If you find yourself even a little bit interested in what you see and read on this blog, please sign up as a Follower and for instant notification of New Posts! I'll do my best to keep you grateful for your health.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Before-and-After Quackery

The Victorian Era created and developed many simple but powerful advertising concepts that are still used in the 21st century. One of the most easily recognizable is the Before-and-After illustration. This technique was illustrated on many advertising trade cards by showing the picture of a sick person before using the featured medicine and then a second illustration after doing so. It was a favorite technique of quack medicine makers for claiming miraculous curative powers. The illustrations are so well done, so dramatic, and usually funny, it would be a great category of trade card to collect all by itself. Another version of the Before-and-After used the same technique with the addition of a folded-over piece of the card whereby the Before is shown with the card in folded position and the After is revealed when the card is opened. These are known as Mechanical cards. They are often found torn apart at the fold because many of them have not been enable to endure the century and a half of folding and unfolding to see and enjoy the Before-and-After images. A card that is still solidly connected at the fold is a special little treasure.

Below are the Before-and-After images for a Mechanical trade card of Scovill's Sarsaparilla or Blood & Liver Syrup. It constantly amazes me just how much power and what influence the proprietor's message could communicate by a well-conceived and well-executed image. Let me walk you through my observations of the Scovill's trade card attached today.

The pretty young lady on the left clearly wants to be out in the world; she has on a nice dress, earrings, and has her hair carefully quaffed with a rose decoratively accenting it, but alas! the lower half of her face has broken out with acne eruptions, severely affecting her looks and her self-confidence. What is a girl to do?

Wow! What a difference a single bottle of Scovill's Sarsaparilla Syrup can make! Our heroine's acne has completely disappeared and her complexion is now the Victorian ideal of alabaster with a slight blush in the cheeks. She has been transformed from a forlorn damsel in distress into a vivacious Victorian hottie. She exudes confidence and sexuality; her anxious and sad look changes with a flash of the card into that of a sultry flirt. She has traded in her school-marm look with buttoned-to-the-neck collar and full sleeves, for the fetching, daring dress of a young socialite, with an hourglass waist and festooned in flowers. Previously embarrassed by her skin, now she wants to show as much as she can, baring shoulders, arms, and cleavage. She has also covered her arms and neck in jewelry (gold, of course) apparently just in case her body exposure doesn't attract enough attention.
Scrofula was the disease ascribed to impure blood, manifesting itself as virtually any type of surface eruptions, rashes, or discolorations. Scrofula was also the umbrella term used to include syphilitic illness. But since Scovill's Sarsaparilla Syrup cured and cleared up our heroine so thoroughly, she's ready to party again. Powerful medicine. Powerful advertisement.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Locations of visitors to this page