Michigan State University

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Shadows from the Walls of Death

A page with sample of Paris green paint (arsenic)

Shadows from the Walls of Death

Special Collections holds one of only a handful of surviving copies Shadows from the walls of death; facts and inferences prefacing a book of specimens of arsenical wall papers (Lansing, 1874) by Professor Robert C. Kedzie, a physician turned chemistry professor who for many years taught at Michigan Agricultural College. Appointed to the first State Board of Health for Michigan, Kedzie wrote of the deaths that resulted from wall paper tinted with arsenic (Paris green). The color gradually dusted off the walls, and one who lived in the house so papered might absorb enough to cause death. Kedzie cut up 80 rolls of wall paper containing the deadly arsenic-green and produced 100 copies for distribution to state libraries along with his scientific conclusions. Before long the use of arsenic to produce the greens in wall paper disappeared.

The copy in Special Collections has been conserved and the wall paper specimens encapsulated to protect staff and patrons.