Today is officially the most miserable day of the year. Blue Monday, so called, is the day when spirits are at their lowest ebb and we all just want to crawl back into bed. Luckily we no longer routinely have bottles of poison in our cupboards – like the Victorians did. Who knows what we’d be up to. What we can do is collect these lovely relics of a darker past – many of them are blue, as it happens.
Poisonous substances became available to the householder from around 1800 for use in controlling vermin, unwanted vegetation and as general cleaners. Obviously there was a real danger of a fatal accident (or not an accident at all – we all know the classic husband poisoner tales). Poison bottles were therefore given really distinctive features – brilliant for collecting today – in rather attractive colours, such as the cobalt blue above, but also inky black,
and dark green.
The surfaces were often ribbed, a helpful feature for the short-sighted, or had raised letters spelling out handy messages like DEATH, POISON, DANGER.
The skull and crossbones was a commonly embossed pattern and sometimes the bottles themselves had a suitably macabre shape – a coffin shaped bottle needed no other explanation!