arsenic 31

This was the first arsenic paper design I created, I think. It’d been on my bucket list as a concept for ages. Isn’t it crazy that arsenic pigments were used on wallpapers and that those wallpapers of course made people sick? I mean, the colors and patterns can be gorgeous, but they are truly walls of death. In any case, it took me a while to find a skull to use, but once I did, it was off to the races, limping and coughing, and grateful for past public health doctors.

Wallpapers made with pigments from arsenic—it was a thing in the 19th century! And now you can pay tribute to your colorful goth side in these patterns but without the risk of dying from them.

The base pattern for this design comes from the 1874 volume compiled by R.C. Kedzie, Shadows from the walls of death: facts and inferences prefacing a book of specimens of arsenical wall papers. The book was digitized in full by the amazing staff at the U.S. National Library of Medicine and can be viewed at You can also read more about the book and its preservation and digitization in the blog series at (links to parts 1 and 2 are at the end of this post). The skulls interposed in this pattern are my addition and are taken from J.G. Heck’s 1852 Iconographic encyclopaedia of science, literature, and art, digitized in full by the Smithsonian Libraries and available at

Wallpaper, fabric, and various household goods from this pattern are available for purchase at Spoonflower; shirts and hoodies for adults and onesies for babies can be bought at Threadless.

I really intended this to be wallpaper from the start, and this mockup from Spoonflower suggests it would work pretty well as such. Will I put it up in my own home? It doesn’t quite match my aesthetic, but you never know.

After chatting with some folks, I’ve added a version of this design to Threadless as adult shirts and hoodies and baby onesies. If you’ve a sweet goth babe, surely you need one of these:

Update September 11, 2022: I ended up making the skull you see above into a repeating pattern, in case you want it as a tee or a comforter? To be honest, I don’t love Society 6’s cotton comforters (the fabric is very stiff and hard, to my sense) and I have not tried their all-over-tees, so I can’t vouch for those. But there’s also wrapping paper, and surely they can’t mess that up? Anyway, I will never not love this arsenic skull inception.