Saturday, May 05, 2012

Early Review: Death by Petticoat by Mary Miley Theobald

Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked
Mary Miley TheobaldColonial Williamsburg Foundation

Every day stories from American history that are not true are repeated in museums and classrooms across the country. Some are outright fabrications; others contain a kernel of truth that has been embellished over the years. Collaborating with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Mary Miley Theobald has uncovered the truth behind many widely repeated myth-understandings in our history including:

• Hat makers really were driven mad. They were poisoned by the mercury used in making hats from furs. Their symptoms included hallucinations, tremors, and twitching, which looked like insanity to people of the 17th and 18th centuries—and the phrase “mad as a hatter” came about.

• The idea that portrait painters gave discounts if their subjects posed with one hand inside the vest (so they didn’t have to paint fingers and leading to the saying that something “costs an arm and a leg”) is strictly myth. It isn’t likely that Napoleon, King George III, or George Washington were concerned about getting a discount from their portrait painters.

• Pregnant women secluded themselves indoors, uneven stairs were made to trip up burglars, people bathed once a year, women had tiny waists, apprenticeships lasted seven years—Death by Petticoat reveals the truth about these hysterical historical myth-understandings.

Genre: Nonfiction
Andrews McMeel Publishing

My Review

First line: Burning to death sounds gruesomw, and there were some instances in which women died of burns when theur long skirts, or petticoats, came too close to hearth fires.

Last line: In the back room, women could socialize, buy takeout, or eat the popular free lunch - free, that is, with the purchase of a drink.

Favorite quote: Armchairs were an indication of status and were reserved for the head of the household or other important people.This is a very short, very funny book filled with myths and curiosities of American History. It was very interesting to read more about how people lived at that time and how many of the unfounded myths came about.

The author is highly amusing in her way to expose silly and absurd myths and the truth behind them, but it's too bad there were so little of them and such short explanations. The book made them clearer and easier to comprehend, but in the end they came out sounding a bit trivial, without very much depth into actual history. But I'm not a historian, so I had fun and learned quite a few things.

It's a great book for when you need to kill some time or just before going to bed. A very light, funny and informative read.

So, if you are wondering if men were shorter back then, if people didn't bathe, if potatoes and tomatoes were considered poisonous by early colonists, if women ate arsenic to lighten their complexions and were not allowed to use the front door of taverns or if cooks used spices to mask the flavor and odors of rotting food, this is your book to read and find out. ;)

It will make for some great conversation topics and ice-breakers.

*I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.* 

1 comment:

  1. Hiya! Thanks for stopping by on the blog to leave a comment! I love the blog, I'm a new follower and I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts!


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