The world is pretty weird these days, but it was even weirder in the 1800s. I’m sure that in the future, there will be things that people did in 2020 that will seem weird to people of the future. Maybe paying with credit cards will seem weird because technology will be so advanced.
Here are some lesser known facts about the Victorian Era.
•The bizarre beauty standards and hacks
Standards of beauty might change from generation to generation. But Victorian beauty routines read like something out of a chemistry textbook—that will nearly kill you.
Magazines during that era offered practical beauty advice, but today we’d recognize it as being insanely dangerous.
White skin was the goal, and women achieved that by washing their faces with ammonia, then covering them with lead-based paint. And don’t think you could get away with going bare-faced at night, either, because in order to keep that fresh-faced look, the hack suggested rubbing some opium on before bed.
Watery eyes were the goal too…for some reason. To achieve that look, women could use lemon juice, perfume, or belladonna as eyedrops. The latter did, of course, cause blindness, but people have been suffering for beauty for ages.
When we start talking about the worst things you could find in the Victorian Era, we’re not even going to get into sanitation, aside from saying it wasn’t uncommon for bakers to knead dough using their feet, because that needs a mention. Let’s talk about the stuff they used to put into food on purpose.
Food safety and industry regulation really got its start in the Victorian era, thanks to the tendency to use potentially deadly additives. Chalk and alum were sometimes added to dough to make bread whiter, and it wasn’t unheard of to have things like pipe clay, plaster of Paris, or sawdust added to the mix.
Now here’s something we can get behind: Clean, potable water was hard to come by in Victorian society. It was generally polluted and considered more dangerous to drink than nature’s other perfect liquid—beer. Whether you were sick, pregnant, or just a child, beer was generally safer to drink than water.
•Photo with the deads.
It was common in the Victorian age to have photographs of loved ones taken after they died. Families in Victorian Britain would pose with the dead, with tikes that seemed to be sleeping and young ladies who seemed to recline. This practice was especially popular with children who died. Tragically, these strange, 19th century photographs were seen as a family’s last chance to have a permanent likeness of their lost child.
As healthcare improved and life-expectancy grew, the period of death photography gradually diminished in the United Kingdom.
•Predict your lover
People in that era were incredibly superstitious. They had superstitious beliefs about just about everything that you could think of. Most of all, they had quite a few about mirrors. One of them was that if a young lady looked into the mirror on Halloween night, she would see the man she was going to marry. This sounds pretty silly to people in the modern age, but at the time, this was a huge thing!
Divination games in general were popular in the Victorian Era because people were starting to believe more and more in spirits. So, they used those spirits to tell them things about their lives. And because Halloween is supposed to be the night when the barrier between the living and the dead is the weakest, Victorian women would use it to their advantage and head to a mirror to see if their true love would be reflected back at them.