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Amelia Soth

Amelia Soth

Amelia Soth is a Wisconsin-based writer. She also writes and edits for Mouse Magazine, and more of her writing can be found at ameliasoth.com.

Yellow Jacobins

Our Long-Running Love Affair with Pigeons

Through crazes of pigeon-fancying, these birds have been reshaped into a dizzying variety of forms.
Aurora Borealis by Frederic Edwin Church overlaid with The Battle of Culloden by David Morier

When the English Witnessed Battles in the Sky

Some claimed the battles were so fierce they could smell the gunpowder.
The New Perfume by John William Godward, 1914

When Royals Perfumed Themselves with the Excretions of Musk Deer and Civet Cats

In the era of Louis XV, it was fashionable to drench oneself in “animal scents.”
People visiting the morgue in Paris to view the cadavers

The Paris Morgue Provided Ghoulish Entertainment

With its huge windows framing the corpses on display, the morgue bore an uncomfortable resemblance to a department store.
Tremolite asbestos from the Aure Valley, French Pyrenees

When Asbestos Was a Gift Fit for a King

File under: “don’t try this at home.”
The Visit, 1746, Pietro Longhi

Socially Sanctioned Love Triangles of Romantic-Era Italy

Eighteenth-century Italian noblewomen had one indispensable accessory: an extramarital lover.
Superbarrio

Superbarrio: The People’s Superhero

Defender of the poor tenants and evictor of the voracious landlords, a masked lucha libre wrestler rose from the ruins of Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake.

Martin Luther’s Monsters

Prodigies, or monsters, were opaque and flexible symbols that signaled that God was sending some message.
Girls' Beating the Bounds' at a fence near St Albans in Hertfordshire, 1913

“Beating the Bounds”

How did people find out where their local boundaries were before there were reliable maps?
An abbey cellarer testing his wine. Illumination from a copy of Li livres dou santé by Aldobrandino of Siena, late 13th century

When Monks Went Undercover to Steal Relics

Because relics were understood to be capable of working miracles, any relic that was stolen must have wanted to be.
The Last Day of Pompeii by Karl Brullov

Pompeii Mania in the Era of Romanticism

Nothing appealed more perfectly to the Romantic sensibility than the mix of horror and awe evoked by a volcano erupting.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schreibzeug_(Nürnberg).jpg

How Renaissance Artisans Turned Live Animals into Silver

Lifecasting was the renaissance art of making sculptures using molds taken from real-life plants and animals.
A 17th century standing cup

These Bizarre Ivory Cups Were Carved by Princes

The royal houses of Europe felt that it would be good for their sons to learn a manual trade. Artisans taught nobles to carve ivory on a lathe.
Design for Necklace with Brazilian Beetles, ca. 1900

Insect Jewelry of the Victorian Era

The wing-cases of gold-enameled weevils hung from necklaces; muslin gowns were embroidered with the iridescent green elytra of jewel beetles.
Sultan Mehmed III of the Ottoman Empire

Why Ottoman Sultans Locked Away Their Brothers

Fratricide among rival princes was legal and widely practiced until 1603, so confinement to the palace was actually an improvement.
Pendant in the Form of Neptune and a Sea Monster

The Lumpy Pearls That Enchanted the Medicis

There’s a specific term for these irregular pearls: “baroque,” from the Portuguese barroco.
"The Vexed Man" by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt at The Getty Center in Los Angeles, California.

The Man Whose Face Got Stuck Like That

No one could have predicted Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s turn to the bizarre.
The Dance of Death

A Roman Feast… of Death!

The banquet hall was painted black from ceiling to floor. By the pale flicker of grave lamps, the invited senators coud make out a row of tombstones.
The cover of A Book to Burn by Li Zhi

Burn This Book!

Li Zhi’s exasperation with the corruption, greed, and superficiality of the powerbrokers in his society fueled his rebellious writing.
Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (Paracelsus)

The Occult Remedy the Puritans Embraced

Why did the Puritans embrace a medical treatment that looked suspiciously like black magic?
Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia by Michiel Jansz. van Miereveldt

The Afterlife of Royal Hair

Whether worn as a lovelock or set in elaborate jewelry, the clipped-off hair of Kings and Queens outlived the monarchs themselves.
A paper theater

Paper Theaters: The Home Entertainment of Yesteryear

In the nineteenth century, enterprising toymakers developed a novel way to bring theater into the home.
A lode stone encased in a gilded stand

The Souls of Magnets

Lodestones are dull, lumpy, and slate-gray, but their “magnetic intelligence” made them fabulously expensive.
Rustam captures the King of Mâzandarân and takes him before the tent of Kay Kâ'ûs.

The Movable Tent Cities of the Ottoman Empire

The most lavish among them were festooned with colorful appliqué and brightened with gilded leather.
Scottish quack doctor James Graham

The Prince of Quacks (and How He Captivated London)

James Graham, founder of the Temple of Health, benefitted from his undeniable flair for showmanship and his talent for leaping on trends.