When I was young, history classes were usually focused on presenting the past as a collection of important events–battles, conquests, treaties, discoveries, and inventions. While it was all interesting, I've always felt something was missing. What did the everyday life of sailors look like? How did people deal with ailments before anesthesia? What would women do during their periods? Were children having as much fun as they do today? What were the burial practices of our ancestors?

This thirst for knowledge has never ceased and I became an adult engrossed in books, documentaries, and other media which showed me the less glorious, but much more intriguing side of history. I was especially fascinated with the Victorian era–its perfect blend of scientific progress, bizarre practices, and questionable individuals.

Of course, I wanted to share all this knowledge with others, but it quickly turned out that not everyone is up to discussing bloodletting methods and vintage underwear during the office lunch break. And that is why I've created Veinity Fair, a comic strip with unusual trivia and a dash of dark humor, fueled by morbid curiosity!

If you want to learn more about the stories presented in the comics or resources, check out the Veinity Fair social media and website!

More info: Facebook | Instagram | twitter.com | veinityfair.com

#1

Semmelweis' Advice

Semmelweis' Advice

While working in Vienna General Hospital in the 1840s, Ignaz Semmelweis noticed a curious thing – the mortality rate of new mothers was a lot higher in wards supervised by doctors compared to those supervised by midwives. After some investigating, he found the source of the problem – only doctors had access to both maternity wards and autopsy tables. Semmelweis quickly developed a theory of what he called "cadaverous particles" and introduced rigorous handwashing in his clinics. Unfortunately, even though his method worked spectacularly well, he was ridiculed by most of the medical professionals until his death in a lunatic asylum.

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glowworm2
Community Member
4 months ago

"Gentleman!" he insists while holding his knife in his mouth and wiping the blood all over his apron. XD!

Elizabeth Van Horn
Community Member
4 months ago

I'm so happy to have found this 'comic'! Ignaz Semmelweis is one of my personal heroes. Thank you Marzena. : )

KatHat
Community Member
4 months ago

He's a hero in our house too! My husband just bought one of these: https://www.redbubble.com/i/mask/Science-and-Medicine-Ignaz-Semmelweis-Fan-Club-white-text-by-Ofeefee/46504416.9G0D8

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Cassie
Community Member
4 months ago

Too many people still don't think they need to wash their hands.

Laura Gillette
Community Member
4 months ago

There's a great novel about this topic, The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1430213.The_Bone_Garden It takes place partially in modern times: a woman discovers a hundred-year-old skeleton in the back yard of the house she's just moved to (while gardening) and decides to find out who it was, and partially during Victorian times, following several characters, some of them doctors... it's really well-told and fascinating!

Cristina S.
Community Member
4 months ago

I read this book too! That’s exactly what I thought of when I saw the comic.

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SoozeeQ
Community Member
4 months ago

He wasn't the only one who thought this. Oliver Wendell Holmes' medical writings were considered innovative for their time notably his 1843 essay regarding the contagiousness of puerperal fever. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Wendell_Holmes_Sr. Also, Joseph Lister - for whom Listerine is named after - was a British surgeon who invented antiseptic surgery (albeit after Semmelweis). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Lister. It's a shame that Semmelweis wasn't listened to. Who knows how many lives could have been saved?

columbokateUK
Community Member
4 months ago

Victorians loved their asylums 😐

KatHat
Community Member
4 months ago (edited)

He was actually beaten to death (by the attendants!) in the asylum not long after arriving. That poor man was NOT honored in his own time :(

Monika Soffronow
Community Member
4 months ago (edited)

FACTS matter! "By 1865, after suffering a mental breakdown, Semmelweis was admitted to an asylum. He died of sepsis shortly thereafter at age 47, after a wound on his hand became infected" This may. or may not, have been inflicted during the struggle, or it was "the result of an operation he had performed before being taken ill". https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ignaz-Semmelweis. Wikipedia, though I love it, is not foolproof. What is clear is that he was not "beaten to death".

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Sperenity
Community Member
4 months ago

I went over this in my college Multimodal class! Why they think blood is not "dirty" is beyond me.

Mishte Tine
Community Member
4 months ago

The eyes of the assistant

Sherry Findlay
Community Member
4 months ago

I've always been fascinated with that particular era, as well. There were some pretty bizarre practices and beliefs, for sure! Poor Semmelweis.

mph seti
Community Member
4 months ago

This belief is still shockingly common. Thankfully not among actual medical professionals, though.

Monika Soffronow
Community Member
4 months ago

They did not know that there was anything like 'bacteria' and much less (because they are even more difficult to see, due to size) that there was something they now call "virus". And, sadly and shockingly, you are right, "This belief is still shockingly common". Medical men, yes, the 'educated' doctors were men, tried to figure out what was happening, sometimes for the good of suffering humans, sometimes for the good of their own, deep, pockets. Look at another German-speaking doctor from roughly the same time: Samuel Hahnemann (German, 1755 –1843) He thought, in his immense wisdom that God has created man as a vessel that can hold only one illness causing X symptoms in the body at a time (like if you already have pneumonia caused by bacteria it will automatically go away if you catch Covid-19 and develop viral pneumonia). He also figured out that if he then poisoned someone with some substance known to produce some of the same symptoms that X illness had, said illness would magically

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Christina Uhlir
Community Member
4 months ago

That's a 'thank you' for meaning and doing good.

Jaybird3939
Community Member
4 months ago

Looking at the first picture, I thought he was digging around in his manly bits. That would have been just as bad!

Mildred Thompson
Community Member
4 months ago

WOW!

Warren Cancilla
Community Member
4 months ago

Well, this is timely... I just heard about Ignaz Semmelweis in the radiolab podcast

Sarah Colombo
Community Member
4 months ago

as an old nurse and lover of (where were you on my lunch breaks?)----i love this!

Miklós Nagy
Community Member
4 months ago

Those continental bastards hadn't dictated for the true Englishman even back than!

Flare
Community Member
4 months ago

This comment has been deleted.

Juririn
Community Member
4 months ago (edited)

It's a metaphor for the so called first world ... countries/societies/health care .... you name it (I call it the ivory tower of the West in a global context, unaware that a revolution might be right at the gate)

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AnnieLaurie Burke
Community Member
4 months ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

Sadly, the arrogance of modern medicine vis a vis some tried-and-true traditional healing practices persists to this day.

Emperor Kitten
Community Member
4 months ago

Are you really arguing that doctors shouldn't their hands after surgery?

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#2

John Snow

John Snow

John Snow was an English physician, best known for finding the source of a cholera outbreak in Soho, 1854. By putting all known cholera cases on a map, he found the source of all troubles – a contaminated water pump. Why was it such a big deal? This discovery not only led to shutting down the pump, but also worked in favor of the budding germ theory of disease. Even though Snow himself didn't know that at the time, he contributed to the birth of epidemiology.

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CaptainDinosaur
Community Member
4 months ago

This is one of my favorite stories.

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#3

Crinoline

Crinoline

Crinolines were hugely popular in the second half of the 19th century, since their fairly light construction allowed women to play with fashion and big dress shapes without the need to carry the weight of several petticoats (as it was done earlier). This vast popularity of crinolines among women of all classes led to coining the word 'crinolinemania' and numerous caricatures in the media. And while there were some hazards connected with wearing crinolines, especially in factories or near an open fire, they were definitely great at providing some personal space.

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Flare
Community Member
4 months ago (edited)

Who else thinks that this would work for personal space problems even in the present day?

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#4

Mercury & Mad Hatter

Mercury & Mad Hatter

Erethism, more commonly known as mad hatter disease, is caused by mercury poisoning and can cause a variety of symptoms including tremors, timidness, anxiety, and even hallucinations. It was quite common among hat-makers as they were exposed to mercury used in the manufacturing of felt hats. Even though the Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland doesn't display all of these symptoms, his creation might have been inspired by erethism. We know that Lewis Carroll's uncle, Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, was a Lunacy Commissioner supervising Pauper Lunatic Asylums. To keep patients busy, these asylums often organized group activities such as...tea parties.

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Becca Gizmo the Squirrel
Community Member
4 months ago

That is an awesome tidbit of history!

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#5

Arsenic Shopping

Arsenic Shopping

There were no regulations on buying and selling arsenic until 1851, and even then it could be relatively easy purchased by anyone who didn't cause any suspicion.

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A Lazy Spider
Community Member
4 months ago

That's just...

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#6

Three Little Kittens

Three Little Kittens

“…It was an age of high infant mortality. Even picture books prepared children for the melancholy realities.”

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Becca Gizmo the Squirrel
Community Member
4 months ago

All nursery rhymes have a creepy backstory.

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#7

Add Some Wax

Add Some Wax

The Edwardian Era brought a new craze in plastic surgery – paraffin wax injections. The promise of a perfect nose or chin quickly faded, when it turned out that wax could wander beneath the skin causing infections, blood clots, and even cancer.

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Chris DiFonso
Community Member
4 months ago

Yikes

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#8

Stethoscope

Stethoscope

The invention of the stethoscope was inspired by a rather embarrassing moment in a young French doctor's life.

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Juririn
Community Member
4 months ago

A good example of how setting boundaries brought innovation and scientific progress :)

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#9

Bell

Bell

Safety coffins designs were mostly created during the 18th and 19th centuries, when the fear of being buried alive was quite common, due to numerous epidemics and popular fiction.

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Pretty Pangolin
Community Member
4 months ago

Yes! I actually just wrote a short story about this (It's a Gothic melodrama - the guy gets accidentally buried alive during a Typhoid epidemic, but he's saved by his friends and his girlfriend's ghost).

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#10

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley

After her husband's death, Mary Shelley kept his calcified heart in a desk drawer. And even though some modern scholars believe it was just his liver, Mary herself was convinced that she had Percy's heart. Quite a suitable keepsake for the author of Frankenstein!

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martin734
Community Member
4 months ago

Percy Shelley's heart, along with the remains of his sister Shelley now lie in the graveyard of St Peter's Church in Bournemouth. I know this church well and have visited it several times as I live only 7 miles away In Poole.

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#11

Trains!

Trains!

At the turn of the twentieth century, a new form of dangerous and very costly entertainment appeared... staged train crashes. Thousands of Americans would appear at these events, watching the crashes and collecting "souvenirs" from the wrecks. This craze lasted for almost 40 years!

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Sherry Findlay
Community Member
4 months ago

Awful! Who on earth did they convince to drive those trains?

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#12

Belladonna Drops

Belladonna Drops

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martin734
Community Member
4 months ago

In the UK Belladonna is known by the name "Deadly Nightshade" due to it's very high toxicity. Although the main chemical compound in Belladonna, Atropine, is used to treat chemical weapon and pesticide poisoning as well as some heart conditions.

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#13

Phossy Jaw

Phossy Jaw

The harrowing conditions in match factories, including the use of highly poisonous white phosphorus, were not a secret in the Victorian times. However, It was not until the matchgirls' strike of 1888 that the situation started to get better.

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Strawberry Hellcat
Community Member
4 months ago

Alas, the situation would repeat itself in the US for the women who painted radium on watch faces and instrument dials.

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#14

Leeches!

Leeches!

Bloodletting used to be one of the most popular medical practices, as it was supposed to bring the balance between the four humors inside the human body and thus treat all ailments, from rashes to tuberculosis.

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Juririn
Community Member
4 months ago (edited)

Except leeches are part of modern medicine today for different reasons and purposes

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#15

Amazing Cat Mummies!

Amazing Cat Mummies!

For a few centuries, mummies (both human and feline) were used by some in truly surprising and disturbing ways.

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Max Han
Community Member
4 months ago

Uncle John helped my tomatoes grow and I think he looks good on my table

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#16

Plague Doctor's Advice

Plague Doctor's Advice

Usually Veinity Fair is all about the Victorians, but I just couldn't resist sharing with you some more medieval advice…

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Cho Chang
Community Member
4 months ago

Yeah, that'll help

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#17

Mole

Mole

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A Lazy Spider
Community Member
4 months ago

Oh, gross

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#18

Get Whale Soon

Get Whale Soon

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Becca Gizmo the Squirrel
Community Member
4 months ago

You could also buy a syringe of morphine from the Sears Roebuck and co. Catalogue around 1905.

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#19

Garrotting

Garrotting

Garrotting panics and hysterias appeared in a few major cities in the mid-19th century. A few creative merchants quickly saw profitable opportunities in the public's fear…

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Annabelle Fonseca
Community Member
4 months ago

so thats where it came from hmmm.

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#20

Ether Frolic

Ether Frolic

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CaptainDinosaur
Community Member
4 months ago

"I don't remember doing ether, but then again that is ether's signature move." - Roger Smith

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