(Image: Tempus Edax Rerum, by John Leech. Punch, 1852. Courtesy of the John Leech Sketch Archive.)
The advert below has a wonderfully tabloid feel to it, reflecting the sensationalist publication that carried it. The Illustrated Police News featured shocking accounts of true crime stories, and its advertising tended to be towards the seedier end of the spectrum. While the claims of some quacks are quite persuasive, this is one advert that doesn’t go in for subtlety or credibility. According to a BMA analysis in the early 20th century, the product was more than 90% water, with the rest comprising borax, alcohol, glycerine and solution of ammonia, plus traces of colouring and perfume.
POSITIVELY FORCED to grow heavily on the SMOOTHEST
FACE in a few weeks, WITHOUT INJURY to the skin and no
matter AT WHAT AGE, by using EDWARDS’ INSTAN-
TANEOUS AMERICAN HARLENE, the WORLD-RENOWNED
REMEDY for BALDNESS, from WHATEVER CAUSE arising.
As a producer of WHISKERS and MOUSTACHOIS it has never
been equalled. As a CURER of weak and thin EYELASHES,
or RESTORING GREY HAIR to its original colour, NEVER
FAILS. 1s. per bottle; post free from observation, 1s. 3d.,
including Testimonials ; also a valuable Treatise on the Culti-
vation of Hair. 50 years’ unparalleled success.
H. EDWARDS, 18 Oxford-street, London, W.
Source: The Illustrated Police News, Saturday 14th January 1888
Note: The error ‘MOUSTACHOIS’ is as shown in the original.
The pamphlet included with the Harlene gave instructions for the proper method, or “drill” of applying it. One had to be very exact, as this excerpt shows:
The manner in which a cat moves among shrubbery is a good illustration as to the way the fingers should be moved through the hair; the manner in which a cat kneads its bed before laying on it, placing its paws on the material on which it will sleep, and pressing it down in a kneading manner until suitable, the paws never being lifted and brought down, but only relaxed before the pressure is applied, is exactly how this movement in the “drill” should be carried out.
For an equally exaggerated pictorial ad from around 1900, have a look at the History of Advertising Trust’s image here