‘A new sensation’ – hair-brushing by machinery

The New and Delightful Method - Punch vol 45 p175

Among the gems released into the public domain by the British Library last December is an advertisement for Batkin & Kent, Hairdressers and Perfumers of Stafford, (or Staffford – whoever proofread it probably hoped it would disappear with the next edition of the book rather than re-emerge on the internet …

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‘A Damnable Villain’ – Byron H. Robb and the Electro-Magnetic Brush Co.

Robb Electromagnetic brush

The Quack Doctor is delighted to welcome guest blogger Robert K. Waits, author of The Medical Electricians: George A. Scott and His Victorian Cohorts in Quackery. In this two-part article, Robert discusses the colourful career of 19th-century fraudster Byron H Robb. . In 1878 George Augustus Scott gained fame in …

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Happy Christmas!

Burdock Blood Bitters, late 19thC

ADvent Calendar Day 24 I hope you’ve enjoyed the daily posts during December – I’ve had fun compiling them! I leave you with a festive late-19th century trade card for Burdock Blood Bitters or ‘B.B.B.’ This famous tonic, which was around 20% alcohol, was advertised as the solution to numerous …

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The Yankee Rubber Baby

ADvent Calendar Day 16 I’ve been studying Victorian advertising for about five years now and the products that bring astonishment and chuckles from others usually appear very bog-standard to me. This, however, remains the strangest ad I have seen in all that time. It often crops up in the Illustrated …

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Madame Fox’s Life for the Hair

ADvent Calendar Day 13 ‘Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new’. The advertisers of Madame Fox’s Life for the Hair quoted from 2 Corinthians as they sought to usher in ‘a new epoch in the treatment of the hair and scalp.’ The product was advertised in Britain …

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ADvent Calendar 1: The Health Jolting Chair

  Every day until Christmas, The Quack Doctor will be showing a different historical health-related advertisement. First is this brain-refresher and household blessing – the Health Jolting Chair (1885), courtesy of the US National Library of Medicine. . .

The Mormon Elder’s Damiana Wafers – the most powerful invigorant ever produced

The Mormon Elder's Damiana Wafers

As a target of drug manufacturers, impotence has stood the test of time. In the late 19th century, mail order remedies and relatively anonymous purchases from a chemist were ways of avoiding the embarrassment of visiting a doctor – and judging by the amount of spam devoted to the subject …

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Smith’s Live-Long Candy

Sometimes, patent remedies killed people. The Live-Long Candy did manage to get mentioned at an inquest, and there’d be a particular irony in a product of this name carrying someone off – but I reckon it’s innocent. Eight months before this ad appeared, 16-year-old Belinda Balls, housemaid to Mrs Waspe …

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Gamjee’s Oriental Salve

During the next couple of weeks I’m featuring some of the ads that have slipped through the net – either I can’t find out much about them, or I’ve already written about something similar. The brief British season of thinking it might be nice to play tennis is now coming …

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Professor Modevi’s Beard Generator

While some historical quacks and their remedies remain famous, I often find adverts for products that have faded into obscurity. Some were one-hit wonders that only appeared in the papers for a few weeks, while others were well known in their time but don’t have much extant background information associated …

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