This may just seem to be an ordinary 15th century Dutch house. It is - except for the fact that it were witches that were weighed here.
Established in 1482, this weigh house in Oudewater (near Utrecht) was originally meant for weighing (trading) goods. As witch trials became common in the 16th century, weigh house scales were also used for witch processes. Witches were believed to be light enough to float on water, so if a person was a witch or not could be easily proven by putting them on the scale. Unfortunately, most weigh house scales were manipulated, and many a person was condemned based on a rigged test.
In 1545, Emperor Charles V proclaimed Oudewater’s weigh house as the only fair weighing site in Europe – consequently, not a single witch was ever convicted here.
Mata Hari - the name alone sounds like oriental mystery, seduction and espionage. The girl behind the name was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in the Frisian town of Leeuwarden, and has turned into a legend.
She was born in 1876 as the first child of a hatter and oil-invester. She grew up in wealth, and being the first daughter she was shamelessly spoiled by her father. She would go around in fancy dresses, and be an outsider because of her flamboyant appearance. However, her father's company went bankrupt when Margaretha was 13, and soon after her parents separated. In 1891, Margaretha's mother died, and the family fell apart. Her father went to Amsterdam to live with his second wife and the children were sent to live with other family members.
She started studying to be a kindergarten teacher in Leiden, and it was there that she learned she was sexually attractive to men: the school's headmaster helplessly fell for her. When a scandal broke out, Margaretha was dismissed from the school and went to live with her uncle in The Hague. At the age of 18, she saw an advertisement in the newspaper that was placed by friends of Rudolf MacLeod, a captain stationed in the Dutch East Indies who was - according to his friends - in desperate need of a wife. Margaretha answered the ad and enclosed a photograph, expecting that her beauty would convince him to choose her. He was twenty years her senior, but she understood that the captain would secure her the financial status she had known as a child, but had missed after her father's bankruptcy. The two got married soon after. She now was a member of the upper class, but because she had to live in the tropics, she hardly had any benefit of that. They got two children, Jeanne and Norman. The latter got poisoned at the age of 2,5, supposedly by medicines against syphilis. Because of Rudolf's rude character and Margaretha's troubles to get used to the Indies, the marriage did not work out. In 1902 they moved back to The Hague and got separated soon after; Rudolf took Jeanne with him. Margaretha was left alone without family, money or a proper education.
Though not completely extinct (there are still lamplighters in London and Wroclaw), lamplighter is a typical profession of the past.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, city streets are illuminated. Before that, cities were completely dark – and only those who could afford a servant or a link boy could take a night walk safely. Although is not known for sure if the word's first public gas light got into operation in London or in Germany, the 1st of April, 1814, is generally regarded as the "birth date" of gas lighting. On that day, the old oil lamps around the St. Margaret's Chruch in London-Westminster were replaced by modern gas lamps. Following London, streets all over the world lit up very quickly.
Every single lamp had to be lit and put out by hand. As cities and villages got more laterns, more and more lamplighters were employed - each responsible for a certain area. The used a wooden ladder to climb up and open the glass doors of a latern. (Ever noticed a horizonal bar just below the lamp? That was for the ladder to lean against.) Then they used a long pole with a wick and a small hook attached to it to lit respectively to put out the flame.
Other duties of the lamplighters were to control and renew the candles and the oil when necessary, and as a result of their job, they often acted as watchmen.
During my research on this posts I found this curious bicycle you can see above, apparently used by lamplighters to ride from one latern to another. If they managed to balance 2 meter above the ground, that is.
By the way, I love that older job titles just described what the person did. No modality managers, environmental maintenance officers or whatsoever back in the days.