1913 Ad of the Week — Brick Work

04/21/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

This is the sixth in a series of real ads from the 1913 World Almanac…

After seeing all these exciting ads from 1913, you’ve probably (correctly) identified that year as the famed Golden Age of advertising. But surprisingly, not every single ad in the Almanac is full of fascinating close-up diagrams of hernia trusses and intestine cleansers.

No, my friends — some ads are slaves to Sweet Lady Text.

Take this humble advertisement for “Brick Work.” Surrounded by a simple border (which I removed to protect any who may suffer from a heart condition) and flanked by an inch of white space on each margin, this ad screams to its competitors, “Keep your flashy drawings and your catchy slogans, my friends — for myself, I shall rely on confusing compound sentences and poor design!”

You can see why I feel a certain kinship with it.

But really, this might be the worst ad ever. Just look at how it opens: “After an inexhaustible research and thorough investigation, including the severest fire and water tests that could be applied toooooooooooooopppa;sfas.’;’/=998

Oh! I’m sorry! I seem to have dozed off, in the middle of an opening sentence that took TWENTY-SIX words to get to its point (“brick work rules”)!!

And it’s followed up with one even longer and more poorly constructed, which starts with an admission that either steel or concrete “measures up to commercial tests, as generally known.” Meanwhile, the ad takes another whole paragraph to get around to identifying anywhere you can actually buy bricks. Nice touch.

Where this ad really brings the heat is in the adjective department — it includes such winners as inexhaustible, thorough, severest, extreme, disastrous, indestructible, noticeable, well-burned, and marked! It’s like the love child of Mad Libs and Lorem Ipsum.

But I guess this isn’t surprising; I’ve often found that when words fail me, a brick often fills in quite nicely.

1913 Ad of the Week — Trusses and Braces

04/7/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

This is the fifth in a series of real ads from the 1913 World Almanac…

If you’ve forgotten how grateful you should be that God put you on earth to start the 21st century rather than the 20th, perhaps you need a crash course in medical devices. You can click on any of them for a closer look.

There wasn’t much to this ad — just a series of pictures of the frightening medical equipment the company provided, with a promise of more details on the next page. But somehow, to me, 95 years removed, that makes it all the more intimidating.

Remember — this was the equipment the Empress used! Just think what the commoners were subjected to!

Whether it’s a “maternity belt” cut from the hull of a mighty battleship or a “self-adjusting truss” straight out of Abu Ghraib, I find myself unable to imagine even a halfway-pleasant use for some of these items. Do you want that thing adjusting itself on you?

While you’re on the subject of imagination, why not check out the sheer amount of metal supports and whirligigs on the delightful “leg and spinal braces”? I can’t tell from the illustration whether they came with special shoes — in fact, the ad makes it look like you actually got fresh new asbestos legs to go with the spiky metal braces.

I can’t wait — if God and medical science allow — to read the 22nd-century version of this article, poking fun at we ignorant boors who still let doctors poke around inside their bodies, and took all the wrong pills for all the wrong reasons.

But above all else, this one thing our descendants shall grant us: our trusses were elastic, and our braces were plastic.

View the whole ad here.

1913 Ad of the Week — Make Poultry Pay

03/31/2008, 7:00 am -- by | 1 Comment

This is the fourth in a series of real ads from the 1913 World Almanac…

I knew it!
I’ve never liked chickens. Dirty birds, struttin’ and cluckin’ around the barnyard like they own the whole dern farm. What secret power do they hide that allows them to wake before the sun and run around headless? I don’t know, but I’ve always suspected some sort of larceny was involved.
Well, now these avian sneakthieves are in for a rude awakening, thanks to the detective work of Professor Graham over here. All that’s left is for him to give us the skinny (some 1913 lingo for you) on how to get our hard-earned scratch back from the chicks.
So what’s the word, Prof Graham?

Huh. I hate chickens as much as the next guy, but my man Chas. seems more than a little too vindictive here. “How to make poultry pay”? Between his fiery language and his authoritarian mustache, I don’t know that I’d want to give this man my home address for any sort of “personal instruction.”
And while we’re on the subject, what precisely do you think would be in a “home study course” for “practical poultry culture”? A dozen eggs and sheet music for The Chicken Dance? Do you reckon Chas. had an IMpractical poultry culture class, where you could train the birds to ice skate or play the piano?
Oh 1913, why must your mysteries be so elusive?!
View the whole ad here.

1913 Ad of the Week — If I Were A Young Man…

03/24/2008, 2:00 am -- by | No Comments

This is the third in a series of real ads from the 1913 World Almanac…

What, Luther? What would you do??
What words of wisdom have you — the GREATEST LIVING HORTICULTURIST, inventor of 113 new types of plums alone — to impart to us, the youth of America?
Perhaps you were the first to think of making fuel from switch grass! Maybe you wish you’d spent a little less time on plums, and a little more time at the dog track! There’s even a chance you would have knocked off that pesky New Hampshire dentist for whom the California media capital was named, because you’re king of the Burbanks, Luther, and no one should forget it!!
A man like Dr. Luther Burbank surely has some wisdom to impart to us — right?

The “Pecan Nut”? Seriously?
You can take a look at the whole ad here. My favorite part is where the pecan-hawking company claims the nut is “ten times more valuable to you than life insurance.” Yeah. That’s a good plan.
“Yeah, we had to sell the farm to bury Dad, but on the bright side, that sure was some great pie at the memorial service…”

1913 Ad of the Week — The Improved Eager . . .

03/17/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

I neither need nor want to say much about this frightful little invention, but I do want to point out:
“When its simplicity of application is known they would have no other as a gift.”

People gave this thing AS A GIFT?!

Imagine the possibilities!

Bridal shower — “Oh, it’s not for you, dear…it’s just, well, I know Millard, and I’ve tried your quiche…”
Sweet 16 — “We just figured all your friends knew, sweetie! Please come out of your room!”
Christmas gift exchange — “Return it to the company, Bob? I don’t think so. I bought it used.”

1913 Ad of the Day — Protone

03/11/2008, 1:00 am -- by | 1 Comment

We’re trying something new here in our second year: replacing the jokes (at least sometimes) with real live (funny) advertisements from 1913! If it’s jokes you want, we have a year’s worth here and here!

Life in 1913 was rough.

Richard Nixon had just been born.

World War I was on the horizon.

And unlike today, nerdy guys like you and me were actually getting pushed around at the beach, in the office, and even inside our own homes.

Just look at that poor guy. Let’s call him Millard. Lines on his face, shoulders slumped, eyebrows bushy and furrowed — without computers and the Internet to rely on for a social life and a source of badly-needed superiority, the desperation and despair is etched on his soul. He needed help. And so he turned — to pseudoscience.


There’s something vaguely Frankenstein-esque about this product. A “remarkable flesh builder,” eager to “prove what it will do”? With a name like PROTONe, I have visions of nano-robots or radioactive mutagen. But then again, this was 1913, when such things were still okay, before the FDA banned everything fun in the name of the Freemasons!

And besides, our friend Millard was desperate.

And lo and behold — the stuff, it works! Two months pass, and he’s had to buy a whole new suit, his nose has lost its hook, and he just can’t keep his hands off himself!

And who could blame him?! Rrrroowwrrr! Millard is smokin’! And probably literally, because everyone did then! Even children!

Perhaps the caption on the comparison picture says it best: “Protone Will Make You Nice and Plump.” There’s a slogan I’d like to see return. Along with their free booklet of “astonishing facts” — “Why You Are Thin.”

You can take a look at the entire advertisement here. Millard’s old legs MUST be seen to be believed.

Note: In a fascinating history of patent medicine, the Animating Apothecary identifies the source of Pantone as Professor James Kellogg, known for sending an extra month’s supply of the product to those who ordered, along with a bill for $5. He later sought a divorce from his fourth wife, but the judge, finding both parties at fault, actually required them to remain married for two more years.