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The Tour De France: Then And Now

At this very moment, around 200 cyclists from 22 teams are pedaling through the French countryside in an attempt to win one of the world’s most difficult sporting competitions. Covering an impossible 2,087 miles that are broken down into 21 different stages, the Tour de France is a beast of a race, which is why it remains the pinnacle of a cyclist’s career. Of course, the race has changed drastically over the past century. From absurd rules to unsafe conditions, we take you from the Tour’s dandy-looking past to its doped-up present…

Tour de France 1904

Though Hippolyte Aucouturier won the 1904 Tour de France, he was suspected of cheating. Source: ESPN

Tour de France 1906

A photo of the 1906 Tour de France. Source: Wikipedia

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History’s Scariest Contraceptive Devices

People will always want to have sex, but the same cannot be said for the desire to have children. On the quest to prevent the latter from happening, humankind has come up with some pretty terrifying contraptions and hair-brained ideas.

Modern birth control of course has its flaws, but a quick look at these contraception devices and methods might leave you thankful that the majority of your birth control-related pains are due to cost, not an iron piece of machinery scraping against your vaginal wall or the occasional bloodletting:

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scariest contraceptives weasel testicles

What do weasels, beavers and cats have in common? All of their testicles have, at some point, been used as a form of contraception. During the Dark Ages, European women would sport the testicles as an amulet--or in the case of beaver testicles, mix them with grain alcohol and ingest them. Yum. Source: Wikipedia

scariest contraceptives urethra plug

For men who didn't want to wear a condom during intercourse, the Gamic appliance was their go-to guy. Existing from 1965 to 1974, the appliance was essentially a urethra plug. Ejaculated semen was supposed to be caught in the sheath, but since the device often found its way into the vagina, this didn't really end up working out. Nevertheless, Gamic claimed that their plug would uphold something more valuable, being "the permanence and prestige of marriage." Source: MUVS

scariest contraceptives olive oil

Aristotle recommended that women insert olive oil or cedar oil into their vaginas to prevent pregnancy. Source: Wikimedia

scariest contraceptives mercury

In ancient China, women would down a shot of mercury after sex. Sure, it prevented pregnancies--but it was also great at causing brain damage, kidney failure and sterility. Source: Wikipedia

scariest contraceptices crocodile dung

You might want to walk like an Egyptian, but you probably shouldn't practice safe sex like the early ones. Ancient Egyptians would use pessaries made of crocodile dung and honey to keep kids out of a couple's future. Source: Wikimedia

scariest contraceptives lemon

Lemons have long been part of the contraception canon. Back in the days of Talmud, women would squeeze lemon juice onto a sponge and then insert the sponge in their vagina. Given its acidity, women thought that the juice would serve as a spermicide.

Centuries later, legendary seducer Cassanova was thought to have inserted the lemon rinds into his lovers to act as a cervical cap. Source: Wikipedia

scariest contraceptives opium

Everything is better with opium--even the diaphragms of ancient Sumatra, which were constructed from the stuff. Source: Wikipedia

scariest contraceptives bloodletting

It was once thought that semen was actually just blood turned white from the heat. French physician Jacques Ferrand recommended bloodletting in his famous 1610 treatise on lovesickness. Source: Wikimedia See page for author [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

scariest contraceptives breath holding

In Ancient Greece, women believed that if they held their breath during the deed and sneezed after, they would expel seminary fluid and not become pregnant. Source: Wikipedia

scariest contraceptives nettle

Pessaries made from nettle leaves were a big hit in Elizabethan England. Source: Wikimedia By Kószó József (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

scariest contraceptives tortoise shell

In Feudal Japan, condoms were often made from tortoise shell or horn. Source: Wikipedia

scariest contraceptives camel

In Ancient Africa, women were told to drink the froth from a camel's mouth in order to prevent pregnancy. Source: Flickr

scariest contraceptives sheep urine

Meanwhile in Medieval Europe, women would drink sheep urine or rabbit's blood to avoid having a bun in the oven. Source: Wikimedia [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

scariest contraceptives elephant dung

Back to poo-pessaries. Elephant dung pessaries were a favorite in 11th-century Persia. Source: Wikimedia

scariest contraceptives goat bladder

Condoms made from goat bladders were worn by both men and women in Imperial Rome. Source: Wikimedia

scariest contraceptives onion juice

Another odd Ancient Egyptian birth control method: applying onion juice to the penis before sex. Source: Wikimedia

scariest contraceptives coca-cola

In the 1950s, people thought that the combination of carbonation and sugar in coke would make for an ideal post-sex douche. Source: Wikipedia

scariest contraceptives bronze

200 BCE-400 CE, bronze pessary. While pessaries are used in modern medicine to treat a uterus prolapse or provide support to the pelvic floor, when this guy was used, it was meant to block the cervix. The gap allows a rod to be placed through the pessary into the cervix to hold the device in place. While it could remain in place during intercourse, such intercourse would be...painful. Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives wishbone

c. 1880, Wishbone Stem. This type of gold wishbone stem pessary is an intra-cervical device (IUC). The flat end of the stem pessary sat against the vaginal wall with a stem protruding into the uterus through the cervix. Not preventing conception, the IUC stops a newly fertilized embryo from implanting and growing in the lining of the uterus. These tools came into use as a contraceptive toward the end of the 1800s. Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives soluble

c. 1925, Soluble Spermicides. These contraceptive pessaries could be dangerous--often the spermicide used was quite harsh, leading to irritation and pain. In any case, they were supplied by the Mother’s Clinic and endorsed by Dr. Marie Stopes. Stopes founded the first of her birth control clinics in Holloway, North London in 192 Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives condom

c. 1910s, condom. This condom is made of animal gut membrane, known as caecal. Caecal condoms were effective against pregnancy because animal membrane is porous to viruses. The condoms did not, however, reliably protect against sexually transmitted infections. Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives sponge

c. 1910s, Contraceptive Sponge. Sponges were widely used as contraception in the early 1900s. This contraceptive sponge is made of rubber, and such sponges-- essentially a cervical blockage--were promoted by the Society for Constructive Birth Control. Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives prorace

c. 1920s, The "Prorace" brand of contraceptives was developed by Dr. Marie Stopes and distributed by the Mother's Clinic. These contraceptive pessaries contained spermicides and were used alone or with other contraceptives, such as the cap or diaphragm. The trademarked "Prorace" related to Stopes' belief in eugenics, and a widely held theory in the early 1900s which argued selective breeding could remove "undesirables" from society. Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives cervical cap

c. 1920s, Prorace brand cervical cap. Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives racial

c. 1920, Rubber vault cap. Contraceptive caps are also called cervical, vault, or diaphragm caps. These guys sit over the cervix and act as a barrier to sperm entering the uterus. This "Racial" brand of cervical cap was modified by Dr. Marie Stopes. Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives glass stem

c. 1920, Stem pessary. Stem pessaries were intrauterine devices (IUDs). They consisted of a rubber, metal or glass stem attached to a cup or button in order to hold the stem upright and prevent it from becoming lost in the uterus. This example is made of glass. That's right--glass in your vagina. Smaller plastic or copper IUDs are still used today. Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives bone

c. 1925, Bone Stem. Stem pessaries were a common gynecological treatment in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were also used as a contraceptive. This early intrauterine stem pessary consists of catgut loop and bone. Source: Science Museum London.

scariest contraceptives aluminum

Late 1920s, Aluminum Stem. This aluminum stem pessary was made by German company Rauch. Source: Science Museum London

scariest contraceptives IUD

c. 1920s, Intrauterine Ring. German gynecologist Ernst Grafenberg devised this intrauterine device (IUD), which became widely popular. Early examples were made of silkworm gut and silver wire. Source: Science Museum London

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Enjoy this look at the most frightening contraceptive devices? Check out our other posts on Medieval torture devices and hilariously offensive vintage ads. And before you go, be sure to like All That Is Interesting on Facebook!

War, Women And Sports: A Brief History Of Women’s Baseball

In times of crisis, call a woman. This maxim has been lived throughout history, but is certainly evident during World War Two. When American women weren’t building airplanes, ships and munitions to aid in the war effort, others were entering the baseball field.

As the draft plucked many minor league players from the field in 1942, American baseball industry bigwigs feared that the war might also snatch away major league players and bring an end to America’s favorite (and financially lucrative) pastime.

In a pinch, industry execs like Philip Wrigley decided to craft a women’s league to fill the gap that they feared the war would create. Scouts scoured the country in search of top female talent, and 60 women made the initial professional cut.

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The Mask Of Sorrow Hanging Solemnly Over A Former Soviet “Paradise”

Mask Of Sorrow

Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn opened his classic Gulag Archipelago with the vision of a salamander being discovered–and perfectly preserved–in a frozen stream.

The salamander, forgotten in ice for tens of thousands of years, was made “present” thanks to critical inquiry. By studying the salamander, we are reminded of our heritage; our understanding of history and the subtle distinctions among past, present and future become much more acute. Such is the goal of science; such is the goal Solzenitsyn’s vital tome on the horrors of the gulag; such is the purpose of the Mask of Sorrow, the statue seen above.

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