While looking at these ads, think of Balzac’s quote, “A man’s own vanity is a swindler that never lacks a dupe.” Or, less poetic but more direct, Barnum’s “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
This first one, “Hair Grows,” appeared in the December 1915 issue of Popular Science, by the Modern Vacuum Cap Company of Denver, Colorado. As far as I can tell this company had been hawking its wares since 1908. I guess their ’60 days’ free trial’ and accompanying booklet was enough to keep them in business. Never mind that the product’s ‘Scientific method’ was more wishful thinking than working science.
These next two ads both appear in the January 1930 issue of Popular Mechanics. Was there an epidemic of horrified people, hating their honkers in the 1930’s? You would think the magazines readership would have been more concerned about the Great Depression instead of how to rearrange their nose cartilage.
But I shouldn’t be too harsh. There’s nothing wrong with buying a product that will improve your looks. So, why not buy from M. Trilety, after all he is a Pioneer Nose Shaping Specialist! And the Model 25 must have had major improvements over the Model 24 (yes, there was a Model 24). Or purchase your nose’s salvation from the Anita Institute, which is responsible for 68,000 people walking the earth with their faces muzzled. Besides, good looks could improve your chances of employment.
Do you think if television advertising were available to these companies we would be listening to “But WAIT! If you order within the next five minutes we’ll DOUPLE your order and send you TWO Face Slings! Just pay separate….”
While researching these items I came across a couple of entertaining websites. Pulp Fiction Novels, offers great background information about the Anita Institute and the fraud case initiated by the Postal Service in 1932. The University of Buffalo website had the M. Trilety instruction manual available, which I downloaded and added just in case you were interested. And for a hilarious look at other vanity products head over to Mental Floss. If your first thought isn’t “What the hell were they thinking!” I’d be surprised.
As ridiculous as these ads are, it’s sad to think people today are gobbling up the same type of crap, offered by the same type of crappy companies, in the hope of enlarging or reducing, growing or shrinking something. Take a look at this next ad. Barnum was right and his advise timeless.