Advertising in the Old West
by Jacquie Rogers
If you lived in the Old West, what products would you need? want? Seems to me that people haven't changed much--we want great looking hair and skin, fashionable clothing, and functional tools to make a living. We can learn a lot about people who lived 150 years ago by looking at the ads in period newspapers and magazines.
People need entertainment. In the frontier, they had to devise their own. Imagine the young man who impresses his girlfriend with magic tricks. ☺ Here's an ad for Haney's Journal, which promises that and more. Everything more, actually. And that's the theme of most advertising--one product does whatever you need it to do.
And so it goes with Dr. Terrel's Healing Ointment. It cures everything from chapped lips to piles, and guarantees "universe satisfaction."
Newspapers were full of curatives that claimed wondrous healing powers. I used Hostetter's Stomach Bitters in Much Ado About Marshals. The widows, Mrs. Courtney and Mrs. Proctor, were both addicted. I use this as comic relief, but it was a real problem since many of these patent medicines contained opium and other addictive drugs that are illegal or regulated today.
Along about the 1880s, commercial tooth powder became part of good grooming, although still not readily available. Here's an ad about Rubifoam.
How do you hold your papers together? In 1894, they used Gem Paper Clips.
Everyone likes to have nice looking hair, no matter which period in history you study. This is an ad for Prof. Robb's Curlique from 1870, and promises "beautiful flowing curls." I find it interesting that this product was aimed at both sexes.
Men's desire for more, um, vitality certainly wasn't invented by Viagra. Dr. Liebig's Manhood Restorer gave me a fun scene in Much Ado About Marshals. (I'm not saying any more about that!) This ad goes on and on, almost the entire length of the newspaper. It's not all that easy to read, but if you can manage, it's quite entertaining.
And of course there were other products for the same purpose. Here's Dr. Sanden's Electric Belt--not so sure most men would want this on their tender bits, but it promises to be a "Wonderful Remedy" for Sciatic Rheumatism and Lost Manhood. And probably anything else you could think of.
The ladies wanted their enhancements as well, and I use these in a book to be released next year. In 1870, Cox & Purves provided Zephyr Bosom Pads to help those less endowed with "The Only Inflating Pads" that were "Concave and Ventilating."
So there you have it--a sampling of the plethora of ads that tell us a little something about what 19th century citizens.
You can read my next release, Sleight of Heart, in the 9 Ways to Fall in Love boxed set. This is a fun book set in 1883, mostly in Colorado and ending in Virginia City, Nevada. I love the characters, of course. Here's the blurb:
Starched-up Lexie Campbell, more comfortable with neat and tidy numbers than messy emotions, must find the man who ruined her little sister and make him marry her. When his lookalike brother Burke appears, she greets him with a gun and forces him to help her. Smooth-dealing Burke O’Shaughnessy, riverboat gambler and prestidigitator, must find his brother Patrick to claim the family fortune. But when Lexie shows an astounding talent for counting cards and calculating odds, he figures she might be useful after all. Can he resist the queen of hearts?