Poisonous Fabrics

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
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Last night, at a Zoom session of a genealogy group, one of the members (from Yorktown, VA) brought up the issue of quilts and dresses that were made with that lovely shade of nile green. It turned out that the color was achieved with arsenic. In light of the discussion on chemical dependencies in earlier times, I rooted about for information about the other sorts of horrors to which women were exposed and found this: https://www.thimblesandacorns.com/judging-a-cloth-by-its-color-part-3/

Green wasn't the only color with difficulties. Who'd have thought that attendance at balls might lead to illness--or, even, an early grave?
 

Pete Longstreet

Sergeant Major
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Silver Patron
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Mar 3, 2020
Location
Hartford, CT
What amazes me is... kids were dying from the "green" candy and many people were getting sick... yet they continued because of the revenue generated and also because certain people didn't want to "fall out of fashion". How different the times were... thanks for sharing.
 

Lisa Murphy

Private
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Feb 16, 2019
Location
Washington State
View attachment 393190
Last night, at a Zoom session of a genealogy group, one of the members (from Yorktown, VA) brought up the issue of quilts and dresses that were made with that lovely shade of nile green. It turned out that the color was achieved with arsenic. In light of the discussion on chemical dependencies in earlier times, I rooted about for information about the other sorts of horrors to which women were exposed and found this: https://www.thimblesandacorns.com/judging-a-cloth-by-its-color-part-3/

Green wasn't the only color with difficulties. Who'd have thought that attendance at balls might lead to illness--or, even, an early grave?
Amazing and terrible. Heart arrhythmias, low blood pressure, shock, digestive issues, anemia (with the subsequent fatigue and pallor), chronic coughs, hair loss, skin rashes (blistering)... going out in style sounds pretty awful.
 

lupaglupa

2nd Lieutenant
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Joined
Apr 18, 2019
I vaguely remember reading about that same green dye poisoning people when it was on wallpaper. Crazy. It certainly makes you glad to have the modern system where things get tested for safety!
 

19thOhio

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Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Modern germ theory and modern chemical theory and studies were just developing in that era. I can add that Joseph Priestley (a political immigrant from England about 1790, he discovered oxygen in England in 1774 and have visited that site) settled in Northumberland PA. There he discovered a gas that eventually killed him. His son who recorded his symptoms in a diary later studied by doctors concluded that he poisoned himself with carbon monoxide. Those were dangerous times. Science research was often "Let's try this and see what happens."

That, bad food and snake oil medicines led to the Food and Drug Administration. Look at those "medicine" ads in the era papers. I wonder how many meat and other suppliers to either C W army knew their meat or other supplies were spoiled. See how many men complained about "worms" in the hardtack.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I'll need to research this but I did a degree with a focus on marketing. For my final paper I did an analysis of a major cosmetic firm and, as part, looked into the cosmetic industry. I found a case (that I think was as late as the 1920's) in which a druggist was selling his own complexion creams--with arsenic. One of his clients over-used the cream and died; the druggist committed suicide.

Makes me wonder about how old the "bad old days" were. How much toxic material are we consuming (or smearing on). FDA can do only so much. Just walk into a pharmacy and look at all the miracle products that will make us younger and/or healthier and/or more energetic and/or...etc.

Our ACW forebears were not stupider than we are nor are we more brilliant. They just didn't know--and maybe we don't either. 😡
 

John Hartwell

Major
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Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
What amazes me is... kids were dying from the "green" candy and many people were getting sick... yet they continued because of the revenue generated and also because certain people didn't want to "fall out of fashion". How different the times were... thanks for sharing.
But then, that was "the good old days" before the FDA and "government interference and regulation of private enterprise.":sneaky:
 

lupaglupa

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
I'll need to research this but I did a degree with a focus on marketing. For my final paper I did an analysis of a major cosmetic firm and, as part, looked into the cosmetic industry. I found a case (that I think was as late as the 1920's) in which a druggist was selling his own complexion creams--with arsenic. One of his clients over-used the cream and died; the druggist committed suicide.

Makes me wonder about how old the "bad old days" were. How much toxic material are we consuming (or smearing on). FDA can do only so much. Just walk into a pharmacy and look at all the miracle products that will make us younger and/or healthier and/or more energetic and/or...etc.

Our ACW forebears were not stupider than we are nor are we more brilliant. They just didn't know--and maybe we don't either. 😡
And even now nutrition supplements are not regulated before they hit the market so all that stuff you see that isn't a medicine is buyer beware in my opinion.
 

mofederal

Major
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Location
Southeast Missouri
Arsenic was also in cosmetics and medicines of the period, but it is the clothing and wall paper you hear about the most. Yes capitalism and a real lack of caring about other fueled the sales and the use arsenic of arsenic were the real villains. No heroes in this story. This a dress which sold recently, and bidders were warned the fabric could possibly contain arsenic

arsenicgreendresses.jpg
 
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damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Arsenic was also in cosmetics and medicines of the period, but it is the clothing and wall paper you hear about the most. Yes capitalism and a real lack of caring about other fueled the sales and the use arsenic of arsenic were the real villains. No heroes in this story. This a dress which sold recently, and bidders were warned the fabric could possibly contain arsenic

View attachment 393232
So this kind of thing never happened in a non capitalistic system?
Look up Joseph Wilbrand, who was trying to make a better yellow dye,
https://sciencing.com/invention-tnt-15791.htmlI doubt capitalism had anything to do with the fact that humans are creative by nature, regardless of economics.
 
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Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
So this kind of thing never happened in a non capitalistic system?
I suspect that what was meant was that any society that puts a profit motive before people does a disservice. Going through old newspapers, I found several instances of an accidental arsenic death as well as advertisements for arsenic were on the same page as stories about deliberate arsenic poisonings. Clearly, the knowledge that one was playing with fire was there. Who's to blame? The vendors or the gullible public?
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
I suspect that what was meant was that any society that puts a profit motive before people does a disservice. Going through old newspapers, I found several instances of an accidental arsenic death as well as advertisements for arsenic were on the same page as stories about deliberate arsenic poisonings. Clearly, the knowledge that one was playing with fire was there. Who's to blame? The vendors or the gullible public?
I too love to read old newspapers, . However, have either of us read old Russian, or Chinese or Greek or Turkish or Ottoman newspapers to confirm that ignorance of the side effects of newly developed products are solely the nature of capitalist?
Was Madame Currie's demise the function of economics or scientific research?
 

Mk VII

Private
Joined
Jun 4, 2017
Thomas Carlyle and his wife both suffered from constipation, due to the amount of fat in their diet, and the quack medicines they took for this, which included such things as mercury, couldn't have done their general health any good at all.
 

Harman Farm

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Joined
Jan 3, 2021
Location
Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
I vaguely remember reading about that same green dye poisoning people when it was on wallpaper. Crazy. It certainly makes you glad to have the modern system where things get tested for safety!
Not only wallpaper, but green paint. I think I read where arsenic wasn't completely removed from green paint until the 1940's. Talk about a double whammy...lead and arsenic in the same bucket.😱😱😱😱
 
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