‘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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History Carnival 132

The March of Intellect

It might be 1 April but there are no fools in the history blogosphere if the last month is anything to go by. I’m pleased to present History Carnival 132, showcasing some of the fascinating blog posts published in March. Thank you to all who submitted articles for inclusion. The …

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Guest post: England’s ‘only female doctor’?

Esther Jane Neumane

Last year, The Quack Doctor featured some bottles from the collection of Michael Till, including this gorgeous and rare example of Cavania’s Wonder-Worker Lotion. A father and daughter team, Professor and Mademoiselle Cavania practised in the north of England during the 1860s and 70s. The prospect of formal medical qualifications …

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Event: Do not untimely die!

I will be speaking at Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol on 27 February 2014 as part of their ‘Matters of Life and Death’ programme sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. Tickets are £5 via the Cemetery’s website, and you can find the full list of talks here. Do not untimely die! …

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Mr Grimstone and the Revitalised Mummy Pea

Grimstone ad, 1840

In a Highgate garden known as the Herbary grew plants destined to invigorate nostrils all over the world. Savory, rosemary and lavender scented the air, while orris-root thrived under the carefully cultivated soil. Dried, powdered and mixed with salt, they would become Grimstone’s Eye Snuff, promising to cure cataracts, eradicate …

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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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Why smoke and spit your life away?

  ADvent Calendar Day 22 Advertised with this beautiful Art Nouveau poster designed by William H Bradley, Narcoti-cure claimed to put smokers and tobacco-chewers off their habit for life. ‘Why smoke and spit your life away?’ advertisements asked. ‘Why suffer from dyspepsia, heartburn and drains on your vital force?’ The …

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To whiten hands and skin

ADvent Calendar Day 21 The juxtaposition of ‘harmless’ and ‘arsenic’ is quite amusing, but the manufacturer’s assertions about the product’s safety were more believable than they might now appear. In the 1890s, the fashion for arsenic as a cosmetic led vendors to cash in on the poison’s reputation for creating …

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Cigares de Joy

ADvent Calendar Day 17 . Although smoking and asthma now seem an unlikely combination, cigarettes were an efficient way of getting medication into the lungs. According to the Medical Times and Gazette in 1875, the Cigares de Joy were ‘very useful little agents for inhaling the smoke of stramonium.’ Datura stramonium and its relative Datura tatula were …

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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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