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You down with DDT?
August 23, 2012 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Ten vintage advertisements that definitely wouldn't fly today.
posted by gman (103 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy shit those cellophane ads are creepy. Even in 1954 no one at the ad agency was like, "Hey, wait a minute. This is fucking creepy"?
posted by MoonOrb at 1:16 PM on August 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I've sold DVDs of "The Dutch Boy's Lead Party" back when I worked at the sex shop.
posted by griphus at 1:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


My favorite vintage ad for cigarettes
posted by exogenous at 1:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


2 and 7 aren't really that bad, 1 could be said of vitamin water today.

The rest are just, yeah give your baby 7-Up and then wrap them in plastic. Have some health cigarettes to improve your T-zone while you're at it!
posted by The Whelk at 1:19 PM on August 23, 2012


7-UP for babies made me laugh, but if vita-rays were good enough for Captain America, they're good enough for me!
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:21 PM on August 23, 2012


Yeah but without the Rebirth serum you just end up with a nasty case of sunburn.
posted by The Whelk at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2012


When I was in middle school, my mom brought home a pack of vitamin gumballs that one of her coworkers had apparently been raving about.

You know that smell that grown-up vitamins have? That...vitaminy smell like dirt and Satan and plastic? Well, that's exactly what the gum tasted like. And you had to chew it for at least ten minutes to get all the vitamins out of it. AND SOMEHOW THE FLAVOR INTENSIFIED THE LONGER YOU CHEWED, which goes against all the thermodynamic laws of gum science.

They also were packed with sugar, if I remember correctly. Fail and fail.
posted by phunniemee at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fuck yo grandma's bread this shit has Niacin
posted by theodolite at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2012 [19 favorites]


I have been ingesting DDT regularly or 14 years and so far there have been no ill 'orweigklm;BE

Sorry. Spasm.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:26 PM on August 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


So did the most ancient use of Pine-Sol make, um, it--smell like . . . Pine-Sol? 'Cause that's crazy.
posted by resurrexit at 1:26 PM on August 23, 2012


The weirdest thing in there is the suggestion to mix equal parts 7-up and milk for a "delicious blended food drink" with a "new flavor appeal that especially pleases children." Gross.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 1:27 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of those new "5 Hour Energy" commercials claiming doctors recommending it for their patients who use "5 Hour Energy". Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
posted by tommasz at 1:29 PM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


The weirdest thing in there is the suggestion to mix equal parts 7-up and milk for a "delicious blended food drink" with a "new flavor appeal that especially pleases children." Gross.

It sounds like a poor man's doogh. Doogh is awesome.
posted by phunniemee at 1:30 PM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fun fact: 7-Up was originally called "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda" and contained the mood-stabilizer lithium. Those ads were printed just a few years after they removed lithium from the formula.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


My infant son is allergic to milk - not as in lactose intolerant, but as in "if you touch dairy then touch him, he breaks out in hives". His grandmother said "Oh yes, my brother was the same way. They gave him 7-Up in his bottles. He did just fine!"

I am side-eyeing anyone born between 1930 and 1960 right now, let me tell you.
posted by annathea at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2012 [23 favorites]


Wait, so if Coca-Cola has coca leaf and 7up had lithium, does that means a diner Ginger Ale (half cola, half lemon-lime soda) was also a speedball?
posted by griphus at 1:33 PM on August 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


I am side-eyeing anyone born between 1930 and 1960 right now, let me tell you.

Most of us are fine, or at least the ones still alive. One generation's helpful parenting tips are destined to be the next generation's child abuse. It'll probably happen to you as well.
posted by tommasz at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


The comments note that the Lysol ads were actually filled with veiled references to using it as birth control, because the Comstock laws once made it illegal to advertise it for that purpose -- even though at the time it was probably the most popular (and useless) contraceptive in America.
According to the 2002 book Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America, “By 1940, the commercial douche had become the most popular birth control method in the country, favored by women of all classes. It would remain the leading female contraceptive until 1960, when a breakthrough technology– oral contraceptives– knocked it off its lofty pedestal… [T]he most popular brand, Lysol disinfectant, were soap solutions containing cresol… which, when used in too high a concentration, caused severe inflammation, burning, and even death.”

Devices and Desires further states that “Lysol was a caustic poison and in more concentrated form was retailed with a prominent skull-and-crossbones icon. Ingested, it could kill; applied externally, it irritated and burned. Lehn & Fink sold it for feminine hygiene anyway, ignoring a recommendation made by the 1912 Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry of the AMA…”

Several women reportedly died after using the product as directed. The worst part? It turned out, Lysol didn’t even work as a contraceptive at all: a 1933 study showed that 250 out of 507 women using the disinfectant got pregnant, probably about the same number who would have using no birth control at all.

posted by zarq at 1:37 PM on August 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


DDT is Harmless to Humans
posted by crunchland at 1:38 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds like a poor man's doogh. Doogh is awesome.

Or Calpis.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:38 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The sugar ones are pretty funny. The fine print suggests that it was an absurd suggestion even then.

Also, man, are the lysol ads creepy if you read them as ads for birth control. All about the husbands getting mad at the wife's neglect.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2012


Thank goodness this is just scary history and advertisers don't lie to us today!
posted by Decani at 1:41 PM on August 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


tommasz: "I am side-eyeing anyone born between 1930 and 1960 right now, let me tell you.

Most of us are fine, or at least the ones still alive. One generation's helpful parenting tips are destined to be the next generation's child abuse. It'll probably happen to you as well.
"

I'm betting that the thing about kids being required to be in car seats and etc. is going to be one of those in the next generation. "You mean you just tied your kids up so you didn't have to watch them?" (That's not a snipe at current parents, btw, just something that I think could be twisted by future generations to sound horrible.)
posted by Karmakaze at 1:42 PM on August 23, 2012


And here I was assuming that the cellophane ads were veiled references to birth control
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:42 PM on August 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ha, I loved the one of the cellophane kids. The good old pre-consumer-litigation days were a thrill a minute.

How 'bout some nice radium suppositories?

Bur for sheer horror, nothing beats Dorothy Gray cold cream.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:42 PM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Smooth Sailing with Ephemerol
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2012


That DDT ad reminds me of a story my dad told me about the summers of his youth in Oak Park, Illinois. He and his chums used to chase the Des Plaines Area Mosquito Abatement Authority truck on their bicycles and pretend the the huge cloud of DDT powder they rode through was actually smoke.

No wonder my shell is so thin.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:48 PM on August 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Thank goodness this is just scary history and advertisers don't lie to us today!

What lies? You prove to me that donut doesn't have vitamins in it.
posted by griphus at 1:52 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hear those rubes in medeival Europe didn't even have germ theory.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:55 PM on August 23, 2012


One of my favorite elbows-on-the-carpet reads was the reprinting of the 1902 Sears Catalog that was one of the nifty pieces of late-seventies nostalgia that my grandmother kept in her balsam-scented telephone cabinet. Everything about it was neat, despite my steadfast belief in the world of the future as envisioned in my yard sale copies of mid-sixties Popular Mechanics magazines, and the neatest thing of all were the Heidelberg Giant Power Electric Belts.

"Joe-B, are you readin' about those electric belts again," she'd ask, in the sweet Baltimore brogue that's fast retreating into memory. "You and those electric belts. You know, I'd think you'd be lookin' at the brassieres, but it's always those electric belts."

"Eighteen dollars was a lot in 1902," I opined.

"It's a lot now, too."

"But for it to cost eighteen dollars in 1902...I wonder what they were for?"

"It's right there in the description, Joe-B."

"I don't understand what it's saying, though. Here, where it says 'The suspensory encircles the organ, carries the vitalizing, soothing current directly to these delicate nerves and fibers, strengthens and enlarges this part in a most wonderful manner.' What does that mean? What organ?"

My grandmother, who rode into the world on the tail of Comet Halley, was never one to mince words, but in response, all she could do was laugh.

"It ain't the pipe organ in church, hon."

She had to raise her mother-of-pearl catseye glasses to wipe away a tear.

"You talk crazy sometimes, Mama Gee. Why's that so funny?"

"I'll tell you when you're older, okay? Just remind me."

"How much older?"

"Umm...thirteen. I'll explain it when you're thirteen."

As luck would have it, I figured it out on my own well before that.

What a stupid age we lived in, back at the start of the last century, right?

Not like we have idiots wearing copper bracelets and magnets and electric ab stimulators for that perfect beach body...oh dear.

One born every damn minute.
posted by sonascope at 1:59 PM on August 23, 2012 [36 favorites]


Check out the old ads with whole PARAGRAPHS of copy. Those would get the tl;dr treatment today halfway through the first syllable.
posted by dr_dank at 2:01 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


7-up is for babies!
posted by mazola at 2:04 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


In terms of lots of ad copy, they're still around, although they feel old fashioned and scammy. Stauer, a cheap, gimmicky jewelry company, always has tons of ads in the Smithsonian, and they go on for paragraphs about the astounding deal they're offering.

They're very persuasive, in the way that a carnival barker is persuasive even though you know it's a sham.
posted by gilrain at 2:07 PM on August 23, 2012


The scariest ad there is probably the one for lead, considering how much of it was present in homes, and the amount of lead that can still be found in older buildings today. At least with DDT or, um, Lysol, the exposure was intermittent, but people lived with low levels of lead all their lives, doing who knows what to their nervous systems and brains.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:07 PM on August 23, 2012


If you wrap your babies in cellophane, you don't have to worry about them breathing your doctor's second hand smoke. So at least there's that.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:08 PM on August 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


tommasz: "I'm reminded of those new "5 Hour Energy" commercials claiming doctors recommending it for their patients who use "5 Hour Energy". Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."

I dunno, milk-and-pepsi is kinda tasty, and fizzy yogurt flavored drinks have their appeal...
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:10 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


All things being equal though, I'd sure like some Vitamin Donuts.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:10 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


One cocaine-infused Coca-Cola and one lithium-enriched 7-Up if you please, my good man. Oh, and a cellophane-wrapped baby as a snack for later.
posted by pyrex at 2:11 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regarding the Sugar ads: this was in response to all the new wave of diet products coming out with saccharin as a substitute. Sugar gives you the willpower to control your appetite. The sugar lobby was panicking, thinking that the public would avoid products with sugar so they put out this feeble PR to jump on the diet bandwagon.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:12 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder which contemporary ads will look like this to future generations. "Can you believe that they thought it was safe to eat X? That they added it to their food/household products/cosmetics on purpose?"
posted by overglow at 2:12 PM on August 23, 2012


If vitamin donuts were real, they would be the eighth wonder of the world.

And that cigarette ad was just as misleading as any advertisement today. Sure, doctors smoke more camels than any other cigarette, but who said doctors ever cared about their own health.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:13 PM on August 23, 2012


Yeah, you know me!
posted by The Deej at 2:15 PM on August 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


That they added it to their food/household products/cosmetics on purpose?"

Goat placenta is used in lots of wrinkle creams. They usually call it something sneaky on the ingredient label, though. I didn't realize it was a major ingredient until I was walking around Chinatown one day, and happened to see a tub in the window of a salon that said something to the effect of "VERY PLUS GOOD WRINKLES CREAM 100 PURE GOAT PLACENTA" and went home to look it up.

And now you know.
posted by phunniemee at 2:16 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, that thing about sugar helping with your diet might be precisely correct. I was listening to a show on NPR a few weeks ago, where they were talking about willpower, and that the brain has a specific area that activates to make you do things you don't really want to do (like diet). We seem to have a finite amount of willpower, and we need blood glucose to restock it.

This is part of why dieting is so hard for almost everyone, because precisely when you need willpower to not eat the yummy thing, it's at a low ebb due to lack of glucose.

So, it's entirely possible that a small hit of sugar could help you avoid eating the big slice of cake, or milkshake, or whatever.
posted by Malor at 2:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not current, but remember Olestra?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:18 PM on August 23, 2012


For the record, 7-Up and milk are not bad together, with sort of a zippy lemony creamsicley sort of taste, but milk & Moxie? Well, that's just heaven in a jewel-encrusted trash can right there.
posted by sonascope at 2:19 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nowadays, it's boner guy.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:25 PM on August 23, 2012


After thinking a little more: DDT most certainly WAS good for almost everyone... it all but wiped out bedbugs, and put a serious damper on mosquitoes. I don't think any serious health risks to humans and most animals have ever been shown from it -- but it had the nasty side effect of making bird eggshells too thin, so birds like the California condor were very seriously damaged.

In general, your health and well being would be sharply improved by the application of DDT... it was such a powerful effect that it's only really starting to wear off now, as the bedbugs and other insects start to get re-established in areas where they'd been eliminated. DDT is good for you, so good that the effects last for decades after ceasing use. But it carries a high environmental price.

I'll tell you, if I had bedbugs, I'd practically be willing to drink DDT to get rid of them. A quick dust of that stuff and they all just die. Poof, gone. In the post-DDT era, people have been known to move and throw away all their furniture from bad infestations.
posted by Malor at 2:26 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Same approach, different customer (the UV-tanning-doctors ads, contemporary)
posted by hank at 2:26 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Lysol ads are absolutely for birth control. The "other you" ad? The one that warns against the "other you" filled with "doubts, misgivings, and inhibitions?" It's saying that if you use this product, you will not be scared to have sex with your husband because you won't have to worry about getting pregnant. The giveaway is in the line "cleanses the vaginal canal even in the presence of mucous matter." What "mucous matter" do you think they mean? It's semen.

The second one, that warns about being "careless" with feminine hygiene "even once. . ." again, the "even once" is the giveaway. It's more obvious once you read the ads that refer to Calendar Fear, but seriously, this is how you advertise for birth control in the Comstock era.
posted by KathrynT at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'd practically be willing to drink DDT to get rid of them.

From wikipedia:

"DDT has on rare occasions been administered orally as a treatment for barbiturate poisoning"
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 2:36 PM on August 23, 2012


Oh yeah, tanning salons are definitely a modern version of something like radium water. "Small doses of radiation are good for you!" Same concept, just a different kind of radiation.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:37 PM on August 23, 2012


Being a kid in the fifties was hazardous. On pleasant evenings, along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, planes would come in spraying clouds of DDT. No one ever told us to come inside, so we just stayed out and watched the show. I had a mineral collection with a sample of asbestos, and I liked the way it felt kind of slippery.

My parents took me to a shoe store that had a flouroscope. It was an X-Ray box that you could stick your feet into and watch the bones move when you wiggled your toes. The shoe salesman used it to convince my parents that I needed overpriced, clunky looking orthopedic shoes. He said I had flat feet, and I believed him until 1965 when the Army figured out that he was wrong.

Luckily, I managed to beat the draft by other means. So, unlike some of my less fortunate contemporaries, I didn’t have to go to Vietnam and walk around in jungles sprayed with agent orange.
posted by Huplescat at 2:41 PM on August 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


> Being a kid in the fifties was hazardous.

Not to mention all the above ground nuke tests!
posted by Burhanistan at 2:43 PM on August 23, 2012


TrueMoo is still riding that wave that Ovaltine did -- "No, really, we only add just enough sugar, not too much like everyone else! We're the healthy choice for candy-flavored drinks with added sugar! Don't forget, we use sugar instead of HFCS, which means it's completely healthy!"
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:46 PM on August 23, 2012


These were funnier than they had any right to be.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:52 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Goat placenta is used in lots of wrinkle creams.

iirc there is pig placenta in contact lens cleaners.
posted by elizardbits at 2:54 PM on August 23, 2012


I'd practically be willing to drink DDT to get rid of them -- I was thinking that as I watched that cartoon, Malor. It's not surprising that the world isn't as full of wonder as it was back in the 40's and 50's... all of the great stuff that science could give them. I really wish there was something as effective as they made that DDT stuff look.
posted by crunchland at 2:56 PM on August 23, 2012


Not sure what's it's there for. (Maybe a source of hormones?) But at least placenta isn't going to harm you.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:57 PM on August 23, 2012


I saw a sugar ad in Life magazine that showed a teenage girl, describing all the energetic things she did every day, and I remember the list ended with"...and after school she'll Watusi with the gang. She needs an energyless artificial sweetener like a turtle needs a seat belt. Note to mothers, low energy can leave your child open to infectious diseases. Serve more sugar, for better health."
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


If vitamin donuts were real, they would be the eighth wonder of the world.

I bring you the good news: vitamin donuts are real.
posted by penduluum at 3:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


#9 would, does, sell today. Different names, maybe, but snake oil doesn't die.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:17 PM on August 23, 2012


There is something as effective as they made DDT look. DDT. When's the last time you heard of a malaria case in North America? In all fairness, window screens and various swamp land acts in Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri had a lot to do with it too but still, malaria used to pretty much be endemic to the entire midwest and south and now it's gone.

If you're unaware of that whole bioaccumulation in birds thing and haven't make the local mosquito population completely immune through constant agricultural use a la India, DDT looks pretty good.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:29 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great post! I'm glad they used ads that are different from the usual round up. If it doesn't exist already, someone should make a collection of vintage old time radio ads. Some of them are pretty wild and weird. I seem to recall praise for the "food energy value" of Pepsi or the wholesomeness of Kraft cheddar. Sometimes after listening to OTR I have a hankering to buy some Anchor Hocking glass or get some Romania sherry - the vintage ads are laughable but shockingly effective.
posted by Calzephyr at 3:46 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy shit those cellophane ads are creepy. Even in 1954 no one at the ad agency was like, "Hey, wait a minute. This is fucking creepy"?

But that's how babies were born in the 1950s. Shrink-wrapped and sparkling clean, like a new Cadillac fresh off the factory floor.

I am so jonesing for a vitamin donut right now
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:46 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be surprised if most doctors who smoke, smoke Camels.

I wouldn't be surprised if most doctors smoked.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:46 PM on August 23, 2012


exogenous: "My favorite vintage ad for cigarettes"

Similarly, my favorite tour de france photo.
posted by danny the boy at 3:56 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


this was in response to all the new wave of diet products coming out with saccharin as a substitute. Sugar gives you the willpower to control your appetite.

Which is silly when all they had to do is say, "Sugar! It tastes sweet, not gross like saccharin!"
posted by straight at 3:57 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Donut Nutrition? Here's your Donut Nutrition
John Belushi would have had a birthday this year if he were alive
posted by hexatron at 4:09 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Born in the fifties, here.

Quite a lot of us in that era (to include me) were raised on homemade formula consisting of evaporated milk and corn syrup, with some water mixed in iirc. That's why they call it formula-it was formulated for the baby's bottle.

(Mom still has the doctor brochure with the handwritten instructions in it. I think some codliver oil drops were included in there somewhere. Blech.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:01 PM on August 23, 2012


The Lysol ad is full of code-talk touting it's values as a douche. Stupid laws forbid the advertising of contraceptives so they had to tweak their adverts.

Trust me, no man wants his lady's junk to smell like a NY Port Authority urinal.
posted by Renoroc at 5:13 PM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


If somebody has no. 9 somewhere in their attic gathering dust... I'm interested.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 5:42 PM on August 23, 2012


There are modern equivalents.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:58 PM on August 23, 2012


More vintage ads for quack equipment.
posted by crunchland at 6:05 PM on August 23, 2012


The Lysol ads are absolutely for birth control.

I'm a little skeptical, though I see your point. My reading is that the risk of failure to douche is losing your husband, a disastrous situation for a woman who wished to maintain her social position even as late as the 1950s.
posted by dhartung at 6:12 PM on August 23, 2012


Trust me, no man wants his lady's junk to smell like a NY Port Authority urinal.

It depends on the fantasy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:16 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually, the use of "feminine hygiene" or "marital hygiene" as a code word for birth control is pretty well documented.
posted by KathrynT at 6:18 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


1. Junk Food, Now Fortified with Vitamins and Minerals

This category of consumables is still doing quite well.
posted by DarkForest at 6:43 PM on August 23, 2012


My grandmother, God rest her, once told me in all sincerity that a Snickers ice-cream bar would be good for me -- it had peanuts and dairy, and those things had protein and calcium! Only as an adult have I understood how she could say such a thing. She came up in an era when chocolate was praised for its "food value." Even as a kid, I didn't believe her, but I always wondered how she could believe it. (And I accepted the ice-cream bar.)
posted by Countess Elena at 6:46 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


My dad told me that the DP camps in Europe were literally crawling with lice until DDT was brought in. Lice spread typhus, a disease you rarely hear about nowadays. A bunch of my relatives died from it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:51 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What kind of placenta is that in the middle of the meat platter?
Or maybe it's a densely-fruited Jello mold?
posted by mean square error at 6:52 PM on August 23, 2012


Cocoa is probably good for you in small amounts, but the refined sugar and fat in the ice cream wouldn't be quite as healthy.
posted by Kevin Street at 7:08 PM on August 23, 2012


That very red 1946 meat ad is part of a series that ran in Life Magazine; I've found a bunch more from that year. They're perfect - huge splashes of blood-red color highlighting a desperate encouragement to eat more flesh.
posted by mediareport at 7:28 PM on August 23, 2012


Being a kid in the fifties was hazardous.

From The Real Frank Zappa book:
My Dad was employed as a meteorologist at the Edgewood Arsenal. They made poison gas there during World War II. . . .

He used to bring equipment home from the lab for me to play with. . . little petri dishes full of mercury. . . . The entire floor of my bedroom had this ‘muck’ on it, made out of mercury mixed with dust balls. One of the things I used to like to do was pour the mercury on the floor and hit it with a hammer, so it squirted all over the place. I lived in mercury.

When DDT was first invented, my Dad brought some home -- there was a whole bag of it in the closet. . . .

Along with my earaches and asthma, I had sinus trouble. There was some ‘new treatment’ for this ailment being discussed in the neighborhood. It involved stuffing radium into your sinus cavities. . . . the doctor stuffed it up my nose and into my sinus cavities on both sides. . . .
Zappa (1940-1993) died of metastasized prostate cancer just short of his 53rd birthday.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:03 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if that radium also gave him his rock and roll superpowers.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:10 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not quite as old as Zappa, but I had a friend who had an entire baby food jar full of mercury -- mixed with cat hair, lint, crumbs, and other stuff picked up from the carpeting.

And I can attest to toy soldiers made of lead, the 'lead pipe' weapon in our Clue board game made of lead, Spra-mount art adhesive and various other aerosols with who knows what in it, and then there was the Mattel Thingmaker and Plastigoop.

Mainway's Big-bag-o-glass ain't that far off.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:13 PM on August 23, 2012


I wonder if that radium also gave him his rock and roll superpowers.

He was bitten by Evelyn, a modified dog....
posted by zarq at 8:13 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here is my favorite vintage cigarette ad.

Also, 7-Up is still at it (saw a bottle of this at a party, wasn't sure if I was seeing things).
posted by triggerfinger at 8:16 PM on August 23, 2012


Regarding the Sugar ads: this was in response to all the new wave of diet products coming out with saccharin as a substitute.
On Food Additives: An Edible Adventure they conducted an experiment [starts at 42:44]. Two teams, one given a sugar drink the other a drink with artificial sweetener. They were then sat down at a smorgasbord and told to eat as much as they wanted. When the calories were totalled up the team that had been given the artificial sweetener consumed an average of 140 calories more. They think it's because of a natural association between taste and energy. If you have something sweet your body primes itself for incoming energy. With a diet drink you don't have that incoming energy, consequently your body requires it, so you experience greater hunger and you tend to eat more. They have run the test several times, always with the same results.
posted by unliteral at 8:16 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if that radium also gave him his rock and roll superpowers.

I don't think so, but whole PhD dissertations have probably been written about nasal imagery in his lyrics and cover art. Snorks on all the early albums, "Nasal Retentive Calliope Music" on We're Only In It. . . and "Honker Home Video" spring instantly to mind.
&nbsp:
posted by Herodios at 8:18 PM on August 23, 2012


John Belushi would have had a birthday this year if he were alive

Metafilter: for all your tautological needs.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:28 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nowadays, it's boner guy yt .

Wait, were those commercials a veiled reference to Bob Dobbs of The Church of Subgenius"?
posted by agog at 10:02 PM on August 23, 2012


I'm not quite as old as Zappa, but I had a friend who had an entire baby food jar full of mercury -- mixed with cat hair, lint, crumbs, and other stuff picked up from the carpeting.

My dad worked for the phone company. He used to bring mercury home from broken relays. Not only did I play with it in the basement (next to the big heating oil tank) but my Soapbox Derby car in Cub Scouts was full of it as weight instead of the lead others kids used.
posted by tommasz at 6:15 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not quite as old as Zappa, but I had a friend who had an entire baby food jar full of mercury

I'm pretty sure even in the 80s they were letting us play with mercury... not to take home in a jar I guess, but I remember it being passed around in class I think.

Actually, the use of "feminine hygiene" or "marital hygiene" as a code word for birth control is pretty well documented.

The key thing is douching is what the lady does directly after sex... so it's not necessarily code, but does have a double meaning. If you wash yourself with a sperm killing ("germ-killing") potion, you will keep him happier. I don't think that makes the ad any less frightening.
posted by mdn at 8:35 AM on August 24, 2012


I'm pretty sure even in the 80s they were letting us play with mercury... not to take home in a jar I guess, but I remember it being passed around in class I think.

In 8th grade physical science (in 1999) we each got a bit of mercury to play with on our desktops for the duration of one of our lessons. I believe we were told not to eat it, and to wash our hands at the end of class.
posted by phunniemee at 8:39 AM on August 24, 2012


I wonder which contemporary ads will look like this to future generations.

The HFCS ones, certainly. And I suspect that a lot of the questionable ads from the past were viewed, in their time, much like the HFCS ads are today: just inside the pale of legality but certainly eyeroll-worthy and not to be taken seriously by intelligent people.

As an anecdote, my father clearly recalls his father getting annoyed at cigarette advertisements in the late 40s and 50s for blatantly lying about the effects of cigarettes -- not just the long term ones, but things like smokers cough and "black lung" -- which he felt were both common knowledge and obvious. (Perhaps because he was a smoker himself.)

Cynicism about advertising wasn't something that was suddenly invented along with bell-bottom pants, and we shouldn't assume that people in prior eras necessarily took everything in print at face value, or that advertising is very representative of the underlying culture. If anything, I think that modern viewers tend to trust advertising to a greater extent, perhaps as a result of liability and truth-in-advertising laws, than our predecessors might have. When we see a blatantly false advertisement we are (hopefully) incensed; someone raised in the era of patent medicines, or even in the later eras of ozone boxes, electric restorative wands, vitamin donuts, fat-reducing vibration machines, or doctor-approved cigarettes would likely just see it as the Way Things Are.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:57 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


And then there was Mercurochrome, a staple of all medicine cabinets in my childhood. Good Moms everywhere liberally applied this mercury-based blood-red tincture to childhood cuts and scrapes.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:31 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wonder if they'll be looking back at our use of BPA and teflon they same way we look at DDT.
posted by crunchland at 7:49 PM on August 24, 2012


And then there was Mercurochrome, a staple of all medicine cabinets in my childhood. Good Moms everywhere liberally applied this mercury-based blood-red tincture to childhood cuts and scrapes.

Oh, how I wished Mercurochrome was the staple in our house—we were a Merthiolate household and that stuff stung like a sonuvabitch.

Heck, and when we had irritated red eyes while visiting down south, my other grandmother would put roach powder in our eyes.

You don't even want to know what that woman did when we had a bruise.
posted by sonascope at 4:17 AM on August 25, 2012


I remember seeing cartoons from the 40's (bugs bunny, etc) where someone would put a piece of raw meat on their black eye. What was the deal with that?
posted by crunchland at 10:01 AM on August 25, 2012


It's an old folk remedy which probably helped as much as any cold compress on a bruise would.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:59 PM on August 25, 2012


I ruined my gold wedding band about ten years ago with mercury.

While I was replacing my mother's old home thermostat, I accidentally broke the little glass bulb full of mercury. It splashed all over my ring.

That was the day that I learned that mercury easily and permanently alloys with gold. The next day was when I learned that no jeweler in town would have anything to do with a contaminated gold ring. I later replaced it with a tungsten ring. It was dirt cheap, more durable and more comfortable.

We all played with mercury in the 70s and 80s. I'm more worried about the BPA in the gazilllion pop bottles I've drank since pop stopped coming in returnable glass bottles.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:32 PM on August 27, 2012


In 8th grade physical science (in 1999) we each got a bit of mercury to play with on our desktops for the duration of one of our lessons. I believe we were told not to eat it, and to wash our hands at the end of class.

Ironically, it's probably safer to eat than to play with. Elemental mercury absorbs very poorly thought the GI tract, but quite well through the lungs as vapor.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:02 PM on August 28, 2012


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