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Today in 2019, we launched this show!

And so we have a thank you gift for you.

It’s a practical gift with some important safety information.

Namely, don’t put up wallpaper that’s made of poison.

It’s National Poison Prevention Week, so we thought it would be a good time to look at the new book “Bitten by Witch Fever” by Lucinda Hawksley.

It highlights hundreds of wallpaper patterns from the UK in the 19th century, a time when some of the pigments in those papers were made from arsenic.

Yes, arsenic. The poison.

This may sound strange today, but at that time, arsenic was a widely-used household product.

It was mostly as a poison, sprinkled here and there to stop rats and mice.

So people knew it was dangerous.

But arsenic was used in a lot of other household products.

They were used especially often in products that were painted, because pigments containing arsenic could produce a much more vivid green than the non-arsenic pigments could.

There were dolls for children that had green arsenic paint on them.

There were dresses, and cosmetics, and supposedly medicinal solutions, all containing something that was known even then to be extremely toxic and dangerous.

And there were very bright, very ornate wallpaper patterns that became extremely popular.

The thinking was, yes, there’s poison in this wallpaper, but as long as no one licks the walls everybody will be safe.

Except that some people, mostly children, did lick the wallpaper.

And, that wasn’t the only hazard: in humid weather, flakes of arsenic could end up in the air.

People would be sickened or worse just by breathing in.

At first the wallpaper makers dismissed these reports as hysteria.

This was the Victorian era, a time when anything morbid was all the rage.

But death by wallpaper was too much even for the Victorians.

Public outcry grew to the point that products started advertising themselves as arsenic-free, and eventually the authorities passed new limits on arsenic use.

And fortunately we’ve developed other ways to produce vivid colors that don’t involve inadvertently poisoning ourselves.

It’s also Global Money Week, so here’s a shout out to Crescent Shay, a designer who just made a dress out of money.

Originally she was going to turn some paper money into clothing, but instead she decided to use pennies.

She had to use 2,652 of them, and she drilled into each one so they could be chainmailed together.

While she said she was happy with how it came out, the shoulder straps were leaving big red marks on her skin, just from the weight.

There goes my dream of dressing like Richie Rich.

Death by Wallpaper: The Alluring Arsenic Colors that Poisoned the Victorian Age (Hyperallergic)

Check out this chain mail dress made from over 2500 pennies (Boing Boing)

Image via Smithsonian OpenAccess