Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's nothing a little Witch Cream won't cure

This is an undated loose advertisement from a old issue (probably the mid-1890s) of Harper's Magazine1.

The advertisement's description of Witch Cream: "This delightful skin lotion puts out the fire of irritation, arising from Chaps, Salt Rheum and Eczema, and nourishes the skin back to health again, and when well, feeds it. It is the ounce of prevention for all those skin evils."2

In a cute twist, the company that made and sold Witch Cream is C.H. & J. Price of Salem, Massachusetts, the general site of the infamous witchcraft trials of 1692.

Some more tidbits about C.H. & J. Price and Witch Cream:
  • The South Danvers Wizard, reprinting an item from the Salem Observer, reported the following on April 2, 1862: "Destructive Fire in Salem - Extensive fire of the drug and apothecary story [sic] of Messrs. C.H. & J. Price on Essex Street....A.A. Abbott, Esq., who had an office on the second floor, lost about 200 volumes of books."
  • An advertisement for Witch Cream in an 1892 issue of Scribner's Magazine has the following advertising copy: "A Bold Robbery. Jack Frost is a burglar. He breaks through the skin of hands and face and robs it off its freshness and beauty and leaves it chapped and sore. Witch Cream (a delightful skin lotion) is a protection against the thief. Nay, more, it will arrest the rascal and make him restore beauty and freshness to the skin."
  • The Chemist and Druggist, a trade publication, reported in its January 7, 1893, issue that the following trademark was registered in the United States on December 6, 1892:
    "Witch Cream," and figure of a witch, for a medicated toilet preparation, by C.H. & J. Price of Salem, Mass.

I also found a neat clip from the March 17, 1897, edition of Printers' Ink, a journal for advertisers. Fred Goldsmith Walker2 explains in a letter that he writes advertisements for C.H. & J. Price, who are "the largest druggists in the country east of Boston."3

Walker asks the Printers' Ink editorial staff for its opinion of six of his ads, including this one for Witch Cream: "All persons can't be beautiful. They can have a clear skin if they use Witch Cream. To be brief, it's a skin-feeder. Starts right in and nourishes. Easily absorbed, it strikes the bottom strata, and healing begins. Smoothness, clearness and health follow. 25¢ and 50¢ bottle."

The rest of Walker's advertisements, including a second one for Witch Cream, and the positive feedback from Printers' Ink can be read in the below clip:

And now to finish with something completely different. Witch Cream isn't just a medicated lotion from a century ago. Something called "Witch's Cream" is a traditional apple-based recipe from Hungary4.

Here's the full recipe from the aptly named Hungarian Food Recipes website:
Witch's Cream (Hungarian: Boszorkánykrém)
* 1 kg (2 1/2 lbs) apples
* 150 g (5 1/4 oz) sugar
* 1 tablespoon rum
* 1 egg white

Bake the apples in a very hot oven, pass through a sieve, and before it cools, add the rum, sugar and egg white, and beat until stiff.

Tip: for a nice touch, decorate the top with berries or a wafer (or both!)
If you make it, let me know how it turns out.

1. Harper's was launched in 1850 and is the second-oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States, behind Scientific American.
2. Mr. Walker also wrote an obscure book of poetry titled "My Leisure Moments", which was published in 1892 by Barry & Lufkin.
3. Ha. Think about that for a second.
4. Fun fact: Hungary is in the top four countries for Papergreat page views. So I'm trying to appeal to my eastern European fans a bit.

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