Victorian Ephemera and Other Morbid and Melancholy Forays

Lactated Food sounds pretty gross, but it’s simply an early form of baby formula made from powdered lactose (milk sugar) and various grains.  Infant mortality was about 25% in Victorian times for a number of reasons, many of which are preventable today.  If a mother wasn’t able to adequately breast feed her child this was one of the alternatives.  If you’ve ever tried a taste of modern baby formula, or even smelled the stuff, it couldn’t taste much worse.  Today’s baby formulas are majorly nasty tasting,  but if you don’t know any better and that’s all you get, well that’s all you get.  Unfortunately Lactated Food, while it may have served as a emergency baby formula, it couldn’t do much to prevent the epidemics or correct the sanitation issues of that era which likely caused most of the infant mortality.

The Victorians are especially known for their sense of drama in matters involving death.  Death was not something that was shoved off into hospitals and nursing homes, far away from the rhythm of daily life.  Death was part of daily life.  The guy who built your furniture was the same guy who built your coffin.  They also called it a coffin, not a “casket,” or  “receptacle for remains.”  Mortality wasn’t something reserved for the catastrophically injured, terminally ill, or the aged who are normally shoved off into some sort of facility for months or years before they die- mortality was an equal opportunity proposition.  Death usually wasn’t a lingering thing back then. One day you might be doing your daily business and the next you could just plain drop dead.  I think that’s the reason why there were so many post-mortems taken.  You didn’t have a chance to have so and so’s pic taken when he/she was alive, so now you have to do it before he/she starts to rot.

Was it winter? Did they put her out on the porch to chill until the photographer could make it? ‘Cause she looks pretty well preserved for being dead over a week.

I don’t know why I find post-mortem photography to be fascinating.  It’s creepy to take pics of dead people and even creepier to gawk at them, but I guess it’s more morbid curiosity.  The Victorians raised post-mortem photography to a high science, even developing a sort of guitar stand for the dead so they could be maneuvered into a more lifelike pose:

Now I can explain Keith Richards.

Should I have had the misfortune to have been born in Victorian times, I likely would not have survived much more than a day or two- I was born with pneumonia and had to spend a week in the hospital from the beginning.  Sickly infants were the first to go. The Victorian world made 1000 Ways to Die appear comparatively tame.  If the contagions and bad nutrition and having to wander around in horse shit didn’t kill you, the odds of death by accident or misadventure were pretty good too.

I still admire the artwork of the Victorian era though.  The drawings are stunning and ornate.  The clothing, while beautiful, would have had to have been something wicked to clean and maintain, and I don’t see how any of that stuff, especially corsets, could have been comfortable.  I balk at underwire bras and pantyhose.

I have no idea how these poor women could breathe- but they were probably already rail-thin from always having Montezuma’s Revenge.

 Another hallmark of the Victorian era was maudlin sentiment, which was sort of understandable when you didn’t know from one day to the next who would be alive and who would be dead.  The next birthday you remember might be the last, so yuk it up good.  The cards- and I admit I don’t spend much time or money on paper cards these days- are awesome.  Even the ads are so much more artistic than the ones we are treated to today:

Of course the stuff in the ad probably had lead and arsenic and heroin and cocaine in it, but what a pretty ad!

Patent medicines- basically anything someone could put in a bottle or a tin and market creatively- intrigue me also.  A lot of that stuff proved to be more deadly than anything.  I have to wonder how many people died because the “cure” was worse than the disease.

This looks like someone’s acid trip- and it might just be acid- but if it does something about my lumbago, I might just try it!

I like the little demon drilling on the top of the dude’s head  (center frame on the left.)  That’s a nice touch.

The Three “Esses,” a Walk in the Graveyard, and a Limited Time Offer

I always knew that guys had it easier in regard to a lot of every day things.  Their morning get-ready routine goes as follows: Shit. Shower. Shave., which are known collectively as “The Three Esses.”    No fussing about with makeup or hair styling or any of that noise.  Their haircuts cost less.  They don’t have to fuss over clothing choices (usually) and generally aren’t that picky as to whether or not their clothing is clean.  It took me years to convince Steve-o that sniffing the crotch of one’s pants is not an acceptable method to discern the difference between “soiled” and “fresh.”   They eat anything as long as it contains the three food groups- caffeine, nicotine, sugar and grease, remembering always that alcohol is a sugar.

The bad thing is that some of the guys I know probably have to have someone write down the Three Esses on their bathroom mirror, lest they forget them.  Of course I would have to add a bit of a dental hygiene regimen to that- please brush your teeth, and Listerine is not a bad idea either!

I finally figured out what the major advantage is to being born male:

When a male child is born it is as if the universe makes a statement to him. You are made exempt from household chores by the magical power of possessing the Twig and Berries!  Schwing! Jerry never literally spelled it out that way, but in practical application he might as well have. A swinging Johnson apparently gets nearly half of the human population out of a LOT of work.

I did manage to take a nice, long wander about in the Marion Cemetery yesterday.  I dumped a lot of the crap in my memory card (several times) and still didn’t scratch the surface as to cool old gravestones to take pics of.  The angel (above) really struck me.  I hadn’t noticed it there before, but the entire cemetery is about two square miles which is a lot of wandering about.  Most of my wanderings yesterday were in the old / high faluting part of the cemetery with the really over the top monuments.  For those who think old ostentatious grave markers are really way cool also, you can view the slideshow on Shutterfly .  Nobody did death like the Victorians.

I was shocked by the number of stillborn infants, very young children, and women who died in their early-to-mid twenties, though I shouldn’t have been.  In the 19th and early 20th centuries one in four women died in childbirth and infant mortality was at times almost 50%.   Usually there were no causes of death on the gravestones except for the some of the Civil War Veterans who were killed in action.

I find this one particularly sad.  Either Wallie was an only child, his parents had a lot of money, or both.  It’s beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

Life is a limited time offer.  I guess that is the lesson to take away from an afternoon in the graveyard.

Lust?  What’s that?

Oh, yeah.  It’s been a very long time.