A common belief that many people hold about the 19th century is the belief that women often married as teenagers. This just isn't true! In fact, during the 1870's, most women married around the age of 26, specifically because they didn't want to have too many children too early in their lives. Due to the fact that the pill, IUDs and other birth control methods weren't invented yet, marrying later was often the best birth control they could have. It was only in the 20th century that the average age of marriage for women dipped to 22.
2. A Popular Book Circulated That Was Essentially Google Translate
English As She Is Spoke was an instructional book written by a Portuguese man on the topic of how to speak English. He himself, though, had no idea how to speak the language. What he did have was a Portuguese to French dictionary, and a French to English dictionary. You can see where this is going. The result was a trainwreck of a textbook, but pure comedy gold. We still have no idea what the author meant by "crawnch the marmoset," and it's been over 120 years since it was first written.
Everyone who was anyone either went to Egypt or Africa in search of big game, ancient artifacts, or mysteries at this time. Egypt was so popular, people who went to Egypt brought back mummies to unwrap at dinner parties.
4. Wedding Dresses Became White Because of Queen Victoria
Mourning was a major aspect of Victorian life, primarily because everyone kept dropping dead from food poisoning, pollution, disease and other such things. Funerals were major social events, involving special cakes, a photograph of the dead person (taken after they died) called a "memento mori," and of course, a formal guestbook. When they weren't taking or collecting photos of dead people, they were enjoying fun little things like taxidermy, talking about funerals, writing stories about dying and/or ghosts, or unwrapping mummies imported from Egypt.
On the surface of society, anything sexual was a major no-no. This included masturbation. In spite of that, or possibly because of that, the pornography industry thrived during these years. Victorian porn involved everything from bondage to group sex to lesbianism. Flagellation and school-themed porn were particularly popular in London, possibly due to the fact that flagellation was a regular punishment in schools throughout the UK during this time.
Industrialized London had two major elements in constant battle — fire and water. The smoke from the factories' fires, combined with the rolling fog from the Thames River, created fog so thick that it was called "pea soup."
8. Pollution Was Out of Control in Every Industrialized Country
You think the smog in San Francisco is bad? Ha! Both London and New York have less pollution now than they did in the 19th century. Many industrialized cities (including New York, London and Philadelphia) had severe issues with factory smoke, animal waste in the streets, human waste leaking out of sewers and rotting food being thrown everywhere. The rancid stench of city air was so terrible, newcomers often got sick from it. As a result, many train conductors would advise women to take out their smelling salts as soon as they neared city territories.
9. Victorians Wore Black Because of Said Pollution
Partly due to how obsessed Victorians were with death, and partly due to humanity's natural curiosity about the unknown, psychics made a fortune in these days. Many also used double exposure, phony costumes and other gimmicks to create ghostly photos of loved ones. Most, if not all, were proven to be fakes. But, that didn't matter to Victorian era people ”” they wanted their ghosts, damn it!
11. Eating or Drinking Anything But Alcohol Meant Risking Disease
Sewage crept into well water, which tainted water in both rural and urban areas. The food industry had no regulations that protected consumers, which meant buying rotten meat, infected vegetables and unknown mixtures of god-knows-what was the norm. Food poisoning was a real common cause of death. The only things that didn't give people food poisoning were alcoholic beverages, primarily because alcohol kills germs. Both seriously ill people and pregnant women regularly drank beer during this age because of the fact that beer was often a cleaner, more bacteria-free option than water.
Let's just face it, all this talk about death, racism and pollution had to have messed with peoples' minds a little bit during this era. When people get a bit nutty, they do strange things. For people in the Victorian age, this strange thing was fern hunting. People actually began to go to foreign lands, brave strange forests and swamps, and do whatever possible to get strange ferns into their home. Fern collecting became such a huge hobby that there were cases in which rare plants went extinct due to over-hunting and people actually not knowing how to take care of exotic plants.
Truth be told, a light amount of corseting never hurt anyone, but the Victorian ladies took it to an extreme. Not only were bones warped by longterm tightlacing, but women actually were prone to fainting and dying due to a shortness of breath. Many women boasted waistlines as small as 21 or 22 inches. By the end of the Victorian era, corseting shifted towards what would later be called a "Grecian bend," which made women lean forward. As the fashion progressed, women began to look like camels due to the strange posture it developed. Corsets soon fell out of fashion afterwards.
You may have already known about freakshows in the Victorian age, but you probably weren't aware of its racial counterpart, the human zoo. In the Victorian age, white people really didn't see anyone who wasn't white as a person. They often saw them as animals. Sadly, this led to the creation of parks called human zoos. These zoos would feature people of other races from all over the world, often dressed up in tribal gear and at times, told to act like monkeys. Many of the "exhibits" were kidnapped from their original homes or sold into zoo life.
To make matters even more humiliating, many of the people sold into human zoos died and had their bodies "donated" to science. If you see photos of these old attractions, you'll realize that it's even more horrifying than what is described here. As a result, both Europe and America did what they could to brush this Victorian past time under the rug.
During the earlier part of the Victorian Era, mental institutions would offer tours that allowed people to stare at or even taunt patients. What's even sadder is that mental institutions often housed people who were not even mentally ill during these times. Epileptics, homosexuals and women whose husbands wanted to be rid of them all were often locked in for life.