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Fat is now a folly

Here’s a patent medicine ad from the November 30 1927 edition of the Toronto Globe for a product that claimed to provide weight loss.

Marmola apparently consisted of “a little desiccated thyroid and a lot of laxatives”.

The Federal Trade Commission went after Marmola in 1931, claiming that the false claims of its positive effects could be considered unfair competition. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of Marmola, since there was no record of its competitors being harmed by its claims. (This, ironically, was probably because all of Marmola’s competitors were doing more or less the same thing.) The FTC was more successful when they tried again in 1935, at which point Marmola was driven out of business.

Marmola was an invention of a man named Edward D. Hayes, who had been creating patent medicines of dubious effectiveness for over a quarter of a century by the time this ad came out. Hayes was a serial offender: in 1915, he was arrested, fined, and had his mailing list destroyed for advertising “Dr. Robinson’s Prescription for Nervous Debility, Lack of Vigor, Failing Memory and Lame Back Brought on by Excesses, Unnatural Drains or the Follies of Youth.”

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