The 19th century was a peculiar one. All in the name of fashion both women and men kept dressing up in clothes that could kill them.
It was a period when candles, oil lamps, and fireplaces were lit and provided heat for American and European homes. Now even though women’s wide hoop skirts and flowing cotton and tulle dresses were a fire hazard, they still wore them and they kept getting themselves little fire accidents.
Hatmakers for men experienced some mental and physical side effects from using mercury in their craft. They made men’s felt hats using hare and rabbit fur. In order to make this fur stick together to form felt, hatters brushed it with mercury. It was extremely toxic. Once you inhaled it, it went straight to your brain.
Because arsenic dyed fabric bright green, arsenic also ended up in dresses, gloves, shoes, and artificial flower wreaths that women used to decorate their hair and clothes. The wreaths in particular could cause rashes for women who wore them and for the manufacturers of products with arsenic, they died an unpleasant colourful death filled with convulsion, vomiting and foaming.
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FEATURED IMAGE COURTESY BLOOMSBURY AND WELLCOME LIBRARY, LONDON