Category Archives: Modern History


Was Mozart Really Poor?

During the much of his lifetime, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was everything but a poor man. Although he is often featured as the prime example of the alleged exploitation of talents in the century Europe, this legend has nothing to do with the reality.

In fact, Mozart was very-well paid even when judging by today’s standards. For one-hour long piano play, he could get paid more than 300 Austro-Hungarian Guldens. In comparison, yearly salary of an average century servant was no higher than 20 Guldens.

However, as we can read in a number of historical sources, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart often received more than 1000 Guldens for one single(!) concert. If we consider 6 such concerts every year + other incomes, we can estimate his yearly incomes to be around 10,000 Austro-Hungarian Guldens. In today’s silver prices, this is equal to approximately 100,000 USD. However, when adjusted to standards of Mozart’s age, it’s equivalent to more than $4,000,000.

However, the true reason of Mozart’s financial problems were not the low royalties, but rather his lifelong passion – gambling. In one single day, Mozart allegedly gambled more than 2000 Guldens($800,000) while playing billiard.

Contrary to common misconception, after his death in 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was not buried in pauper’s grave, but rather in a common grave, however, in Vienna, common graves were individual graves for the common people. Difference between Viennese common and aristocratic graves was that the common graves were excavated and used again after ten years; the aristocratic graves were not.



Did Dr.Guillotin Really Invent the Guillotine?

This machine designed to execute people was definitely not invented by French physician Dr.Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, after whom it was named. Similar falling blades have been used to execute criminals back in ancient Persia, and at one time it was even used in medieval Germany.

Execution of Louis XVI in 1792

The Guilottine was first brought to France at the end of century by Antoine Louis, French surgeon born in Germany. Actually, for a short period of time after its invention, the guillotine was often called a ”Louisiette” or ”Petite Louison”.

The first prototype of Guillotine was designed in 1792 by German piano-maker Tobias Schmidt, and its first victim was a bandit named Pelletier.

In year 1789, Joseph Guillotin proposed, that ”every criminal shall be decapitated; this will be done only by means of a simple mechanism, which beheads painlessly”. However, Guillotin had nothing to do with the following terror of French Revolution. In fact, he opposed the death penalty. After his death in 1814, his children, embarassed by the association with the guillotine, changed their surname to ”Mercier”.