Saturday, July 7, 2018

How Green Was My Dress!

Emerald green
victorian dress.

"Green, how I want you green, green wind, green branches", so the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca said. And that said, we are going to place ourselves in 1814 (not one year more or one year less) when a company called Wilhelm Dye & White Lead Company located in Germany improved and marketed a new green dye (it had already been created in the previous century) that it resembled the emerald stone because of its shade, and it took its name from it. The success was immediate, the women loved the brilliance that kind of green sparkled and made their dresses colorful and full of life (it is worth the irony that I am telling you next).

But this color had a dark side, it was a silent killer and took many victims over the years (a kind of Jack the Ripper, but without guts). Behind its beautiful appearance, the emerald green contained ... arsenic! (you all know what arsenic is, right?). In addition, it was not only used for the fabric of the dresses, but also for the carpets, hats, quilts for the beds and even for the wallpaper that covered the rooms. The society of that time was bathed in green and it was slowly poisoning its innocent victims who dropped like flies one after the other, especially the Victorian ladies who danced with Death oblivious to everything, and the women who worked in the factories that daily handled this pigment. In 1861 the first victim was dated, Matilda Scheurer, whose job was to dust flowery hairpieces with this color. Her death was slow and horrible. She exuded green all over her body until the unfortunate girl succumbed.

The arsenic waltz
by Punch (1862).

Room decorated
with emerald green.
Like the number of deaths related to the emerald green increased, the victorians began to  realize (better late than never!) that something was wrong when that color was close. Their rejection of that pigment became obvious, and the new dyes began to be requested. There are lots of stories about the havocs that this mocker murdered caused. A little book almost could be written about it (hmmm ... it would be not a bad idea). Worst of all, even if possible, is that the companies that made this color were aware of the damage it was doing and its dreadful side effects that caused death in most cases. But like another great Spanish poet, Francisco de Quevedo, said: "Over kings and priests and scholars rules the mighty Lord of Dollars.” And I have said enough.

See you next week, vintage lovers!

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