Medicines and cure-alls distributed nationally were once regularly advertised in local newspapers, urging readers to try products that were available in nearby drugstores. One of the most common of these treatments was Cascarets, claiming to be different from Castor Oil and other meds that “irritate and lash the bowels into action, but do not thoroughly cleanse, freshen, and purify these drainage organs.”
Are you familiar with those wonderful colon-cleanse infomercials appearing all hours of the night? Back in 1898, Cascarets was making very similar claims: “…remove the undigested, sour food, and foul gases from your stomach … carry out of the system all the constipated waste-matter and poisons in the bowels which are keeping you half sick, headachy, and miserable.”
But based on their advertisement and what Cascarets claimed to do, was there cause for alarm? The slogan, “They Work While You Sleep” sounded great, but a laxative effect that include “propulsive contractions” sounded like a really bad idea during dreamtime. Should such a reaction occur, one would hope to be awake, alert, and seated. Perhaps one might be better served by mimicking the constipated mathematician (who worked it out with a pencil).
There’s nothing new about treatments to prevent wrinkles. Foods, medicines, lotions, exercises, creams, pills—they’ve all been featured for well over a century, backed by wonderful claims of success. Consumers have spent billions on such cures, but only one advertisement has ever accurately and truthfully presented “the only sure remedy” to prevent wrinkles (see line three of the ad). Since the single side effect was death, a product called Spring Blossom was offered in this 1880 Watertown Re-Union advertisement as the only alternative. Truth is, if people ever realize line three remains accurate, billions of dollars can still be saved.
Tennis legend Bill Tilden was one of the greatest sports stars of the early 1900s. A century later, he is still listed among the top tennis players of all time. Tilden hobnobbed with the rich and famous, including many top Hollywood stars. The media followed his every move, making him a favorite of advertisers. His promotion of Lucky Strikes, appearing in the Ausable Forks Record-Post in 1928, informed readers of the method he used to protect his throat. Unfortunately for readers, it was a powerful message in its day.
A local magazine-sales promotion for Josephine Baker contained a nice touch of irony. She was a very successful author and publisher who, in the first half of the 1900s, lectured extensively on vocabulary and grammar. For nearly 40 years, she was the publisher of a magazine, Correct English. When her advertisement appeared in the Adirondack News in 1926, Baker’s reputation apparently failed to put the typesetters on high alert … or they ran out of e’s at the end of the ad.