If you could pick a single source of information that provides us with an insight on Warner’s Safe Remedies and the mind of its owner, I think you would have to pick the Safe Almanacs. Although there are many varieties of advertising that appeared under the Warner’s Safe name, the almanacs are a unique time capsule that captures not only the pitch made by Warner to potential customers, but also an incredible variety of other information on topics including other Warner’s Safe products, health (or at least what was perceived to be health), current events, horoscopes, calendars, recipes, politics, government, legal issues as well as company information. Generally, the almanacs were loaded with testimonials by ordinary folks who acclaimed the benefits of Warner’s Safe products.
The almanacs began to appear almost as soon as products hit the shelves in 1879 and continued, somewhat sporatically into the early 1900’s, after H. H. Warner was no longer running the business. The early almanacs all appeared in black and white printed on a pink tinted paper stock. It is likely that these early versions had to be done on a tight budget and hence they did not reflect the clever artwork that would grace the Warner almanacs from the mid-1880’s on.
In his book entitled “The Snake-Oil Syndrome: Patent Medicine Advertising,” A. Walker Bingham noted that almanacs filled an important need in an American society that was still largely rural. Although America was experiencing a dramatic industrial revolution, many rural dwellers were beyond the reach of daily or weekly newspapers. Along with the Bible, almanac provided much needed information that ranged from agricultural advice to humor. Most importantly, they were generally provided free of charge through local grocers and druggists. Some editions were published in foreign languages to appeal to recent immigrants.
Warner’s Safe almanacs were no different. They marketed products with a healthy supply of information that encouraged the reader not only to pick them up, but to retain them. We are fortunate that examples of this rich form of advertising have existed to this day. In future posts, I will explore particular editions of the Safe almanacs and the insight they give us on life in the late 19th Century and the appeal of Warner’s Safe Remedies. In future posts, I will highlight some of the almanacs and their contents.
The almanacs pictured above (from left to right) are: 1879-1880 pink cover, 1887 Girl with Wheat and the 1909 Around the World. Photos are courtesy of Ed Ojea.