In an era marked by limited healthcare and tragically low life expectancy, parents often found themselves grieving the loss of their children far too soon. This was one of the greatest heartaches of the 19th century. Fortunately, healthcare and understanding have improved over time, but families resorted to rather peculiar methods of preserving memories back then.
It was not uncommon for grieving families, especially those who lost young children, to dress up their departed loved ones and have photographs taken with them. It may seem strange to us today, but for those families, it was a way to hold onto cherished memories and pay tribute to their dearly departed. It serves as a poignant reminder of the lengths people went to keep their loved ones close, even in the face of such heartbreaking loss.
Smoggy Foggy London
During the Victorian era, the rapid proliferation of factories in towns led to a significant surge in smog and air pollution. Coal combustion emitted copious amounts of pollutants that permeated the atmosphere, engulfing the cityscape in a thick haze. Compounding this issue was the presence of the Thames River, which added moisture to the air and exacerbated the effects of pollution.
As a result, venturing through the city streets meant inevitable contact with the pervasive grime and soot that coated surfaces. It was a far cry from a pleasant experience, as individuals would find themselves returning home with their skin and clothes stained by the ubiquitous residue.
No Kids Allowed
We've all heard the saying, "Children should be seen and not heard." Can you guess where it came from? Yep, you got it— the Victorian era! Back then, wealthy toddlers didn't spend much time with their parents; nannies were in charge. Kids had to follow strict rules and be on their best behavior all the time. Being well-mannered was a big deal, and staying quiet was super important.
Luckily, people soon realized that children have important things to say too, and things changed for the better! Now, we understand the value of letting children express themselves and be active participants in conversations and decision-making processes. It's a more inclusive and empowering approach that recognizes the unique perspectives and insights that children bring to the table.
Lethal Food Additives
Move over MSG and food coloring because Victorian food additives were in a league of their own. In an attempt to achieve that coveted whiteness, bakers would sometimes incorporate chalk and alum into their dough, while more unconventional ingredients like pipeclay, plaster of Paris, or even sawdust found their way into the mix.
If you thought that was concerning, wait until you hear about brewers who, when low on hops, resorted to adding strychnine—a toxic pesticide—to their beer. And let's not forget about the ever-present lead, which seemed to be everywhere. From red lead used to color Gloucester cheese to copper sulfates employed in preserving fruit, jams, and wine, the Victorians certainly had a knack for unwittingly inviting danger into their diets. Yikes indeed!
The United Kingdom was overwhelmed with orphans at the time. According to writer and historian Sarah Wise (via Spitalfields Life), 30,000 children were living on London streets in 1869. Moneyed philanthropists set up some schools to teach the kids practical skills, but it was simply too hard to teach and 'employ' all of these children.
One woman named Annie Parlane MacPherson started an emigration program. She founded the Home Children scheme, sending poor and orphaned children to other colonies of the British Empire. Thousands upon thousands of these kids were sent to farms or homes around the world to be laborers or domestic servants.