Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jenny Lind Was a Rock Star, and I Never Knew

When Eustacia was a baby, she slept in a Jenny Lind crib, but I never thought to investigate who this Jenny Lind was. Now I know.

Last week I interviewed this elderly couple—retired missionaries—who refurbish antique trunks. They find crappy looking trunks at flea markets and auctions, and they sort through what's junk and what's worth saving. Given their skills, they can save just about anything, but Jenny Lind trunks are their favorite, and that led me to read further.

Jenny Lind was a famous opera singer in the mid-1800s. She was from Stockholm and sang all over Europe. Mendelssohn was one of her biggest fans and wrote with her in mind, even the final high note in Elijah, oddly enough. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't have a little crush on the girl.

Dive probably knows all about this, but Lind discovered Norwich, England and loved it so much that she gave concerts there a lot and donated some of the ticket proceeds to local charities. The children's wing in the Norwich hospital is still named for her.

And that's just one example of how the woman was a rock star. P. T. Barnum discovered Jenny and brought her to the States. He acted as sort of an agent for her, and she gave concerts all over the country. She was a huge hit, and people expressed their admiration for her by naming everything they could think of after her.

Here are just a few examples: cribs, changing tables, sewing machines, China patterns, a water treatment plan in California, soup. Yes, soup. It's made with mashed rutabagas, broth, Gruyere, and cream. Lind traveled with a cool set of trunks made in Europe, and American luggage makers were impressed. They made something similar and called it the Jenny Lind trunk, and the things sold like anything. You can tell if a trunk is a Lind trunk because it's sort of shaped like a loaf of bread when you see it from the side.

There was a Jenny Lind steam locomotive built for a company in London. And there is a tower near the beach in Cape Cod. It's just a tower—not attached to anything like a castle, nothing in it like a light, just a tower.

Like I said, Jenny Lind was a rock star.


dive said...

Yay! The Swedish Nightingale.
Yes, we have the Jenny Lind Hospital here. She certainly got around a bit.

Mark said...

That's fascinating. I just thought she made beds. Thank goodness there were no tabloid shows, or all we'd remember would be the embarassing photos.

Rich said...

And I thought Jenny Lind made chocolate.

MmeBenaut said...

Makes you wonder how some people can pack all of that into one life doesn't it? Fantastic story Robyn.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I remember there was/is a Jenny Lind doll too.

lynn said...

How interesting, Robyn.
My mother is in Norwich hospital as we speak. Hip replacement. She is recovering.

Miz Minka said...

I once lived in a small town in the California foothills that used to be called Jenny Lind and even had its own ZIP code before it was gobbled up by another town. I never knew where the name came from; thanks for such an interesting article!

A said...

I worked in the pharmacy dept with Miss Talbolt in the early 70's