Tuesday, September 15, 2020

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Ads from Bygone Years

By Andrea Downing (with apologies for the quality of the photos)

Some time ago, while renovating a Victorian house in the UK, I came upon a bunch of old magazines…very old magazines.  Since then, I’ve encountered and kept a few more because I’m fascinated by the ads and advice and stories in them.  I thought some of you might also enjoy seeing a few of the ads, or even find use for them in an HWR you’re writing—though heaven knows not all of these are appealing. What gets me more than anything is some of the claims, but I also enjoy thinking about how times have changed.

From Petersen’s Magazine of August, 1873, we have the first of a couple of corsets.  Madame Foy claims this one to be a ‘skirt supporter’—I’m not sure how that works.  We also have an ad for the Great Western Gun Works, which will give you an idea of the price of guns during this period. But what amazes me is that Petersen’s was specifically a woman’s magazine—it had patterns to sew the latest fashions and other features directed at women.  Maybe they were thinking of ranching women?

Next is Scribner’s of March, 1878.  There’s this ad directed at the upper crust of society; who else could afford a five-glass landau? At the other end of modes of transport, we have the supposed “World’s ONLY Manufacturer of Wheel Chairs.” In a pre-PC world, there was no hold on how one described disabled people, I note.
Another issue of Petersen’s, this one from August, 1878, has this ad for a truss, looking like something of a cross between the Inquisition tortures and a chastity belt. I guess hernia surgery was not yet developed.

A second issue of Scribner’s, from October 1880, has this delightful ad for a bicycle. Imagine! Riding 1404 miles in 6 days—standing up! My legs ache just thinking of it. And there’s an ad for Vaseline, still with us today, but, look, in those days it made hair grow when nothing else would and was good for pimples, too! But even better is Cocoaine (sic) that prevents hair from falling, softens the hair, soothes irritated scalps and cures dandruff.  Wow. There must’ve been an awful lot of addicts going around with terrific hair.
Over in the UK in April, 1909, in a magazine called Our Home, we see our second corset, the Kosybak.  It had no back lacing or back opening, nor hard, unyielding dangerous busks-it had come to "stay"!  Get it? They don’t tell you how a woman would get into it, but there was a free book which I guess explained everything. Also in this issue was an ad for Valentine’s Extract, which seems to be some extract of walnut for dying hair. And you could get a free bottle to try…
Finally, from Sept. 22, 1917, (during WWI) the Literary Digest shows us that a few products still available today were around then. Although Campbells bought Franco-American in 1915, the logo is still around, though maybe not with a label claiming beef broth is for children and invalids.
Scott tissue is still around (although difficult to find in pandemic times) & hopefully has still ‘never been used before.’
Have a look at The Comptometer, an adding machine they claim is easy enough for a woman to use, thereby saving companies tons of money in paying men! If the men would have been paid $75 a week, one can only imagine what the women were paid.
Genco, a cutlery company, was making razors for the troops, the only ad I spotted  to mention the war.
Did you know there were dishwashers in 1917? No, not the husband of the house; I’m talkin’ electric dishwashers which washed your dishes in five minutes!  My own takes over two hours so maybe they were better then.
And last but certainly not least, we have Lastbestos Roof Tile—fireproof! And as we were later to discover, a whole lot more…
I wonder if in years to come people will think of our current advertisements with the same amazement?

My own HWR does not contain any of these fabulous items, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it just as much! It’s getting some great reviews so why not mosey on over to your favorite site:
iBooks on app

Gunslinger Shiloh Coltrane has returned home to work the family's Wyoming ranch, only to find there's still violence ahead. His sister and nephew have been murdered, and the killers are at large.
Dr. Sydney Cantrell has come west to start her medical practice, aiming to treat the people of a small town. As she tries to help and heal, she finds disapproval and cruelty the payment in kind.
When the two meet, it's an attraction of opposites. As Shiloh seeks revenge, Sydney seeks to do what's right. Each wants a new life, but will trouble or love find them first?


Julie Lence said...

Fun ads, Andrea. I would love to see how that dishwasher worked. Thank you for sharing.

Andrea Downing said...

Hey Julie, I'd also like to know if it electrocuted anybody! Looks a bit dodgy to me--and how often did the owners have to redo the dishes?

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

How fun, Andrea! I learned there were electric dishwasher and got many chuckles over some of these ads. It is interesting window into how women were thought of. My daughter gave me a stack of women's magazines from the 1950's and the ads are a little scary to be honest! Toothpaste ads claiming women could only have themselves and their dingy teeth to blame for a straying husband. Great post and good luck with your latest release! It's a winner!

Andrea Downing said...

I found some 1950s magazines as well in this Victorian house and you're correct--ads for the little wifey at home. But also think of the Marlboro Man--he's ridden off into the sunset!

Kristy McCaffrey said...

These were great. Thanks for sharing.

Andrea Downing said...

Glad you enjoyed them Kristy!

Carmen Peone said...

What fun ads! Thanks for sharing. Boy, am I happy we no longer wear corsets!!

Andrea Downing said...

You and me both, Carmen! Ad then there were girdles...and I'm glad we're rid of them as well!