Vintage medicine and snake oil ads

My Wednesday post was slated to be a review of King Vidor’s début talkie, Hallelujah! (1929), but since I won’t have access to a copy till later in the week, I have to push it off till Monday. In the meantime, enjoy these vintage ads for outright snake oil and what used to pass for medicine.

Did someone type that first line with a straight face?

I’m sure this provided a nice workout, but it’s not a substitute for medicine.

What could possibly go wrong from putting cocaine in your hair?!

Found this on the same page as a story about one of my ancestors, 10 February 1910. It was too good not to save.

6 October 1887, another find while searching archived newspapers for stories about my ancestors. What didn’t this quack claim he could cure!

Talk about substituting one problem for another!

No comment!

Granted, there are a lot of misunderstandings floating around regarding corset history, just as there are about Victorian postmortem photography, lifespan, and average marriage age, but you don’t have to be well-versed in the garment’s history to know this is really dangerous. I may write a future post on myths and facts about corsets.

That’s one way around the Comstock Act, presenting sex toys as medical objects.

I have so many Castoria ads, I had to create a separate folder for them. Popular wisdom of this era had people believing a kid was automatically constipated and at Death’s door if s/he didn’t defecate at least once a day. That’s right up there with the thankfully debunked belief that babies and children couldn’t feel pain.

4 thoughts on “Vintage medicine and snake oil ads

  1. Mild and safe – a laxative?

    In March 1992 I ended up drinking a laxative and spent half the day on the toilet.

    As for the sex toys-medical products nexus.

    All the Spanish/South American market for the cocaine.

    And Ambition Pills remind me of the time I had to write a patent advertisement for an assignment – a product that had not been in the market.

    It was an Intellectual’s Lamp. On the pattern of Aladdin and his Genie.


  2. This amusing collection of ads reminded me forcefully of a book I recently tried and failed to read — Damon Suede’s Verbalize!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (The book cover just has one exclamation point, but that really doesn’t do the writing justice!!!!) Suede has recently developed a good reputation as a writing guru. I can attribute that only to his “Snake Oil Salesman” style of presentation, which entertains almost enough to mask the fact that he is saying absolutely nothing. Even in today’s more sophisticated world (or so we’d like to think), an accomplished snake oil salesman can still thrive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ed:

      this writing guru business is a chancy one.

      And that point about almost.

      We all have our personal line.

      It hits on the annoying/irritating spot.

      Yours truly has relatives in the marketing and advertising world and they know how to sniff out the snake oil.

      And having Verbalise like that in a title – my younger self would have gone right off [like be angry or outraged; with the tenderer feelings/dignity affronted].


Share your thoughts respectfully

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s