate the skull, the wearer would flip the pocket battery from a vertical to a horizontal position. Once activated, the battery would trigger a mechanism (resembling that of an interrupter bell) hidden inside the skull, which was less than two centimetres in diameter. This combination of electricity with jewellery was not only unique for the 1860s; it also suggests the stick-pin was an early wearable technology.

Model and Manufacture of the Electro-Mobile Skull Stick Pin

Model and Manufacture of the Electro-Mobile Skull Stick Pin (image care of Nina Belojevic, Shaun Macpherson, and Danielle Morgan)

Research Leads, Contributors, and Support

Since 2013, the following researchers have contributed to the Early Wearables Kit: Nina Belojevic, Tiffany Chan, Nicole Clouston, Devon Elliott, Katherine Goertz, Shaun Macpherson, Kaitlynn McQueston, Danielle Morgan, Victoria Murawski, Jentery Sayers, and William J. Turkel. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund supported this research.

The Kit Exhibited at Rutgers

The Kit Exhibited at Rutgers (image care of Danielle Morgan)

Project Status

This project was completed in October 2015 and exhibited at Rutgers University, with publications in Hyperrhiz and Visible Language and a CBC Radio interview that same year. The lab also created a public repository containing all files related to the kit. To learn more about the kit, see the stream of posts below. Please do not hesitate to either comment on a post or email with feedback.

Post by Katherine Goertz, attached to the KitsForCulture project, with the fabrication and projects tags.


More about Katherine Goertz

PDPP Student, Education | Research Assistant, Maker Lab