From the Collections: Drugs
by Lisa Grimm
As any archivist will attest, one not infrequently comes across something interesting while looking for another item entirely and it's necessary to make a note to go back to interesting item number one (although following up on these Notes To Self is a rarer occurrence, at least in my experience). Luckily, I had the chance again recently to pull out the same journals and boxes in which I'd found these magnificent drug ads for your viewing pleasure. They are in chronological order (for your convenience, naturally).
The first ad was placed in The Medical Woman's Journal in 1924; back then, it seems one drug could do it all and still be 'agreeable to the taste' - this particular offering had been on the market for decades at this point:
The next ad, also from The Medical Woman's Journal but placed ten years later, shows that even in 1934, advertised drugs were still rather one-size-fits-all:
You may rest assured that it 'can be prescribed at any season of year.' Whew!
Ten years on, Girl Power was the order of the day - this ad is also from the The Medical Woman's Journal, from May, 1944 and the influence of women's war work is clear:
Ergoapiol had been popular since at least the turn of the century for a number of uses; it would seem the prescribing physician is invited to read between the lines in certain situations.
Sticking with 1944 and the same publication, we start to get slightly more straightforward ads about family planning - although clearly there's a need to market contraception as a last resort. In this instance, kidney trouble provides the key:
Interestingly, other similar ads from the same year start to drop the 'protecting health' angle and go straight in for a more modern one - although they are still fairly discreet.
The next series of ads are from a 1958 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Women's Association - it's quite clear we're almost in the modern era.
The first ad has dispensed with any excuses for its product and simply sticks to a clinical theme:
The one consistent thread through these late-'50s ads is that they are still marketing to doctors - not directly to patients. One presumes the array of psychotic characters presented in this ad would have been familiar to its audience:
I'm not entirely sure what's wrong with the older woman near the top of the 'D' - is it the fact that she's so cheerful despite having Angry Old Man to her left and Proto-Goth-Girl just below her? One can only assume she's dealing with the 'minor emotional disturbances' Dartal handles, while everyone else falls into the 'major' category.
And in case you require a weight-loss method, fear not - your goal can be accomplished through diet, exercise and a fun mixture of methamphetamine and pentobarbital. Wait, what?
Well, it does also have vitamin c. Who wants to stick to plain old diet and exercise, anyway?
Finally, Bonadoxin not only stops morning sickness but compels the expectant patient to garden furiously:
If someone wanted to compare the way drugs were (are?) marketed to female doctors and their male counterparts, I imagine there's a PhD in there somewhere...