In their ground breaking article Princeton’s Mythical Gardener**, Greiff and Gunning include an interesting photograph of Marquand park made in 1868. The picture was taken by John Moran, a Philadelphia photographer. Guernsey hall is visible in the background so Moran must have been standing on the north-east/Stockton-street side of the park when making the photograph. What drew Moran’s attention, more than the trees or the flowers in the park, was a large spherical ball standing on a pedestal, seen in the foreground of the picture. He cleverly used its reflection to include an image of himself in the photograph.
Almost 100 year later a reflecting ball is mentioned again in an unpublished manuscript written by Eleanor Marquand Delanoy entitled Guernsey Hall (1964). In describing the house and park, she mostly used her own memories of living on the estate but also included information received over the years from her parents, Alan and Eleanor Marquand. According Mrs Delanoy, the north-east side of park (now the baseball field) had an enormous formal garden with walks and flower beds when her father bought the estate in 1887. In the middle of this garden stood a “huge mirror ball on a stand”, presumably the same as photographed by Moran.
The curious reflecting ball photographed by Moran and then mentioned again by Eleanor Marquand Delanoy, is called a gazing ball, mirror globe or globe-mirror. These balls were somewhat popular as garden decorations in parts of Europe in the Victorian era. Ludwig of Bavaria, nick-named Mad King Ludwig, ordered them for his gardens at Herrenchiemsee and they are also mentioned by visitors to Versailles and other French gardens. William Robinson in his Parks and Gardens of Paris (London, 2nd edition, 1878) highly disliked the practice of adorning the landscape with what he called “garden horrors” and hoped they would never be introduced in England but then lamented they were.
In America, the Central Park Commissioners paid $61 for globe-mirrors in 1868 so they probably were a feature in this park as well. The globe mirrors became unpopular at the end of the 19th century. They had a short revival in the 20th century and you can still find them occasionally at stores specializing in garden ornaments.
The Central Park globe-mirrors were ordered from Walker and Balen which mostly likely was H. Balen Walker, a manufacturer of mirror glass in New York city. Walker took out a patent on silvering glass in 1869 and explained his improved method in more detail in the 1870 edition of Scientific America. His silvering process had a much higher reflectivity than the traditional mercury process used at the time and therefore was perfectly suited for the manufacturing of globe-mirrors. Judging from the Moran picture, the highly reflective globe-mirror in Marquand park seems to have been made from silvered glass as well but if it was manufactured by the same company we will never know.
**Constance M. Greiff and Wanda S. Gunning, “Princeton’s Mythical Gardener”, Vol. LXXIV, 1, Autumn 2012, pp 9-33.