Tag Archives: historical

Shockheaded Peter Revisited


As a holiday gift to our fans, The Art of Bleeding has just released some excerpts from the rarely seen 1955 German movie, “Der Struwwelpeter” ( or “Shockheaded Peter” as it is perhaps best known here via The Tiger Lillies’ marvelous theatrical and musical adaptation.)

Above we present “The Dreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches,”  but several more episodes can be found in our Struwwelpeter playlist on our Youtube Channel.

Previously unavailable with English subtitles, we have taken the liberty of adding our own somewhat creative translations, frequently embroidering satirically on the original.  Literalists beware!

The book on which it is based is a sort of 19th-century antecedent to The Art of Bleeding’s program of health-and-safety pedagogy — with a similarly grisly twists.   The original 1845 publication was one of the first works of children’s literature, created as a Christmas gift by its author for his own children, so it seemed an appropriate holiday offering.

From London’s Science Museum

London’s Science Museum hosts a lovely virtual collection of objects related to medical history.  The object above is described as a “pair of artificial arms for a child, Roehampton, England, 1964, noting that the arts were somehow “gas powered” (?).  The chid for whom these arms were designed is understood to be a victim of his mother’s prenatal use of Thalidomide, a drug used to assist with sleep and combat morning sickness throughout the 1950s and up until 1962, when it was associated with thousands of infants born with deformed and diminished limbs. The limbs of this “jacket” were controlled by “by the child’s own short limbs or shoulders touching against sensitive valves on the inner surface of the ‘jacket’.”  It’s also noted that most prosthetics of this sort were undoubtedly uncomfortable and usually discarded once the child reached teenage years.

Below are some other orthotics from the same site.  Only the tip of the iceberg of what’s offered.

Child’s mechanical spinal support, England, 1940-1960

Child’s mechanical spine and head support, England, 1940-1960

Finger splint, England, 1960-1980

Leg and ankle splint, England, 1940-1960

Wrist and hand splint, England, 1960-1980



More Vintage X-Ray Fetishism


We can’t just get enough of those Naughty, Naughty Roentgen Rays. The above commercial, from 1930s Germany, nicely illustrates the fears (and titillation) surrounding Dr. Roentgen’s invention, then goes on to assure the modern woman that rumors of “Roentgetn glasses,” been true, she would be well served by the elegance of contemporary Felina lingerie.

And these fears were real enough to sustain a brief market in anti-voyeueristic dress manufacture as evidenced by this ad from 1896 for “the perfect dress interlining.”


The seamy peekaboo undercurrents associated with the medical marvel are likewise nicely evoked by this photo found on one of our favorite Tumblr blogs, Sutured Infection.


And from the blog Glamor Daze we some American footage from the 1940s that reminds us of that X-rays had much to recommend them to foot fetishists too who might have enjoyed hanging around shoe stores where X-ray scanners were kept around to aid in fitting and attract curious  consumers.

Finally, a bit of verse, also penned by Lawrence K. Russel and published by Life Magazine in 1896:


She is so tall, so slender; and her bones– Those frail phosphates, those carbonates of lime– Are well produced by cathode rays sublime; By oscillations, amperes and by ohms, Her dorsal vertebrae are no concealed By epidermis, but are well revealed.

Around her ribs, those beauteous twenty-four, Her flesh a halo makes, misty in lime, Her noseless, eyeless face looks into mine, And I but whisper, “Sweetheart, je t’adore.” Her white and gleaming teeth at me do laugh, Ah! lovely, cruel, sweet cathodagraph!

Reserve Your Copy: Empire of Death



(photos from Empire de la Mort.)

Usually we try to reign in our morbid interests right at the point where life ends and death begins, but in this case, we make an exception for  our friend artist, photographer, writer Paul Koudounaris. After years of travel and photography, Koudounaris has produced the exquisitely illustrated and painstakingly researched The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses now available  for pre-order from Amazon.   Here is the description from the site:

From bone fetishism in the ancient world to the painted skulls of Salzburg: an unusual and compelling work of cultural history.

It is sometimes said that death is the last taboo, but it was not always so. For centuries, religious establishments constructed decorated ossuaries and charnel houses that stand as masterpieces of art created from human bone. These unique structures have been pushed into the footnotes of history; they were part of a dialogue with death that is now silent.

The sites in this specially photographed and brilliantly original study range from the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Palermo, where the living would visit mummified or skeletal remains and lovingly dress them; to the Paris catacombs; to fantastic bone-encrusted creations in Austria, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and elsewhere.

Paul Koudounaris photographed more than seventy sites for this book. He analyzes the role of these remarkable memorials within the cultures that created them, as well as the mythology and folklore that developed around them, and skillfully traces a remarkable human endeavor. 250 full-color and 50 black-and-white photographs.

Koudounaris has also launched the supplemental site Empire de la Mort where a rich foretaste of the publication’s wonders are available.

BEWARE! Poison Gas!

Won’t someone please start selling reproductions of these swell WWII poison gas posters? Don’t know if they are available at the gift shop at the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin where they currently hang, but thank God, they are least available  online via the Otis Historical Archives National Museum of Health & Medicine.


Called “Hun Stuff” by the allies against whom it was employed during WWI, mustard gas was banned by the Geneva Convention in 1925 but nonetheless continued to be employed outside Europe during the ’20s and ’30s  (by Italy vs. Libya, France vs. Morocco, Japan vs. China) and was famously a tool of extermination used by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds in 1988. Its coincidental effect of suppressing blood cell formation later led to to its use in development of the first chemotherapy drug, mustine.


Lewisite is related to arsenic and was created by US military scientists trying for a follow up to mustard gas, though it wasnt’ developed in time to see action in WWII.  In the 1920s, it aquired the name “Dew of Death”


Chloropicrin was also first used first by the Germans in WWI.  Today it is used used as a fumigant to exterminate vermin and animals as large as rabbits.  It not on causes extreme tearing but also acutal liquification of the cornea.


Phosphene was by the Germans during WWII and by the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War.  Previously it had been used used extensively in dye manufacturing and today is used in the production of  polycarbonate eyeglass lenses.

Inappropriate Playthings

We’re always collecting pictures related to medical, health, safety, and the like, but sometimes other themes emerge. Like with these three otherwise unrelated images all representing things that probably shouldn’t be given to children but apparently were.

This painting by Dutch artist Jan van Neck depicts the great anatomist Frederick Ruysch dissecting a stillborn infant as part of an anatomy lesson. However, it’s not so much the dissected baby that caught our eye as the child (Ruysch’s son?) who’s been invited in to rubberneck. And in particular it’s that fetal skeleton the kid’s apparently been given as a toy.


Probably not quite as dangerous as it sounds, but still alarming if nothing else for its pro-nuke propaganda, this item was produced by the A.C. Gilbert Company in 1950. It contained a geiger counter, cloud chamber, electroscope, spinthariscope, and some genuine radioisotopes just to get things popping. Gilbert was also the inventor of the classic engineering toy, the Erector Set, (which, come to think of it, is also a kind of inappropriate at least as far as that name goes.)


And speaking of “Erectors,” the Tumblr wonderland Mostly Forbidden Zone dug up this wrong-headed attempt to — what? — make oxygen more fun to breathe? I wasn’t aware children needed additional incentive other than the threat of suffocation when it came to breathing, but even if your normal oxygen tank might be less than inviting to particularly sensitive respiratory patients, I’m not sure encouraging them to “suck on the candy tube until you make the clown’s eyes roll,” is really putting the right idea in their heads. Or maybe I just overly suspicious of clowns.


Medical Fantasy Art from the Wellcome Museum

While poking around Sutured Infection’s Tumblr, we found these lovely medical themed paintings by Richard Tennant Cooper commissioned in 1912 by the Henry Wellcome for his museum of medical history.


Richard Tennant Cooper – “A giant claw pierces the breast of a sleeping naked woman, another naked woman swoops down and stabs the claw with a knife ; symbolising science’s fight against cancer.”, c. 1910

V0017053 An unconscious naked man lying on a table being attacke

Richard Tennant Cooper: “An unconscious naked man lying on a table being attacked by little demons armed with surgical instruments; symbolising the effect of chloroform on the human body.”, 1912

V0017232 Syphilis. Gouache by Richard Tennant Cooper, 1912.

Richard Tennant Cooper: “Syphilis”, 1912

A Good Eye for a Sutured Infection

We created a Tumblr account recently and have been really digging the vintage medical scenes shared by Sutured Infection. Here’s a sample of what we’re crushing out on. We think you’ll understand.


Some days your nerve feel numbered.



A hand exerciser.


Equipment for studying the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.


Herbert List: “Instructive View into the Ribcage”, 1944


Electroretinogram: modern apparatus devised to measure the electric potential of the retina.



“Operating table developed by Dr. E.L. Doyen, called “Doyen’s Bed”, ancestor of all modern operating tables…”


And this is the afore-mentioend Dr. Doyen doing what he does best – tricky surgeries.  In this case separating two “Hindoo twins” in 1902.