Fashion To - Die - For, Or, An Era Dance With Death

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JPK Huson 1863

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dance almacks crop.jpg

Since the era chemist issuing a warning on ball dresses - and death- to America was British, it's only fair a famous, British ( if ridiculously elite ) ball room be used illustrating the point. Almack's Assembly Rooms, London, had unbelievably survived a Regency popularity explosion and still held balls into ' our ' era. Cannot find an NYPL illustration of the era- this is Regency- but a certain " tarlatan green " dress disappeared across the Pond, be sure.

Dramatic, sure, " Era dance with death ". And you'd think our country would have enough death on its hands what with a whole war creating sad, moist mounds in newly disturbed earth all over the South. When frantic press releases from scientists, issued from England reached our shores, not-a lot happened.

bonnet.jpg

These wonderful bonnets we love, flowers and leaves framing our ancestors' faces? The greenery was manufactured using copious arsenic, enough to poison both workers and wearer. Oh no! Dresses, hats, toys- paper, ribbons- era ' green ' was tainted!

Issued as the result of deaths in the UK, the warning was printed in a scattering of newspapers and once in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.
poisoned dress 1st.jpg

" Tarlatan " was a lightly woven, cotton fabric much used for a variety of purposes, ball gowns included. It was the green dye used, when one wished to manufacture this fabric in that color which became deadly. The same dye was used in a huge range of products, from the artificial flowers and leaves in bonnets to children's toys....

poisoned dress 2nd.jpg


It's very odd. You can find a few articles on Newspapers dot com, 1861-1865, about this fiasco? Not a single one on LoC's newspapers, between 1861 and 1865. No idea why, some fluke but it's still strange!

poisoned dress paper.JPG

1862 " Green is the color most in vogue notwithstanding.... " One of only a handful of mentions made on the topic.


poisoned dress 1862 godeys kids.jpg

1862 Godey's Lady's Book featured not just a green dress on a child but ladies making copious use of fake greenery. Factory workers were sickened by the arsenic used in manufacturing these. No, our country had no separate process. It is why England warned us.

poisoned dress news.JPG

From a London paper, when the story ' broke ', 1861

poisoned dress little girl wedding.jpg

Godey's 1862

poisoned dress news2.JPG

Attention became focused on dresses but the dye was used for toys, paper, beads, shoes and ornaments.

poisoned dress news3.JPG


poisoned dress hat 2.png

And hats! Both dyed fabric and artificial greenery.


Really did look very hard for evidence our manufacturers, government, industry- anyone took heed of the ban in other countries ( and why! ), In 1863, could only find articles seeming to ignore the whole thing. " White or green tarlatane ", blithely recommended in this fashion rundown, seems to indicate not a thing had penetrated this huge industry.
poisoned dress ny.JPG
poisoned dress ny 1863.JPG


You know you're in trouble when the country Charles Dickens wrote of so harshly takes action on a social issue- and yours does not.
 

GS

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This arsenic poisoning might account for the early deaths, thus the multiple wives of men. In this case, those of the yeoman class- who likely could not afford such fine clothing, and wore homespun cotton, flax, and wool, dyed by walnut hulls, berries and such things- may have fared better.
 

mofederal

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I have seen a couple of BBC docs on Hidden Killers in the Victorian Home. The other show covered other areas, such as medicines and other items produced in those times. Thank you for this great thread @JPK Huson 1863. This a great subject, and a not so well known one here in the states. I guess PBS has too many other shows they have to put on, which I why I rarely watch it, just too boring anymore.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Another thread made me think of this thread.

paris gren 1856.JPG

This is early, 1856, but Paris Green is listed later- in ads and import lists.

" Paris Green " was quite the headliner! Lori Ann's cartoon, looking into it, had company- had no idea, when bumping into the topic, how big the whole controversy became. We really do not see how controversial were hoops/crinoline, either.

paris green 1863 hawaaii.JPG

1863

paris green 1865.JPG

Poor girl, seems to have drunk a commonly available paint, can you imagine? Set off a chord of memory- Marie Tepe.

It sounds as if the warnings began, and in the way we have of ignoring ominous news- it was not heeded for quite awhile. Hawaii helped spread Berlin's announcement, in an 1863 warning. In 1865, a young girl, horribly shamed, committed suicide drinking Paris Green- the coroner stating it was among the most toxic poisons known to chemists.

AND. Only just occurred to me, our French Marie Brose Tepe ( Leonard ) died, committing suicide by drinking ' green paint '. That point has always been so odd to me, why make a point of saying ' green paint '? Or using it as a method for suicide? Paris/Poison green.

" In a Pittsburgh tenement on May 24, 1901, now a rheumatic invalid, Marie Tepe Leonard drank a lethal dose of “Paris Green,” a paint pigment popular with French impressionists and a common rodenticide in the sewers of the French capital. "
http://www.historynet.com/fearless-french-mary.htm


poisoned dress 1861 kids.jpg

Wince.

SO toxic, it remains dangerous. Green wallpaper, in old homes, is something to be wary of.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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I missed this thread--fascinating and scary stuff, JPK. Thanks for informing us.

Crazy stuff, right? Ran into a renovator's blog some time ago, warning of danger when stripping ancient wallpaper, if it contained green. Since the industry seems to have been awfully slow getting the word out, I'd imagine that's quite a handy piece of information. Given floods, too, like so many we've had where old homes have had to be stripped to their floorboards, you just know old wallpaper has been encountered. Interesting. That's an awful lot of arsenic out there.
 
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Fascinating! Paris green went from being a popular wallpaper and dress colorant to common use as a poison/pesticide. It seems each generation has it's own form of thought-to-be-safe poison, like asbestos and radium. What's next, I wonder?

If you're wondering what an "arsenic dress" would have looked like, here is an example. You can see how the color would "dust" right off and end up in poisonous drifts on ballroom floors after dancing.
5b8d241de286b44b5ff8011138f74d2e.jpg
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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here is an example

Thank you!! Had shot at looking for one but was ( am ) too unsure of my ground, as it were. Good grief- it sure isn't an over reaction, paranoia or seeing shadows to be more than shocked. They took their time, regulating things known to be poisonous, much less ascertaining what might be. Both Mary Custis Lee and Louisa May Alcott had their health impaired by mercury, used as medicine, can you imagine?

Heck, we creosoted everything, with enthusiasm! That story gives my husband, a chemist, hives by osmosis.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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You wonder how any ladies survived long enough to be anyone's ancestor. Just did a thread on ' enameling ', slathering a kind of white paste or powder all over one's face and arms. One ingredient was arsenic.

Thread is about the green dye, ' Paris Green ' that was in the paint Marie Tepe drank when committing suicide.
 
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You wonder how any ladies survived long enough to be anyone's ancestor. Just did a thread on ' enameling ', slathering a kind of white paste or powder all over one's face and arms. One ingredient was arsenic.

Thread is about the green dye, ' Paris Green ' that was in the paint Marie Tepe drank when committing suicide.


There's a book out now about women who died of radium poisoning. They worked in clock factories and it was necessary for them to lick the paint brushes when they painted the numbers on the clocks. The paint contained radium. https://timeline.com/radium-girls-kate-moore-2bc5746f9a6b
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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There's a book out now about women who died of radium poisoning. They worked in clock factories and it was necessary for them to lick the paint brushes when they painted the numbers on the clocks. The paint contained radium. https://timeline.com/radium-girls-kate-moore-2bc5746f9a6b

Whoa. That's the first radium story I've run into. We sure seem to plunge into this stuff before ascertaining what may or may not be deadly. Husband's a chemist who worked most of his career as an environmental chemist. Just last night we got into a conversation about work sites. He's from out your way. There was a glass factory ( is? ) where he'd been involved in some kind of cleanup. By product of the process contained arsenic- method of disposal was dumping it by wheelbarrow load in a big pit. Talk about a nightmare for locals. Ground water suffered hugely and there's no information on workers whose job it was to dump that stuff.
 
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