The Penny Illustrated Post 15 Oct 1870TO SHORT PERSONS.——Anyone (Male or Female) wishing to increase in Height and Symmetry of Figure, by means of a remarkable physiological discovery, may send a stamped directed envelope to Captain F. STAFFORD (U.S.). 1, Church-terrace, Kentish Town, London, N.W.

The Penny Illustrated Post, 15 October 1870

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Some advertisements might make wild claims, but as The Pall Mall Gazette pointed out in 1870, this one technically doesn’t offer anything at all. Short persons may send an S.A.E. if they wish – but there’s no promise that they will receive something in return.

Suspecting that Captain Stafford might be furnishing himself with a lifetime’s supply of penny reds, the P.M.G. investigated further and discovered that this was not the case. Applicants would receive a circular that hinted at a mysterious method of increasing their height. The Captain had made the discovery during his time in active service among the giant races of Patagonia, and had boosted his own stature from 5′ 8” to 6′ 1”. No wonder he wanted to share this wonderful secret with the short people of the world (all they had to do was send him another 5s. 8d.) The Gazette suggested that he would be better off continuing to use the method on himself:

Progressing at the same rate, he would soon be able to earn an honest living as a giant, instead of touting for postage stamps.

The adverts also attracted ridicule from the comic periodicals. Punch clarified that the ‘U.S.’ after the Captain’s name stood for United States, not ‘Under Size’ (and he must be from Long Island, of course). Fun magazine joined the cynicism by predicting that short people sending off their stamp would find themselves shorter – by a penny.

The Spectator, meanwhile, wondered whether the treatment would have the same effect on people of all sizes:

If he is able to gratify the wish of short persons to be of middle height, he must be able to gratify the wish of persons of middle height to be tall, and of tall persons to be relatively taller,—after effecting which we fear that short persons (who appear to be the particular objects of the compassion of Captain Stafford (U. S.) will be very much where they were before.

In 1874 a ‘respectably-dressed‘ young woman attended Marylebone Police Court to complain that she had sent 11 shillings to Captain Stafford for treatment. She received some pills and a pamphlet of advice, but her height had disappointingly remained at 4’ 1”. The magistrate agreed that it sounded like a swindle and granted her a summons, but she didn’t proceed – probably because of the costs involved. The quirkiness of her story, however, attracted the attention of the newspapers and Captain Stafford himself got wind of it. He appeared with his lawyer at the Police Court a few days later, keen make it known that his adverts did not actually promise to make short people tall.

His pamphlet contained some general, sensible tips for healthy living – keeping clean, abstaining from spirits and tobacco, avoiding heavy lifting, having a rest after a hearty meal, and:

In walking, the body should be held erect, the chest thrown forward, and the shoulders kept well back.

There was nothing wrong with advising people to improve their posture, but 11s. was a lot to fork out for such a pearl of wisdom.

Wishing to clear his name, Stafford even offered to pay for his own summons, but as the young woman was long gone, the non-existent case fizzled out. The Captain’s adverts stopped appearing in the newspapers and presumably he moved on to greater heights. 

 

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