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Debunking the Myth of 19th-Century 'Tear Catchers'

Written by: Sonya Vatomsky
Narrated by: Mike DelGaudio
Length: 5 mins

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Publisher's Summary

The Victorians were experts in the art of mourning: They wore black for extended periods, wove human hair into elaborate wreaths, and wept, it is said, into delicate glass bottles called “tear catchers.” Victorian ephemera is hot these days, as is death, oddly enough—see the rise of the #deathpositive movement—so mourning artifacts are in high demand. Vintage tear catchers, also called “lachrymatory bottles,” can be found in online auctions and marketplaces, as well as through estate sales and antique stores. During the 19th century, and especially in America during and after the Civil War, supposedly, tear catchers were used as a measure of grieving time. Once the tears cried into them had evaporated, the mourning period was over. It’s a good story—too good. In truth, both science and history agree, there’s really no such thing as a tear catcher. Caveat emptor.

"Debunking the Myth of 19th-Century 'Tear Catchers'" is from, published on May 2, 2017.

©2017 Atlas Obscura, Inc. (P)2017 Audible, Inc.

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