From wife selling to mummy unwrapping, these Victorian era facts will make you so glad y’all live in the 21st century.
Victorians were fans of torso modification, and many women chased after an hourglass figure with an impossibly tiny waist. The practice known every bit tight lacing with super-snug corsets left some women barely able to breathe. Many doctors of the era fretted that this desire for a “wasp waist” could testify fatal.
Victoria and Albert Museum
During the Victorian era, virtually women didn’t wear a lot of makeup — it was considered tacky. Instead, they chased after translucent, white skin. Women with freckles, pimples, or blotches bought arsenic complexion wafers to clear up their skin. That’s right, they nibbled on arsenic — advertised as “perfectly harmless” — just to give themselves pale skin.
Helena Contained/Wikimedia Commons
In the early years of photography, Victorians flocked to photo studios to take family portraits. Simply photography as well gave families a new way to remember deceased relatives. These post-mortem photos, taken afterwards decease, helped grieving families memorialize their loved ones. Many Victorians would try as hard as they could to make their relatives expect like they were still alive — either by forcibly propping them up or presenting them as if they were sleeping.
Flickr/”Victorian Photographic Portraits of People” Grouping
Women couldn’t only throw on a swimsuit and head to the embankment in the Victorian flow. Instead, they rented bathing machines in order to preserve their modesty. Essentially covered wagons, these bathing machines pulled women to the embankment and offered privacy as they dipped their toes in the water.
French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon was tired of criminals escaping the constabulary. Then in 1879, he came upwards with a new method to track criminals. Bertillon would mensurate every suspect’south head size, middle finger, left foot, and forearm. Police force would file the measurements on cards along with photographs. While fingerprinting replaced Bertillon’s measurements, he gets credit today for pioneering the mug shot.
In the Victorian era, stealing fresh corpses from their graves was an extremely lucrative criminal enterprise. A shortage of cadavers for medical school dissections created an secret trade in dead bodies. Maybe unsurprisingly, the practice of body snatching caused multiple riots when families found their loved ones missing from the cemetery.
Thomas Rowlandson/Wikimedia Eatables
Victorian children spent hours each twenty-four hours laboring in factories and brickyards across Britain. Some of the first child labor laws kept children nether the historic period of 9 out of the factories, merely anyone older could piece of work upward to 9 hours a day. And when they reached age 13, they could work up to 12 hours. In the 1870s, every bit many as 30,000 children worked in Britain’southward brickyards solitary.
Lewis Hine/Wikimedia Commons
Cholera was a deadly disease during the Victorian period. The terrifying illness killed thousands in London, where raw sewage was often dumped in the River Thames. Even worse, when Dr. John Snowfall warned the urban center that contaminated water could spread the disease, his alert was not accepted in official circles. A committee appointed past parliament to investigate the epidemic even said, “Later on careful research, we run across no reason to adopt [Snow’s] conventionalities.”
Corsets and crinolines divers the early on years of Victoria’s reign. In the 1850s, cage crinolines grew larger than ever before thank you to new engineering science. Made with jump steel, these crinolines provided a sense of lightness and flexibility. The widest skirts measured 18 feet beyond.
George Cruikshank/Wikimedia Eatables
The Victorian catamenia celebrated nature. And the Victorian obsession with nature translated into some foreign mode trends. Women covered their hats and gowns with bird feathers — and sometimes entire bird corpses. In 1886, an American ornithologist reported sighting pieces of 40 native birds on the hats of stylish ladies in New York Metropolis.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Mummies were all the rage in the Victorian era, when British visitors to Egypt oftentimes came home with a mummy as a gift. Victorians even held mummy unwrapping parties. One host sent out printed invitations that read, “Lord Londesborough at Home: A Mummy from Thebes to be unrolled at half-by Two.” Guests would get together to see what lay below the mummy’s wrappings.
Paul Dominique Philippoteaux/Wikimedia Commons
The Victorians invented one of the offset homeless shelters in London — but the 19th-century version was pretty creepy. For just four pennies, homeless Londoners could rent a bury-shaped bed from the Salvation Army.
What’s a garden without a gnome or hermit? Wealthy Victorians didn’t want to exit their grounds empty, and so they hired real-life humans to serve as ornamental garden hermits on their property.
When Charles Hamilton posted an advertisement in the paper to hire a garden hermit, he explained, “…he shall exist provided with a Bible, optical spectacles, a mat for his feet, a hassock for his pillow, an hourglass for timepiece, water for his beverage, and food from the house. He must article of clothing a camlet robe, and never, under any circumstances, must he cut his hair, bristles, or nails, devious beyond the limits of Mr. Hamilton’southward grounds, or commutation one word with the servant.”
Ludwig Sckell/Wikimedia Commons
Victorian London stank. Subsequently untold amounts of raw sewage were dumped into the River Thames, it became a cesspool. Scientist Michael Faraday even described the river as “an opaque stake brown fluid.” During the Great Stink of 1858, a heat wave carried the foul order across London, finally convincing the city to reform its public health policies.
Dial Magazine/Wikimedia Eatables
Many Victorian mourning practices seem quite strange to united states today. For example, when a person died, mourners would often clip off a piece of their hair and preserve information technology in jewelry to remember them.
Crystal Palace, built in 1851 for the kickoff World’south Off-white in London, didn’t just show off plants, animals, and luxury items from around the world. Information technology likewise featured a human zoo. Visitors to the Crystal Palace were encouraged to gawk at 60 Somalis, who were transported there from Africa.
Insects were all the rage in Victorian fashion. Women donned live beetles as jewelry and adorned gowns with expressionless butterflies. Shortly, they started to push button some species to the brink of extinction. Ane 1890 article reported, “Non content with her slaughter of the innocents in the thing of birds, Dame Way has extended her murderous designs to moths and butterflies.”
Ardern Holt/Wikimedia Commons
The futurity Edward Vii started a tendency after his visit to Jerusalem in 1862: tattoos. One time some of the royals gave tattoos their stamp of approval, thousands lined up to get their ain. According to one contemporary estimate, more than 100,000 Londoners sported tattoos in the Victorian era. While the British mostly hid their tattoos, American Maud Wagner proudly showed off her ink. (Though Wagner lived during the Victorian era, she began her tattooing shortly afterwards that period ended.)
The Plaza Gallery/Library of Congress
Victorian mental asylums locked away criminals, people with mental illnesses, and people with learning disabilities. Co-ordinate to reformer Harriet Martineau, public asylums contained “chains and strait-waistcoats, three or 4 half-naked creatures thrust into a sleeping accommodation filled with straw, to exasperate each other with their clamour and attempts at violence; or else gibbering in idleness or moping in solitude.” Mental asylum portraits capture the chaos and tragedy of life in a Victorian asylum.
Museum Of The Heed
Mummies had a lot of uses during the Victorian era. Painters used “mummy brown” in their works, a color that was literally made from footing-upwardly mummies. And some people treated diseases past taking mumia (or mummia), a medicine made from mummies.
Bullenwächter/Deutsches Apothekenmuseum Heidelberg
Victorians feared naught more than being cached alive. And then they designed “rubber coffins” just in instance they woke upwards six feet under. These coffins were outfitted with bells higher up footing in case of “premature burying.” But there was one major problem with safety coffins: As bodies decayed and naturally swelled, they might mistakenly activate the bell arrangement.
Christian Henry Eisenbrandt/National Archives
Victorians may have invented the super villain before the 20th century gave us modern superheroes. For proof, just look at Leap-Heeled Jack, a legendary bogeyman who dressed upward in a cloak and attacked people with his claws. Some believers even claimed Jump-Heeled Jack was able to breathe fire.
Victorians were willing to die for fashion — literally. The crinoline dresses popular from the 1850s to almost 1870 were incredibly flammable. During the height of crinoline fashion, an estimated 3,000 women died when their dresses caught burn down.
Victorian factories pumped massive amounts of black fume into the air. London coal fires added to the toxic mix, creating a thick smog in the city. The pollution stained buildings, caused an awful odor, and created a lot of laundry problems. In fact, Victorian men often dressed in black to help them hide unsightly stains from London’south pollution.
Valentine’s 24-hour interval wasn’t just for lovers in the Victorian era. Some people mailed insulting cards called vinegar valentines to their enemies. These cards were so mean that they reportedly caused some recipients to commit suicide.
Missouri Historical Society
Since divorce was expensive during the Victorian period, some men just opted to sell their wives instead. Bizarrely plenty, this would often take the form of a cattle auction, equally the husband would bring his wife to a marketplace and give her away to the highest bidder. Even equally late equally 1901, jurist James Bryce noted, “Everybody has heard of the odd habit of selling a married woman, which withal occasionally recurs among the humbler classes in England.”
Not all Victorians welcomed the railway smash. Many worried that the sounds and motions of train travel could plow people into lunatics — and this “railway madness” could strike at whatever fourth dimension. In 1864, one paper told the story of a sailor who swore, shouted at, and attacked people in his carriage. That same twelvemonth, the Victorian Railways posted a new rule isolating “insane persons . . . in a compartment past themselves.”
Adolph von Menzel/Wikimedia Eatables
27 Bizarre Facts About The Victorian Era That Y’all Didn’t Learn In School
The Victorian menstruum was all about contradictions. Victorians cheered for the railroad nail but fretted about railway madness. They surrounded themselves with death by adorning their outfits with bird corpses but tried to escape their own mortality with “prophylactic coffins.”
Men auctioned off their wives at the market one day and and then insisted that women preserve their modesty at the beach by hiding in “bathing machines” on the side by side day. Makeup was denounced equally tacky only arsenic skincare products were advertised every bit “perfectly harmless.”
The Victorian era facts in the gallery above paint a very unlike picture of the time menses than the one usually seen in history books.
Life In The Victorian Era
In 1837, Victoria became Queen of the Britain and ruled for 63 years. During the so-called Victorian era, Britain’south empire became the biggest in the earth. The Industrial Revolution transformed Britain into a technological powerhouse, and the population skyrocketed.
Between 1815 and 1860, London’s population grew three-fold, counting more than than 3 million residents.
Unfortunately, the city’s rapid growth led to some undesirable side furnishings. Diseases similar cholera spread speedily, and the practice of dumping raw sewage into the River Thames left London foul and polluted.
Population growth wasn’t the but change that came at a high toll. While the booming railroad business organisation made information technology easier than always to cross England, doctors blamed the engineering science for railway madness, which they defined as a sudden mental break that caused passengers to become mad just considering they were riding a train. These and then-chosen “railway madmen” were believed to be driven insane due to the train’s sounds and motion.
But Victorians didn’t ever trust doctors — especially when body snatching was such a common problem. Loftier demand for cadavers in medical schools created an cloak-and-dagger market for dead bodies. Eerily enough, some body snatchers didn’t even look until their targets died.
Victorian Way Pushed Boundaries
Victorian style evolved from the hoop brim to the bustle.
The Victorian era took fashion to new heights. Women wore crinoline dresses that stretched as wide as 18 anxiety across in the 1850s. And by the 1870s, the puffy bustle was all the rage.
Victorian fashion was also a matter of life and death. The airy fabrics of full-skirted 19th-century gowns were incredibly combustible. Oscar Wilde’s half-sisters died after a Halloween party when candlesticks set their gowns on burn down. And they weren’t the only ones to suffer this painful fate. At one point, it was estimated that 3,000 women died in crinoline-related fires.
Victorians were also fans of trunk modification — which didn’t just refer to corsets. While some women chased the temporary “wasp waist” look, others went with more than permanent modifications. For case, tattoos were popular in the Victorian era, both with criminals and royalty.
Edward VII had a Jerusalem Cross tattooed on his body, and George V boasted a carmine and blueish dragon. By 1902, aristocracy men and women lined up for tattoos, with
promising that “even the most frail ladies make no complaint” at the “slight pricking” of the tattoo needle.
Stylish ladies chose tattoos of collywobbles and birds or went for an “all-yr-round delicate pink complexion” with subtle face tattoos. Winston Churchill’south mother inked a serpent on her wrist.
Unfortunately, Victorian mode besides drove some species to extinction every bit women adorned their outfits with dead animals. “Dame Fashion,” i article wrote in 1890, “has extended her murderous designs to moths and butterflies.” Meanwhile, expressionless birds sat atop hats and beetles replaced jewels on necklaces and earrings.
The Victorians Brought The World To London
J. McNeven/Wikimedia Commons
In 1851, Londoners flocked to the Crystal Palace to marvel at luxuries from effectually the world.
The Victorian obsession with nature extended beyond insects every bit jewelry. At the height of the British Empire, Victorians brought the world to London.
Starting in the 1850s, the Crystal Palace showcased exotica from around the world, from gardens to luxury goods. Initially congenital for the first Earth’s Fair in 1851, the drinking glass building was meant to serve not only equally an exhibition for intriguing objects simply too equally a way to become more than of a cultural education.
So the structure featured many artifacts and historical architecture, too as dioramas of unique flora and brute plant all over the earth. Unfortunately, at that place was likewise a “human zoo” that featured lx Somalis — transported to London simply and so British people could gawk at them.
But Londoners were especially fascinated with Arab republic of egypt. Travelers brought dorsum mummies as souvenirs and held parties to unwrap them. Thomas Pettigrew personally unwrapped at least 40 mummies. He also embalmed the 10th Knuckles of Hamilton in the ancient Egyptian method. The knuckles’s trunk was subsequently buried in an actual ancient sarcophagus that he had purchased 30 years earlier — and even chiseled out to fit his frame.
Many Victorians — especially wealthy ones — saw Uk as the most powerful nation in the world. Just even power couldn’t protect Victorians from the always-present reality of death. Cholera swept England multiple times during Victoria’s reign, and high mortality rates led to increasingly elaborate mourning rituals.
Take, for example, these Victorian era facts about death: Nearly 60 pct of children built-in to working-class families died before their fifth birthday. In the decade that Victoria became queen, the life expectancy for tradesmen was 25 years, and for laborers, it was 22 years. Queen Victoria herself spent twoscore years in mourning for her husband Prince Albert.
For grieving Victorians, post-mortem photographs helped them remember their deceased loved ones. For people who were paranoid about being buried alive, prophylactic coffins promised to save them from “premature burial.” And in one of London’s first homeless shelters, men slept in open up beds that were shaped like coffins. All in all, Victorian life made information technology virtually impossible to escape death.
After reading about these Victorian era facts, check out the strangest Victorian dating rituals and then learn more near the life of Queen Victoria.