Discovering the curious history of radioactivity in everyday life

X Rays and Magic

A couple of months ago I started to look at X-rays and magic with an account of the Cabaret du Néant in Paris and New York in the 1890s. One of the sources for this was Albert Hopkins - Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Discoveries, Including Trick Photography...

Atomic Testing with Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream

"Busy you, in and out of doors every day. Think how much dust and dirt settle on your skin. And makeup clings to your skin too and clogs pores - that's why your face needs a thorough cleansing each day. And that's why cleansing tests were made by an independent...

Sparklets Spa-Radium Radon Bulbs

Sparklets is a familiar name from my childhood and I can remember most of my relatives having one of these iconic syphons on the sideboard. So it came as somewhat of a surprise (and had me digging through my gran's cupboard) to learn that there was a time when...

Radioactive Face Mask (1953)

Radioactive Face Mask (1953) "What’s going on? It’s the latest way to cover up signs of age and employs a mask which contains radioactive elements. Invisible rays will reach out from that mask and revitalise the bloodstream. It’s a treatment which is claimed to begin...

The Spinthariscope

The Spinthariscope Christmas 1903 and, if you had the money, there was only one gift to buy that special someone– radium. “How nice!”, I hear you cry, “What generosity!” (etc, etc, etc). Well I thought so too but The Baltimore Sun in a contemptuous moment more...

The Radium Dance

The Radium Dance The Radium Dance was introduced to the world (or at least Broadway) in 1904 as part of the W.C Whitney production Piff!, Paff!, Pouf! and was written by Jean Schwartz especially for this musical production. The wonderful Oak Ridge Associated...

Nothing Sacred

Nothing Sacred Nothing Sacred is a 1937 film starring Carole Lombard and Frederic March. Wally Cook, played by Frederic March, is a hotshot report who, after falling for a hoax, is keen to redeem himself in the eyes of his editor Oliver Stone.  He pounces on the story...

Radon Spa in Jáchymov

Radon Spa in Jáchymov In this post, I am going to focus on radioactive waters within spas – or at least, specifically one spa. Spas as treatment centres have a very long history and mineral waters have long been touted for their medicinal properties without a full...

How to throw a Radium Party (1912)

How to throw a Radium Party (1912) In the Book of Parties and Pastimes, published in 1912 and written by two women - Mary Dawson and Emma Paddock Telford - we are given an example of "A Radium Party" which, we are told, is the way that a "New York entertainer of...

Radium Fireworks

Radium Fireworks The first reference that links radium to fireworks is in 1903 with a report of a firework display at Alexandra Palace on the 19th September. This display, a benefit carried out by the firework makers' Messrs Pain & Sons, included displays such...

Liquid Sunshine and The Sunshine Dinner

Liquid Sunshine and The Sunshine Dinner In early 1904 one particular society event captured public attention all around the world helping to propel radium’s status as an emerging medical panacea as well as establishing many of the motifs that became synonymous with...

Alfred Curie and Tho Radia

Alfred Curie and Tho Radia In 1933 a new brand of radioactive cosmetics – Tho Radia – was launched in Paris with a striking poster campaign by Tony Burnand. Prominent on this poster was the name Docteur Alfred Curie who, we were told, was the originator of the formula...

Cabaret du Neant

Cabaret du Neant Although Curie-osities is primarily about radium in popular culture, I often come across references to other things that are quite closely linked to this. One of the most recent of these was a small advert in the New York Times dated 28th...

X Ray Christmas Crackers

"Science too has gone crackers. And X-rays help in this factory where half a million boxes pass through a machine which shows at a glance whether the crackers are filled or not. It’s the first such installation in the country. A foot pedal operates the rays. And there...

Radium Discovered in Norfolk Spring

Over the last one thousand years this church, St Walstan, has been the goal of pilgrims who visit to see the final resting place of the man it was named after – Walstan – and hopefully to experience the miraculous healing power of the well that stands next to it. The...