7 unlikely status symbols throughout history, from pineapples to mummy-unwrapping parties – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

7 unlikely status symbols throughout history, from pineapples to mummy-unwrapping parties

7 unlikely status symbols throughout history, from pineapples to mummy unwrapping parties and fake ruins.


Pineapples were all the rage in the 1700s.
The word “salary” is derived from the word “salt,” which was once an emblem of social status.
In Victorian England and Ireland, fake crumbly ruins called “follies” also denoted social status.

1. Salt was once worth its weight in gold.

Michelle Lee Photography/Getty Images; bhofack2/Getty Images

Because of its preservative qualities, salt was worth its weight in gold in ancient Greece. Before that, it was used in offerings made to Egyptian gods.

And Rome even named a street after it: The Via Salaria connected the capital to the Adriatic Sea.

Roman soldiers were paid a monthly wage called “salarium,” which was later adapted into the English language as the word “salary.” Even the phrase “not worth his salt” comes from trading salt for slaves in Greece. And soon, having salt became emblematic of a person’s social status.

2. Body modifications were all the rage in Asia.
Young Tonkin with teeth painted black, 1905.

Common source/ wikimedia

The ancient Japanese tradition of Ohaguro, or blackening one’s teeth by lacquering them, was once a status symbol. Traces of this practice date back to the 12th century.

But why? 

Simply because black-colored objects were considered to be beautiful — making them revered and sought after.

For centuries, weird body modification trends symbolized wealth and good breeding. Take, for example, Chinese women binding their feet to turn them into “three-inch golden lotuses.”

That practice was seemingly inspired by a tenth-century court dancer and eventually became a tool for social mobility for the upper classes of Han Chinese society. It was eventually outlawed.

Even now, women have been conditioned to believe that beauty is pain, forcing them to pluck or shave their hair, squeeze their feet into high heels, or surgically enhance their anatomy.

3. Pineapples were once considered to be the epitome of luxury.
Pineapple is not only a delicious snack, but a healthy one, too.

Huyen Nguyen / EyeEm/Getty Images

Some 250 years ago, pineapples were the epitome of wealth and good breeding.

In the 1770s, these unlikely status symbols entered the zeitgeist to mean anything of top quality. There was no higher compliment than “a pineapple of the finest flavor.”

Francesca Beauman, the author of “The Pineapple: King of Fruits,” told CNN that pineapples were sought after because the travelers who experienced eating them in the New World raved about their flavor.

These fruits were so luxurious that they were fit for royalty. An oil painting titled “Charles II Presented with a Pineapple” featured the English monarch perched on a terrace. A man — presumed to be John Rose, the royal gardener — kneels before him. He appears to be offering the royal a pineapple, then considered a rare and highly valued exotic fruit.

There is even a record of Charles II getting the first taste of the fruit. We don’t know what the monarch thought of it, but according to the Royal Collection Trust, the record keeper was disappointed by the taste.

4. Mummy-unwrapping parties were all the rage in the 18th and 19th century.
The mummy inside its sarcophagus.

Sahar Saleem

As a fascination with Egypt took a hold over Victorian-era England, mummy-unwrapping parties entered the scene.

Held in the private homes of the societal elite, these events married the lot’s fascination with science — and morbidity.

Typically these parties would involve mummies brought in from Egypt and slowly unwrapped in front of curious onlookers. And no unwrapping party was as popular as Thomas Pettigrew’s, a surgeon and antiquarian.

There’s even a record of one. On a cold January evening in 1834, a few lucky Londoners got the opportunity to witness the unwrapping of an Egyptian mummy of the 21st dynasty at the Royal College of Surgeons.

Pettigrew soon became the pioneer of such events, holding elaborate unwrappings in front of shocked audiences. He was even approached to mummify the Duke of Hamilton at the time, a fan of his work.

But not everyone was a fan: Egyptologist John J. Johnston felt these parties were “disgusting.”

“Bodies are supposed to be treated with respect — you can’t deal with people in that way,” he said.

5. Crumbling structures were the hottest party spots in Victorian England.
Ruins of an old medieval castle – stock photo

Manuel Breva Colmeiro/ Getty

In 18th-century Europe, follies — or fake castle ruins — became all the rage among the aristocracy. The word is derived from the French word folie, meaning foolishness.

A few records of these structures exist.

Robert Rochfort, known as the “wicked earl,” built a run-down structure in Westmeath, Ireland, deliberately made to resemble a ruin. It even had a name: Jealous Wall.

There’s another such structure in Maynooth, another Irish town. This one is replete with stone pineapples and eagles, and it has a fascinating economic connection.

The widow of the wealthiest man in Ireland at the time wanted to help starving farmers during the Irish famine in the 1740s, but she did not want to give out food for free. Instead, she had these famine-struck farmers build her the folly to earn their keep, per Travel League and Curious Ireland.

These fake castle ruins soon became a hotspot for entertainment for the rich.

6. White sugar was once a prized possession, and nowhere was its status more on display than in the white icing on a cake.
Wedding cake.


While it had been imported since the Middle Ages, it was only in the sixteenth century that sugar became widely available in England. And the whiter the sugar, the more refined – and expensive — it was. White icing on a cake meant no cost had been spared in the making. 

Soon enough, pure white bridal cakes became a symbol of status, Carol Wilson wrote in 2005 in a Gastronomica essay titled “Wedding Cake: A Slice of History.”

In 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, the cake was piped with white icing, which thereafter was known as “royal icing.” The multi-tiered cake measured over nine feet in circumference.

When then-Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, the cake stood nine feet tall and weighed about a quarter of a tonne.

7. In the late 2010s, urban chickens became the Teslas of Silicon Valley’s tech elite.
Indoor farm of hens that lay eggs. – stock photo


In 2018, an unusual fad gripped Silicon Valley’s tech elite, according to the Washington Post.

These scions of technology began keeping chickens. 

And while chicken-rearing has always been a mainstay of America’s rural and working class, chickens became an unusual symbol of luxury — akin to driving a Tesla, wrote the Post’s Peter Holley.

Tech bros threw everything into their new hobby, including spending up to $20,000 for state-of-the-art coops and obsessively charting the color and size of the eggs laid.

Leslie Citroen, a chicken whisperer whose hourly consulting fees were $225 at the time, told the Post it wasn’t uncommon to see these birds walk about their owner’s lavish homes wearing diapers and roosting in bedrooms.

“Because it shouts out, ‘These eggs did not come from Whole Foods or Walmart — these eggs came from my back yard,'” Citroen told the outlet.

“It’s a total status symbol,” she added.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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