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.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Searching for a Good Smoke - Part I

The emancipated woman of the Victorian era tried several ways to redefine society's roles for her as a helpless, frail vessel, subservient to man in every way, and designed by nature primarily to procreate and nurture. By society's prevailing standards, men smoked but women did not. This trade card suggests otherwise, but also teases the viewer into reading the advertisers copy to find out what was really going on.
This was, from the very first, an image designed to shock: an especially attractive young woman, dressed fashionably, but with an expression of self-assured nonchalance, appeared to be readying herself to smoke a cigarette - or even more irreverently - a cigar. The words nearest her lips, in quotations as if dialogue from the daring lady herself, defiantly proclaimed "No More!!"

I think the viewer was supposed to be startled, repulsed, and wickedly attracted, all at the same time to the thought that this fashionable female was declaring her emancipation from the prohibition against women smoking: she was in control and was going to do what she wanted, the naughty temptress.

But after the few moments' tease, all the flustered fathers, prickly old biddies, and frothing young men could feel their blood pressure calm down - She wasn't smoking after all; she was using the cigar-like Cushman's Menthol Inhaler - and only inhaling at that - for the cure of her headaches, neuralgia, and catarrh. The Inhaler was a glass tube filled with menthol crystals: by inhaling, the air passed through and around the crystals, drawing in medicated mentholated air into the head, throat, and lungs, to produce "the cool and exhilerating effect peculiar to Oil of Peppermint," relieving congestion, headaches, and destroying disease germs. For 50 cents, this sweet young thing could go everywhere and on every occasion she chose, looking very much like she was smoking, but only curing herself while giving the straight-laced in Victorian society a poke in the ol' solar plexus.

1 comment:

  1. What a naughty little lady! I wonder if this type of advertising had any affect on the minds of sweet young things' future exploits with smoking and/or emancipation in general.


Locations of visitors to this page