Laxative Sam says

Here’s an ad from the February 20 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that caught my attention:


I know that this is made up for the ad, but I am kind of hoping that there was a real person named Laxative Sam. Though I wouldn’t want to know how he got his name.

This ad introduced the concept of “laxative staleness”, and the idea of a “thorough, muscular movement of the bowels”. Yikes.


Internal bathing

The March 22 1924 edition of the Toronto Globe contained an article for “internal bathing”, which claimed to be a cure for constipation.


Wikipedia has an entry for Charles Alfred Tyrrell (1843-1918), who was the proponent of internal bathing. The J.B.L. Cascade mentioned in this ad was an enema appliance, and apparently dates to 1903; J.B.L. stood for “Joy, Beauty, Life”. The American Medical Association claimed that the product might be dangerous, and that its advertising featured “deceit, misrepresentation, and quackery”.

Before attempting to market the J.B.L. Cascade, Tyrrell popularized the Ideal Sight Restorer, which the A.M.A. called “pseudomedical claptrap”. So there you are.

As for the Toronto office of Tyrrell’s Hygienic Institute: it first appears in the 1920 Toronto city directory, but was not around much longer than this ad. The institute doesn’t appear in the 1925 directory.


George is a changed boy

The November 15 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad:


My first thought: if George was old enough to go to school, he would have been teased unmercifully about this ad. I hope that his mother gave him a share of the money that the family got for appearing in it. (And I hope that the family did get paid!)

As usual, I was curious whether Mrs. A. Gresham actually existed at 7 Currie Avenue. The answer is almost certainly yes – the 1929 city directory lists a William Gresham there. He worked as an engineer for the City of Toronto, and continued in that job as late as 1955. In the 1960 city directory, his occupation is not listed, so I assume that he was retired. Unfortunately, I do not know whether Mrs. A was still there, as the city directories were resolutely sexist and only listed the head of the household.

George himself starts appearing in the city directories in about 1948. He worked at Eaton’s, and was there at least through 1960; I didn’t check later than that. Hopefully, he was still regular.

As for California Fig Syrup: it appears to have originated late in the 19th century, which is when a lot of the most famous patent medicines came into being. The references I could find were mostly related to the bottles that it came in. There’s an early history of the company and its bottles, and another history that contains a collection of early ads for the product.



The June 19 1937 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail contained two quite similar-looking ads for products that prevented constipation.

The first is for Kellogg’s All-Bran:


The second is for Feen-a-mint:


Both of these products have appeared before in this blog:

Sometime, I’ll try to figure out exactly when ads stopped containing so much text. Probably about when it started to be easier to print photographs.



Here’s an ad from the June 11 1947 Toronto Daily Star that’s just plain weird:


What’s weirdest about this ad is that Abbey’s Effervescent Salt is actually a laxative, though the ad copy doesn’t mention it directly – it just says that Abbey’s “acts gently, effectively”. I’m not sure whether a laxative is the best remedy for overindulging, but then I’m not a medical doctor, am I?

Compare this ad to one that appeared in the April 8 1940 Toronto Daily Star, which went straight to the point:


Abbey’s Effervescent Salt had been around since the 19th century. The company published a book in 1898 titled Abbey’s Effervescent Salt: The Foundation of Health.

Wikipedia has a generic entry on fruit salts – Abbey’s was apparently created as a competitor to Eno’s Fruit Salt.


Lazy digestive organs

When looking at old newspapers, I’ve determined that constipation was more of a problem ages ago than it is now. For instance, here’s an ad from the September 28 1927 Globe:


Exercise those bowel muscles and make them strong!

The only references I could find to Tillson’s Natural Bran on the Internet were to other ads from 1920s publications.


Treacherous as a submarine

Submarines were first in common use in the early 1900s, and were generally known about by the First World War. Which is why the May 19 1915 edition of the Toronto Daily Star could feature this ad:


We’ve run into Abbey’s Effervescent Salt before – there was a somewhat cryptic ad for it here. This ad features a testimonial from the Medical Officer of Health for London, England! (Not to be confused with the Medical Officer of Health for London, Ontario.) He wouldn’t lie to you, would he?

What’s interesting is that Abbey’s is available in two sizes: the 25-cent bottle if you plan on being only a little stopped up, or the 60-cent version if you are in regular need.


The truth

From the October 1 1928 Toronto Daily Star:


Doctors say it takes 100% bran to relieve constipation! 93% or 97% is not sufficient!

Two Kellogg brothers, John Harvey and Will Keith, invented the process of making flaked cereal at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a holistic treatment centre that promoted vegetarianism, nutrition, exercise, hydrotherapy, the use of enemas, and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and all forms of sexual activity. (John’s Wikipedia entry helpfully points out that “Kellogg’s views on sexuality and masturbation are now considered extreme.”)

W. K. started the Kellogg company after a sanitarium guest, C. W. Post, took notes on how the Kelloggs made their cereal and then started his own cereal company. Apparently, “this upset Will to the extent that he left the sanitarium to found his own company.” I can’t say as I blame him! The Kellogg brothers may have led austere lives by modern standards, but I guess it paid off: they both lived for 91 years. And you can still buy All-Bran in your grocery store.


The princess and Abbey’s

From the April 8 1940 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, two unrelated items:

Photo 2018-04-08, 3 32 18 PM

Queen Farida (1921-1988) was the Queen of Egypt for nearly eleven years, between 1937 and 1948, before King Farouk divorced her. The daughter mentioned in this article was Princess Fawzia Farouk (1940-2005), who became an athlete, a pilot, a sailor, and a professional interpreter, becoming fluent in five languages; this last enabled her to earn her living after she lost her royal status. The last years of her life were tragic: she contracted multiple sclerosis, which left her paralyzed and bedridden.

Abbey’s Effervescent Salt appears to be yet another of the endless stream of patent medicines advertised in newspapers. I couldn’t find out what it was, but I did discover that the Klondike Official Guide recommended that gold-seekers bring an ample supply of Abbey’s Effervescent Salt to the north with them. Presumably, it was important to clear your system regularly while moiling for gold.


It’s good, it’s very good

From reading old newspapers, I have learned something about the North American diet in the 1920s and 1930s: people weren’t eating enough roughage, so they were having trouble with constipation. Here’s an example from the August 25, 1931 Toronto Daily Star:

Photo 2018-03-24, 6 29 45 PM

It’s good, it’s very good! And, reassuringly, it acts only in the bowels, not in the stomach (or in the elbows).

A Google search yielded no references to Dr. Papillaud Laboratories, so I have no idea how long they were in existence. Dr. Papillaud and his wondrous pill appear to be lost to history.