The past is riddled with bizarre things that defined our progress of understanding (and lack thereof) and the horrifying aspects of our human nature. It is true that we have come to an age of better understanding and reason, but this was not always the case.
Here are 10 extremely bizarre things which were considered normal in the recent past.
1. Doctors prescribing ‘healthy’ cigarette brands
1930s-1950s. Although there were no actual doctors involved, tobacco brands hired models dressed as “throat doctors” to explain why cigarettes were not the cause of respiratory problems and what brand of cigarettes is the ‘healthiest.’
It was a sinister trick which involved “nationwide surveys” which showed how many doctors smoked a certain brand of cigarettes, and doctors’ advice for people to give their throat “a vacation” by smoking “a fresh cigarette.”
2. Cocaine for a toothache, fatigue, and much more
It may be illegal today, but in the 1880s, cocaine was the rage in the medical world. In fact, by 1885, a record of 183,740 pounds of cocaine was produced for various sorts of medicine.
The medications ranged from anesthetics for eye surgery to Coca Wine “for fatigue of mind and body;” cocaine toothache drops; cocaine, chlorate of potash and borax “tabloids” for respiratory problems, and others.
3. Heroin for coughs
Just like cocaine, heroin received a pharmaceutical recognition as an “effective” cough syrup which reportedly “didn’t cause addiction.” Soon, pharmaceutical companies like Bayer started selling this syrup to unsuspecting customers.
Ascatco sold a syrup for “asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, rose fever, and other diseases of the respiratory organs,” which contained opium, arsenious acid, and alcohol. And mind you, both the heroin and the cocaine products were given to children as well.
4. Radioactive toys
If people wanted their children to become scientists, granted they lived long enough to become scientists after such radiation, they could buy them a radioactive “Atomic Energy Lab” toy. Luckily, the toy was only available for a year (1950-1951), but here’s what it contained:
The lucky children scientists would receive a set containing four types of uranium ore, a beta-alpha source (Pb-210), a pure beta source (Ru-106?), a gamma source (Zn-65), a spinthariscope, a cloud chamber with its own short-lived alpha source (Po-210), an electroscope, a Geiger counter, a manual, a comic book (Dagwood Splits the Atom) and a government manual “Prospecting for Uranium.”
5. Explosive toys
The radioactive set was quickly replaced with the trusty Gilbert Chemistry Set, which contained highly volatile substances like potassium permanganate and ammonium nitrate, used to make home-made bombs.
If radiation is too much for a young scientist, a little KABOOM won’t harm them in the long run, right? It’s amazing if these kids survived these crazy-scientist toys.
6. Mailing children
If your child gets too naughty from playing with their radioactive (or explosive) toys, you can send them to their grandmother through the mail. At least this is what Americans did in the early 20th century when the Post Office’s Parcel Post launched in 1913.
It was cheaper to ship your child via mail than to buy them a train ticket, so the parents would send them to their grandmothers for only 15 cents. This fad lasted for about 6 months when the postmaster decided that no children would be sent anymore.
7. Baby cages
Instead of storing birds on the window, some parents had the idea to store babies hanging from the window in cages. So, the little birdie would cry their little song if hungry while hanging a few stories above the ground.
Putting the baby in the window-hanging cage was justified with the child’s need for fresh air and sunshine. As well as some healthy fumes from the traffic.
8. Ornamental hermits
People’s fascination for the bizarre has made them do some very bizarre things themselves. While we are accustomed to some garden gnomes nowadays, the rich in the past liked to have their own garden hermit – a person they paid to dress like a druid and live in the garden of the land-owner.
They were the main show of the garden, living in hermitages, grottoes, follies, or rockeries, and they would read poetry and entertain the guests. The land-owners would sometimes even go to such extent as not to allow them to clip their nails and even not wear shoes.
9. Human zoos
Westerners had some very strange ways of ‘getting to know cultures’ in the 1900s. Human zoos were the main attraction for many, and in these zoos, you could see indigenous people from all around the world put in their ‘natural habitats.’
The zoos contained Native Americans, Africans, Asians, and even Eskimos, who were forced to live behind fences in makeshift environments that resembled their indigenous cultures.
10. Mental asylum zoos
And if your craving for the bizarre hasn’t been satisfied enough, you could go for a mental asylum tour and view the ‘incurable’ exhibits that were chained up to the walls or locked away in their chambers.
Mental asylum tourism brought in a large part of the revenue for the hospital, and the tourists could see all sorts of disturbing scenes just for the thrill.