Over the pandemic, I bought quite a few books that sounded so interesting, many of them published between 2014-2022 as well as a number of books published pre-internet.
One particular historical nonfiction book (published in October 2020) enraged me so much due to the breathtaking amount of bad research and misinformation, I couldn’t take it anymore and stormed downstairs, threw it in the kitchen sink and poured yesterdays coffee over it. Once it was sufficiently saturated, I ripped out all the pages and threw the entire mess in the garbage.
Of those 60 plus books, I ended up keeping only the books that were published pre-internet, and put the rest on eBay.
Last night I finished wading through a massive three-ring genealogy binder jammed full of information I had not seen before. Much of it is xerox copies of cursive writing, which meant retraining my brain to read 19th century cursive writing again, much like reading a foreign language.
What’s left is double-checking six years of Itinerary notes from all my research trips and some other notes and then!!! My 3-foot-stack of 19th Civil War Leslie’s Illustrated magazines awaits. I am looking forward to jumping down the 1860s rabbit hole of the American Civil War for a few weeks, it’s all I’ve been looking forward to.
My plan is to publish three historical nonfiction narrative books, all of them based on the contents of my collection.
I am an autodidact, and I tend to avoid the academic world as much as possible. About 12 years ago I started researching the history of human preservation during the 1840s in Paris. It was while doing this research that I discovered the alluring world of arsenic.
Researching and writing about this subject has been my full-time job for about 7 years now. Next week, I am about to jump into the third draft of the first book, the second book is nearly completed and the third book I just need to take the photographs. The rest of this year will be focused on getting through the third draft.
Above are just a few items from my Arsenic Collection
My Poison collection includes many arsenic-saturated Emerald Green papers and fabrics. This is just off the top of my head.
1850s Emerald Green French silk articulated bonnet
1850s Emerald Green French silk ankle boots/shoes
1850s Emerald Green French silk bodice
1860s Emerald Green clutch purse with paste jewels
1860s round hatbox covered in vivid Emerald Green wallpaper
1870s Emerald Green French lace-up silk boots
1870s Emerald Green French silk bodice
(2) 1870s/1880s Emerald Green full-length silk dresses
19th c French & English Green Arsenic playing cards
(5) 19th c (1850s-1870s) Emerald Green Book Covers
1870s Emerald Green French silk parasol
1870s Emerald Green/Arsenic Green millinery leaves
Numerous bits of 19th c Emerald Green velvet & silk fabric
(2) 1870s Bon Marche hatboxes covered in Emerald Green paper
1870s Emerald Green silk French stockings
1870s pair of Emerald Green leather gloves
(7) lead tubes of 19th c Emerald Green (toxic!) oil paints
19th century Fly paper and magic Fly killer (just add water!)
1870s game Pigs in Clover, arsenic saturated paper
1870s Microscope slide covered in Emerald Green paper
19th c Green watercolor cakes (very toxic!)
(4) unopened boxes of 19th/20th c Arsenic Wafers
A large variety of 19th c Arsenic based medicines
19th c millinery bird heads & wings preserved with arsenic.
A rare 1884 copy of the “Fifth Annual Report of the State Board of Health, Lunacy, Charity of Massachusetts” which also included a supplement titled “continuing the Report and Papers on Public Health, Arsenic as a domestic poison” by Edward S. Wood.
I was shocked when I realized it came with numerous tipped in arsenic wallpaper swatches! And after all these years, not a single one was missing. I was beyond thrilled! It reminds me of a mini “Shadows From the Walls of Death.”
Also tins of Paris Green. There is much more, I just can’t remember it all right now.
A few years ago I bought this wonderful vivid 19th c Emerald Green velvet and decided to use it for making doll dresses. I noticed after I had finished sewing one skirt that my hands were dry and itchy, and it felt like I had just come out of a dust storm. That night I felt much better and did not pick up the sewing again until a few days later. Once again, my hands were itchy, my eyes felt like sand-paper and my throat was itchy and dry. I realized it was the fabric and put it away. Later, when I discovered the history of Arsenic being used in fabric, I pulled it out and realized I was sewing with arsenic fabric. Other then that, that was the extent of my arsenic poisoning.
I also collect 19th c poisons in bottles and tins, Strychnine, Mercury, Cyanide, Laudanum, Carbolic Acid, Chocolate Covered Heroin, and 19teens Radium elixirs, medicines, cures and Radium laced ladies cosmetics. Also an unopened full bottle of Radium embalming fluid.
My biggest collection is 19th-early 20th c embalming mortuary kits. This includes 19th c cooling boards, a 19th c coffin shaped corpse preserver to to keep the body from decomposing, a large selection of 18th c winding sheets, mid-19th c shrouds, late 19th c burial garments, 19th c burial shoes and my very favorite, 19th/early 20th c mortuary cosmetics for the dead. This is where I discovered the magical preservation properties of arsenic.
I have a smaller collection of 19th c surgical instruments, embalming syringes, hypodermic sets, dissection, amputation and embalming kits. The oldest kits I have are two complete, mint 1840s embalming kits from Paris.
One dissection curiosity is a set of 30 gold-plated numbered pins that were used by a wealthy medical student in London to mark the cadaver during dissection. Each pin has a number that corresponds with a number on a gold-plated cannula flag that is removed and the pin left in the cadaver.
And last but not least, I have a small collection of 17th, 18th & 19th c preserved human specimens, shrunken heads, one book bound in tanned human skin, Civil War tattooed tanned skin human trophy, 19th c American human skin cane, a substantial collection of 19c tanned human skin items made in America, fetal skulls, long bones, finger bones, skull caps, numerous human skulls, five human skeletons, a jar full of teeth. I don’t collect dead animals, but I made one exception for the millinery bird heads and wings.
I keep tight records of provenance, prices I paid, where the item came from, as well as the amazing histories about each of these items. Those are the stories I want to tell.
Music: Gut Feeling by Devo 1977