Thursday, May 10, 2018

Girl Power: A pair of awesome Victorian advertising cards

First up is this vintage trade card for Acme Soap, which measures 3⅛ inches wide. It's labeled E1 in the lower right corner, and there is a small credit for Gies & Co., of Buffalo, New York. There is no information on the back. I guess they figured "It's Acme Soap. What more do folks need to know?"

The illustration strikes me as a cross between Cosette from the famed Broadway poster of Les Misérables and a benevolent young witch.

I discovered that this illustration has been used for the cover art on a modern reprint of Strange Pages from Family Papers by T.F. Thiselton-Dyer. The book was described in the late 19th century as: "From the histories of the great families of Great Britain are taken the remarkable and romantic incidents and episodes gathered together under the following headings: Fatal curses; the screaming skull; eccentric vows: strange banquets; mysterious rooms; indelible bloodstains; curious secrets, the dead hand; devil compacts; family death omens; weird possession; romance of disguise; extraordinary disappearances; honored hearts; romance of wealth; lucky accidents; fatal passion." Cool!

* * *

This second trade card is three inches wide and features a young woman with a cape and a short sword touting Red Star Cough Cure. The card is credited to Mayer, Merkel and Ottmann of New York. That back is filled with text promoting Red Star's lack of addictive, poppy-based narcotics such as morphine and opium:
"To the thousands whose systems instinctively shrink from the use of Morphia and Opium, and especially to mothers, who justly dread the evil and, at times, fatal effects of these dangerous drugs, the Red Star Cough Cure must prove a boon.

It is not only entirely free from all opiates, poisons and emetics, (a thing which not one cough preparation in ten can boast), but it is altogether an original and most happy combination of the best remedial agents, and is as harmless as it is effective."
What were the ingredients? Other advertising from the company claimed it contained "valuable vegetable ingredients." But here is one independent guess, from 1911's The Secrets of Specialists, by Alfred Dale Covey:
"We purchased a bottle of it and have submitted it to examination, and find that it is a syrup preparation of wild cherry bark, with a little tar and slight trace of chloroform or chloric ether, with possibly a little bitter almond added. It is put up in a green panel bottle containining full three fluid ounces. It is a clear reddish-brown syrup, of thick substance, has a very faint acid reaction; but has pronounced bitter-almond flavor, and tarry taste and odor."
The price was 50 cents per bottle. Using a rough guess of 1890 for this card, that would be the equivalent of about $14 today, which isn't too out of line for a high-end cough medicine.

No comments:

Post a Comment