Let’s buy: Some Cordial Balm of Gilead. Guest post by Lynda Mugglestone

Very many thanks to Lynda Mugglestone for this analytical post on an advertisement for Solomon’s Cordial Balm of Gilead. This item is not in the Art of Advertising exhibition.

In Jo Baker’s Longbourn (2013), a novel in which the events of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are vividly retold from below stairs, it is perhaps fitting that Mrs. Bennet, sorely tried by the refusal of her daughter Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins, retires to her dressing room in the company of a bottle of Cordial Balsam of Gilead. As an early nineteenth-century advertising in the John Johnson Collection persuasively asserts, this was an ‘admirable remedy’, suitable alike for ‘debilitated conditions’, ‘nervous weakness’, and ‘hypochondriacal afflictions’.

Two page advertisement for S. Solomon's Cordial Balm of Gilead, c. 1804. Page 1
The Cordial Balm of Gilead. S. Solomon, [c. 1804].
John Johnson Collection. Patent Medicines 6 (34a)
Female vulnerabilities were overtly addressed. Any women ‘affected with Langour, Headach, or Hysterical affections’ would benefit, contemporary readers were assured. So, too, would anyone in need of ‘relaxation from juvenile indiscretion’. Given Elizabeth’s intransigence, Mrs. Bennet’s self-medication is generous and abundant. In Baker’s novel, half a bottle swiftly disappears.

Two page advertisement for S. Solomon's Cordial Balm of Gilead, c. 1804. Page 2

The medicinal qualities of balms can, in term of language, be traced to medieval times. A balm is an ‘aromatic ointment for soothing pain or healing wounds’, the OED confirms. Balm of Gilead has, however, its origin in Biblical authority. ‘Is there no balme at Gilead? is there no Physician there?’ as Book 8, Verse 22 of Jeremiah demands. The Liverpool-based Samuel Solomon (c.1768-1819) would, from c.1796, provide a very profitable response. On one hand, Solomon’s tactical appropriation of Balm of Gilead was used to denote one of the most prominent quack products of the late eighteenth century  and nineteenth centuries. On the other, a decision to appropriate the status and learning of the ‘physician’ was deployed to equally good effect, as in the ‘M.D.’ which followed Solomon’s name in the various promotional publications and pamphlets he produced. A quack, as Samuel Johnson had stated in 1755 was, by definition, ‘a Boastful pretender to arts which he does not understand’. A doctor, in contrast, brought an undisputable claim to authority.

Boastfulness is perhaps an inevitable property of the language of advertising. Even so, Solomon’s preferred diction in advertising his ‘Cordial Balm of Gilead’ remains striking. Prefixes (‘inestimable’, ‘unprecedented’) deftly remind of the unparalleled qualities now offered to the consumer. Efficacy (‘wonderful success’) is extolled in similar ways, in remedial effects marked by their speed (‘instantaneously receives’) and unqualified strength (‘braces the nervous system…disburdens the viscera’ while throwing off ‘viscid strong humours’). Its popularity was lauded to equal effect. Sales, Solomon declares, have been ‘wonderfully great’, with ‘demand far exceeding any medicine ever published’, and a geographic range that includes ‘Europe’ and ‘America’. Advertising can easily become eulogy: ‘Thousands at this moment live to praise the day they first applied to this remedy, and enjoy the blessings of health, who might have dropped into an untimely grave’. A balm, Solomon stresses, can be a ‘social benefit’. The Cordial Balm of Gilead, was undoubtedly expensive —but, given its range of uses, it was also promoted as a bargain at half a guinea a bottle.

As a cordial balm moreover, its branding usefully harnessed antithetic qualities. Balms are conventionally solids, applied externally in order to soothe and restore. Cordials, in contrast, were traditionally depicted as fortifying from within, quickening the circulation or increasing the power of the heart. A cordial is ‘any medicine that increases strength’, Johnson explained in 1755. A cordial balm, at least rhetorically, could suggest its own innovatory synthesis, able to calm as well as fortify, sooth as well as invigorate — in ways that gave substance to the diverse lists of ailments for which restitution was promised, whether ‘Flatulence’ or ‘Palpitations’, ‘pain’, or ‘Difficulty of Respiration’. A conspicuous clustering of Latinate terminology (‘viscid’, ‘viscera’), and a catalogue of diagnostic nouns (deglutition referred, for example, to ‘The act or power of swallowing’) brought their own implied authority. Price and polysyllables both reinforced the elite status of the patent medicine purveyed.

We might note, even so, some interesting absences. The advertisement details, across two pages, the diverse conditions for which remedy is now apparently provided. The rhetorical power of lists, and their cumulative effect, is plain. So, too, is the range of human debility and the anxieties that can thereby be manipulated, as in the deliberately affecting details by which, for those denied this medical miracle, ‘the body is weakened’ while other symptoms (‘paleness, bodily decay, emaciation, and the eyes sink into the head’) await the hapless sufferer. The power of purchase might intentionally be secured on several levels. But the purchaser is, in reality, no wiser about what is being bought. Conviction must rest on credulity, rather than on a list of ingredients and their tried and tested benefits. If, in other accounts, Solomon stresses the presence of ‘some of the choicest balsams and strengtheners’ as components of his ‘noble Medicine’, alongside its scientific basis (‘reiterated experiments, and close application to practical chemistry’), advertising maintained a determined non-specificity. As William Helfand suggests, the ‘Cordial Balm’ was, in reality, probably a composite of ‘a few herbs and spices dissolved in a substantial percentage of old French brandy’. Certainly, Mrs Bennet in Baker’s fictional account, quaffs it with alacrity, finding her troubles eased. A cordial, as Johnson added, can be ‘anything that comforts, gladdens, and exhilerates’. Ease can, however, also be addictive – evident perhaps in the invitation to purchase by the case for those who, whether by accident or design, had become regular consumers.

References:

William Helfand, ‘Samuel Solomon and the Cordial Balm of Gilead’, Pharmacy in History 31 (1989), 151-59.

 

E. Ewen & Son: an exquisitely hand-coloured window bill

Colour printing did not immediately end hand colouring in advertising: both methods continued until print runs grew so large that hand colouring became impractical. In this example from the 1820s, all the colour has been added by hand.

E. Ewen & Son's hand-coloured window bill.
E. Ewen & Son’s hand-coloured window bill. JJColl: Window Bills and Advertisements folder 5 (1)
E. Ewen & Son's hand-coloured window bill (detail)
E. Ewen & Son’s hand-coloured window bill (detail)

Relief printed by [John Vandenburgh] Quick, with the letters of the word SOAP wood engraved, this 1820s hand-coloured window bill is one of my favourites in ‘The Art of Advertising’ exhibition. Destined to be displayed in E. Ewen & Son’s shop, it was a one-off, hence the elaborate hand colouring and superior printing.

With the exception of the letter S, which could represent the Ewen manufactory, the illustrations that make up the word SOAP bear little relation to the product. They are of a style often associated with alphabets. I have been unable to discover the significance of the Pink and Blue Saucer Manufactory, and would be delighted if historians of ceramics could shed any light on this.

I have also discovered nothing  in the subsequent work of John Vandenburgh Quick (fl. 1823-1853) approaching this calibre. It was an early work – perhaps a show piece, symbolising his aspirations before the reality of jobbing printing took over. Certainly, it is fitting for a shop patronised by royalty and nobility. We have several examples of his crime broadsides, songs, entertainment handbills and bellmen’s verses in the John Johnson Collection and 39 of his street ballads in the Bodleian’s collections. He produced a series of ‘candle-light amusements’ and is said to have printed peep-shows, dioramas, flap-books and pop-up books.  He did, however, print in interesting places including Hyde Park and 76 feet below high water-mark under the Thames in the Thames Tunnel.

Statue of Achilles inStatue of Achilles in Hyde Park, c. 1822 Hyde Park, c. 1822
Statue of Achilles in Hyde Park, c. 1822. ‘Printed on the spot’. JJColl: Printed on the Ice 2 (3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thames Tunnel Paper, March 25, 1843
The Thames Tunnel Paper, March 25, 1843. JJColl: Printed on the Ice 2 (7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exquisite hand-colouring was usually reserved for high-quality prints or for costly items such as valentine cards. In advertising, early exponents of hand-colouring include lottery agents, who used a range of techniques to introduce colour into lottery bills. There are also hand-coloured inn tallies and trade cards, although these are rare. The two examples below are crude in comparison with the E. Ewen & Son’s window bill.  However, they exemplify the desire for colour that was to galavanise printers to experiment with printing in colour.

Lottery bill, hand-coloured
Lottery bill. JJColl: Lotteries vol. 13 (25)
Red Lion Inn. Hand-coloured inn tally.
Red Lion Inn. Hand-coloured inn tally. JJColl: Bill Headings 17 (69)

 

 

 

Canadian Pacific Prominent at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition: guest post by John Sayers

We are grateful to John for sending guest posts about the treasures of the Sayers Collection of Ocean Liner Ephemera, now being transferred to the Bodleian Libraries where it forms one of the named collections added to the John Johnson Collection.

Canadian Pacific postcard
Figure 1. The original Canadian Pacific postcard

I already had in my Ocean Liner collection a postcard of the Canadian Pacific Pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition (Figure 1) drawn by an artist whose signature is illegible. Recently, I found a booklet describing the Pavilion, with a similar cover image as the postcard, drawn by P. A. Staynes. But it also had a centrefold drawing of the beautiful interior of the Pavilion (Figure 2). Since it was a promotional item, it also carried CP advertising, including a captivating page promoting their services to the Far East (Figure 3). This ephemera is a realm beyond postcards.

Centre spread of Canadian Pacific brochure, showing the Canadian Pacific Pavilion, Wembley
Figure 2. Centre spread of Canadian Pacific brochure, showing the Canadian Pacific Pavilion, Wembley
Promotion of Far East tour within Canadian Pacific brochure
Figure 3. Promotion of Far East tour within Canadian Pacific brochure

So much for the Ocean Liner element. But to appreciate the significance of the Exhibition and whether CP was relatively prominent, one has to go beyond this single building at the Exhibition to look at the larger aspect of the Fair itself. At this time the British Empire of Queen Victoria’s era was relatively intact. There were rumblings of a thirst for independence in the colonies, notably Gandhi’s activities in India, but the sun hadn’t yet set on the British Empire.The Exhibition was officially opened on April 23, 1924 so the booklet would have been harvested by an Empire Exhibition visitor who was among the eventual 27 million visitors to this largest-ever event of its type to this date.

This was a landmark event, but it also flags the high commercial status of the Canadian  Pacific organization.

Broadening the focus from Ocean Liner companies to the nature and extent of the Fair itself, and having come to appreciate the significance of the event, one can now place the Canadian Pacific Ocean Liner material’s British Empire Exhibition component in its proper context within the Sayers Collection.

This material, and a significant amount of other Canadian Pacific shipping ephemera such as Passenger Lists, Brochures, Menus and Cruise Activities, is contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.

 

A catalogue of American trees and shrubs that will endure the climate of England

The Art of Advertising exhibition. Blog post 2

A catalogue of American trees and shrubs that will endure the climate of England, Christopher Gray, Fulham, [c. 1737]

A catalogue of American trees and shrubs that will endure the climate of England, Christopher Gray, Fulham, [c. 1737]

Magnolia detail
Magnolia detail

The second item in our Printing case exemplifies copper engraving and etching, and is accompanied by the following description of the process:

In copper engraving and etching the print is taken from hollowed-out marks on a copper plate. These marks were inscribed through a coating that resists acid, and then subjected to etching, or physically engraved into the copper with a tool known as a burin. Often the plate was first etched and then engraved.
To take a print, ink is forced into the recessed lines, and the surface cleaned of ink. A sheet of paper is laid on top of the plate and pressure from the printing press forces the ink out of the hollows. The process was capable of great delicacy, although the soft copper plate would wear out over time. Text could be engraved as part of the plate, as in this example, but if type was needed, the two had to be printed separately.

This exquisite broadside is unusual in combining masterly etching and engraving with extensive alphabetical and bilingual text. Christopher Gray (1694-1764) specialised in plants from North America. This catalogue, referenced in the DNB article for Gray (odnb-9780198614128-e-37479) includes dogwoods, tulip trees, maples and American oaks as well as magnolias. The illustration of a magnolia altissima (or grandiflora) is based on a drawing by G.D. Ehret.

A catalogue of goods.... Gillery Pigott, 1766. Women's Clothes and Millinery 10 (26)
A catalogue of goods…. Gillery Pigott, 1766
JJColl: Women’s Clothes and Millinery 10 (26)

The title is unusual in explicitly identifying this item as a catalogue. It is more elaborate than a shopkeeper’s bill, but terminology was fluid. Another 18th century single sheet, similarly identified in its title as a catalogue: A Catalogue of Goods, sold Wholesale and Retail, by Gillery Pigott would usually be styled as a ‘shopkeeper’s bill’ or a tradesman’s list.

The John Johnson Collection is fairly rich in Horticultural ephemera. Early seedsmen’s lists are kept in two guard books (Bodleian shelfmarks: Johnson a.50 and Johnson d.1640). These are catalogued on SOLO (advanced search by shelfmark) and were listed by John Harvey in his Early Horticultural Catalogues: A Checklist of Trade Catalogues Issued by Firms of Nurserymen and Seedsmen in Great Britain and Ireland Down to the Year 1850, Bath, 1973.

There are also trade cards, such as those of Arabella Morris and Humphry Repton.

Trade card of Arabella Morris, 1748.
Trade card of Arabella Morris, 1748. JJColl: Horticulture 8

 

Trade card of Humphry Repton
Trade card of Humphry Repton. JJColl: Trade Cards 14 (5)

The main trade card sequence of the John Johnson Collection can be searched through our Zegami project.

Lotteries End for Ever

The Art of Advertising: an exhibition in waiting. Blog post 1

Introduction

Sadly, The Art of Advertising closed, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, just 12 days after it opened.  While awaiting events (and, we hope, its re-opening) we are bringing you a series of blog posts featuring the exhibits, with additional contextualisation drawing on related material in the John Johnson Collection.

One of the three principal themes of the exhibition is Printing and we were very fortunate to draw on the expertise of Prof. Michael Twyman for the descriptions of printing processes in the first case, which is devoted to the major printing techniques used in the 18th century to the 1930s (the period of the exhibition).  Michael also identified the printing processes of all the 230 exhibits. 

The other exhibition themes are the birth of Commercial Art and advertising as a resource for social history.

Lotteries End for Ever

Lotteries End for Ever poster
Lotteries End for Ever poster
JJColl: Posters, Lotteries

 

This poster combines a striking woodcut image with lettering cut on wood in imitation of the latest display types of the period.

Woodcutting is the oldest of the processes used for printing images. Parts of a wood block are removed by gouges and knives, leaving the areas to be printed standing in relief so that they can be inked and printed under pressure on a press. Though woodcutting was capable of refined images, by the early 19th century it was mainly used, as in this example, for relatively crude popular work. Wood blocks were capable of withstanding long print runs and could be printed along with type.

Lottery advertising was often innovative, incorporating printed colour (as here), hand-colouring, Congreve compound plate printing (fig. 3), stick men, verse, acrostics,  etc. The last state lottery was drawn on 18 July 1826.  The John Johnson Collection includes an extensive collection of lottery bills, all digitised and available through our ProQuest project (free in the UK).

 

Carroll lottery bill for the last lottery, 18 July 1826
Fig. 3. Lottery bill for the last lottery, issued by Carrroll (Congreve Compound Plate Printing). JJColl Lotteries vol. 3 (3)
Hazard lottery bill, showing the drawing of the last lottery.
Fig. 4. Hazard lottery bill, showing the drawing of the last lottery. JJColl: Lotteries vol. 13 (6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Christmas or New Year, in the hope of a gratuity, bellmen and lamplighters distributed verses, known generically as Bellmen’s verses.  There are some 132 of these in the John Johnson Collection. Minimal records can be seen on our online catalogue   (Browse: set scrollbar to Shelfmarks: type Bellmen).

A copy of verses, from C.H. Reynell, Printer, No. 21, Piccadilly, London, for the year 1815
Fig. 5. Bellman’s Verse
A copy of verses, from C.H. Reynell, Printer, No. 21, Piccadilly, London, for the year 1815. JJColl Bellman’s Verses.

Other examples of images of bellmen in advertising, include the following.

Advertisement for Tregoning's Museum of Fancy Goods
Fig. 6. Advertisement for Tregoning’s Museum of Fancy Goods, featuring a bellman. JJColl: Provincial Booktrade 1 (37a)

 

 

Advertisement with image of a bellman: T. Dutton
Fig. 7. O Yes! O Yes! O Yes! T. Dutton, boots and shoes. Advertisement with image of a bellman. JJColl: Bazaars and Sales 1 (36)

 

 

 

 

What’s in a name? Guest post by John G. Sayers

We are grateful to John for another post about one of the treasures of his collection

Deutchland Crew postcard
Deutschland Crew postcard

Captain Koenig and the Crew of the Deutschland.  Interesting. This Real Photo postcard dating from 1916 appeared – at first glance – to be the Captain and senior officers of a German ocean liner, interned by the Americans on the outbreak of the First War. When I saw it, I assumed that it would fill a useful slot in The Sayers Collection. There are other cards of this genre, and the year 1916 would be logical for this assumption.

No such luck. A check on returning home from the event where I purchased this card showed that the liner Deutschland had been renamed in 1910 after 10 years of Transatlantic service, so was not operating under that name after 1910. And it wasn’t the battleship Deutschland, which had gone into service in 1903.

So who are these men? What were they doing in 1916? And why the varied range of attire, some of it casual except for their hats? Surprise! They are the crew of a significant German submarine, which went into service in 1916 as a cargo vessel for the North German Lloyd line, christened as the Deutschland. She and a sister submarine were unarmed non-naval vessels designed to evade the British warships blockading Germany. With a capacity of 700 tons, they were designed to carry strategic materials from America and deliver high-end German products like aniline dyes to the U.S. It appears that they were the first-ever purpose-built cargo-carrying submarines.

There was considerable controversy because the British blockade of Germany could not stop these undersea ships from carrying strategic cargo. Britain claimed that by not interning this boat the Americans were favouring Germany. America was neutral at this stage of the war and concluded that it could not discriminate in regard to what was essentially a cargo ship. If it had been armed and a ship of the German navy, the position would have been different.

Deutschland made only two trips – one to New York and a second one which involved Baltimore. There are images online from the second voyage, but none of this first voyage! Photographer and publisher is G.L. Thompson, New York.

In 1917 Deutschland was taken over from the North German Lloyd shipping line by the German navy, armed for war service, and renamed U-155. Her cargo-carrying ability was inadequate and the need for more attack submarines transcended her value as a cargo carrier. Even though her design was not that of a conventional submarine, serving until the end of the War she reportedly sank over 20,000 tons of Allied shipping.

This postcard, and thousands of other pieces of ephemera, is contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.