The rude and insulting ‘Vinegar Valentines’ of the Victorian Era

In the Victorian era, and also into the 20th century, lovers exchanged elaborate lace-trimmed cards on Valentine’s Day, expressing their supposedly undying love and devotion with sentiments and poems. But what to do if you didn’t love the person who had set their eyes on you? For those not on good terms or who wanted to fend off an unwanted suitor, “vinegar valentines” offered a stinging alternative. “To My Valentine / Tis a lemon that I hand you and bid you now skidoo, Because I love another—there is no chance…

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The White Spring: a dark Victorian well house now plays host to mystical waters and pagan shrines.

We are in England. It is one of the greatest mysteries of Avalon, the legendary island featured in the Arthurian legend, that two different healing springs, one touched red with iron, the other white with calcite, should rise within a few feet of each other from the caverns beneath Glastonbury Tor, and both have healing in their flow. The quaint sculpted gardens of the Chalice Well surround Glastonbury’s most famous natural water source, the Red Spring, so called for the iron oxide it deposits in its basin. But just opposite…

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Julia Margaret Cameron: the greatest Victorian-era portrait photographer

Julia Margaret Cameron (11 June 1815 – 26 January 1879 ) was an English photographer considered one of the most significant portraitists of the 19th century, who managed to make a vast production of images during her very short career (she made around 900 photographs over a 12-year period). She is known for her soft-focus close-ups of famous Victorian men and for illustrative images depicting characters from mythology, Christianity, and literature. She also produced sensitive portraits of women and children. Born in India in 1815, after showing a keen interest…

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Amelia Dyer: the Victorian “Baby Farmer” who killed 200 to 400 children

England was not a safe place for children in Victorian times. On the other hand, it wasn’t even for adults, if we think of serial killers like Jack the Ripper or Harold Shipman (1946-2004), who killed around 250 of his patients during his medical career and is considered the most ferocious of British serial killers. However, forgotten in the archives of the police and courts, is also the story of Amelia Dyer, one of the most prolific serial killers in history, murdering infants in her care over a 30-year period.…

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The “Hidden Mothers”: macabre portraits of children in the Victorian era

In a technological age like the one in which we live, characterized by the constant sharing on every social networks of photos and selfies of ever-increasing quality, it is probably difficult to imagine how the world could have been at the origins of photography, in the Victorian age. And not the world of photography in general, or the post-mortem photography we have already talked about, but that of photography that depicted nineteenth-century English children. Have you ever had difficulties trying to get a baby to sit down and pose for…

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The ancient and strange English custom of wife-selling

Between the late eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth century in England, there was a strange and fascinating custom called wife-selling. Married women in England were commonly bought and sold at village fairs. During this time, not a year passed when there was no court case concerning the sale of a wife. Between 1780 and 1850 the cases of sale of 300 wives were certainly recorded, free women treated as an purchasable good, in addition to the cases of many women who were not registered. Although it may seem brutal and disrespectful…

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The macabre beheaded portraits of the Victorian era

It’s true: the Victorians beated the internet taking bizarre pictures which show 19th Century Photoshop! My personal opinion: for many graphic designers (I humbly beg your forgiveness, but I can’t defining them photographers) it is not easy to remember the world before Photoshop and digital photo editing. Despite this, probably some people believe that, before the advent of technology, photographs were simple representations of reality at the time of shooting. However, these amusing pictures show how the Victorians were the first to edit photographs to create some rather bizarre images.…

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The disturbing Victorian fashion of very long hair in 35 Photos

The Victorian era technically spanned from June 20, 1837, until Queen Victoria’s death on January 22, 1901. This was a rather peaceful time in the United Kingdom, a change from the highly rational Georgian period that preceded it. Many people, including myself, are fascinated by this historical era, from the architecture to the etiquette, and right down to the way they dressed and spoke. Photography was also on the rise, and was much more accessible than previous years. Because of this, we have some very beautiful portraits and pictures from…

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Coffin technologies that protect you from being buried alive!

The fear of being buried alive is know as taphophobia, and as early as the 14th century, there are accounts of specific people being buried alive. We are in High Middle Ages, and when the tomb of philosopher John Duns Scotus was opened, his was reportedly found outside of his coffin, his hands torn up in a way that suggests he had once tried to free himself. In 17th century England, it is documented that a woman, Alice Blunden, was so knocked out after having imbibed a large quantity of…

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Execution with the Cannon: terrible capital punishment until the nineteenth century

Execution by cannon was a method of execution in which the victim was tied to the mouth of a cannon which was then fired. The cannon has been one of the main protagonists of the war scenes for many centuries, and from the fifteenth century until the Second World War it was perhaps the decisive weapon of the outcome of most land battles. The prisoner is generally tied to a gun with the upper part of the small of his back resting against the muzzle. When the gun is fired,…

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What We Call Today “living room”, Was Actually Called “Death Room” in the victorian era…

We all know that the living room is one of the central parts of every modern home, often used for television, relax or other family activities. If today it happens often in modern houses that the kitchen and the living room are annexed, during the 800 (and up to the ’70s of’ 900) there was the custom to keep the kitchen separate from the living room, even for a really strange reason, which not everyone knows. The living room, in English also “parlor” (from the French parloir, to speak), played…

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16# Rare Vintage Photos of Christmas From the Victorian Era

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the beginning of the 19th century Christmas was hardly celebrated. However by the end of the century it had become the biggest annual celebration: many attribute the change to Queen Victoria, and it was her marriage to the German-born Prince Albert that introduced some of the most usual aspects of Christmas. In 1848 the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree, a tradition that was reminiscent of Prince Albert’s childhood in Germany. Soon every…

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100 Skeletons show the extreme London poverty at the beginning of the Victorian Times.

Some archaeologists have recently examined a burial site of the first half of the nineteenth century discovered in the parking lot of New Covent Garden, in the south-west area of London, where about 100 skeletons of men, women and children were recovered. These included difficult working conditions, a life in harmful environments, endemic diseases, physical deformities, malnutrition and deadly violence. The discovery of the remains allows a snapshot of the life of the first industrial London, in a period between 1830 and 1850. Bone testimonies are evidence of what Charles…

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Mary Celeste: the mistery of the Ghost Ship whose crew vanished into thin air.

On the causes of the disappearance of the crew and the abandonment of the Canadian brigantine Mary Celeste in 1872 every hypothesis was considered, from the most imaginative, to the most realistic. Despite this, almost two centuries after its construction, the story of Mary Celeste remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the sea. Built in 1861 in Spencer Island, Canada, the brig-ship was initially baptized with the name “Amazon”. Following a series of unfortunate events, including a shipwreck and the death of the first two captains who commanded…

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The “Hospitals for the Dead” prevented the fear of being buried alive in Victorian times

Thanks to modern technology, and also to the increasing scientific preparation of the doctors, there is no longer the concern to be buried alive. Throughout history, even relatively recent, the gruesome hypothesis was actually a legitimate concern, particularly for those who suffered from episodes or “attacks” of a condition called catalepsy, also called “apparent death”. Similar to narcolepsy, catalepsy is a state of uncontrolled muscle stiffness, often linked to episodes of catatonia. Often found in patients with schizophrenia, catatonic states have been part of the human condition for centuries, but…

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Victorian ‘Post-Mortem’ Photographs: truth or myth?

There are lot of stories about dead people being propped up on stands to seem alive and photographed. But the reality was different…. As we know, victorian England had a particular relationship with death. Do you remember the funeral for pets? Because Victorians often died young, quickly, especially for injuries and infections, people invented elaborate grieving rituals to give meaning to their loved ones’ ephemeral lives. All of this happening at the same time with advances in photography, that led to the prevalence of post-mortem photos, where Victorians would take…

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Lizzie Borden: a Victorian-age mystery much discussed.

“Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whack When she saw what she had done She gave her father forty-one.” Exist this strange odd children’s rhyme and may sound amusing too, but it is actually real-life inspired and briefly tells the story of Lizzie Borden, a creepy murderer and one of America’s most widely-known cases of parricide. The Borden’s crime happened exactly 126 years ago, during Victorian times, and its horror story is talk even today, also between authors, horror story fans, and film-makers. The story tells…

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The curious case of Jeremy Bentham.

Following the request attached to the will, the body of the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham was embalmed and preserved after his death in 1832 by his pupil Thomas Southwood Smith. In life he was an exceptional thinker, a forerunner of many social revolutions like equal rights for women, the abolition of slavery, the defense of animal rights, the separation of state and church, the right to divorce and the decriminalization of the crime of sodomy. The head and body were placed in a wooden cabinet that Bentham himself called “Auto-icon”.…

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Frozen Charlotte, the dolls from victorian-era that rest in coffins and were baked into cakes.

There are a huge differeces between today’s dolls and antique dolls, that can be rather creepy. In fact, in the past, dolls were definitely less “reassuring”, and some of them did not appear, to children of the time, so terrifying as they may seem today. But antique dolls kept in coffins or baked in puddings and cakes for young children are definitely creepy. “Frozen Charlotte” is probably the most disturbing little doll of all, a very small ceramic model that was delivered inside a coffin. Yes! Really a casket…. But…

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