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.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Searching for a Good Smoke - Part 2

Cushman's Menthol Inhaler made it look like you were smoking, except that there was no smoke. There was nothing subtle about the message for Dr. Perrin's Medicated Cubeb Cigarettes: these really are cigarettes and everybody's smoking them!

Just like the Cushman's trade card, this image was designed to initially shock the reader the reader into finding out why three females and two children were smoking. How could such behavior be tolerated? The answer was that they were literally smoking their way to health, or so Dr. Perrin promised.

These were medicated cigarettes; the back of the trade card said they were "the Wonder of the Age" and the way they worked was "the Acme of Perfection." They cured the condition (some called it a disease) that was called catarrh - essentially the symptoms of the common cold. The trade card didn't explain how the medicated cigarettes worked, but a big clue was the word "cubeb" in the product name. In 1654, Nicholas Culpepper identified this peppery plant as useful in cleansing the head of phlegm, strengthening the brain, heating the stomach, and provoking lust. Uh-oh.

Dr. Perrin apparently improved the cubeb's potency, because he advertised that his cubeb cigarettes were "A positive remedy for Catarrh, Bronchitis, Ministers' Sore Throat, Loss of Voice, Offensive Discharges from the Head, Partial Deafness, Sounds of Distant Waterfalls, Whizzing of Steam, etc. " Gee whiz.

So the Perrin Nation is shown smoking away. One big happy family? No. I think the artist just couldn't make it work; poorly executed illustrations made the potentially exciting message of a healing cigarette go up in smoke. The best effort was on Mamma in the middle with a look on her face of far-off contentment; but is she smoking or toking? Then check out Grampa and Gramma: Grampa looks either tired or still sick and Gramma has the emaciated look (sunken cheek and eye) of a consumptive (somebody suffering from tuberculosis) - not exactly the poster girl for smoking anything. Finally, take a gander at Junior and Sis in the top left and right corners. They are both drawn to be youngsters - Junior is wearing knickers and carrying schoolbooks under his arm - and Sis has on a short skirt - but let's face it, Sis looks like a hooker and Junior's probably playing hooky. Collectively the Perrin people still look sick or wasted while using the product. The healthy, cured, "after" image so popular in Victorian before-and-after advertising is altogether missing here; everybody still seems to be a "before." I think Dr. Perrin's artist only succeeded at half of his assignment - letting us know that everybody could have a legitimate reason to smoke cigarettes; but the next time you get a bad head cold, try looking at this picture and telling yourself that this looks like the road to relief - I don't think so.

One more thing: if you look closely, all five are exhaling smoke through their nose. I'm sure this is intentional, to show for Dr. Perrin's miraculous cubebs to work, you must inhale. It would be another century before some of us would claim that we weren't really inhaling, but then again, they weren't cubeb cigs, either.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Locations of visitors to this page