Huckesterism 101 – Useful? Crazy? How Products Were Advertised In The 1910 World Almanac
One big difference between old advertising and today’s advertisements, is that today you sometimes have to scrutinize the ad to discover exactly what it is they are trying to sell to you.
Image plays a greater part in modern advertising.
Back in 1910 it was the words that counted.
When you look at old advertising you will notice that the copywriter gets right to the point about the product, though somewhat verbosely.
One thing has remained the same: advertisers used the same swaggering claims back then that they use today.
Even if they are completely false.
Here are some sample advertisements from among the hundreds contained in the 1910 World Almanac. Click on any image to enlarge.
As long as their have been people unhappy with their weight, there have been people and companies who will exploit mankind’s battle with their waistlines. Loring & Co. marketed reducing tablets warning customers that “Fat Is Not Good Flesh.” Their reducing tablets tapped into something back then that is popular today: they contain no chemicals and are made wholly of roots and herbs.
Dr. J. Spillenger of New York City uses endorsements from customers and a dramatic illustration, while warning readers that “Fat Is Fatal.” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would agree with the good doctor. What Dr. Spillenger does not say is exactly what his methods are to help you lose weight. Whatever his method, it involves not starving or exercising. “Rheumatism, Asthma, Kidney and Heart Troubles will leave as fat is reduced. Don’t take my word for this: I will prove it at my own expense,” the copy reads.
Then there are those people who had no desire to lose weight but merely appear slimmer. (Sounds like many products that are available today.) For that, there was a booming market in all sorts of corsets and belts to hold in your weight. The A. Parks Black Company calls out to “Corpulent People,” to use their abdominal obesity belts to help prevent the accumulation of superfluous flesh. The obesity and kidney belt also supposedly prevents hernia and appendicitis and are available for as little as $3.00. Also scrotum supporters starting at 75¢ for Stage purposes, Athletes, Horsemen, Golfers, etc.
Electricity would also be an additional aid in your battle against the bulge. So the amazing Dr. Scott, who had been in business for 32 years, came up with Dr. Scott’s Electric Corsets. This great invention will cure not only rheumatism and liver and kidney problems, but also lame back, nervousness and improve the circulation.
If that wasn’t enough, Dr. Scott who does not mention where he received his medical degree, has electric hair brushes which will remove dandruff and prevent falling hair and cure all scalp disorders.
On the opposite side of being fat, there was also a problem with our early 20th century ancestors being too slim. The Sargol Company advertises “How To Get Fat Free.” The copy says, “Excessive thinness is very mortifying. Thin men never look like ‘real money.’ They are pushed aside in the race for success. Bony women are seldom very popular. Dress will not hide skin and bones. All men admire fine figures.”
A 50¢ box of their pills will be sent free to any home and “will work wonders in making scrawny undeveloped men and women plump and attractive. The illustration caption sums up everything to make you uncomfortable with your skinniness, “The Happy, Successful World Turns Its Back on Thin Folks.”
The Jones Company goes on to ask, “Would a little more flesh make you more stylish and attractive?”
They claim that Dr. Whitney’s Nerve and Flesh Builder (a vegetable compound), “will give you a superb figure with beautiful arms, shapely neck and shoulders, full round bust, and well developed limbs, not for the time being, but permanently.” The final bit of nonsense is that it “will positively enlarge the bust from two to six inches.”
Moving on to related area of insecurity – Vigorous Manhood – which will be restored to you as promised by Dr. Alfred Sanden and his electric belt which is to be worn “every night and all night.” It will “send a great, warm flowing volume of electricity into your body through the nerve centres at small of back…you will feel and look young and strong again; women and men noticing your physical change will be more attracted to you on account of your new vitality and life: in two months you can experience the full vigor of perfect manhood.”
Dr. Sanden will also send you his book free, which has a part entitled “Strength,” a private treatise for men only. If you were concerned about privacy and what your mailman would tell the neighbors, the package would be sent sealed by mail upon application.
The E.L. O’Connor Mfg. Co. was very blunt when it came to advertising their wares. “We hide your lameness.” Many people needed prosthetics and advertisements for them were common. With ad copy like, “By wearing our Extension, we make you look like other people, not lame,” how could you resist buying their product?
With the growing automobile industry came the natural need for qualified mechanics. The New York School of Automobile Engineers recognized this need and became one of many schools that would furnish the burgeoning industry with the necessary staff to maintain and fix cars.
With prices starting at only $8.00, almost anyone with valuables to lock away could afford a safe in their house.
The selling point in 1910 was that their safes were “the only safe guaranteed against dampness rusted bolt work and swollen walls.”
Meilink, founded in 1899 is still in the safe business today.
Click here to read Part 2.