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Territorial Pissing: The 19th century public urinals of Paris

A man entering a public urinal or ‘pissoir’ at Place Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, Paris, 1875.
The photos in this post were taken by one of the most notable and gifted photographers of the nineteenth century, Charles Marville. So revered was Marville in his native France that he was chosen by the city of Paris to document the changing city, especially landmarks that were built by Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann who had been tasked with the job of giving Paris a makeover of sorts. According to details found in Haussmann’s biography, he was also responsible for the introduction of new and improved water supply and drainage for the overcrowded city in an effort to remove “foul odors” from the streets. Which brings me back to Marville’s fascinating photos of public urinals—or as they were called during this time period pissiors—that were located all around Paris during the late 1800s and well into the turn-of-the-century.

The pissoirs were conceived in 1834 by Claude-Philibert Barthelot, Comte de Rambuteau—a French official who pioneered and implemented improvements to the existing sewer system in Paris. Barthelot was convinced that the poor, unhealthy conditions of the streets were directly correlated to a massive cholera outbreak in 1832. However, it would be Haussmann that would be instrumental in helping install pissoirs of varying styles and sizes all around Paris, which helped confine the stench of urine that before their arrival was overwhelming the city. Thanks to Marville’s camera lens, this transformative time in Paris was beautifully chronicled in his photographs.

Most of the pissoirs that Marville photographed are quite beautiful despite their lowly utilitarian purpose, while others are not much more than a slab of carved concrete for Parisian men to relieve themselves on instead of a wall. At one time approximately 1,200 pissoirs stood around Paris and according to some the more private varieties were also used during WWII as places to discuss private matters without worrying if a Nazi was eavesdropping on you (or perhaps this was just what the men who frequented them told their wives?) By the time the 60s arrived, the city of lights had begun the process of removing its pissoirs, and only one still stands in the city on Boulevard Arago near the intersection of Rue de la Santé. Photos of Paris’ elegant pissoirs follow.

Boulevard Sébastopol 1875.

A large, elegant pissoir located at Champs-Élysées 1874.
More period pissoirs of Paris after the jump…

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Arsenic and old lace: When women’s clothing could actually kill you
10:13 am



A child’s dress dyed green with arsenic, 1838-1843.
Ah, the color green. Generally associated with good luck and four-leaf fucking clovers the color green was anything but good luck back in the 1800s. During the entire century and into the 1900s arsenic was used in all kinds of everyday products from wallpaper to paint as well as women’s clothing and beauty products. Yikes.

Originally known as “Scheele Green” in 1814 German company Wilhelm Dye and White Lead Company decided to try to modify the paint by adding arsenic and verdigris (a blue/green color that is made by using copper or brass to oxidize it). The new color was dubbed “emerald green” and was an overnight smash. It was soon being used for all kinds of things including dying dresses, shoes and flower hair accessories for women, among countless other products too numerous to mention. When the actual “recipe” for the dye was published in 1822 distributors attempted to temper the color as well as change its name so customers would keep using products that would eventually kill many of them.

Due to their constant contact with the deadly dye, seamstresses and makers of flower hair accessories were especially susceptible to the dangers of getting up close and personal with arsenic and would pay for it by developing horrific lesions on their skin or face. And they were the lucky ones. Death from arsenic poisoning was preceded by vomit that was a distinct shade of green, foaming at the mouth and convulsions. All things considered, as bad as things are now, they really seemed a whole lot worse during a time when looking good could literally kill you. I’ve included many images in this post of vintage garments, shoes and other items that drastically cut the average life-expectancy of a lot of ladies and anyone who liked cake because guess what? Arsenic was also used to color cake icing back in the 1800s! If this kind of historical weirdness is your kind of thing I highly recommend picking up the book Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David.

The effect of constant contact with arsenic on the hands of perhaps a seamstress or flower maker.

Boots dyed with arsenic, mid-1800s.
More deadly clothing after the jump…

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Mugshots of grinning miscreants, murderers and malefactors from the late 19th century
12:01 pm



The cheerful mugshot of murderer George H. Ray, 1890s.
Of all the places to be back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Nebraska was not one of them. I recently came across some “interesting” looking mugshots from that era that struck me as a little odd. What’s odd about them—as the title of the post touts—is that some of criminals, from an unfortunate chicken thief to a couple of murderers, appeared to be smiling in them. Yikes.

Photography was a very scarce occurrence during those early decades and due to that having one’s photo taken was a very serious affair. It was also less expensive than traditional oil portraiture so that even people of lesser financial stature could have own a “portrait” of themselves or their family. In the case of the Nebraska mug shots it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that of all the the occasions to have your photo taken your first mugshot wasn’t really a time to smile for the camera. 

Of the bad guys and girls in this post the one I find most unnerving is the flat-out smiling mugshot of George H. Ray (pictured at the top of this post) who must have been pleased that he was about to do ten years in the Nebraska State Penitentiary for manslaughter. Another oddball among these various ne’er–do–wells is the curious case of Bert Martin (below) a convicted horse thief. As it turns out Bert Martin was actually “Lena” Martin—a woman masquerading as a man so she could work as a cowboy.

Bert Martin aka, ‘Lena” Martin, 1901

Murderer Frank L. Dinsmore, 1899
More mugshots after the jump…

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Diabolic vintage illustrations of ‘spanking machines’
11:02 am


spanking machines

An illustration of a
“Strafraum” (“penalty”). A German illustration of a “spanking machine,” 1930s
Now before you read any further into this post, you should know that I’m not at all a fan of corporal punishment. However, I am very much a fan of the great lengths inventors and perhaps sometimes kinky “free-thinkers” are willing to go to when it comes to building an automated contraption that does things that a human would normally do.
Illustration for a spanking machine, 1800s, UK
Illustration from the UK of a “spanking machine,” early 1800s. The clown is a nice touch, yes?

“The cane and the whip in the 19th century,” 1899
That said, the “spanking machines” you are about to see in this post, probably never became reality. Is it possible some of them were real? Sure, it’s possible. Whatever the case may be, it appears that as early as the 1800s, a great many people from Australia to Russia and of course the UK and U.S. were dreaming up new ways to spank the crap out of people’s asses. Sometimes for pleasure and sometimes as punishment. While the words pleasure and punishment can be interchangeable in some circles (I don’t judge and neither should you), I can assure you that the vast majority of people in the following images don’t look especially thrilled about what’s happening. That said, I’d consider some of what follows NSFW. Which is usually what you’re going to get if the title of a post includes the words “spanking machines.” Duh.
The “Rub A Dub Dub” spanking machine. An illustration by fetish artist, John Willie (aka John Alexander Scott Coutts), the founder of ‘Bizarre’ magazine . 1940s
More retro spanking contraptions after the jump…

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