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Roses & Rue Antiques

Arsenic Waltz | 1862 Punch Cartoon Satirizing Arsenic Green Dyes

Arsenic Waltz | 1862 Punch Cartoon Satirizing Arsenic Green Dyes

Regular price $150.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $150.00 USD
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What with the huge popularity of the book Bitten by Witch Fever & the Poison Book Project helmed by the Winterthur Library , I’m sure many of you are familiar with the disasters caused by arsenic dyes in the Victorian era. Many of you have probably even seen this illustration before! It’s from an 1862 issue of Punch and depicts two skeletons in extravagant evening dress. The illustration is titled “The Arsenic Waltz,” referring to the health issues caused by dyes containing arsenic. In addition to clothing, the dyes were used in cloth book bindings and- perhaps worst of all- wallpaper. When exposed to damp, the wallpaper released the toxins into the air, causing illness & death.

There was a huge profusion of new chemical dyes in this era: We tend to picture the 19th century in dull, gloomy neutrals thanks to the production design of so many period pieces, but if you walked into a ballroom in the 1860s, you’d think you were on an acid trip. The Victorians ADORED color, & green was far from the only shade of dye that contained toxic chemicals. Nevertheless, “arsenic green” went viral as a piece of trivia. 

The Poison Book Project offers bookmarks that show the different shades of cloth book binding that are likely to contain arsenic. 

The print is in excellent condition and presented in a Victorian wooden frame. Refer to photos for size.

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