Monday, October 16, 2023

Why Rotting Teeth Were Once a Sign of Wealth

Nowadays, teeth whitening is all the rage, but check out this article from to find out why blackened teeth were once desired instead!

The consumption of sugar has been a ubiquitous part of life for centuries, with modern countries importing record amounts of it. In ancient India (the origin of sugar cultivation), Greece, and Rome, sugar was treated as a medicine for various ailments (via Czarnikow). They did not know the consequences of a sugar-laden diet, however, as honey and lead were typically their sweeteners of choice (via Smithsonian Magazine). Even as sugar cane cultivation and culinary use spread from India to China, the Middle East, and Europe, it remained an expensive additive and its rare use was indicative of wealth. 

European discovery of the Americas changed this, as the Caribbean environment was perfect for massive sugar cane plantations (which was, in turn, a driving force for Native and African enslavement). As sugar production increased dramatically, so too did its demand from Europe's wealthy. Now it was not only one's ability to buy sugar that was a symbol of status but how much one could buy. Where the Romans (unknowingly) exchanged lead-poisoning for good dental health, 16th century England, in particular, would take sugar in the opposite direction with a disgusting method of displaying wealth (via CNN). 

Prior to the introduction of sugar, people in the British Isles had fairly comprehensive oral hygiene methods, including chewing seeds, using toothpaste, and making use of mouthwash (via Slate). For the most part, this was still the case for the lower classes by the time of the House of Tudor. For the elite, however, societal expectation would lead to such progress being thrown out the window. According to ZME Science, Queen Elizabeth I's desire for sugar and her ability to purchase large quantities of it led to her teeth becoming black and cavity-ridden. 

Not wanting to be seen as unable to afford such a sugary diet, many of England's upper classes did all they could to induce a similar appearance. One product, a sugar-based toothpaste, would be the bane of modern dentists as Tudor aristocracy even used it to further their oral decay (via Throughout the era, these darkened smiles became as meaningful as expensive jewelry or clothes before eventually falling out of popularity. Given this and other dangerous sources of vanity, like the Queen's lead-based makeup, it actually paid health-wise to not be rich in Tudor England.

I learned about this when I started using a product to promote gum health. Had you ever heard about this? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 9, 2023

The Sad Life of Audrey Munson

I'm a history buff and I love research, so whenever I read something interesting in a novel that's based on fact, I enjoy looking it up so I can read more.

Today I'm recycling a post from a few years back that I wrote after learning about Audrey Munson. She's mentioned in Linda Fairstein's Hell Gate, a novel filled with all kinds of New York City history and trivia.

The tragic life of this model and silent screen actress intrigued me, so I had to do a little research on my own to satisfy my curiosity.

Audrey Munson (June 8, 1891 – February 20, 1996) rose to fame prior to World War I.  She was  known as "Miss Manhattan," "the Exposition Girl," and "American Venus." She was the model or inspiration for more than 15 statues in New York City.

Ms. Munson, who posed nude and clothed, was eventually involved in a scandal. While Munson lived in a rooming house, the married owner of the house fell in love with her.  To be with Munson, he killed his wife.  Munson was never interested in this man, who was eventually convicted of murder, but the scandal ruined her career.

Munson began suffering from schizophrenia, and at age 39 was committed to a mental institution.  She remained there for the rest of her life, dying at age 104.

As many monuments and statues that Audrey Munson posed for, it's ironic that she herself is buried in an unmarked grave.

Do you have some interesting trivia you'd like to share that you've found in fiction?

Monday, October 2, 2023

The Big Country: A Western for Everyone

I've been dealing with an elderly parent over the last few months and finding the proper place for her care has been a challenge. Yet all has finally worked out and I couldn't be happier with the facility I found to meet my mother's assisted living needs and her memory care issues. After getting her settled, my husband and I went on vacation to Utah to see Bryce Canyon and Escalante National Monument. What breathtaking scenery! God's exterior design is magnificent and unbelievable! While vacationing, we passed by numerous cattle ranches that reminded me of the movie The Big Country, which I absolutely love! I told my husband about the plot with cattle and a fight for water rights, and he actually wanted to see it. He's not a fan of old movies like I am, but last week we watched The Big Country together on Amazon Prime where it's available for free. He enjoyed it, and so did I for about the seventeenth time! But I can  appreciate it even more now because of all the canyon scenery I've had a chance to experience for myself.
With my mother taken care of, I believe I can finally get back to writing, blogging, and podcasting! So in honor of The Big Country and my vacation, I'm reposting an article I wrote from November 26, 2012. Enjoy!

I'm not a fan of westerns, however, one of my favorite movies of all time is The Big Country, starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Charles Bickford, and Chuck Connors.

This is a great film, with an amazing cast and an unforgettably awesome musical score!  I fell in love with this motion picture when I was in middle school--back in the days of the CBS late night movie.  Anybody out there remember those, or am I the only one?

I enjoyed The Big Country so much, that as an adult I purchased it on video--as you can tell, that was quite a few years ago.  I haven't gotten around to ordering it on DVD yet.

The setting of the story helped to inspire part of my upcoming novel, Masquerade: Book Two of the Unchained Trilogy.  Masquerade is not a western, but the hero and heroine of part one, Escape, eventually end up in California where they raise their family on a huge ranch.

The Big Country actually takes place in Texas (though filmed in California), as an easterner, the honorable Jim McKay (Gregory Peck), moves there to be with his fiance, Pat Terrill (Carroll Baker), whose family owns an enormous ranch.  In Masquerade, a New Yorker ventures to California in search of answers.

Although the plots aren't similar, (The Big Country focuses on two clans fighting over water rights, while Masquerade revolves around the revelation of true identities), I love the feel of the West portrayed in The Big Country.  Watching it inspired my writing, and Chuck Connors's bad guy, Buck Hannassey, inspired one of my characters.  And yes, I admit, I re-crafted a little of his dialogue for one of my scenes!

My kids love Chuck Connors in reruns of the Rifleman television show, but they'll probably hate him after watching The Big Country--he plays such an excellent dirt-bag. They'll hate Burl Ives too, the jovial grandfatherly folksinger of "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Frosty the Snowman."  He plays Connors's father, a senior dirt-bag, and he did it so well, he won a best supporting actor Oscar!

Here's a great article at the Bijou Blog for some fun behind the scenes facts!
If you haven't seen The Big Country, it's worth watching--even if you don't like westerns!  It's actually based on the serialized magazine novel Ambush at Blanco Canyon by Donald Hamilton.

Do you like westerns? Have you ever seen The Big Country?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!