Angela Todd


In 1695, James Salter, who fashioned himself as “Don Saltero,” opened a coffeehouse on a respectable corner in Chelsea. The chief attraction of the coffeehouse, from Salter’s point of view, was the array of natural science detritus and colonial souvenirs displayed on the walls and ceiling. For the price of a cup of coffee, patrons could view the immensity of England’s global grasp, and ponder the bizarre workings of far-away lands and the earth’s creatures. What is noteworthy about Salter’s collection, however, is not the oddities on display—and there were many—but that his collection overlapped considerably with that of the esteemed collection held by Sir Hans Sloane, whose natural science collection became the basis for the British Museum. One collection was marked for Science and Knowledge in a museum; the other for Entertainment and Amusement in a coffeehouse. Coffeehouse space provided the foil for museum space. Taken together, they provide a significant narrative of the British empire, masculinity, and the formation of scientific hegemony in the modern era.

This cultural studies analysis examines the role played by these two dissimilar men and their similar collections, their roles in British society, and the spaces they inhabited. Ultimately the paper suggests that overdetermined cultural pressures ensured that the realms of science and entertainment remained polar opposites in British modern culture, constituting competing epistemological formations.

Author Biography

Angela Todd graduated from the University of Southern Maine with degrees in Women’s Studies and Literature, and earned a Master’s degree at Binghamton University. She is currently working on her dissertation, of which this article is part, at Carnegie Mellon University. She is employed as Archivist and Research Scholar at The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University.