Aztecs and Mayans are known to have drunk a bitter cacao drink.
Chocolate was mostly consumed as a drink for most of its documented history.
1502: Christopher Columbus carries cocoa beans he finds near present-day Honduras back to Spain, presents them to Queen Isabella, and they go straight into a museum. In his diary, Columbus hints that chocolate would be improved with the addition of sugar.
1528: Hernán Cortés, spending time with Montezuma, observes his seemingly boundless energy and chocolate drinking habit—40 goblets a day. Trying it himself, he writes to King Charles about its energy and focus-giving qualities. “It was because it was the first time that he had caffeine,” said Segan. “Coffee and tea were not yet introduced to the Old World.”
Mid to late 1500s: With the addition of sugar, chocolate becomes sweet, but isn’t for the masses; only the wealthy can afford it.
1600s: Chocolate travels from Spain to Italy, where it is seen in a whole new light: as a spice. “The Italians love to fool around,” according to Segan, “They looked at the cocoa beans and said, ‘Cocoa beans are a spice; they’re seeds like cumin, coriander,’” prompting their use in cooking, quite some time before Mexico’s mole sauces.
Casanova (1725–1798) praises chocolate’s aphrodisiac values, recommending oysters, sparkling wine, to seduce ladies, but chocolate above all for what he believed were its aphrodisiac properties.
1865: Gianduja, chocolate mixed with hazelnut paste, is created in Piedmont, Italy.
1875: Daniel Peter creates milk chocolate, with condensed milk produced by his neighbor and dairy farmer Henri Nestlé.
1879: Rodolphe Lindt invents conching, a way to make chocolate less grainy tasting and smoother through heating and rolling. Though many prefer this finer texture, in Sicily, the grainy texture is preferred and still produced.
1930s: Nestlé creates white chocolate, now that cocoa butter can be squeezed from the cocoa solids.
The English, who were used to the idea of hot drinks, had no problem with chocolate as a rich drink, with milk, eggs, and cream.
Called Indian nectar by Henry Stubbe in a 1662 treatise, the drink was praised for its universal curing properties—for any and all ailments.
Doctor Harry Bailey promised people that he could cure them of drug addiction, depression, schizophrenia, anorexia, and nearly anything else. Then he sedated them for weeks. And he kept this up for 17 years.
Chelmsford Hospital’s deep sleep ward was a quiet place to work. Aside from the staff, and the occasional visitor, everyone at the Australian private hospital ward was unconscious all the time.
The doctor in charge, Harry Bailey, believed that a “long rest” was the ideal way to heal anyone of anything. Prolonged spells of unconsciousness would allow the brain to unlearn destructive patterns, and so would cure people with schizophrenia, PMS, or depression.
It would also help people break out of unhealthy behavioural patterns, like drug addiction, anorexia, or compulsive behavior. And if you wanted to take off a few pounds, deep sleep therapy could help with that as well.
His philosophy resulted in two deaths a year inside his hospital, every year, for nearly two decades.
Between 1962 and 1979, about two people a year failed to wake up from the coma that massive doses of barbituates put them in.
Others died or were injured due to the electroconvulsive therapy that was performed on them while they were unconscious but without the muscle relaxers that would keep them from moving due to the shock. Others were injured by the sheer lack of motion.
Depending on who you ask, the death toll due to the therapy is in the low 20s or the high 80s. Some patients went on to die of illnesses that may have been caused by their time in Chelmsford. A high percentage of the deep sleep patients went on to kill themselves.
Others just had terrible experiences. While the luckiest patients went to sleep and woke up missing no time, others experienced hallucinations and woke up covered in their own urine and feces.
While some visitors said the deep sleep ward was peaceful, others talked about how it was filled with constant incoherent moaning.
What made Chelmsford a national scandal was not that this happened, but that the Australian government did nothing about it. Despite the deaths, and the live patients’ complaints, the hospital passed inspection.
It stayed operational when a 14-year-old boy died during the therapy. It even stayed operational when a man had second thoughts, accepted a pill that he was told would “calm him down” so he could talk about his therapy, and woke up days later.
The man tried to press kidnapping and wrongful imprisonment charges.
It was only when the rest of the doctors at the hospital, horrified by the deaths, threatened to quit that the practice was stopped.
A few years later it became the subject of a television special and an ongoing national scandal. Investigations were opened up against the doctors in charge, but they were so prolonged and scattered that after over a decade a court stated that the delays amounted to a government misuse of the system and dismissed some of the charges.
Doctor Bailey himself committed suicide after investigation revealed that the research into sedation therapy on which he’d based his treatment was actually about the benefit of a few hours sedation. The average stay at Chelmsford was 14 days.
One March day in 1907, a man appeared at the Park Avenue brownstone where 37-year-old Mary Mallon worked as a cook. He demanded a little bit of her blood, urine and faeces. “It did not take Mary long to react to this suggestion,” the man later wrote of the encounter. “She seized a carving fork and advanced in my direction.”
The man with the strange request was George Soper, a sanitary engineer investigating a typhoid outbreak at a house in Oyster Bay, Long Island, where Mallon had worked. Soper believed that Mallon was a healthy carrier of the disease, a relatively new idea at the time.
Later, he returned, and after evading authorities for five hours Mallon was betrayed by a scrap of her dress, caught in the door of her hiding place.
When she tested positive for typhoid bacteria, the Department of Health forcibly moved her to North Brother Island, a dot of land in the East River just off the Bronx that housed a quarantine facility.
She was released in 1910, after swearing she wouldn’t cook professionally again.
Five years later, she was found working in the kitchen at a hospital where a typhoid outbreak was underway.
Mary was apprehended for the second and final time, living the next 23 years—the rest of her life—under quarantine.
Mallon’s legend grew almost immediately. A newspaper illustration during her first imprisonment conveyed the public’s morbid fascination with her: An aproned woman casually drops miniature human skulls into a skillet, like eggs.
Today, the name “Typhoid Mary” stands for anyone who callously spreads disease or evil. There’s even a Marvel comic book villain named after her: a female assassin with a vicious temper.
But the real story is more complicated than the caricature.
Historians such as Judith Walzer Leavitt, author of Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public’s Health, point out that by the time of her second imprisonment Mallon was far from the only known carrier.
There were thousands across the country and hundreds in New York, and today we know that being a carrier of disease is not that unusual: Up to 6 percent of people who’ve had typhoid, which is still common in the developing world, can spread it long after they’ve recovered, even if they exhibited few or no symptoms, says Denise Monack, a microbiologist at Stanford.
Monack has shown that genetic mutations might allow bacteria to climb unnoticed into immune cells, where they take up long-term residence.
We all love a good ghost story, but what happens when it turns out that it’s not a ghost at all? What happens when the dead thing is real, and it’s responsible for the deaths of innocents?
In the 1880s, there were numerous sightings of a mysterious creature roaming the desert of the southwestern United States. Prospectors, farmers, and ranchers all claimed to have seen this massive thing, and the fact that their stories largely matched gave credence to the claim.
They said that it was a camel, with a skeletal rider on its back. And the camel wasn’t staying away.
The first known casualty of the so-called Red Ghost was a woman who was trampled to death in 1883.
There were also miners who barely escaped the same fate when the camel barreled through their tent; in both cases, it left behind telltale footprints and long red hairs. The evidence seemed clear it was a feral camel, but it wasn’t just any camel – this one was ridden by a dead man.
More and more people began seeing the Red Ghost, and when a few prospectors had a run-in with it, they discovered something disturbing. They investigated the place where they had seen it, they found it had left behind a human skull.
The dead man might have lost something of his supernatural air, but people still reported seeing the beast with its dead rider. And somehow, that’s even creepier than chalking the whole thing up to the wide desert horizon playing tricks on tired eyes.
Between 1787 and 1868, some 150,000 convicts sailed to Australia. (This new scheme superseded the old practice of shipping convicts to North America—no longer possible after the revolution.)
“Transportation” often meant permanent separation from family, friends, and sweethearts, since many convicts never returned from Australia even after their sentences expired.
These sincere, emotional tokens seem like slim compensation.
Here are a few of the mementoes, with some of the results of the research that the museum and collectors have done into the backgrounds of the convicts whose names appear. The full collection contains 314 tokens, 80 of which researchers have associated with a person in the historical record.
Abraham Lawley, the apparent creator of this token, was transported in 1828 after being convicted of stealing a handkerchief.
While this level of punishment for larceny seems harsh, in the early 19th-century U.K. it represented a reform, as stealing almost anything had previously been a capital crime.
Historian Simon Devereaux writes that deterrence was the dominant objective of such punishments—authorities hoped to set an example for others who might be inclined to steal from property owners.
The 20-year-old Lawley stayed in New South Wales, even after his sentence was up. We don’t know who Ann Pembutton was, or what significance a balloon with a gondola might have had for the couple.
The National Museum traces this token to Charles Wilkinson, 17, who (like Lawley) stole a handkerchief.
Wilkinson was transported to Tasmania for life in 1824. He was convicted again for stealing in 1829, and finally pardoned in 1844.