30 Jun 2012


imageAfter reading my blog post on lonely hearts ads, my Dad drew my attention to a newspaper from 1901 which he found between the walls of our house when new windows were being put in.  It seems that some former owners had used it as insulation.  In fact, when we bought our house in 1998, it was still without any heating system and the paper had been sitting there for almost a whole century.  This edition of “The Bazaar, The Exchange and the Mart” dates all the way back to Friday July 19, 1901 and I’m lucky enough to have it right next to me as inspiration for my latest blog post.

Ok, so it’s looking a little dated and delicate around the edges, but all in all it’s in pretty good nick for 111 years.  Despite missing a fair few sections of the paper, notably the first 186 pages, I am the proud owner of pages 187-206, and mark my word; I’ve encountered some truly fascinating journalism.  And I’ll warn you, the adverts haven’t changed a bit either!  No airbrushed images of Cheryl Cole promoting digitally enhanced mascara for L’Oreal (that’s sort of a given), but I have found a couple hand-drawn “before” and “after” shots of a woman beneath the title “UGLY FACE WRINKLES SPEEDILY ERADICATED”.  And they were even offering ‘Free Trial Treatments’ of the product which has apparently cured “thousands of women”.  Now that’s what you call confident.  Since at least 1901, the press have been marketing products to get rid of wrinkles.  And you know what, they still are!  Because someone didn’t mention to the old fob that ageing is not a process you can just miraculously stop.  “Oh, I didn’t fancy ageing today”.  “Well, here’s a solution: kill yourself when you’re still young!”  The only way to really reduce the sign of wrinkles is Botox, but do you really want to spend your life with the permanent look on your face as if you’ve just seen David Cameron naked?   I don’t think so.

http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/images/thumb/2/2d/Im193412GHK-Hindes.jpg/180px-Im193412GHK-Hindes.jpg“Hinde’s Wavers, Real hair savers: Circumstances alter cases, Hinde’s Wavers alter faces”.  Nice to know that Hinde’s relied on rhyme just as much as the Mail Online.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).  I think it’s a little optimistic to say that hair wavers (i.e. curling tongs) can “alter” your face.  It’s almost like publicising that getting your legs waxed will make your bum look perkier.  Hair sits on your head, like a bum sits on your legs, but I don’t see how improving one can have a significant impact on the other.  Maybe I’m wrong.
This is one of my favourites: “Weak men and women can obtain renewed strength and vigour by the use of ‘Dr. Pierce’s (latest improved) American Electric Belt’.  Drugs do not cure.  Electricity is the remedy!”  Sounds like a “try-it-at-home” approach to killing off members of your family without taking them to court and sentencing them to capital punishment.  Last time I looked, electricity + humans was not a healthy combination.  I’ve seen far too many pictures of frizzled body parts to ascertain the reasoning behind mixing the two unless medically supervised.  And the fact that it’s an American discovery makes it all the more risqué.  You know, the death penalty is still legal in 33 of the 50 states.  I wonder why.

Look what I just found! A new (old?) cure for obesity: “Hargreave’s Reducing Wafers”.  These wafers are said to permanently cure either sex who are “TOO FAT”.  “Insert picture here of fat woman attempting to walk up staircase”.  And the great thing is, this remedy works “without change in diet, or other inconvenience. They are small, agreeable, harmless, and never fail to quickly remove all superfluous flesh in all cases of abdominal obesity and shortness of breath.”  You know what they say about things which sound too good to be true…

False Teeth BoughtA little side note: This newspaper is starting to look more and more like a self-help guide than a platform for relating news.  But you’ve got to remember, this was before the fancy days of television, internet and sky-high billboards with 12 foot replicas of Kelly Brook in nothing but a pair of Reebok trainers.  That’d certainly give the horses a jump.

“Old False Teeth Bought: Have you any old false teeth by you?  Why not turn them into money?”  Sounds like one of the more hygienic proposals of the day. #sarcasm.  I can just imagine that awkward job conversation at a dinner party in 1901.  “So do tell me, what is it that you do?”  “I’m in the teeth industry”.  “Oh, I see, so you’re a dentist?”  “No actually, I buy old false teeth”.  Bit of a dead-end.  And just think of all that saliva.

Despite coming from Essex, I can’t help but see myself as a “Devon lass” since I started my BA at the University of Exeter.  This is why the next advert I came across made me seemingly happy.  “Whiteway’s Sparkling Devonshire Ciders”.  (Insert nostalgic comment here about when Devon used to be called Devonshire).  But if there’s one thing Devon does well; it’s cider.  And the odd Cornish pasty too (but ssshh, don’t tell our neighbours).  And it appears these ciders are something rather special.  And I quote: “Supplied to Royal Family, Nobility, the Royal Military Academy, Public Schools (Eton, Harrow, Hailebury &c.), Hotels (Savoy, Claridge’s, St. Ermin’s &c.), Lord’s Cricket Ground, and numerous Clubs”.  Well that certainly hit the nail on the head with the name-dropping.  I’m starting to see a parallel with today’s “Kate Middleton wore our earrings.  Hint, hint.”  Or, “if you wear Lynx deodorant, a thousand gorgeous women in bikinis are likely to run towards you on the beach, just like they did to this chap.”  But what they failed to mention is that he’s now in rehab with both legs in a cast after being crushed in the stampede.  

Oooh, how scrummy!  I’ve just found a column of recipes.  How to make “Red Currant Jelly”:  “…put in a preserving-pan over a moderately hot fire…” – talk about living in the middle ages.  Anyway, moving on to some advice on how to keep a house cool in hot weather:  “The chief point is to exclude the hot air of the day”.  So it appears that in 1901 they discovered a ‘miracle’ ointment to get rid of wrinkles, but their only advice on keeping your house cool was to close the windows?  I’ll help you on this one…it’s called air conditioning, love.  And it was invented in 1902.  Just wait a year and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Move over motor-cars, your time has not yet come.  It’s 1901 and it’s the time of the bicycle.  “Premier Cycles”, “Triumph Cycles”, “Juno Cycles”, “Highmoor Cycles” and “Royal Rydal Cycles” to name a few.  These are the Jaguars and Aston Martins of the day.  The red Ferrari sitting in your driveway.  The black BMW parked outside your office, gleaming.  And the added bonus of advertising your cycles?  It’s acceptable to promote them next to a life-size bottle of scotch while it probably isn’t if you’re advertising the 205mph new Bentley Continental GT Speed.  Say NO to drink-driving!

canaryAnd lastly, on an even more serious note, it looks like I may have found the bird obituaries section.  Post-mortem report for a canary:  “This bird died from constipation of the bowels, which were enormously distended…” And another: “This bird had been packed in a fragile cardboard box, and was so crushed in the post that we could make nothing of it”. All I can say is: R.I.P.
Watch this space.


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