Tag Archives: patent medicines

A pet portrait promoting Mrs. Temple’s Celebrated Blood Purifier (1898)

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Trade card for Mrs. Temple’s Blood Purifier, n.d. Halftone print on coated paper.  Based on information discussed below, I date this at 1898.

It’s not unusual that the visual content of advertising trade cards from the nineteenth century has nothing to do with the product being sold.  This is certainly the case with this large (5 1/2 by 7 inch) card for Mrs. Temple’s Blood Purifier.  The image is a halftone print of what seems to be a studio photograph. The bulldog and cat are posed on either a tabletop or a lounge.  This is a halftone print, one of the photographic reproductive techniques that tolled the death knell for the lithographs and wood engravings that sold products for most of the nineteenth century.

The back of the card is an advertisement for Mrs. Temple’s Celebrated Blood Purifier, “Prepared by Mrs. J.E. Temple, No. 16 Moraine St.” of Brockton, Massachusetts.  In my research to date the card,  I learned a lot about “blood purifiers,” which were one of the most common proprietary, or patent, medicines.  I also learned a tiny bit about Mrs. Elizabeth Temple, the originator of this product, and what I learned was worth sharing here even though it has nothing to do with pet keeping!  So here goes.

In 1865, Mrs. Elizabeth Temple was a widow in Boston, living at 12 Acton Street.  By 1864, she was the creator of Mrs. Taylor’s Renovating Remedy, which she promoted with a 24-page booklet. (I can find the catalog entry for this on Google Books, but I cannot access the text.)  Mrs. Temple’s Renovating Remedy was a wonder “prescribed for Neuralgia, Scroffula, Jaundice, Costiveness, Catarrh, Nausea, Dropsy, Etc., with Great Success.”  The nostrum also turns up in a few classified newspaper ads from 1868, where it was commended for “all diseases of the blood.”

Many patent medicines marketed themselves as “blood purifiers,” with perhaps the the most famous being Hood’s Sarsparilla, which was advertised and available pretty much everywhere in the late 19th century.  Sarsparilla, made from the roots of Smilax ornata, was regarded as a good tonic.  In fact, it is still used in herbal medicine.   Even early over-the-counter medicines for dogs, including medicines sold by Dr. S. K. Johnson (who was the subject of a post on 7 July 2015) sometimes advertised themselves as “blood purifiers.”  At a time when disease mechanisms were still poorly understood, the idea of cleaning the blood as a way of treating chronic disease was powerful.

By 1869, Mrs. Elizabeth Temple was listed in the Boston city directory as a “physician!”  She shared her house, 41 Shawmut Street, with Lyman W. and Israel Temple.  The next year, the 1870 federal census tells the story of some modest but real financial success.  62-year-old Elizabeth Temple was listed as the head of her household, although she was only described as “keeping house.”  Her dwelling was worth $12,000 and she possessed $1,600 of personal property.  She shared the house with 23-year-old Israel, a postal clerk, and 32-year-old “Damen” (Lyman?) W., who was listed as having no occupation, along with two live-in servants.  In the 1872 Boston City directory, she was again listed as physician, at 253 Shawmut Avenue.  Then she disappears, turning up in the 1880 census in Newton, Massachusetts, still living with her son Lyman.

What happened to her “blood purifier”?  It seems to have lived on, or was revived, in the 1880s by John E. Temple of Brockton, MA, who is listed in city directories as a “traveling salesman” by 1887.  Was he another of Elizabeth Temple’s sons? or even a grandson? In 1898, John E. Temple lived at 16 Moraine Street in Brockton, which is the address on the back on the trade card.  And the new iteration, Mrs. Temple’s Celebrated Blood Purifier, was prepared by “Mrs. J. E. Temple,” presumably his wife.

I’d like to these these these lovely animals were the pets of Mr. and Mrs. John E. Temple, but there is no way of knowing, of course.  In any event, I believe that the advertisers thought the image of the cat and dog would encourage people to take and keep this large trade card.  And I hope that you enjoy this digression into the weird world of American proprietary, or “patent,” medicines.

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Filed under advertising trade card, bulldog, cat photography, dog photography, dogs, halftone, patent medicines, pet photography, pets

Comic Cats on Victorian Trade Cards

Nineteenth-century advertising trade cards are wonderful on so many levels, but my particular favorites are the comic ones.  Predating the appearance of comics in newspapers by decades (the “Yellow Kid” strip first appeared in 1895), the quality of trade card artists’ drawings can be as good as any of the more famous early comic artists.  Some comic trade cards even tell a story in series.  On July 6, 2014, I published a post on the story of a disastrous feline courtship told through six cards; you can take a look at this in the archives for the this blog.  Some comic trade cards are offensive today — they traffic in all sorts of stereotyping — but others are benign, as in the case of the comic cats I share with you here,

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Advertising trade card for Dr. Thomas’ Eclectric Oil, around 1890. Chromlithograph, publisher unknown. The corners have been trimmed; they may have been glued to a scrapbook page.

The Excelsior Botanical Company, which began to sell Dr. Thomas’ Eclectric Oil (yes, that’s “Eclectric”) in the 1880s, published a series of comic trade cards featuring anthropomorphic animals that was made specifically for the company.  Eclectric Oil, which was sold until at least the 1940s, was recommended for everything from insect bites to earaches. The artist for these is unknown, but the card in my collection, “Grandma’s little Wootsy Tootsy” features a cat scrubbing her “grandchild” in a basin with a sponge. A proper linen towel with a red band hangs nearby. I love her glasses, neck ribbon (she is a proper house cat with a clean white bib and tummy ) and determined expression.  And you get all this detail in 3 1/2 inches of paper….

“All Promenade” features the Cat and the Fiddle, who is now performing for two sets of dancing kittens in an alley.  They all wear big smiles.  I love the pink and blue dresses worn by the girl kittens.  This card was copyrighted by Philadelphia printer George M. Hayes, who was probably the artist, too.  He copyrighted a number of trade card designs in the early 1880s.  They were sold as blanks; the “Presented by” caption was added by E. & H. Dilworth.

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“All Promenade.”  Advertising trade card for E & H. Dilworth Hardware, Beloit, KS.  Published by  George M. Hayes, Philadelphia, 1882.  Hayes was probably also the artist.

The practice of attributing human characteristics to animals, called anthropomorphism, is an ancient practice; think of Aesop’s Fables, for example. It has had many uses, some quite serious — imparting moral lessons to children, stigmatizing marginalized “others” and critiquing the powerful are just three of these.  However, sometimes anthropomorphism was intended simply to delight both children and adults.

These cats delight me, and I hope that they delight you, too!

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Filed under advertising trade card, alley cat, animal humor, anthropomorphism, cats, material culture, pets