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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Squirmy, Yucky Wormies

As we have already seen with Dr. True's Pin Worm Elixir (see blog date August 18, 2009), the Victorians feared getting worms and with good reason. Tape worm eggs and larva could be in their meat and pin worms eggs could hitch a ride under fingernails and be accidentally ingested, or passed from one person to another by touch or breath. There were lots of vermifuges (worm-expelling medicines) on the market in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s because there were lots of worms, and they got bigger, scarier, and more numerous in the medicine makers' ads and the readers' minds.

I love this trade card image. Mother and daughter look relaxed and carefree because they use Brown's Vermifuge Comfits (notice the box on the table in the background), but the baby looks like she's holding on to her mother's neck for dear life! Why? Well maybe because of that wiggly worm-like wallpaper behind Mother! Subliminal advertising was already happening in the Victorian Era and if anyone had experienced a bout with any type of worms before, that wallpaper was probably a harsh reminder that they should be giving regular doses of worm medicine to themselves and their children. In another tease of the subconscious, the box of Brown's is placed strategically between the happy family and the wormy wallpaper, suggesting its role as a protector against the hideous things that were ever ready to attack. Jeepers creepers!

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