Tuesday 6 January 2015

Killed by clothes - Trove Tuesday

celluloid collars
Image courtesy Boston Public Library

Hidden Killers

The BBC TV program More Hidden Killers of the Victorian Age revealed fascinating discoveries of the era along with attendant dangers. Of particular interest to me was the invention of celluloid and the many products manufactured with this new compound.

The program revealed that ladies' celluloid hair combs would catch on fire. The celluloid cuffs worn by clerks so that they could write on them to do calculations were a danger near fire, as indeed were the long dresses enhanced with celluloid.

A quick Trove search indeed revealed that celluloid in clothes was a potential death trap. Here's a section of an aptly named article  "Killed by Clothes" detailing the dangers of clothing of 1903.


1903 'KILLED BY CLOTHES.', The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), 31 January, p. 18, viewed 30 December, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128456355

First cousin twice removed

On a more relevant note, this reminded me of a sad story found while searching Trove for ancestors and relations. In 1917 this poor woman, Mary Kitschke, a first cousin twice removed, i.e. first cousin of a grandfather was wearing a hessian apron while attending the clothes in the copper.


Canowie Belt, December 19.

Mrs. Anthony Kitschke, of Canowie Belt, was washing, and was wearing a hessian apron. Whilst she was at the copper the hessian ignited, and her other clothing caught fire. She tried to roll a table cover round herself, but this also caught fire.Except for a small portion about her shoulders, her clothing was all burnt off. She had no one near to aid her. When Mr.Kitschke came home shortly afterwards he found her on the verandah, terribly burnt. Strange as it may seem, after the burning she got water from the tank and put out the burning fragments lying about the verandah. A neighbor did what she could to relieve the poor sufferer, who lived for 48 hours and was conscious to the last. Possessed of a cheerful, generous disposition, she was highly respected by all.

A sad ending to life. I well remember my father and uncle fighting grass fires using dampened hessian bags. Old grain bags were put to many uses around the farm.

This post first appeared on http://librarycurrants.blogspot.com/2014/12/killed-by-clothes-trove-tuesday.html

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