Revered by historians, fancy-dress goth kids, and Las Vegas Oddities, the Victorian era has brought us some beautiful artwork as well as some beautifully messed up advertising and photographic oddities.
In this post, we’ll look at two distinct pieces of oddity-laced Victoriana: Advertising cards and post-mortem photography. These two examples of Victorian imagery highlight the fascination with death and the macabre that makes the era so intriguing even today.
Before companies used Twitter to put out and subsequently apologize for ad campaigns, people used small cards to advertise their products and services. With Victorian aesthetics attached, these cards got weird.
What screams “Fancy Goods” to you? Ornate hats? A spiffy cane? Dead children washed up on a rocky shore? That’s what one advert chose to represent their fancy goods store. These types of cards would also have been used for scrapbooking, a popular hobby at the time.
We have a variety of Victoriana cards from creepy adverts to valentines. Whether you’re into scrapbooking yourself and are in need of the perfect antique Nestle ad about putting your tiny husband in a milk can, Victoriana is one type of oddity that finds fans in the strangest of places.
If in the Victorian era you had fewer reasons to celebrate, perhaps because you lost a loved one, you might find yourself in need of post-mortem photography. That was the practice of photographing deceased people in poses that made them seem like they were still alive. Yes, it’s exactly as disturbing as it sounds.
Bodies would be propped up with sticks under their clothes, tied to chairs with belts, and sometimes even painted to make it look like their eyes were open. Great care was put into these images since they were often the only photo ever taken of the individuals.
During the early days of photography, a single photograph could cost up to what would today be equivalent to $30. So your late-night Instagram session about your totes uber fleek hashtags would cost more than most people spend on Tide pods. At least when the bodies are dead the photographer doesn’t have to worry about that pesky staying still for ten seconds per shot requirement.
Our selection of post-mortems includes a “phantom mother” in which a person is hiding beneath a sheet and propping up a deceased baby as well as an image correction in which the photographer repositioned the corpse in between shots. And we couldn’t forget the photo in which two living children were forced to pose with a dead child. Nothing says “We love our sibling” like taking a picture with their freaking corpse.
Post-mortems and macabre adverts represent what make the Victorian era so appealing to those of us in the oddities game. Preoccupation with death a willingness to embrace the darker aspects of life make these items treasurable to anyone interested in memento-mori.
Like everything else in our collection, these oddities are priced right for either serious collectors or everyday fans of the macabre. They’re just a small portion of the creepy pieces we have for sale at Las Vegas Oddities.