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Monday, September 14, 2009

The High Drama of Tooth Powder

One more product endorsement from the house of freaky wallpaper.

Brown produced another dramatic and colorful trade card, this time for their Camphorated Saponaceous Dentifrice (translation: toothpaste with camphor oil and soap). Camphor oil is used in modern topical cold remedies, but it can be dangerous if taken internally, causing seizures, breathing difficulty, or worse. Saponaceous is one of those lovely Victorian word choices that take the elaborate, poetic path to describe something quite common, in this case, soap. (I also love "tonsorial artist and capillarial abridger" to describe a barber. Maybe the folks at Brown's used those two long words to keep the name Brown as far away from Dentifrice as possible; if they called it just Brown's Dentifrice, it would have sounded more like a tooth product that didn't work.) So, when these ladies opened the jar of Brown's dentifrice on the pedestal, scooped out a little of the tooth powder, added water and stirred it into a paste, they were getting ready to put a soapy and potentially dangerous product into their mouths.

I say ladies, but it looks like only one is getting ready to give it a try; in fact, it looks like she's getting a touch of the vapors just thinking about this great product; the friend behind her looks to be steadying her so she doesn't keel over! The new product is just sooooooo exciting! She's beautiful - they all are - Victorian babes, I guess. They're also all dressed very well, in frills, lace, and jewelry, and the woman in red looks to be in an expensive satiny or silky dress, and the home they're in is well-appointed with nick-nacks, carpeting, and detailed woodwork and furnishings. So this is the tooth product the beautiful and wealthy people use! Can you believe that people could be so easily influenced by an add to buy a certain product? Embarrassing that our ancestors could be so gullible, hmm?

The lady in red is one of the two central characters in this little Victorian melodrama. The other is the bottle of Brown's Camphorated Saponaceous Dentifrice. Standing tall, corked, and handsome at stage right, on top of a fancy pedestal, like a classy, iconic statue in a chic Victorian parlor, the mere sight of the bottle made our heroine's knees wobble. It also was an extremely large bottle (I've never seen a toothpowder bottle this large); in advertising, at least, size apparently does matter.

And companies like Brown gave these cards away for free, to get them into the home so that women, especially, would see them and daydream, even for just a few moments, that they could be that beautiful, that rich, that carefree.

This isn't just a trade card; it's an early slice of the American Dream.

1 comment:

  1. Hello the tooth powder is new to me i never ear about it sound really interesting i really would like to know more.


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