50 Victorian Era Facts You Never Knew

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26Agnes Marshall

Agnes Marshall was a Victorian female entrepreneur who revolutionized the way people consumed ice cream. She is often regarded as the inventor of the modern ice cream cone. Marshall's patented ice cream machine remains faster and more reliable than many modern electric ice cream machines. She was also the first person to have suggested the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze ice cream.


27. Many people in Victorian London reported sightings of "Spring-heeled Jack." They described him to be a monster with claws and a cape, who could spit fire and jump more than 9 feet in the air. He reportedly often accosted and frightened women into seizure and catatonic states. His most notable sighting was reported in 1877 when a group of soldiers in Aldershot Garrison encountered him and opened fire. He is said to have slapped one soldier and jumped away.


28. The term "hangover" originates from the Victorian-era practice of sleeping over a rope, which was a popular way to sleep among the homeless. People living on the streets could catch a night of sleep in dormitories in one of three ways; paying a penny to sit-up, two pence to ‘hang-over’ an outstretched rope, or 4 or 5pennies to lie down.


29. During Victorian times drinking alcohol was considered safer than drinking water. Due to rotten meat, infected vegetables, and raw sewage getting into well water amongst other disgusting food and drinks, meant even pregnant women, seriously ill people, and kids relied on beer, not water.


30. Crinoline was a large wire cage that was worn around the waist by women of the Victorian Era. It created a large hoop that was considered stylish at that time. Because of its cumbersome nature, many women died because of this fad as it often knocked over lamps or candles that ignited its flammable fabric.


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31Victorian Rogue Make-Up

During the Victorian Era, wearing makeup was associated with low morals. Therefore British women often resorted to pinching their cheeks and biting their lips, to make them appear red instead.


32. During the Victorian era, the 7 Sutherland sisters toured America to show off their long, Rapunzel-like hair. They had 37 feet of hair between them. They were also businesswomen, who ran a hair product business. By 1890, they had sold 2.5 million bottles of hair tonic, raking in above $3 million.


33. Streets of Victorian London were littered with 'brown gold.' Dog droppings during those times had a commercial value as they were used to soften raw leather. In 1830s, men known as ‘Pure Finders,’ haunted the streets where a large number of stray dogs lived and collected their 'booty' in a handled bucket. By 1850s, however, men, women and children joined the hunt for this brown gold and this competition lowered its price.


34. Many of the cookies consumed during the Victorian era were funeral cookies. These cookies were fed to mourners after dough was allowed to rise on the chest of the deceased. It was believed that the dough "absorbed" the qualities of deceased.


35. Pteridomania was a Victorian craze for ferns. To cater to the demand numerous ferneries appeared across country. Decorative arts of the period presented the fern motif on everything from christening presents to gravestones and memorials, and even custard cream biscuits.


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36Poisonous Beauty Advice

Popular newspaper and magazine columns during the Victorian Era were plagued with poisonous beauty advice. Some of it included lead face paint; mercury for eye treatments; belladonna drops (from the deadly nightshade plant) for the 'dilated pupil' look. Bathing in arsenic springs was also highly recommended.


37. Collecting orchids were so popular among the Victorians that they had a name for it, "orchidelirium." During this time, collecting and discovering orchids reached extraordinarily high levels. Orchids however often died after they were collected due to the owner’s lack of knowledge about their cultivation. This craze reduced after international trade in wild orchids was banned in 1973.


38. During Victorian times, some wealthy families sent away a family member (typically the Black Sheep) and paid them to stay away. Known as Remittance men, they were usually sent to a colony, far away from everyone else they knew. Even some women were sent away by their families.


39. Women in Victorian London caught on fire so often (due to the flammable material in their dresses) that husbands were advised to insure their wives at Fire Insurance offices.


40. The tapeworm diet started with women in the Victorian Era. Women then found it fashionable to have pale skin, eyes that looked dilated, red cheeks and lips, and a tiny waist. In the age of corsets, they also ingested tapeworms to lose weight. Tapeworm diet is still practiced nowadays by some women, who take a pill that has a tapeworm egg inside.


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41Victorian Arsenic Bird Hats

During Victorian times, dead birds on a women’s hat was a fashion statement. These dead birds were treated with arsenic to preserve them. These items still test positive for arsenic today and museum conservators need to be careful handling them.


42. Baby farming was a late Victorian practice where people would take custody of an infant or child in exchange for payment. As it wasn't a profitable business model, some baby farmers murdered the kids shortly afterward they were brought in.


43. Pluto Lamps were Victorian-Era street lights that sold hot coffee and soup.


44. There is a Victorian time capsule under Cleopatra's Needle in London that contains photographs of the 12 best-looking women in England.


45. Victorian market vendors often used back slang (reversing the letters in words) to talk behind customers' backs, which gave birth to words such as 'yob.'


46Victorian Women's Marriage Age

Women in Victorian England didn't usually marry as teenagers. Englishwomen's average age at marriage was 26 in the year 1800, and during that century was never lower than 22.


47. There exists a Victorian leech-powered machine which was invented to predict the weather. The Tempest Prognosticator was made up of 12 glass bottles filled with water, each with a live leech inside. The inventor referred to the leeches as his "jury of philosophical councillors" and if they climbed up the bottles and out of the water, a bell would ring to signal that a storm was coming.


48. Telling ghost stories around a fire was originally a Christmas Eve tradition. Beginning with Charles Dickens', "A Christmas Carol," it was an annual tradition throughout the Victorian Era and only changed when Halloween became popular in the 1920s.


49. People in Victorian London, often theorized that diseases like Cholera (which killed tens of thousands) were spread by bad-smelling air, until a scientist named Jon Snow determined that contaminated water was the culprit. He is now known as the father of modern epidemiology.


50. During the Victorian period, because of fires, the average lifespan of a theater was under 20 years.

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