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Episode 124: To Die For


Everyone wants to look good. And while there’s nothing wrong with beauty, sometimes people have made sacrifices—both willing and unaware—in the pursuit of it. After looking through the pages of history, though, that hasn’t always been a good thing.


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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
The claims were extraordinary. He would chased away your problems, make all your dreams come true and fixed. The things that you didn't even know were wrong was the sort of thing you might find in an instagram. Add except. This item was on the markets over a century ago, Doktor James,
p Campbell had created the magic pill. It was a wafer that claim to target all those pesky skin conditions that folks wanted to get rid of black heads, redness, dry, patches and even freckles, but had offered more. According to the add that ran in newspapers around eighteen, ninety doktor campbells complexion wafers or supposed to smooth out facial disfigurement and soften harsh angles. It promised to lift your spirits, help your appetite and clear up any painful rheumatism that might be troubling. You headaches, hay fever, indigestion, you name it doctor, Campbells complexion waivers good, do at all, except you know the truth right. There are no magic power. Was no silver bullets guaranteed to solve our problems? No easy fixes to the cards we ve been dealt yes, a lot of those conditions are issues can be helped, but today we know just how expensive and complicated it is to do that that didn't stop others,
selling the same sort of product, though in eighteen. Ninety ray and add ran in the spokesmen Daily Chronicle. That declared beautiful, win use, doktor, sims complexion, wafers and, like all the other, adds preyed on that ancient eternal desire that all of us have deep down in our core. We longed for beauty and will do almost anything to reach its history is full of stories of desperate people who have lined up for the latest and greatest in items designed to bestow beauty and right alongside them. There have been enterprising individuals to offer new and improved ways to achieve it. But if you dig deep enough
notice. One thing that all those tales have in common beauty isn't just a luxury that most people strain themselves to reach its to die for I'm Aaron Monkey, and this is lore. colonel she'll invented green, not the color, mind you! We could find green all through our nature, making it one of the most common colours in the world. Bacaro was looking for a way to apply that color to other objects, and in one thousand seven hundred and seventy five you figured it out. It was a pigment based on a recipe of chemicals that included, copper and Was released, shields green color almost anything but covers soap
leaves on artificial plants, wallpaper and clothing. The trouble wasn't how useful the pigment was or how many items in a person's life could suddenly become bright, green. It was the key ingredients in the pigment, arsenic. Now, thanks to a century or more of mystery, novels and detective shows. Most people know that arsenic is a toxic substance, but in seventeen. Seventy five that was sort of an afterthought if arsenic was used in a product folks generally assumed that it wasn't going to pose a threat, but how wrong they were by them. eighteen, hundreds shields green, was colouring countless items in the world in eighteen, sixty two A young woman named Matilda Surer, worked at an artificial flower maker crafting those fake vines and leaves into headdresses for customers to buy
and she helped them stand out by dusting them with the powdered version of the arsenic based green pigment. Over an eighteen month period, Matilda went from healthy to horribly ill. Her finger nails were bright, green, as were the whites of her eyes. Then, on November twenty eighth of eighteen sixty one, she became so sick that she vomit Up green liquid, when the doktor checked her, she told him that her vision had become tinted. Green weeks later she was dead. This dangerous pursuit of beauty wasn't a new thing, though even back in the 19th century. We can find examples as far back as ancient Egypt to find the same. Delicate balance between toxic chemicals and good looks, but for the Egyptians their weakness was eyeliner.
According to historians, everyone from the lowest of servants to the faroes themselves used heavy dark eyeliner on a daily basis. The recipe was a mixture of black and green powders. Although I can't find evidence that the green was achieved with arsenic when it did contain, though, is almost ass. Bad. Scientists, working with ancient egyptian artifacts from the loop, have determined that the eyeliner actually contain two different types of lead which were not used justice make up, but to treat scars and other skin issues an amazing some studies have shown that it might have been helpful, lead. It turns out, as a breaking down the dna of bacteria and stimulating the immune system, but you If anything is never a good idea, the trade off is that lead is toxic in large quantities had the ancient Egypt
if managed to live longer lives than their average of forty years. That constant, daily exposure to lead might have created new were more deadly health problems for them, and they would it be the last the roman poet of left us detailed accounts of how roman women used powdered white led known as serious as a foundation for the rest of their make up. It was a subsidy that have been around for a very long time and remained practice long after the Romans were gun, which is why, just four years after taking the throne England's Queen Elizabeth, the first reached for it she had become queen age of twenty five, but a few years into her reign. She contracted smallpox, which left her face scarred forever. The white led powder might have left her face, looking a bit too white, but its smoothed out her blemishes as well
This is why every painting of Queen Elizabeth first shows a pale faced woman, because she felt the need to paint her face white. There was a downside. No over time that lead powder had a way of corroding the skin beneath it which necessitated using more and more as the years went by and that much led caused other problems such as Harold. and a deterioration of her mental health. She slowly poisoned herself over the years, and today most historians agreed that it was Elizabeth Use of White, led powder that ultimately killed. Her The years passed by led fell out of use in favour of arsenic, how versions of the toxic mineral were used to widen, faces and treat lice infested hair. Some women you it's a read in their cheeks, while others found medicinal uses for it, and then, of course, Carl Shields. Green pigments entered the picture, but it was worse than that.
Those beauty wafers I mentioned at the start of today's episode. The active ingredient in all of them was arsenic Make oil salesman all across Amerika in Europe were packing up poisonous biscuits and selling them as a beauty aid, not because they wanted to harm people, of course, but because they assumed most customers would gladly deal with a little poison if it meant clearing up their acne in the gesture and whether or not the wafers actually worked is hard to tell, but we can't deny the truth. They ve left behind when it comes to looking good. Some people will literally do anything
it started ass. A legend stories were whispered then they were spread and then finally, every one bought into it when it happens on the internet, it surprising, but understandable and tenth century China, though it was remarkable, the stories tell of an emperor, who is concubine danced on a golden stage that had been built in the shape of a Lotus flower, but it wasn't the dancing that went viral so to speak. It was her feet. According to the legend before the dance began, this woman had compressed her feet into a more slender pointed shape, whether or not
Hale is true. Its influence is unmistakable for the next nine hundred years. China would become home to the unusual practice of foot binding, and, let me be completely up front with you here for binding, is a deep cavernous topic with hours of history and details, and I can't cover all of that for you today. At the same time, I'm it's a painful subject and one with a lot of new once and passionate opinions. Yes, it was a practice of violence against women. Yes, it was a form of social oppression. and yes, it was something that chinese women felt powerless to reject for nearly a thousand years, but it's also the perfect example of that old human tendency to place the pursuit of beauty and fashion over common sense and physical wellbeing. And that's why I want to briefly mention today what As for binding oversimplifying it, it was the process of binding women's feats in order to the form and control their shape,
at the height of its popularity. The binding process would begin between the ages of two and four years old, where the for smaller toes would be bent under the foot and then held there with long cloth wrappings as the foot grew, it would be broken repeatedly to allow those toes to continue curving under the foot. Eventually, growth would slow and it would no longer be necessary to re break the foot, but the women who suffer through this would still need to keep their feet. In cloth or the rest of their lives. Understandably, this sort of guided mutilation had consequences. It became difficult to walk and because of that, women became less mobile than men often times the bindings would cut off circulation leading, The rotting wounds and infected skin, and if the infection spread to the bones of the toes, they would often fall off something that aligned just fine with the beauty standards of the day, brutal
the true some infections were so bad, though, that they were known to spread throughout the rest of the body. Some Story and believe that close to ten percent of foot bound, women eventually died from complications with the process, and those that survived were much more susceptible to health problems, as they grew older. Remember, though, that this was done to reshape feeds into an ancient ideal of bees, but while the legend of the emperor's dancer dates back to the tenth century, there is an older chinese story about a king who finds a tiny, shoe and announces his intention to marry, whoever could fit their foot in sight and if that sounds familiar, you're too you at all. That's because historians think it's one of the older, roots of the Cinderella fairytale on record, but the Chinese were the only culture attempting to bind and contain
human form elsewhere around the world. Women have been strapping themselves into course. It's in order to shape their figure. It's a practice that centuries old, with simple technology that didn't change much during that time, but in the mid nineteenth century something happened in eighteen. Twenty eight of french designer introduced a new feature, for course its metal, islets and laces. Today I think they're taken for granted, but in the early eighteen hundred this was revolutionary. It allowed women to adjust and tighten their course its whenever they needed or wanted to giving them so much more control than ever before. But, as you might expect, not control came at a price. Tighter course, its lead, too restricted airflow, causing many who wore them too. Faint in public. The medical community spoke out against them, but it was like shouting into the wind. This was victorian society after all, and of course, it had become a symbol of a woman's restraint and virtue. Those who did
wear them were considered promiscuous by their peers, but prolonged use of overly tight course. Its had a tendency to deform a woman's ribcage compared in it, and reducing the space inside for internal organs, understand the many women experience, shortness of breath, indigestion and the atrophy of their back and stomach muscles, for those who insisted on wearing their course. It's too tight. It was quite a price to pay like I said, people will go to great lengths to be beautiful. whether its at the hands of an oppressive societal expectation or a choice made willingly on their own humans have been king sacrifices on the altar of fashion. For almost as long as we ve been around times, though, there is more involved and added layer that makes the pursuit of beauty more complex and acceptable,
but new layers bring new complications, new opportunities for failure and abuse and suffering, and when that happens, it turns a simple sacrifice into a burnt offering When it comes to performance, are there are few as beautiful as ballet, whether it's the elaborate set design of the Boston, ballets rendition of the nutcracker or the simple strength of each dancers movements? Ballet is filled with books but a century and a half ago that beauty came with a price. Today we have workplace safety requirements and better modern tech,
ology, but in the middle of the nineteenth century, things were a bit more precarious stage. Elements and sets were known to collapse, sometimes in the middle of performances and sometimes right on top of dancers, in an era when most theatres were built mainly of wood, fire was a constant risk. That's not all that had a tendency to burn now. It turns out that the two national costumes, worn by ballet dancers, had a tendency to catch fire and not the sort of fire that start small and slowly eats away at the fabric. No, these fires were instant and all kinds you mean, and when there was a person inside that outfit, you can imagine how deadly that could become. Part of the problem was the dress itself. They were made of thin, airy, muslin, cotton, netting and gauze, all of which were open, weave fabrics that were practically born to burn. But the problem. Was that in the middle of the nineteenth century, interior lights were all gas based everywhere
you saw the bright glow of light. You were looking at an open flame and when you pay a dozen or more women on a stage, that's lit by a series of small gas lamps. Well, you can see how dangerous it quickly gets. on the night of September 14th, one thousand eight hundred and sixty one. Those risks were put to the test in the Philadelphia venue known as the continental theater. The dancers were planning to take the stage that night to perform shake. Here's, the tempest and theatre owner, William Wheatley, had hired an English set designer to bring the shipwreck seem to life. All fifteen hundred people in the audience watched as the seas began to rise. Enrage as it did, the dancers rushed off the stage to change out one outfits into another, and they had to do it quickly. They needed to help the character Alonzo. Well, from the shipwreck, survivors to prosperity, island inside the dancers, changing room gas lamps had been set beside large mirrors, which help to amplify the light. According to one report,
Some of the dancers chose to hangar dresses on the mirror frames because their shape made them effective hooks, but that put them far too close to the open flames. as the storm raged on in front of the audience. A scream filled, the theater and a brilliant orange glow flared up behind the set pieces back. State one of the dancers, a young woman named zeal, yet gale had caught fire and in her panic she had rushed out onto the stage her entire body engulfed in flames witnesses claimed to have seen her flesh melting offer limbs before she toppled off toward the audience. Wheatley panicked, He ordered the main curtain to be drawn across the stage, but that only hid the visual portion of the tragedy from the people. In the seats he attempted to calm them but the screams from behind the curtain were overwhelming and terrifying, not knowing what else to do. He urged the crowd two eggs at the theatre which they promptly did, but the dancers backstage didn't have to
same chance to escape tragically Zelaya, wasn't the only one to catch fire. She was part of a family of dancers from England, and three of her sisters were also in the continental with her that night, when her dress began to burn all three of them rush to help her only to catch fire them. panic, broke out in the dressing room while Celia bolted toward the stage, the other. Is began to run madly around the room. One of the sister is reportedly crashed headfirst into one of the large mirrors, which covered her body and a spider web of deep bloody cuts. Another forced one of the windows open, perhaps hoping for some one to rescue them, but after a few terrifying moments that open window became attempting exit, multiple dancers threw themselves out the No and plummeted to the pavement below witnesses. On the street claim to hear the sounds of bones: breaking as the young women landed others inside rushed after zeal yet crashing office.
Age and into more mirrors. It was chaos fuelled by fire and ruled by terror. When the tragedy was over, many of the dancers were carried to local buildings for medical care, including a tavern, some house, and a nearby hotel, but after the chaos subsided, all of them were transported to the Pennsylvania Hospital physicians fought to save as many as they could in the aftermath of it. Tragedies such as the one that took place inside the Continental Theatre, it would be easy to go. Looking for someone to blame, amazingly, though, William Wheatley, the owner, avoided any public or legal accusations According to everyone inside at the time, he simply did what he was able to do and probably saved all of them from a larger catastrophe, but the dancers
weren't. So lucky of the ten ballerinas who are part of the production that nights eight of them died as a result of their injuries. All four of the gale sisters were among them most. People want to look good. We make an effort, at least, and I'm not sure I know anyone personally who enjoys leaving the house without first making themselves presentable. Maybe it's vanity, or perhaps it's something deeper, something more than we can put into words. Looking back through the pages of history, its clear that beauty has been a priority for a very long time
And again, that's not a bad thing and I don't want anyone to feel ashamed or attacked just because they enjoy looking good. But what history does teach us is that often times humans have chosen beauty over safety, and the results have been tragic from ways in make up in the ancient world to the modern trend of fake braces applied at home with toxic materials, there doesn't seem to be an end to the ancient tradition of damaging ourselves. In order to look perfect, the clue have been in our fairytales for centuries and there in the news today leaving me too or, if will ever catch on and correct ourselves, Humans are notoriously slow to learn things. You would think that the tragedy at the country, Until theatre in eighteen, sixty one would settle the issue of safer, ballet costumes once and for all, but that, sadly not the case. Even in France, where
old, traditional dresses and set pieces, were banned in favour of fire resistant alternatives. There were those who resisted. One was a dancer named Emma Livery, she was the daughter of a minutes ballerina and a wealthy father who studied at the Paris Opera School, and while it was said that she, wasn't the most beautiful young woman in the school. Her technique and grace were second to none. Everyone who watched her dance walked away certain that Emma would be a star. and they were right. She made her debut appearance at just sixteen years old, as the lead in LA seal feed and from there her career, climbed, higher and higher. After that, She was taken under the wing of renown, ballerina and choreographer Marie Tangley Ony. If there was one bright flame, in all of ballet in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was Emma livery one sixty and eighteen year old Emma pushed back against.
new rules regarding fire safety, the new costumes, we're fire resistant sure, but the chemicals they had been treated with also made them look filthy instead. Emma wanted to maintain the high standards of her predecessors, and this new rule was cramping, her style. That decision come back to haunt her, though in November of eighteen sixty two while rehearsing for performance, Emma's skirts brushed over one of the stage lamps and caught fire, Japan and ran around the stage for a few moments before someone was able to catch her and put out the flames. Emma's wounds weren't deep, but they covered roughly half her body, including her waist back thighs and arms. Worse, yet the laces of her course it had caught fire as well melting into her flesh.
For the next two days, Emma couldn't move instead remaining inside her dressing room, while wrapped in what must have felt like miles of bandages. There were other issues to tag Leones heard Tudor had rubbed make up. Greece I miss burns in the immediate aftermath, because sheep somehow believed that the oil would suit the wounds. Instead, it contributed to the infection that was about the bloom all over her body, the months of rest and recovery that followed allowed Emma a chance to rethink her negative attitude toward fire resistant, ballet costumes, but even the tragedy of her own accidents and the suffering she had to endure didn't compete with her desire to maintain the old standards. If ever I dance again, she told her friends, it won't be in one of those ugly news
asses. Sadly, she never had the chance to stand by those convictions. On July, twenty sixth of eighteen sixty three over eight months after her encounter with the flames Emma Livery passed away but although she herself was resistant to a safer future, her death spurred much needed change in the industry. She love so much gas lamp We're redesigned to be safer and theatres began to store wet blankets backstage just in case they were unexpected. They needed Emma livery might have been a shining star in her field, but its clear than her true legacy. He was reminding everyone else of the importance of priorities:
fashion, then beauty might very well be important, but they're not worth dying for. I hope you ve enjoyed this bizarre and tragic tour of the intersection between fashion folk lore and the human desire for beauty, but there's one more story: I'd like to share with you and I think, you're going to love it stick around after this brief sponsor break to hear all about it. This episode was made possible by stamped out if you're, a small business owner, you're busy enough as it is. You have time to deal with the hassle of going to the post office with stamps dot com. You can skip the trip and never waste other dollar or minutes stamps that come with you print official
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that come click on the microphone at the top of the homepage and then type in the word lore that staff Stockholm offer Code more staff. Stockholm never go to the post office again. Ignorance, and be deadly. As we discussed earlier, the factory workers who colored those floral head pieces with shields green unwittingly poisoned themselves after the tragic death of Matilda sure erupt sensitive from the Ladys Sanitary Association stepped in to investigate her workplace and what she found was heartbreaking.
After testing, some of the artificial leaves that the women were using the head pieces. It was determined that one complete headdress had enough arsenic in it to kill about twenty people more troublesome, one of the full dress Is that were made at the facility was found to contain about nine hundred grains of arsenic, which is magnitudes more than the five grains that were considered lethal, and this sort of toxic workplace was just one of many. You didn't have to look far to find others like it across the EAST Coast of America, back in England and in major european cities, as well fashion, it seems, was an industry fuelled by poison, which leads me to one of the most disturbing examples of them all felt hats. today, we can make felt a number of ways, but in the middle of the seventeenth century there was only one option: Beaver pelts: if you
We're wondered why there were so many fur trappers all across Canada and the western half of North America in the early 18th century. That's a big part of it, Beaver else were highly sought after because they made the french hat industry possible, their origins, back as far as the thirteen hundreds actually, but it wasn't until the mid sixteen hundreds when they really became popular in France to sense. he's later England caught on and the demand exploded, but Beaver hats were expensive because of the laws of supply and demand, but also because they were difficult to make. The first step was to felt the fur and at some point in the distant past, some creative individual discover that camel urine was the perfect solution to use to break down the fur and make it felt of all. But as production increased some work
France began to use their own urine and that's when something happened. Legend says that the urine of one particular worker appeared to be vastly more effective than all his peers. After interviewing the man, they discovered why he had been taking medicine for syphilis a medication that contained a powerful active ingredient mercury. Naturally, the entire industry took notice and soon enough, every fell Hat factory was using an orange colored solution called mercuric nitrate, but before decide the things couldn't get anymore disgusting. Let me tell you about the felting process. First, the beaver pelts were matted with that orange solution, before shaping the material into a large cone. Then it was boiled to shrink it after it was dry, it was ready. but boiling water create steam, and when water contains massive amounts of mercuric nitrate. You can imagine how toxic that steam would have been.
it said that in facilities that use the orange solution, that poison esteem would collect on the ceiling before raining down on the workers below covering them with mercury steam is also incredibly easy to inhale, Anything suspended in that steam will flow right into a person's ones. It didn't take long for exposure to these chemicals to have an effect on the workers, but because they were afraid of losing their jobs. They chose to stay quiet and or at all, but while that guarantee that they can earn a living, it came at a tremendous cost site facts of all that mercury poisoning included trembling limbs and hands in a town of Danbury Connecticut, where hat making had become a massive industry. Those tremors were known as the Danbury shakes. It was a clever name for an insidious condition, and it was only the harbinger of something darker to come. As the symptoms grew worse, they included hearing loss
fingers and cheeks bleeding, and the mouth hair loss bleeding from the ears and more Other symptoms were more invisible, but no less significant insomnia shyness memory loss in a loss of coordination and then there were the violet mood, swings and overall paranoia the technical term, for the condition is Erreth ISM, but to most people it was just met. this and because people are so very good at association that madness soon became deeply tied to the occupation, where it was far too common. If someone was unstable behaved radically. It was assumed that they worked in a hat factory, but it did something else, unlike Arsenic poisoning among dressmakers or Elizabethan nobles and their lead face paint this tragic mercury based condition, embedded itself so deeply in popular culture that it still referenced today. In fact, without it we would
have one of the most memorable and endearing character names in all of literature. The eccentric and unpredictable host of the most bizarre tea party imaginable the mad hatter this episode of law was written and produced by me. Erin monkey with research by Taylor, haggard, northern and music by Chad, Lawson Lore, is met. more than just a podcast there's a book series available and books, There's an on line and two seasons of the television show on Amazon. Prime video chicken, both out if you want more lore in your life, also make two other Pont gas, as well as making his cabinet of curiosities and unobserved, and I thank you.
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-12.