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Special Collections
Main Library Building
Michigan State University
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing MI, 48824
Phone: (517) 884-6471

Special Collections

the Special Collections reading room at the MSU Library

Special Collections was established in 1962 to hold, preserve, build, and make accessible rare materials and special collections in the MSU Libraries. All materials must be used in the Special Collections reading room to protect and preserve them for use today and in the future. Learn more about Special Collections

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Shadows from the Walls of Death

A page with sample of Paris green paint (arsenic)

One of only a handful of surviving copies of 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 is held in Special Collections. 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.