getty images
getty images

15 Terrifying 18th Century Remedies for What Ails You

getty images
getty images

Could you imaging cutting, burning, and bleeding someone who is having a stroke? Or rubbing poisonous lead on someone to cure their rectal cancer? Welcome to just a couple of the remedies in The Book of Phisick, a remarkably legible, handwritten recipe book of natural remedies. It was initially written by an unknown author in 1710 and subsequently added to by different anonymous hands for years. The recipes, for the most part, involve using plants and minerals to battle everything from bad breath to cancer. Some of the treatments can still be found in non-Western approaches to medicine; others appear to be a sure way to hasten the death of the patient. All of them will make you a little more tolerant of your insurance co-pays.

1. "For the Biteing of a Mad Dog"

Rabies is almost always fatal unless the infected person is given the modern two-week treatment regimen of shots to help their body identify and fight the virus. The treatment prescribed in Phisick is hopelessly insufficient—and cruel, considering the hydrophobia that usually accompanies rabies:

Take 40 grains of ground liverwort and 20 grains of pepper in half a pint of milk…take this quantity four mornings together, then use of Cold Bath, every other day, a month.

Phisick also provides a contingency treatment “if the madness is begun.” Sip a tea made of cinnabar, musk, and syrup of cloves with a booze chaser, and “stay thirty days, before you repeat it.” If the symptoms associated with madness have already begun, 30 days of doing nothing would see the end of many patients—but unfortunately, so would 30 days of any other treatment in this era.

2. "To Kill Black Worms in the Face"

For a long time, people thought blackheads were tiny worms burrowed into the skin, and you can see how easily the assumption could be made by watching some of the many blackhead extraction videos on YouTube. (Do not watch while eating.) The successful removal of blackheads yielded what was considered to be the tiny corpse of the offending vermin. The recipe was simple: red wine vinegar, prunella, and nightshade water. Prunella is very common in herbal medicine all over the globe even today, prescribed as a general “heal-all.” The nightshade water (still available for purchase for both medicinal and culinary purposes) was probably what was left over from boiling the berries and leaves of the solanum nigrum plant. That would have made it Black Nightshade, which—though still toxic in high enough quantities—is nowhere near as poisonous as its cousin Deadly Nightshade. Probably just poisonous enough to flush out all the tiny worms nesting in your face.

2. "White Lead Plaister"

White lead was used as a miraculous panacea for centuries. Smearing it over a person’s back was said to prevent miscarriage and cure “the bloody flux” (a.k.a. unstoppable, often fatal diarrhea). Practitioners believed that, when applied to the stomach, it could provoke appetite and soothed The King’s Evil—painless but unsightly infected lymph nodes, so called because it was believed that the touch of a sovereign ordained by God could cure it. It was also believed to be good for swellings, bruises, drawing out infection, and any problems you might be having with your “fundament” (bottom). Once made, the concoction would be good for 20 years.

White lead, or lead acetate, is an astringent, and can tighten and reduce swelling blood vessels and pores. The fatally high toxicity of white lead was either unknown or simply not a major concern for the people of the 18th century. After all, the effects of lead poisoning—general ill health, decreased life span, dangers to fetal development and even childhood mortality—were an expected part of life in the era. It would have been difficult to pinpoint white lead as a unique source of any of those ailments.

4. "A Pleasent Purge"

It makes sense, if you think about it: To get well, citizens of the 18th century believed, you had to flush whatever was making you sick out of your body. Therefore, purgatives (any substance that would make a patient expel whatever was in his digestive system, usually through diarrhea) were a huge part of pre-19th century medicine—even if your sickness had nothing to do with your digestive system.

The Book of Phisick contains recipes for multiple laxatives. The “Pleasent” one is a mixture of “manna” (dried sap of the South European Ash tree) and lemon juice. But if you wanted a something strong enough to kill intestinal worms—which were very common until chemical pesticides were widely used—and strengthen a weak stomach, you’d use aloe instead of ash. The gelatinous part of the plant could be rolled into pills and fed to the patient. (Though we mostly think of aloe in relation to skin, studies show it may be helpful in inflammatory bowel disease.)

Though they were seen as a cure-all in the 18th century, purgatives actually had the opposite effect: They emptied a patient of desperately needed water, leaving him weak and depleted, but with the same strep throat he had before being put on a strict regimen of continuous stomach cramps and pooping.

5. "An Oyntment For a Cancer in the Breast"

Breast cancer has appeared throughout recorded history since ancient Egypt, although it wasn’t usually attended to until the tumor became painful or noticeable through the skin. Phisick's hopeful remedy contains ingredients like sage, bay leaves, chamomile, and red roses, all left to mature in a dunghill for precisely eight days.

Toward the end of the 18th century, new doctors were challenging the ideas that breast cancer was caused by not enough sex, too much sex, childlessness, too much black bile, or depression. The idea of radical mastectomy as treatment was in its infancy (if you have a strong stomach read Fanny Burney’s account of her own pre-anesthetic mastectomy here). But for the most part, people still treated breast cancer with topical salves. Even if there was no reason to believe it would work, it’s human nature to keep trying.

6. "To Stop Bleeding"

One of the main problems with this recipe is that it doesn’t specify what kind of bleeding it seeks to stop. The other is that its active ingredient is the very harmful white lead, which works as a styptic for wounds. Nineteenth century doctors would use it during surgeries, immediately covering amputated limbs with copious amounts, but the directions given in Phisick don’t say anything about applying to a wound:

Make bolster of linnen, dip one in the [lead] water and apply to the pit of the stomack. If that does not doe one to each wrist & two to the soales of feet.

Based on books published later, we can infer that this is a recipe for treating hemorrhaging. In Materia medica, written 170 years after Phisick, sugar of lead (another name for white lead) is still recommended for all kinds of internal hemorrhaging, including bronchial, intestinal, renal, and uterine. By first applying the lead poultice to the belly, it would appear to be an attempt to control one or all of the three latter. And even though sugar of lead was easily absorbed into the skin, the potential conditions causing these hemorrhages—typhoid fever, kidney failure, miscarriage—likely needed more than a styptic.

7. "A Good Surfeit Water and proper for the Gripes"

Surfeit water was the Alka-Seltzer of 1710—a way to settle a tummy that had enjoyed a surfeit of indulgence; the water in question was usually alcohol. The recipe also indicates that it can be used to make gripe water, which soothed a fussy baby. Gripe water is still used today, but not this formulation, which seems more appropriate for a fussy Velociraptor: The recipe required a gallon of brandy and as many mature poppy leaves—which would have been heavy with opium—as could be stuffed into a container. The concoction was left to steep for a few days, strained, and then mixed with some nice liquors to make it more palatable; “3 or 4 spoonfuls at a time is enough” for an adult. And for children, just two, with a little water. It was probably incredibly effective—unconscious people are seldom bothered by stomach upset.

8. "For the Colick"

Phisick included many recipes for soothing a child’s upset stomach, not all of which were opiate-based. But you might opt for the poppy seed remedy before using this recipe, which, to start, involved frying the dung of pigeons and then applying the resulting paste to the child’s navel. And that’s the least distasteful part of the treatment: The child is also to be given an enema of hot milk, “or fryed oates, or chamomile, or a bag of sand, or a hot Tyle.” (Elsewhere in Phisick it is indicated that a bag of hot sand or a hot tile are to be applied to an upset stomach externally—though how many poor kids had to endure sand in the bum due to poor sentence structure we’ll never know.)

The last part of the treatment is one we’re vaguely familiar with, preserved in a crude colloquialism usually used to question someone’s truthfulness: Special enema devices—called “glisters” in Phisick but also written as “Clysters”—were used to force tobacco smoke into the bowels. Tobacco smoke was thought to be a catch-all stimulant, and was used rectally for everything from resuscitating drowning victims to halting epileptic seizures.

9. "For an Apoplexy"

Someone who has undergone an apoplexy was identified by “all the senses taken away on a sudden.”  We seldom use that term now because we know the condition of “all senses taken away on a sudden” is caused by many different, extremely serious maladies, such as stroke, internal hemorrhage, or brain aneurysm. Treatment for such illnesses in the 18th century was nothing short of torture: First, bleed the patient, letting 16 or 18 ounces of blood (about two cups), which was believed to cleanse the body of bad blood, stimulate the circulatory system, and balance the humors.  It was usually done with a fleam, a metal strip with a sharp triangular head specifically designed to puncture veins. The blood would then drip into a bowl made especially for the purpose.

Next, the patient would be cupped and scarified. This involved heating special cups—usually made of metal, glass, or ceramic—over fire to near red-hot. Then, the cups were applied to the skin, burning it and simultaneously creating a vacuum, raising a tremendous welt. If the skin was pierced with a scarificator beforehand, the result would be a “wet cupping,” because the cup would fill with blood. The recipe also prescribed blistering the neck and arms, which was the same process but without the scarificator. (Click here to see the process, still used in some healing circles, but be warned, it’s not pleasant.)  

Unfortunately, this poor apoplectic creature’s treatment isn’t over yet. Next comes “strong glisters” (enemas) and the holding of a red hot fire shovel near their head. This is followed by the administration of a negligible poultice of spice to the soles of the feel, and submerging the patient’s hands in near boiling water.

10. "Falling Sickness"

Phisick says this malady “is known by falling down sudainly, strugling, and a white froth coming out of their mouths.” Today, we call it epilepsy. The prescribed treatment is the closest Phisick comes to out and out hocus pocus: The hair of a strong young man, as well as “the bone that grows in the legg of a deer,” must be cooked and powdered, then fed to the patient in the amount “as much as will lye on a groat two days before the new moon.” A full moon was considered to be one of the worst times for a person who suffered epilepsy, as it was believed it triggered madness (thus the “luna” in lunatic).

11. "For Convulsion Fits in Children"

While most of these medicinal recipes have some semblance of logic, there are a few that leave the reader hopelessly confused. To cure fits in children, for example, it is recommended to take a “live pigions rump” and clap it to the rear-end of the unfortunate child. The bird will struggle and “It will draw away the fits and grow weak and dye, so apply another till the fits leave it.” This treatment—the application of a pigeon’s “fundament” to the affected area—is also prescribed to drain venom from a snake bite.

12. "For a Speck in the Eyes"

If you’re thinking the answer lies in a good dousing from a bucket of well water, you’re under-thinking this situation. Those hoping to get rid of eye specks were to “Take urine and put it in a pewter dish,” then place another pewter dish on top of it to collect the condensation rising as the bottom dish is heated. Then, the special pee water is collected and dropped into the eye.

The application of this special water promised to “lessen the speck, clear the eyes, and is an excellent remedy for any sore eyes.”  Interestingly, the use of urine as eyewash is still practiced today, although largely frowned on by the medical community.

13. "To Take of Superfluous Hair"

For an era that had few qualms about partaking in some of the most dangerous poisons and disgusting concoctions available in nature, Phisick’s hair-removal secret was quite tame: Simply mix saltwater with “fasting spittle,” spit taken from the mouth early in the morning before eating. It was thought to have special curative properties, and was even mentioned in the Bible. Sadly, it’s not well known for its ability to break down keratin.

14. "For the Head Ache"

Phisick offers an array of simple headache cures. Some are almost shockingly reasonable (drink strong coffee or tea), some are expectedly odd (comb head upwards and stroke with nutmeg and vinegar), and some are just right back in the “oh 18th century, no” category (make vomit, draw blood from temple, blister neck). The headache is one of those maladies which we have learned to manage but have not eradicated. Many a migraine sufferer would gladly tie orange rind to their forehead and snort perfumed water (also advised treatments) if they thought for even a second it would work.

15. "For the Little White Worms in the Fundament"

Even in the 21st century, pinworms are still the most common worm infection in America, particularly among children. These parasites live in the rectum and lower intestines, and the females crawl out to lay their eggs during the night in the anal area. When kids scratch their itchy bums and touch things, they spread the eggs around to nearby hosts (usually other children). Today, there are a number of quick medications that can expel the worms, and natural remedies such as garlic also abound. But Phisick suggests creating a meat suppository, tied to a string, for brisk removal. The idea is that, if left to their own devices for a while, the worms will happily make their homes in the fake “host.” The suppository is then quickly removed, hopefully taking the unwanted interlopers with it. Process is to be repeated until all of the worms are gone.

Sergeant Marshall/Department of Defense, NARA // Public Domain
Would You Be Able to Pass a World War I Military Literacy Test?
Sergeant Marshall/Department of Defense, NARA // Public Domain
Sergeant Marshall/Department of Defense, NARA // Public Domain

Though reading and writing might not come to mind as the first requirement for trench warfare, during the early 20th century, the U.S. Army became increasingly concerned with whether or not its soldiers were literate. Thousands of World War I soldiers couldn't read printed directions on basic military tasks. The Army didn't implement its first major literacy program until the 1940s, but literacy tests were included in a battery of psychological evaluations World War I recruits went through to determine their mental fitness and intelligence, as the blog Futility Closet recently highlighted.

These unconventional literacy tests largely took the form of a yes or no questions with obvious answers, according to the 1921 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, Psychological Examining in the United States Army. Edited by pioneering intelligence-testing psychologist Robert Yerkes, who developed the military's first psychology exams for new recruits (and was also famous for his support for eugenics), the volume is a lengthy compilation of all of the methods the U.S. Army used to test the intelligence of its future soldiers. Many of these tests are now considered racist and culturally biased—some of the "intelligence" testing questions required recruits to know things like what products Velvet Joe (a figure used in tobacco campaigns) advertised—but some of the literacy questions, in particular, simply come off as weird in the modern era. Some are downright existential, in fact, while others—"Is a guitar a disease?"—come off as almost poetic.

A long questionnaire to test literacy, including questions like 'Is coal white?'
Psychological Examining in the United States Army, Google Books // Public Domain

One test, the Devens Literarcy Test, asked recruits questions like "Is genuine happiness a priceless treasure?" and "Does success tend to bring pleasure?" Another section of the test asked "Do boys like to play?" and "Do clerks enjoy a vacation?"

Other questions seem like they're up for debate, like "Are painters ever artless individuals?" and "Is extremely athletic exercise surely necessary?" Surely the answers to questions like "Should criminals forfeit liberty?" and "Is misuse of money an evil?" depend on the opinions of the reader. The answer to "Do imbeciles usually hold responsible offices?" might be different depending on how the person feels about their Congressional representative, and could surely be the spark for an hour-long argument at most dinner parties.

Still others are tests of cultural knowledge, not reading skill—a major modern criticism of Yerkes's work. Despite being arguably a pretty literate person, I certainly don't know the answer to the question "Do voluntary enlistments increase the army?" A question like "Are 'diminutive' and 'Lilliputian' nearly identical?" isn't exactly a test of literacy, but a test of whether or not you've read Gulliver's Travels, which doesn't exactly seem like a necessity for military success.

Luckily, some of the questions are pretty obvious, like "Is coal white?" That one I can answer. The full list of questions used in the various versions of the Devens test is below for you to test your own Army-level literacy.

  • Do dogs bark?
  • Is coal white?
  • Can you see?
  • Do men eat stones?
  • Do boys like to play?
  • Can a bed run?
  • Do books have hands?
  • Is ice hot?
  • Do winds blow?
  • Have all girls the same name?
  • Is warm clothing good for winter?
  • Is this page of paper white?
  • Are railroad tickets free?
  • Is every young woman a teacher?
  • Is it always perfect weather?
  • Is the heart within the body?
  • Do clerks enjoy a vacation?
  • Is the President a public official?
  • Would you enjoy losing a fortune?
  • Does an auto sometimes need repair?
  • Is it important to remember commands?
  • Are avenues usually paved with oxygen?
  • Do we desire serious trouble?
  • Is practical judgment valuable?
  • Ought a man's career to be ruined by accidents?
  • Do you cordially recommend forgery?
  • Does an emergency require immediate decision?
  • Should honesty bring misfortune to its possessor?
  • Are gradual improvements worth while?
  • Is a punctual person continually tardy?
  • Are instantaneous effects invariably rapid?
  • Should preliminary disappointment discourage you?
  • Is hearsay testimony trustworthy evidence?
  • Is wisdom characteristic of the best authorities?
  • Is extremely athletic exercise surely necessary?
  • Is incessant discussion usually boresome?
  • Are algebraic symbols ever found in manuals?
  • Are tentative regulations ever advantageous?
  • Are "diminutive" and "Lilliputian" nearly identical?
  • Is an infinitesimal titanic bulk possible?
  • Do all connubial unions eventuate felicitously?
  • Is a "gelatinous exaltation" ridiculous?
  • Are "sedate" and "hilarious" similar in meaning?
  • Is avarice sometimes exhibited by cameos?
  • Can a dog run?
  • Is water dry?
  • Can you read?
  • Do stones talk?
  • Do books eat?
  • Do cats go to school?
  • Are six more than two?
  • Is John a girl's name?
  • Are there letters in a word?
  • Is your nose on your face?
  • Can you carry water in a sieve?
  • Do soldiers wear uniforms?
  • Does it rain every morning?
  • Are newspapers made of iron?
  • Are "forward" and "backward" directions?
  • Do many people attend motion-picture theatres?
  • Do handkerchiefs frequently injure human beings?
  • Do magazines contain advertisements?
  • Are political questions often the subject of debates?
  • Are empires inclosed in envelopes?
  • Are members of the family usually regarded as guests?
  • Is genuine happiness a priceless treasure?
  • Do imbeciles usually hold responsible offices?
  • May chimneys be snipped off with scissors?
  • Is moderation a desirable virtue?
  • Are apish manners desired by a hostess?
  • Do conscientious brunettes exist?
  • Do serpents make oblong echoes?
  • Do voluntary enlistments increase the army?
  • Is hypocrisy approved by honest men?
  • Is virile behavior effeminate?
  • Do alleged facts often require verification?
  • Do pestilences ordinarily bestow great benefit?
  • Are painters ever artless individuals?
  • Do the defenders of citadels sometimes capitulate?
  • Do physicians ameliorate pathological conditions?
  • Is embezzlement a serious misdemeanor?
  • Do vagrants commonly possess immaculate cravats?
  • Are "loquacious" and "voluble" opposite in meaning?
  • May heresies arise among the laity?
  • Are piscatorial activities necessarily lucrative?
  • Do tendrils terminate in cerebral hemorrhages?
  • Does a baby cry?
  • Can a hat speak?
  • Do hens lay eggs?
  • Is a stone soft?
  • Is one more than seven?
  • Do the land and sea look just alike?
  • Are some books black?
  • Does water run up hill?
  • Are stamps used on letters?
  • Do 100 cents make a dollar?
  • Are we sure what events will happen next year?
  • Do ships sail on railroads?
  • Do stones float in the air?
  • May meat be cut with a knife?
  • Are ledges common in mountain districts?
  • Does success tend to bring pleasure?
  • Are diamonds mined in mid-ocean?
  • Is misuse of money an evil?
  • Should criminals forfeit liberty?
  • Is special information usually a disadvantage?
  • Are attempted suicides always fatal?
  • Are exalted positions held by distinguished men?
  • Does confusion favor the establishment of order?
  • Is a civil answer contrary to law?
  • Is a dilapidated garment nevertheless clothing?
  • Are textile manufacturers valueless?
  • Do thieves commit depredations?
  • Does close inspection handicap accurate report?
  • Do transparent goggles transmit light?
  • Do illiterate men read romances?
  • Is irony connected with blast furnaces?
  • Do avalanches ever descend mountains?
  • Are scythes always swung by swarthy men?
  • Do pirates accumulate booty?
  • Are intervals of repose appreciated?
  • Are intermittent sounds discontinuous?
  • Is an avocational activity ordinarily pleasurable?
  • Are pernicious pedestrians translucent?
  • Are amicable relationships disrupted by increased congeniality?
  • Are many nocturnal raids surreptitiously planned
  • Are milksops likely to perpetrate violent offenses?
  • Are "precipitancy" and "procrastination" synonymous?
  • Is snow cold?
  • Can a dog read?
  • Do houses have doors?
  • Has a horse five legs?
  • Are three more than ten?
  • Do mice love cats?
  • Does a hat belong to you?
  • Do animals have glass eyes?
  • Should fathers provide clothing for children?
  • Is it true that lead is heavy
  • Do poor men have much money?
  • Is summer colder than winter?
  • Can a horse tell time by a watch?
  • Is a city larger than a country town?
  • Does Christmas ever fall on Tuesday?
  • Do Christians often overlook faults?
  • Are difficult problems easily solved?
  • Do convicts sometimes escape from prison?
  • Should the courts secure justice for everybody?
  • Are scoundrels always intoxicated?
  • Is a guitar a kind of disease?
  • Do jugglers furnish entertainment?
  • Should we build on insecure foundations?
  • Do annual conventions take place biweekly?
  • Does persistent effort favor ultimate success?
  • Is a shrewd man necessarily admired?
  • Is manual skill advantageous?
  • Are elaborate bonnets inexpensive?
  • Are petty annoyances irritating?
  • Are false arguments valid?
  • Do you approve of ruthless massacres?
  • Do blemishes occur in complexions?
  • Is air found in a complete vacuum?
  • Do robins migrate periodically?
  • Are weird tales sometimes gruesome?
  • Do felines possess locomotor appendages?
  • Do demented individuals frequently have hallucinations?
  • Are laconic messages sometimes verbose?
  • Are perfunctory endeavors usually efficacious?
  • Would a deluge extinguish a smouldering trellis?
  • Are devastated suburbs exhilarating vistas?
  • Are "contingent" and "independent" alike in meaning?

[h/t Futility Closet]

10 Not-So-Small Facts About the Volkswagen Beetle

While Volkswagen has announced—for a second time—that it's going to cease production on the Beetle, people are still singing the praises of the quirky little car. Here are 10 not-so-small things you need to know about the German car that was once named one of the top four cars of the century.


Adolf Hitler checks out a VW Beetle
Getty Images

It’s long been said that Adolf Hitler was the man behind the Beetle, and that’s sort of true. The dictator wanted German families to be able to afford a car, so he enlisted automaker Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) to make “the people’s car.” But the basis for the Beetle had been around since long before Hitler’s demand; the Bug was heavily influenced by Porsche's V series. Rumors that Hitler directly designed the car are probably false; though he was the one who reportedly said that the car should look like a beetle, because “You only have to observe nature to learn how best to achieve streamlining,” it’s likely that he was regurgitating something he had read in an automotive magazine. Still, one thing is for certain: Hitler himself placed the cornerstone for the Porsche factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.


Perhaps still wary of anything imported from Germany, Americans shunned the Beetle when it was introduced in the States in 1949: Only two were sold in the first year. But after that, sales grew quickly. By the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Bugs were sold every year, topping out at 570,000 in 1970.


A pink VW Beetle

We have the public to thank for the car’s distinctive nickname. Originally known as the Volkswagen Type 1, the car’s curves and rounded top led to its later, insect-like moniker. Volkswagen must have realized they had a good thing on their hands, because they started referring to the car as the VW Beetle in the late 1960s.


The UK and the U.S. aren’t the only countries that bestowed a new name on the Volkswagen Type 1. In France, it's called Coccinellewhich means ladybug. It's Maggiolino and Fusca in Italy and Brazil, respectively, both of which mean "beetle." Mexico calls it Vocho; it's Peta (turtle) in Bolivia; and Kodok (frog) in Indonesia. 


In 1999, Advertising Age declared the car's not-so-small ad campaign to be the best campaign of the last 100 years, besting Coca-Cola, Marlboro, Nike, and McDonald’s. The quirky concept and copy—which, according to Advertising Age, “Gave advertising permission to surprise, to defy and to engage the consumer without bludgeoning him about the face and body”—was a game-changer for the entire industry.

The "Think Small" line and accompanying self-deprecating copy was written by Julian Koenig, who was also responsible for naming Earth Day and coming up with Timex’s “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” tagline. He’s also half-responsible for daughter Sarah Koenig, whom you may know from NPR’s This American Life and Serial.


Herbie the Love Bug

Because of their distinctive aesthetic, VW Bugs have been associated with everything from the Beatles to Transformers. A few highlights:

  • The Beetle with the license plate “LMW 28IF” on the cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road album was sold at an auction for $23,000 in 1986. It is now on display at Volkswagen's AutoMuseum at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.
  • The Fremont Troll sculpture in Seattle, a huge statue lurking under the Aurora Bridge, clutches an actual VW Beetle. An in-progress picture shows that the car was once red. It also once contained a time capsule of Elvis memorabilia, which was stolen.
  • The Herbie the Love Bug series was a big hit for Disney in the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of the original Herbies sold for $126,500 at an auction in 2015.
  • In the original Transformers cartoon, Bumblebee transformed from a VW Bug. The car was changed to a Camaro for the live-action movies.


The so-called “blumenvasen,” a small vase that could be clipped to the dashboard, speaker grille, or windshield, was porcelain when it was originally offered. The nod to flower power became such a symbol of the car that it was incorporated into the 1998 redesign. Sadly, it didn’t make the cut for the most recent overhaul: The vase was eliminated in 2011 by marketing execs apparently seeking to make the car more male-friendly.


When the millionth VW Beetle rolled off the line in 1955, the company capped the achievement by plating the car in gold and giving it diamante accents. They also created a Bug with a wicker body in collaboration with master basket-maker Thomas Heinrich.


After WWII, the VW factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, was supposed to be handed over to the British. No British car manufacturer wanted to take responsibility for the company, though, saying that "the vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car," "it is quite unattractive to the average buyer," and that "To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise." Whoops.


The last VW Bug
Getty Images

Beetle #21,529,464—the one celebrated by the mariachi band—is now at Volkswagen's AutoMuseum.


More from mental floss studios