Although we are sometimes amazed when we look at advertising from the Victorian era, some things do not change. Certainly, if someone from that time was to look at today’s advertising they would be embarrassed and even appalled by what little is left to the imagination of the reader. Having said that, it is worth noting that some things never change. Beauty sells. It sold in the late 19th Century and it sells today. The models that strut the catwalks of the 21st Century are not so far removed from those whose pictures graced trade cards and alamancs in the Guilded Age. Witness a couple of examples from Warner’s advertising. In 1899, a Warner’s Safe Cure ad declared “The Most Beautiful Woman in America says…I was on the verge of collapse, when a friend advised me to take Warner’s Safe Cure.” The ad features the then famous Alberta Gallatin (1861-1948). I am not certain who declared her to be the most beautiful woman in America. It appeared in the Washington Evening Times on February 1, 1900:
The other Warner’s Safe ad that came to mind was the Free Sample card.
I’m not sure if the woman pictured on the Free Sample card is the same Ms. Gallatin or not. Nevertheless, the point is the same – attractive, talented people use Warner’s Safe Cure. Perhaps you should consider it.
Perhaps even more interesting is the small footnote that appears at the very bottom of the ad featuring Ms. Gallatin. It says “[a] thoroughly competent and regularly graduated woman physician will give medical advice free to any woman needing same. Address: Mrs. Alice McCulloch, MD (Personal), Warner’s Safe Cure Co., Rochester, N.Y.” In an era when standardized medical education was in its infancy, a female physician would have been a rare commodity. My search for additional information on Dr. McCullough was unavailing. It is odd that the Warner Safe Cure Co. virtually hid this bit of information in the advertisement, but not surprising given the state of women’s rights at the close of the 19th Century. Makes you wonder how many women sought out her advice.