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Short Stories: Plague Mask

Oct 25, 2012

by Tom Banwell

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Here at Etsy, we believe that the story behind an object is often just as fascinating as the object itself. Short Stories is our series dedicated to telling the tales behind extraordinary pieces found or created by Etsy sellers.

Here’s Tom Banwell with the history behind this unsettling mask.

When the bubonic plague struck Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, some doctors took to wearing beaked masks while treating patients. At the time, it was believed that the disease was carried by birds. The doctors had masks with birdlike beaks, which they filled with aromatic herbs to filter the bad air. In all likelihood, they also benefitted from the scariness of the masks by keeping infectious people at a distance.

When I got into leather mask making, I felt that the plague doctor mask was about as cool a mask as I’d ever seen, and it wasn’t long before I had a go at making my own. I found a photo of a plague doctor mask in a Danish museum, and used it as a model to base mine on. I moved the eyes more to the front so that someone could actually wear it and be able to see out of it.

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More Short Stories

Have you created or come across an object with an extraordinary story that needs to be told? Email us!

Stiltzkin leather plague doctor mask in antique black
Stiltzkin leather plague doctor mask in antique black
TomBanwell
$139.00 USD
Bunny leather mask in black
Bunny leather mask in black
TomBanwell
$65.00 USD
Plague Doctor mask in black leather "Schnabel"
Plague Doctor mask in black leather "Schnabel"
TomBanwell
$215.00 USD
Raven leather mask
Raven leather mask
TomBanwell
$59.00 USD
Victoriana leather
Victoriana leather
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Swirly Leather mask
Swirly Leather mask
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Plague Doctor mantle, shoulder cape in black garment leather capelet
Plague Doctor mantle, shoulder cape in black garment leather capelet
TomBanwell
$159.00 USD
Plague Doctor Staff Topper Winged Hourglass
Plague Doctor Staff Topper Winged Hourglass
TomBanwell
$24.00 USD
Filigree Flame leather mask in black for eyeglasses
Filigree Flame leather mask in black for eyeglasses
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Half mask in black leather "Vixen" -- Halloween mask
Half mask in black leather "Vixen" -- Halloween mask
TomBanwell
$32.00 USD
Formed Leather Pouch for Plague Doctor Costume
Formed Leather Pouch for Plague Doctor Costume
TomBanwell
$45.00 USD
Plague Doctor Hat in Black Leather
Plague Doctor Hat in Black Leather
TomBanwell
$215.00 USD
Plague Doctor's mask Maximus in white leather
Plague Doctor's mask Maximus in white leather
TomBanwell
$335.00 USD
Coquette leather mask for eyeglasses
Coquette leather mask for eyeglasses
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Snowflake leather mask  - Nutcracker Frozen
Snowflake leather mask - Nutcracker Frozen
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Rabbit mask in leather
Rabbit mask in leather
TomBanwell
$79.00 USD
Flying Skull Plague Doctor Staff Topper
Flying Skull Plague Doctor Staff Topper
TomBanwell
$32.00 USD
Cuff "Floral" in leather
Cuff "Floral" in leather
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Tatted Bunny mask in purple and gold
Tatted Bunny mask in purple and gold
TomBanwell
$69.00 USD
Plague Doctor costume size extra large
Plague Doctor costume size extra large
TomBanwell
$599.00 USD
Plague Doctor's mask in brownish tan leather Classic
Plague Doctor's mask in brownish tan leather Classic
TomBanwell
$285.00 USD
Plague Doctor's mask Maximus in black leather
Plague Doctor's mask Maximus in black leather
TomBanwell
$325.00 USD
SALE-- Whirly Mask in purple leather
SALE-- Whirly Mask in purple leather
TomBanwell
$24.00 USD
Second -- Plague Doctor Hat in Black Leather #B
Second -- Plague Doctor Hat in Black Leather #B
TomBanwell
$99.00 USD
Corax Riveted Plague Doctor half mask in Black
Corax Riveted Plague Doctor half mask in Black
TomBanwell
$100.00 USD
Plague Doctor hood in black garment leather
Plague Doctor hood in black garment leather
TomBanwell
$230.00 USD
Plague Doctor's mask in black leather Classic
Plague Doctor's mask in black leather Classic
TomBanwell
$285.00 USD
Half mask in black leather "Whirly"
Half mask in black leather "Whirly"
TomBanwell
$32.00 USD
Jackdaw leather plague doctor mask
Jackdaw leather plague doctor mask
TomBanwell
$169.00 USD
Pachydermos Leather mask with copper ears
Pachydermos Leather mask with copper ears
TomBanwell
$2,000.00 USD
Steampunk Gas mask No. 66 in black iron leather
Steampunk Gas mask No. 66 in black iron leather
TomBanwell
$345.00 USD
Pestis Riveted Plague Doctor half mask in White
Pestis Riveted Plague Doctor half mask in White
TomBanwell
$89.00 USD
SALE! Fan leather mask in gold - Queen Esther
SALE! Fan leather mask in gold - Queen Esther
TomBanwell
$19.50 USD
Defender gas mask in black Steampunk
Defender gas mask in black Steampunk
TomBanwell
$425.00 USD
Wildcat leather mask
Wildcat leather mask
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD
Muse leather mask  bridal
Muse leather mask bridal
TomBanwell
$39.00 USD

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