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"Portrait of Oswalt von Reesen, Inventor of One-Way Glass, with an Unsuspecting Neighbor"

Albrecht Dewar

The 16th century saw many wondrous scientific advances, and many existing inventions were considerably improved. One of these was common glass, which for centuries had been an imperfect instrument because of the difficulty in pouring perfectly flat sheets. Another was the mirror, which had the additional technical difficulty of applying an even, highly-reflective surface to the smooth glass.

One of the pioneers in the field of advanced glass research was Oswalt von Reesen, proprietor of Nuremburg's largest glassworks. He ceaselessly strove to create Germany's smoothest glass and most reflective mirrors.


One day his experiment resulted in a curious product: a sheet of glass that was perfectly transparent when viewed from one side, but utterly opaque when viewed from the opposite side. When the import of his invention struck him, he immediately offered to install free of charge the new glass in the wall separating his apartment from the dwelling of the curvaceous but unobtainable Katerina Paltz, who had told Oswalt on more than one occasion that she intensely disliked men with "weenie moustaches." Katerina thought he was simply installing new tiles on her sun deck. Little did she know she was gratifying the sordid desires of he who was to become known as "The Dirty Old Man of Nuremburg" (or "Der Schmutzige Alte Mann von Nuremburg" as the headlines in the local tabloid, the Nationaler Enquierforschender, put it). Oswalt's downfall came when the curtain over the glass slipped away while the bachelor von Reesen was entertaining the head of the League of Citizens for Smut-free Moral Purity and his wife, mother and children. As luck would have it, the lovely Katerina on the other side of the glass was doing her nude yoga exercises.

Driven from Nuremburg in disgrace, publicly denounced as a lewd reprobate, and financially ruined by Katerina's invasion of privacy lawsuit, von Reesen traveled to Antwerp where he set up a small shop under an assumed name, from which he exported jokes and novelties to the American colonies. He lived in Antwerp as "Joe Smedley," and went to his grave there known only as the inventor of the dribble glass, chattery teeth, and the joy buzzer.


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