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Myth: The Victorians covered table legs

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by

Claire Dowle

on 16 May 2014

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Transcript of Myth: The Victorians covered table legs

The myth goes that the Victorians of the 19th century covered furniture legs, as they resembled legs of a woman, therefore causing arousal amongst men
Sexual arousal was considered to be a sin during this time, so this myth sounded legitimate when dispersed amongst everyone.
This was a misunderstanding on the part of the Americans, initially triggered by the writings of British author Frederick Marryat in 1839
In his 'Diary in America', he claimed that the furniture legs were covered in little trousers to "preserve in their utmost purity the ideas of the young ladies under her charge".
The British press found this amusing, and ran articles about prudish Americans.
In retaliation, the Americans decided to turn this myth into a British historical fact.
Who came up with this myth?
Over the course of time, evidence has resurfaced to prove that this was in fact a myth, notably the research into its origins, and Frederick Marryat, who aimed to provide a satirical poke at American culture. This turned into stereotypical Victorian history, as the Victorians didn't like to say the word "leg".

Therefore, this myth is nowadays commonly recognized as comical.
The revision of this myth
Misunderstandings (and in this case jokes) can, over time, become historical facts. Since we have no way of testing what happens in history we cannot be certain of it's credibility.

We therefore cannot make factual statements based on history.

Does historical 'knowledge' exist?
Historical Implications
Myth: The Victorians covered furniture legs
The Victorians covered furniture legs
MYTH
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING IMAGES ARE GRAPHIC

COVER YOUR EYES, IF NECESSARY
Full transcript