Walrus tusks were once known as "Artic gold."
Whitewash was valued for its disinfectant properties. An outbreak of plague in 19-century Hong Kong had people whitewashing all over the place.
Zoroastrians made a sunny yellow ink from saffron, to write prayers to ward off evil.
When the Germans conquered the Island of Sark in World War II, they came to Dame Sibyl -- curfew, confiscating guns, etc. -- and one observed that she didn't seem afraid. She retorted, "Is there any reason why I should be afraid of German officers?”
Pliny claimed that classical Greek artist had only black, white, yellow, and red pigments.
One rabbi prescribed that the Tashlikh should be performed in water with fish in it, because fish can not be afflicted with the evil eye.
At the trial of Harry T. Hayward for murder, the defense tried to exclude the testimony of his brother Adry saying he was insane on the subject. The judge retorted, "Well, I don't see that he is any more insane at the present time than the attorney is."
One writer on the Vedic hymns noted that while they describe the sky often -- the reddening of dawn, clouds, lightning, etc. -- they never, ever, ever mention that it's blue.
In 1907, the winner of a challenge to drive a car from Peking to Paris wrote of his experience and opened with the assertion that some would say what they had done on the trip was prove that it was impossible.
A color called the "mysterious color" was reserved to the imperial family in China. An archaeological dig finally turned it up: a drab olive.
The Spanish said, of the mines in Cerro Rico, that they could build a bridge of pure silver across the Atlantic from it, and still have silver to carry over it.
Woad was popular in the Middle Ages because blue was not covered by the sumptuary laws. On the other hand, dyers in blue and black were strictly forbidden to be dyers in yellow or red, so green was rare. (There being no reliable dyes that were green.)
In Jewish Orthodox tradition, in the seven days after their wedding, the chassan and kallah are not to go out alone, unless another person accompanies them, for their honor and to protect them from evil influences.
Pliny praised Tyrian purple as the badge that marked out senators from mere knights.