The Victorian era occurred during the 19th century, and there is no shortage of bizarre facts. The period is named for Queen Victoria, who was the queen of the United Kingdom and Ireland from 1837 until she died in 1901.
Even though tattoos are commonplace today, they were not so prevalent during the Victorian Era.
In 1862, the Prince of Wales decided to get a tattoo while on a trip to Jerusalem. His return to England started a tattoo fad among the aristocratic and rich.
By 1898, it was estimated that as many as 100,000 Londoners alone had gotten tattoos. Among those that got tattoos were Tsar Nicholas II, King Oscar of Sweden, and Prince and Princess Waldemar of Denmark.
2. Taxidermy as a Hobby
Taxidermy, the practice of stuffing dead animals, was a popular hobby in Victorian days. Most inns and houses had stuffed animals displayed as decoration. In the 19th century England, every town and village had its own taxidermist.
This actually became an art. Not only deer and elk, but every rodent it seems went to the taxidermist for display. Victorians were also loyal to their past, and in taxidermy, they could remember lost pets. They also believed that by preserving dead animals, it also filled their desire to protect beauty.
3. Photographing the Dead
During the Victorian era in London, photographing dead relatives before burial became popular. Sometimes living relatives would also get into the picture with their deceased relative.
Victorian England was beset by plagues and epidemics. Taking photographs of dead relatives was a way to remember their lost loved ones at the same time, and the last chance to have something to remember them by.
4. Freaky Side Shows
During the Victorian era, freak shows were the main form of entertainment. Usually found in circuses, freak shows featured all types of strange and unique people. Some of the acts at a freak show included bearded ladies, midgets, giants, obese people, skinny people, and conjoined twins.
Some individuals could twist their bodies into unthinkable positions.
5. Black Clothing
Black was the primary color choice of all clothing. This was not necessarily because the English liked black, it was because of the pollution. London was an incredibly polluted city. London fog was full of pollution because of all the factories in London during the Victorian era.
There was pollution from the many fires in the run-down portions of London, the factories, and coal smoke, added to the constant fog of the Thames River. It made no sense to wear lighter colored clothing because it would end up black anyway.
6. Fasting was Popular
Today, fasting is a popular way to lose weight. But during the Victorian era, it was a popular sport.
Fasting among women was so popular that stories of girls surviving on air, without food and water, made the newspapers. There is a story of one girl, Mollie Fancher, that observers said she had not a drop of food or water for 16 years.
Swooning or fainting was common among Victorian-era women. Anything that was cause surprise or shock, and women would faint away. Many historians think that there is a medical reason for this, and it was their fashion.
Women would wear corsets made of whalebone or tightly woven fabric like leather around their torso. These corsets were worn so tight that it would compress their ribs, lungs, other organs. This was not good for blood or oxygen flow and could cause fainting.
8. Unwrapping Mummies
During the Victorian Era, everything about Egypt was popular. Archeologists would travel to Egypt and bring back all sorts of artifacts, including mummies. They were obsessed with anything that had to do with Egypt, particularly what was found in tombs.
Mummies were unwrapped and put on display in large exhibitions along with other Egyptian artifacts.
9. Dining in the Dark
Victorian homes had their dining rooms in their basements, which by today’s standards is rather bizarre. People in early Victorian England believed that eating in the dark was good for their digestion.
10. Wife Auctions
Before 1857, divorce was prohibitively expensive or required an act of Parliament. Poorer men of England would sell their wives at auction instead. Even though it wasn’t technically legal, but it became an accepted way to divorce.
Sometimes these sales or auctions were symbolic, taking place between two men, usually the woman’s lover. Others were more of a public auction resembling cattle auctions. The husband would lead his wife with a ribbon or rope announcing her weight and her assets, such as her singing ability, and how well she can milk a cow.
From taxidermy as art to dining in the dark, those living in the Victorian era certainly had some interesting and bizarre habits and forms of entertainment.