Thursday, September 23, 2010

Patent Medicine

My latest chapter is based around a book that was written in the early 1930s for "Berlin women" (and those who wished to visit or move to Berlin).  This book is the one I was complaining about for a while, because most of the typeface is of the old-timey German sort.  Well, one of the most interesting parts of the book, which I ended up spending some time carefully translating,* is the hundred pages of ads in the back

These ads are hilarious, especially after having spent some time listening to Terry O'Reilly and watching Mad Men.  There is a three-page ad for gift baskets full of meat.  (The gist: now that it's the Great Depression, you can't afford servants anymore!  So buy a basket of meat instead.) But my favourites are the patent medicine ads.  And by "my favourites" I mean "the ones that terrify me the most."

Medicine ads from the early 1930s are really interesting, because they have awareness of recent scientific discoveries without the full knowledge of side effects.  For example, there's an ad offering radiation therapy at health spas (in either drink or bombardment form), as a treatment for rheumatism, sight problems and pain in your legs.

And then there's the medicine that was called "Phagocyte" (as in the white blood cell), which promised to make your blood "acid free."  Ky's response: "Great! I always wanted to scrapbook using my blood."  Chris's response: "But acid is what makes our blood able to absorb oxygen!"  My response: "I really hope that the medicine didn't really contain phagocytes.  Actually, I hope that this was a straight-up sham and people were just taking sugar pills."

Now I have to figure out whether to talk about these ads, and how to talk about them without "Maryanne's Present-ist Snarky Voice".

* Now using my new Kindle!  Uncle Al is right: I have become Techno Bill.  Even right now I'm sitting at my laptop, between my smartphone and my Kindle. 


The Blog Fodder said...

Not much changes. You can today buy kits for cleansing your bowels.
PT was right when he said there is one born every minute.

Leslie M-B said...

If you're into quackery, you should check out Carolyn de la Peña's The Body Electric. Interesting book, and great images. :)

P.S. The captcha is "demon"!

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Thank you, Leslie! I just read the description and they discussed radium water. I'm getting that book right away.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Our library has the e-book! Oh good.

Ky said...

Come now. Scrapbooking wasn't my response. Archiving was.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Oh right! Archiving! I apologize.