What Did The “World’s Largest Couple” Look Like 100 Years Ago?

We fret about obesity today in a way that few generations ever have. Human heft was once rare enough to go on tour; today, it’s become normalized. At yesteryear’s tawdry freak shows, gawkers would crowd around men, women, and couples claiming to be the largest in the region, the country, or the world.

Let’s join those outdated crowds for just a moment. What did the “largest couple in the world” look like 100 years ago?

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Lead, Mercury And Death: Beauty’s Historically High Cost

Cost Beauty Woman

Source: Good 44

From magazines to makeup commercials, the public is bombarded with images of fabricated youth and beauty all courtesy of cosmetics. We’re not here to talk about whether or not the ads are realistic; everyone knows that celebrities are real people with acne and pit stains. However, most people don’t realize what’s in all of those cosmetics, or their history.

While makeup is often used to accentuate one’s better features, it can be a potentially fatal game. Makeup often contains animal by-products and toxic chemicals. Historically, makeup has even contained known lethal substances, including lead.

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Flush With Relief: A Brief History Of The Toilet

When you think about the inventions that have made the modern world possible, you’re probably thinking about some dumb stuff like airplanes and brain surgery. Modern toilets probably aren’t near the top of your list, but think about this: how many trips to the toilet do you take for every trip you take by plane? And do you ever have to go to the bathroom while you’re flying? Take that, Wright brothers!

Toilets are the unsung heroes of the modern home. Without them, virtually everything about your house would have to be redesigned, from smaller bedrooms to extra doors for late-night access to the outhouse. Surprisingly, for something so convenient and useful, toilets’ fortunes have waxed and waned over the millennia. As a rule, flush toilets and the well-planned sewers that make them possible tend to flourish when a civilization is doing well, only to decline in favor of cesspits and buckets when the schools are closing and governments are collapsing. In a sense, therefore, the history of organized society can be expressed in terms of how and into what people are relieving themselves.

And you thought looking up at the stars made you feel insignificant.

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Toilets No Squattinh

This is the kind of thing we all had to learn at some point. Source: Virtual Wayfarer

Toilet History Harappa

This ancient ruin at Harappa is what remains of a surprisingly sophisticated sump. This site was occupied for many centuries, so one bathroom is built on top of another in a kind of stratigraphic column of human waste stretching back longer than the distance between you and Christopher Columbus. Insert predictable jokes about how the last person to use this site left the toilet in "ruins." Source: Sewer History

Toilet History Harappa Irrigation

You can't have a waste receptacle in your house unless it carries away what you put into it. The easiest way to do that is with running water. Running water immediately implies irrigation, centralized political authority, economic organization, distribution networks, law enforcement to protect trade, and the whole shebang we call civilization. See? Toilets really are a bellwether of social order. Source: Ancient Links

Toilet History Babylonian Pipe

Counter intuitively, narrow-aperture pipes are the most effective at eliminating waste. Their limited interior diameter raises the pressure and, with it, the flow rate. This is something Europeans weren't going to figure out until the Industrial Revolution. This pipe was recovered from an ancient Babylonian site. Source: Sewer History

Toilet History Roman Public

Romans had a relaxed attitude toward public defecation. This arrangement is commonly found in the public baths where Romans spent much of their time. Roman apartments generally lacked facilities, so this was about the best cities could offer. In use, these stone benches were covered with wood. Source: Wikipedia

Toilet History Reconstruction

This reconstruction is broadly accurate in everything except the people. Romans seem not to have sat like modern Westerners, but planted their feet on either side of the hole and squatted. This is objectively the wrong way to use a toilet, and everybody who does it should be ashamed of their culture. (Note to the 4 billion+ people in the world who still do it this way: we don't mean you). Source: Mr. Star A Plumbing

Toilet History Mosaic

In a move we would do well to emulate, the Romans lavishly adorned their bathhouses with pornography. This mosaic is even dirtier than you think it is. It's a depiction of Leda and the Swan, so according to the story, a few seconds after this tableau, the swan is going to mount her. The nice thing about the Romans is that this is a religious story, so it isn't officially smutty. Source: How To Make Mosaics

Toilet History Alcove Art

On entering the bathhouse, a Roman gentleman would disrobe and hang his toga (if he had one) or his tunic (if that's all he could afford) in an alcove. Problem: how do you remember where you hung your clothes? Simple—each alcove was adorned with a different sex act, so you could make a mental note that your toga was hanging in the doggy-style or woman-on-top alcove. Sure, they could have just numbered the alcoves, but that wouldn't have been very Roman of them. Source: Seindal

Toilet History Medieval Cesspit

The fall of Rome saw the end of public hygiene measures. For centuries, poor Romans who couldn't afford the baths, or who were in a hurry, had gone in public wherever it was convenient. Rome itself was a stinking nightmare every morning as the previous night's buckets were emptied right out the windows of highrise buildings. During the Dark Age that followed the collapse, what little progress had been made against this practice was rolled back until virtually everyone was using either cesspits or random alleyways. The discoloration in this pit is exactly what you think it is. Source: Blogspot

Toilet History Cesspit

An excavated cesspit in London. This sort of thing went on for a long time among common people. This site was in use until the late 19th century. Note the random garbage, including roofing tiles, that's been tossed in the pit. Source: Blogspot

Toilet History Garderobe Tower

During the 12th-century castle building boom, wealthy people often had the privilege of using garderobes. These were miserable closets with sheer drops built into their design. As the weak point in a castle's defense, these rooms were often given their own towers. Source: Wikipedia

Toilet History Garderobe

Or they could just be mounted to the front of the castle's walls. Source: Blogspot

Toilet History Harrington Toilet

A 1596 paper by Sir John Harrington, entitled: A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax, began the modern age of flush toilets. Harrington installed this atrocity in his palace in time for a royal visit from Queen Elizabeth I. You freaking bet it was the first thing he showed her, and he was probably really disappointed when she refused to use it because it made too much noise. Though, she was royalty, so that was probably Elizabeth's polite way of saying she was afraid the thing would turn her inside-out. Source: Blogspot

Toilet History John Harrington

This man wrote bawdy humor and devoted his life to improving the flush toilet. That officially makes him 50 percent more productive than the author of this article. He's also better looking and owns a sword, but that isn't really germane to the point. Source: Pints Of History

Toilet History Chamber Pot

Chamber pots have basically always been in use. So, there must be a lot of pictures of them, huh? We've chosen one of the most ridiculous 18th-century images possible. You're welcome. Source: Wordpress

Toilet History Chamber Pot

Japan has a perhaps stereotypical reputation for being civilized and well-ordered. It's not good to reinforce stereotypes, but it has to be said that this wooden chamber stool was being used by Japanese commoners during a period when Europeans were randomly flinging their waste in the general direction of the nearest pigsty. Source: Wikipedia

Butler Pot

During the American Civil War, Union forces occupied New Orleans. It isn't easy to maintain control of a hostile occupied population, especially when a sizable fraction of your garrison comes from a hated and despised race. The disrespect New Orleans' women showed for black soldiers extended to emptying chamber pots onto them from their windows. In response, the Union commander, Benjamin Butler, issued a proclamation that any woman who showed anything less than total respect for American soldiers—of whatever race—would be arrested for prostitution. "Butler pots" such as this one quickly became popular across the (rapidly shrinking) Confederacy, but no further incidents were recorded in New Orleans. Source: World Affairs Board

Toilet History Chamber Seat

By the late 19th century, the art of pooping in a bowl was reaching new heights. Dedicated chairs were appearing in wealthy and middle-class homes, and even farmers were getting in on the act, rather than traipsing across the freezing yard every time they felt the urge. Admittedly, this sort of thing is easier to manage when you have slaves scrubbing it out for you.Source: Lodi Wine

Crapper Toilet

Obligatory reference to Thomas Crapper. No, he didn't invent the flush toilet. Yes, he did improve it and popularize it in 19th-century England. No, his name really is a coincidence; don't believe everything you read. Source: Wikipedia

Toilet History Jennings Urinals

Once in a great while, a true genius comes along and shifts paradigms by thinking outside of the box and repolarizing everybody's transverse arrays. George Jennings was the Bill Gates of flush toilets. Here are some urinals he installed in a British hotel. He was also responsible for the novelty bathrooms that were open to the public at the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851. They were supposed to be a one-off attraction, but Jennings' persistence made them permanent. Patrons would pay one penny for access to the facility, and in addition to a moment's relief they got a towel, a comb, and a shoeshine. Hence the slang term, "spending a penny." Source: Wikipedia

Toilet History Victorian Urinals

What was arguably Jennings' madness set a trend and, by 1900, ornate marble-and-porcelain relief palaces had become common among industrial societies. Washing piss away was clearly an idea whose time had come. Source: Wikipedia

Toilet History German WC

Victorians put more thought and effort into their public bathrooms than you put into your first home. Source: Panoramio

Toilets Ethiopia

Source: Child Fund

Toilets Shovel

Source: Wordpress

Toilet History Modern

Pictured: An idealized version of the modern bathroom that's infinitely cleaner and better organized than anything you've ever used in your life. Source: Your Home Design

Brazil Toilet

If Sam Lowry from Brazil hadn't accidentally fallen afoul of his dystopian society and been driven mad by torture, this might be the sort of place where he would go to the bathroom. Source: Davin Ong

Toilet History Heaven Bathroom

After your inevitable death, a man who looks just like Morgan Freeman will show you into this room before God judges your life. Please do not use the "second toilet," as it is a bidet, and if you don't know what you're doing people can get hurt. Source: The Interior Gallery

Toilet History Ipoo

iPoo. Source: The Luxe Home

Toilet History Dual Flush

Time marches on, and toilets are no exception to the general rule. From the U-bend that keeps sewer gas from backing up to the modern low-flow and dual-flush technology that reduces water waste, toilets are still evolving. Source: Fluid Master

Toilet History High Tech

Okay, that's enough evolving. For God's sake . . . Source: Inspiration Sparks

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10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About PT Barnum

Phineas Taylor Barnum, better known simply as P.T. Barnum, was a legendary American showman. His crowning achievement that brought him everlasting fame was the Greatest Show on Earth, Barnum’s circus spectacle that entertained millions of people over the years. Nowadays, he is also known for his successful, ethically questionable promotion of sideshow acts (freaks), as well as quite a few hoaxes. But there is much more to the man himself.

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