More about Patent Medicine Cards on History Channel:
Pawn Stars, Monday Night, April 23, 2018
People have been asking about these fabulous “Dark Humor” Antikamnia calendar cards.
Some are actually hilarious or even cute, while others are definitely creepy.
For more “background information,” read the reverse note from the last card they issued:
The Antikamnia Chemical Company hired local physician-artist Louis Crucius to do the art for the calendars. Crucius was also a pharmacist, and did the “Skeleton Sketches” drawings while working at a pharmacy. Five years worth of the calendars – 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, and 1901 – were printed.
Antikamnia’s analgesic compound, which was never patented, was marketed as a ‘proudly ethical drug’ and used to treat headaches, fever, stomach aches, nervousness, insomnia and ‘the blues’.
They claimed their cure was a new synthetic coal-tar derivative, but it contained almost 50% acetanilid, which they mixed with codeine or quinine. Or even Heroin!
The toxic effects of acetanilid were exposed in a 1907 California State Journal of Medicine article, ‘Poisoning by Antikamnia’, and the company was prosecuted by the government in 1914 for violating the disclosure terms of the Food and Drug Act of 1906.
Skulls, Headache Pains,
Acetanilid… and Tylenol
Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Julius Axelrod discovered that the primary metabolic product of acetanlilide is a compound called paracetamol.
Of course, you may know paracetamol by its other chemical name, para-acetylaminophenol … or Tylenol.
To learn more via national television, watch the Season 15 Episode 25 History Channel show about Antikamnia skeleton calendar on Pawn Stars, April 23.
All the BEST to you, and as always, Good Collecting! — Dave Cheadle
Bigotry and Ethnic Stereotyping in 19th Century Advertising Card Images
Racist attitudes flourished in the 1880’s, and they were backed by some of the “best” so-called science of the day.
Fueled by Darwin’s theories and naive “new insights” from studies in fields like anthropology and phrenology, some of the most educated Victorian-era elites were among the period’s biggest bigots, and “scientific racism” flourished.
Of course, one didn’t have to be a 19th Century intellectual to be a racist.
The “sport” of racism was open to all.
Chinese and African-American Blacks
Negative stereotypes of numerous people groups appear in hundreds of Victorian Advertising Trade Card images. In future articles and blogs, we’ll explore more examples of racial profiling in advertising, and the way many ad cards depict Japanese people, as well as Native American Indians, and immigrants of French, Jewish, Arab, and Spanish heritage.
But in this blog, I will launch into the subject of 19th Century racial profiling in advertising via a close look at one particularly representative –and reprehensible– example of ethnic stereotyping as found on a card issued for “Allen’s Jewell Five Cent Plug Tobacco.”
Racial Profiling in Advertising:
Allen’s Jewel Plug Tobacco
This “Allen’s Plug” 19th Century Tobacco Card is of the novelty type known as a “Metamorphic.”
Most metamorphic cards have one flap the folds either up or down (or left to right) in order to change the scene and tell an often humorous story of transformation — typically from a state of misery to a place of joy after finding the correct product to improve the character’s situation.
With this circa 1880’s card, we find four double-sided flaps designed to create multiple “mix and match” ethnic and gender absurdities. Poems, written in the supposed “dialect” of each group being ridiculed, accompany each head shot. Additionally, the stereotyped “flaws” of each group are elevated in the spirit of classic Victorian “humor.”
For “Ching Chang,” the laborer from China, Allen’s tobacco offers an upgrade from opium, as well as an opportunity for the man to become “all same melican man” — the same as an American man.
For the former slave from the South, “Dis Nig” is now happy, sir. Why? Because “Dis Chile” thinks the Fourteenth Amendment says he must chew “Master Allen’s” nickle plug tobacco. And he likes it!
Irish Jig Dancing Nonsense
Heels up and clay pipe firmly tucked into his hat, the monkey-faced Irishman of this metamorphic tale grins and dances a jig; in his sly simian way, he declares the Irish famine to finally be over… thanks to affordable tobacco.
And then, if you manipulate the racist flap images a certain way, you can bring the nonsense of the Irish dancer and the aspirations of the Chinese laborer into a composite new monstrosity. Their merger becomes a bigot’s dream come true… a “comical” figure not to be taken seriously at all.
In the pseudo-scientific literature of the 1800’s, the “ape-like” Celt took a beating. For example, Charles Kingsley wrote that he was “haunted by the human chimpanzees” he saw in Ireland, and that “to see white chimpanzees is dreadful; if they were black, one would not feel it so much. . . .” (see: L.P. Curtis, Anglo-Saxons and Celts: A Study of Anti-Irish Prejudice in Victorian England, 1968, 84).
The mean-spirited edge found in most of the cards that are guilty of racial profiling in advertising is usually directed at African-American Blacks and impoverished Chinese and Irish laborers.
The stereotypes are greatly softened in nearly all representations of German-Dutch immigrants.
The worst that can be said of these Beer-Drinking and Pretzel-Munching jolly good fellows is that by-and-large, they’re overweight.
Then again, in the 1800’s, a man’s thick waist was viewed as a proof of intelligence and industry, and both were admired traits guaranteed to produce the rewards prosperity… with endless good eating.
A “Tip of the Hat” to Gender Roles
The final panel of this card depicts a Victorian beauty, classically adorned in her corset and bustle, topped with an elaborate hat. Trim and radiant, the angelic blonde “Angeline” smiles: “Won’t George be pleased.”
This angel is a fine woman, indeed. For on this particular day’s shopping adventure, George’s petite little jewel from the Victorian parlor thought of her beloved hubby, and she returned from the market with something to present her man in addition to her ever-treasured smile:
a plug of Allen’s Jewel Five Cent Chew.
Because many trade cards were issued to advertised products marketed specifically to the female shoppers of the average Middle-class household, women were often honored — if not exalted — in 19th Century ads. Their beauty and poise, and their wisdom and grace, were often above reproach, if not approach.
In the case of this particular a male-centric advertisement, however, the woman is neither untouchable nor beyond manipulation.
With a quick folding or two of the flaps, the lovely and entitled Victorian Angeline succumbs to the imposition of a Chinese commoner, who is all too eager to weasel his way into the American man’s world!
In sum, this one card carries an amazing load of bias. As uncomfortable as an exploration of these ugly themes may feel to most of us today, a card like this is an historically important artifact. It opens a window and sheds light on dark days, times when even the images and language of advertising drifted into hateful places that were largely accepted by the dominant culture of the day.
During the late 1800’s, the “fad” of card collecting captured the imagination of a nation. Illustrated business cards that advertised everything from pain cures to farm plows were eagerly snatched up and collected by folks young and old alike. The popularity of these cards changed the way businesses were launched; it shaped the way stores marketed their products; it even impacted the way service providers like dentists and barbers were forced to compete for the loyalty of local clients.
Old Dog… learning New Tricks
Recently, I was updating my ebay listing template for selling Victorian Advertising Trade Cards from my collection via my online store. I noticed my old template said something like: “After 35 years of collecting….”
Three-and-a-half decades suddenly seemed like a lot of years to me, so then I still did some quick finger counting. Well, I had to run the fingers twice, but let’s just say that my template now reads: “After 40 years of collecting…”
I guess I’ve become one of those “old dogs” I used to see on antique row!
As I thought about the old junk shops and flea markets of my youth, and then the emergence of ephemera shows, trade card auctions, the TCCA, and finally, the online trade card market place, it became clear how far the hobby has come.
And how much I miss “the good old days.”
Don’t get me wrong, I like a LOT about the way the Victorian card collecting hobby works today.
But I DO miss the sense of community I used to experience back in the days of face-to-face. Back when almost every new addition to my collection was embedded in a story, often accompanied with a hot or cold beverage, and was always closed with a handshake and a smile.
Dave Cheadle launches Victorian Card HUB Blog and Website to serve the Hobby.
I’ve been thinking about how the Trade Card Collectors Association (TCCA) drew people together, and the excitement of our early national conventions, and even the way we side-by-side plunged our hands into hot water for “Soaking and Salvaging” seminars.
Are those days gone forever?
But as I got to thinking, it dawned on me that, if nothing else, maybe I could launch a website and blog to help generate some new excitement… and some of the old juice from the days when our hobby seemed so “fresh” –even “mind blowing” to those of us on the cutting edge of cataloging and research.
The problem, of course, is that this whole “Social Media” world is all Greek to me.
But I’m willing to give it a try, and to learn on the fly.
Maybe you’ll get a kick out of taking the journey with me?
Let’s see where it goes from here.
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Good Collecting, and hope to see y’all again sometime soon! – Dave Cheadle
ABOUT the “Old Dog”
— Dave Cheadle began collecting patent medicine advertising cards as a bottle-digging teenager in the 1970’s. He started selling illustrated articles on trade cards to collector magazines in the 1980’s, and he joined forces with Russ Mascieri to form the TCCA in the 1990’s. To date, Dave has published over 150 articles, a definitive price guide and historical reference, and several additional illustrated books about trade cards.