I'm working on a setting for a game i'm going to run during mid-1800's america that revolves around an alternate reality where all the pseudosciences and crazy shit people thought up during the time turn out to be right.
Anyone know some pretty interesting/wild ideas during the time period that I could incorporate? Already adding in phrenology (pictured), animal magnetism, spontaneous generation and aether for science concepts, as well as mammoths and mountains of salt in the louisiana territory, hollow earth with mole people inside, moon men and the planet vulcan.
Edison was working on a machine to contact the spirit world. Kellog had all kinds of crazy ideas regarding nutrition. People were also starting to go nutty over electricity, which was seen as a cure all. Speaking of cure alls, snake oil traveling shows would also be in full swing.
Out of curiosity, what system are you using?
Read the Sons of Ether tradition book for Mage the Ascension. They're 1800's science incarnate.
Also add in Zeppelins! The soul was also just starting to be examined back then. People were trying to measure it and shit. X-Rays weren't really a 1800's thing but yeah, that's something. Radiation was huge in general.
Radioactive snake oil
Abstinence, follicle growth, and eyesight
Surgical bacteriology maybe? It is from the beginning of the 20th century but it is American.
>His enthusiasm for the scientific medicine that was taking hold at the opening of the 20th century led him to an unshakable belief that mental illness of all kinds was the result of untreated infections in the body. As a result he and his staff practiced experimental "surgical bacteriology" on patients, including the routine removal of some or all of patients' teeth, their tonsils, and frequently spleens, colons, ovaries, and other organs.
Stick to a few themes, if everything works then the setting gets boring because there was a WHOLE lot more bullshit than can possibly fit.
I would go with some perpetual motion devices just starting to completely fuck up economies, radiation and electricity being used to cure everything, and fucking magical powers coming from tonics.
Inside every sperm lies a tiny, undeveloped human, and inside that is a smaller human, and so on and on. This also means that the amount off future generations that can be born is finite.
I also recommend the short story Seventy-Two Letters
by Ted Chiang, which is set in a world where this is actually true, and scientists have discovered that the human race only has a few generations left. Also there are golems.