Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 12-17-12
Christmas shopping — knowing what to purchase for friends, relatives and in-laws can be frustrating. In the olden days (circa 1900), there was no going online to send for stuff. Back then you ordered from catalogs such as Sears or Bloomingdale’s. In these more modern times, we still have catalogs — oh, my, do we ever!
In times past, the hype, hoopla, hullabaloo and medicine-show ballyhoo for mystery products purporting to improve your love life, your hair loss, your libido, your — well, whatever you had that you wished you hadn’t or vise-versa — there was a remedy to fix your problem, cure your ailment, fulfill your dream and make childbirth a pleasure.
For example in 1900 you could purchase (quoted from Sears Roebuck catalogue):
■ for $4.00 up to $12.00: An Electric Belt guaranteed to help any man or woman suffering from any organic disease no matter how long standing; invaluable treatment for women suffering from weakness peculiar to their sex. (What’s peculiar about liking chocolate?)
■ for $.69: A bottle of Vin Vitae — A tonic for the tired, weak and sick of all classes. A renewer of energy, a stimulant for the fatigued, a strengthener for the weak, an effective and agreeable food for the blood, brain and nerves. (Today, it’s whiskey with a beer chaser).
■ from $2.95 to $7.95: Vapor-Bath Cabinets — Great for blood and skin diseases; for the relief of pimples, ulcers, boils, carbuncles, barber’s itch, oily skin, poor complexions, bad blood and skin imperfections — acute or inflammatory. (Precursor of the Hot Tub?)
■ for $.40 per bottle: White Lily Face Wash — An invaluable remedy for pimples, freckles, sallowness, roughness, wrinkles, tan, blackheads and all irritations and imperfections of the skin. (Does not contain alcohol.)
■ for $.60: Princess Hair Restorer — The only absolutely effective, unfailingly successful, perfectly harmless, positively no-dye preparation on the market that restores gray hair to its natural and youthful color, removes crusts, scales and dandruff, soothes irritating itching surfaces, stimulates the hair follicles, supplies the roots with energy and nourishment, renders the hair beautifully soft, and makes the hair grow when all else fails.
■ for $.25 for 10-pound bag or $.15 for 5 pound bag: Mexican Gulf Sea Salt — This is salt remarkable for strengthening the nerves and muscles. Toughens the skin, makes it clear and healthy, renders it impervious to skin troubles and is highly recommended for adults and children. (Especially tasty on the rim of a Margarita glass).
■ For $1.50: The Princess Bust Developer and Bust Cream — If Nature has not favored you with that greatest charm, a full and perfect bust, send for the Princess Bust Developer and you will be surprised, delighted and happy over the result of one week’s use. The Developer gives the right exercise to the muscles of the bust, compels a free and normal circulation of the blood through the capillaries, glands and tissues of the flabby undeveloped parts … they expand and fill out, become round, firm and beautiful. (Today: blow ’em up with silicone injections).
Huckstering and ballyhoo are ever with us, but hey, I still believe in Santa Claus! ❖