Research Article by Larissa Chelius Eastern Pennsylvania
On Thursday, April 3, 1862, Dr. Thomas Orton was quickly summoned to the Turner home. The Turners 4th child Ann Amelia began to get sick. This was very alarming to the Turners because not long before they lost three of their other children. When their first child passed the local surgeon gave the official diagnoses of diphtheria. Diphtheria was very common in London at this time some symptoms of this disease include; a sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes, rashes, ulcers, coughing, muscle weakness, and a runny nose.
As each of the three previous children passed, all their deaths were blamed on this contagious disease. When Ann began to get the exact same symptoms though, the Turners requested Dr. Orton to arrive immediately. Orton’s notes stated that Anne was “suffering from extreme prostration,” which is commonly connected to diphtheria. Not Anne, nor any of the Turner children responded to the common diphtheria treatments.
Dr. Orton couldn’t do anything else to help Ann, but before leaving he took notes on the Turners living conditions. This includes the neighborhood, water supply, and cleanliness. Dr. Orton’s notes stated that the home was in “capital condition,” and from this Dr. Orton gained suspicion about the wallpaper.
One month later, Ann Amelia Turner passed away and Dr. Letheby quickly tested Ann’s tissue to confirm the cause of death. After testing the tissue Letheby released two statements. One statement confirmed that the death of all the Turner kids was from arsenic poisoning. This comes from the bright green designed wallpaper that covered the walls in the children’s bedroom. The second statement told the common people how being in a room with arsenic colored wallpaper for a few hours could be lethal.
All of this information was brought to court, but the judge's condemnation of the use of arsenic colored wallpaper as “objectionable”. After the judge stated this the jury returned to the verdict of a “natural death” for the Turner children. Over time the dangers of arsenic wallpapers were known by European manufacturers before the green wallpaper obsession got to Britain. However, even with the general public knowing the risks of the beautiful green wallpaper, many companies didn’t stop making them until the 1870’s leading to many more tragic deaths.