Paris Green

by Sarah Webb. 0 Comments

          Completely deflated from my discovery in John Trout’s obituary, I headed back home from the Maryland Room. 

           The first order of business was to find out about Paris Green. 

           According to Oct/Nov 2001 issue of History Magazine  Paris Green, an arsenic compound, was developed around 1775 as a pigment for paints, wallpaper and fabrics.  Evidently, the pigment in the wallpapers caused quite a few sicknesses throughout the 1800s but initially nobody connected it to Paris Green.   In Italy in the 1890s  an investigation was conducted into the deaths of over 1000 children (no, that number is not a typo), and it was determined that the arsenic from moldy wallpaper made with Paris Green pigment leached into the air in the form of deadly arsine gas.  

          An interesting factoid from the same article: apparently poisoning was a common newspaper theme in the 1800s and poisoning by arsenic was “almost fashionable.”   

My dad, who is convinced we’re related to anyone and everyone with a Powers surname, must’ve googled “Paris Green” and “Powers” together.  (He is at least enthusiastic about genealogy, but you can imagine how long his to-do is with this approach.)  He found an historical article from the New York Times, August 8, 1874 that helped me understand the poison better.

           Apparently, some domestic servants (yes, 2 of them were Powers) became suddenly ill and within 2 days had died.  An investigation ensued due to the mysterious deaths and it was determined that Paris Green had been sprinkled around the kitchen cabinets as an insecticide.  

               Since Paris Green was also used as a common insecticide/rodenticide produced by the Acme Quality Paints Company it must have been readily available to John Trout.  In fact, in the case of the domestic servants, the use of Paris Green in this way caused their untimely deaths.  Evidently, a very small amount can cause death and it was referred to as a “violent poison” in the article. 

               From what I gathered it seems Paris Green poisoning would be such a slow, painful way to go.  John Trout would have experienced stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea and worse.  It definitely does not quite match up to “calmly awaiting death” as described in the FNP.  I have to keep in mind he was 85 at the time, but I had also read he had no specific health issues and had apparently entered into a “sea of matrimonial happiness” with his second wife.

 What had been a mere curiosity about John Trout now was a full-scale investigation.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.  I just couldn’t believe he chose to end his own life! 

          Because of his tragic ending, I felt compelled to fill in the gaps – to continue learning more about what John Trout’s life had been like.   For better or worse when I get hooked on a mystery I can’t let it go.  

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