8 amusing adverts from way back when

  • 1928 Hohner Harmonicas
  • 1928 Elco Health Generator
  • 1930 'Hidden secrets of hypnotism'
  • 1938 Shaving-blade tests
  • 1939 'ironised yeast' tablets
  • 1940 Barbasol shaving cream
  • 1947 'Jack the Weakling' bodybuilding advert
  • 1955 tiny gland treatment
Date:21 August 2013

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much things have changed over the last 90 years. After digging through some old PM magazines, starting from the 1920’s, we found some very cheeky adverts that will get you giggling.

1928: Being young wasn’t easy in the late 1920s, especially if you couldn’t play the harmonica. As this ad from Hohner Harmonicas pointed out, you had no chance of being “up to date” if you couldn’t wrap your lips around one of their instruments and harmonise with popular songs as well as old-time melodies.

1928: Our advertisers have always cared about the health of PM’s readers. Witness this opportunity to purchase a pain fighting invention employing the four greatest curative powers known to man – violet rays, ozone, vibration and medical electricity. Grateful customers reportedly praised the Elco Health Generator for curing their colds, eczema, insomnia and constipation.

1930: In just a few hours, promised this advertiser, you could learn to bend people to your will. Not only that, but the “hidden secrets of hypnotism” would enable you to become master of yourself, friends and acquaintances – of either sex! You’d learn about the nine stages of hypnotism, mental telepathy, the hypnotic mirror, magnetic healing, and presumably how to shoot lightning bolts from your eyes.

1938: Even 75 years ago, advertisers were eager to draw on advanced technology in a bid to punt the efficacy of their products. In this instance, an “eminent psychologist” was called in to conduct comparative shaving-blade tests with the help of a lie detector and volunteers from all walks of life.

1939: Back in the day, judging by this advertisement, a skinny physique was a sure recipe for failure – especially when it came to women. All it took to cure this awful affliction was a bottle of “ironised yeast” tablets. As one happy customer revealed: “My new huskiness and pep has brought me lots of new friends, too.”

1940: Who said ads from the 1940s weren’t edgy? The accompanying text, using phrases such as “smooth as satin” and “nice to the touch”, actually referred to a man’s chin after he used Barbasol shaving cream.

1947: We’ve always loved the bodybuilding ads. In this one, “Jack the Weakling” sends away for a Charles Atlas book on how to become a he-man after he’s humiliated by a big bully at a party. Later, replete with muscles and new confidence, he attends another party and delivers an uppercut to the same bully. You know, exactly the way it happens in real life.

1955: Even our advertisers operated on the cutting edge, as evidenced by this ad for an amazing drug-free treatment. According to unnamed physicians, these awful age-related afflictions – including nervousness, headaches, “lack of pep”, sleepless nights and mental fatigue – were caused by the decline of a tiny gland called the prostate. Although the details remained obscure, all would be explained in a “daring” free book.

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