Here’s a good one for the “history stinks” files: one of the earliest artificial ice skating rinks was made of pig fat and salts and it reeked.

Smithsonian magazine writes of the “Glaciarium,” a magnificent attraction with a wonderful name that opened in June 1844. The journal Littel’s Living Age was on hand to tell of this modern marvel: “[i]t represents a lake imbedded amid Alpine scenery, with snow-covered mountains and precipitous glaciers, the judicious management of the light giving everything a cold and wintry appearance.” How lovely! Unfortunately, it smelled like absolute ass.

As Tim Jepson and Larry Porges write ​in the National Geographic London Book of Lists, it smelled noxious. “At the time, ice couldn’t be manufactured and kept frozen in sufficient quantities to create a proper rink. The appalling smell of the substitute, a mixture of pig fat and salts, would be the project’s undoing,” they write.

Not to mention that this was before the advent of air conditioning and this was not an era of skimpy summer clothing. So picture a beautiful simulacrum of an Alpine paradise, then overlay that with the absolute stench of, let’s say, the dumpster out back of a sub-par barbecue joint combined with a middle school locker room. You know it must have stunk to high heaven for Victorians to avoid such a prime opportunity for seductive circling of one another.

Maybe they should have just stuck with it for a little while longer, though—eventually the smell of London got so unbelievably God-awful that they probably could’ve rebranded their materials with some patent-medicine-style name to conceal the ingredients and nobody would’ve even noticed anymore. Read the story of the stinky Glaciarium in full at Smithsonian.

Advertisement