Monday, April 14, 2014

History: A Little Fun with Old Advertisements

1Cascarets1898Medicines 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).

2WrinkleAd1880There’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.

3TildenSmokingAd1928Tennis 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 on4CorrectEnglishAd1926 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.

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Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 22 books and more than 200 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.

His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. Another title, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, was a regional best-seller for four years running.

With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004, which has published 83 titles to date. They also offer editing/proofreading services, web design, and a range of PowerPoint presentations based on Gooley's books.

Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publishers Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.

One Response

  1. Andrea says:

    Some things never really change, do they? 😉 Love the last ad for Correct English. Thank you for sharing these and for a good chuckle on a Monday!

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