Tag: Dr. Jayne’s

Complex and Mysterious Mechanism

In 1938 when Dr. Jayne’s used the Mensch als Industriepalast image, the company was recycling an image it used at least as early as 1934.

At least as early as 1934 Dr. Jayne’s used the Mensch als Industriepalast  in its almanac.
At least as early as 1934 Dr. Jayne’s used the Mensch als Industriepalast in its almanac.

The description at the top emphasized modern, mechanized picture of the human body: “A picture of the World’s most complex and mysterious mechanism.” By 1938 the image had lost that description. In 1934 this mechanized picture shared space in the almanac with a detailed description of, among other non-mechanized practices, “Fortune Telling by Tea Leaves.” There we read:

In using this method, much depends on the imagination and natural aptitude of the reader. You must have the “seeing eye” which will interpret the formation of the leaves correctly, but this readily comes with practice.

The reader must interpret the “emblems,” including:

  • anchor—This is the sign of trade and travel. If standing alone at the top of the cup it indicates true love.
  • coffin—This may mean, as it does in dream, and in other methods of fortune telling, death or serious illness either to the hearer, or a friend. Closely surrounded, it means an inheritance.
  • lion—(or any wild animal) Good fortune to eminent persons, if clear and distinct. Envy and jealousy if in the thick.
  • mouse—Standing alone it is an omen of recovery of a lost object. Almost indistinguishable among other leaves, you must prepare for disappointment in this respect.

While it seems incongruous to read modernist descriptions of the human machine sandwiched between fortune telling practices illustrated by mysterious, exotic men gazing into crystal balls, Dr. Jayne’s must have been confident that it would not seem so to its customers.

Dr. Jayne’s Mensch als Industriepalast

In 1926 Fritz Kahn created his famous “Mensch als Industriepalast,” a fascinating, modernist depiction of the human being as a chemical factory, staffed with industrious little workers, replete with control centers, machines, conduits, communication wires (see the copy at the NLM).

Fritz Kahn’s Mensch als Industriepalast (1926)—see a larger version here.
Fritz Kahn’s Mensch als Industriepalast (1926)—see a larger version here.

In an impressive display plagiarism, Dr. Jayne’s almanac for 1939 included a strikingly similar image:

Dr. Jayne’s Mensch als Industriepalast (1939).
Dr. Jayne’s Mensch als Industriepalast (1939).

Although Dr. Jayne’s illustration was meant to explain “A few of the mysteries of the human body,” it adopted the same factory rhetoric and imagery that marked Kahn’s original poster: bile is manufactured; the bladder is a tank; nerves are like telegraph wires; the eye is like a camera, the ear like a microphone; the spinal cord is “the main cable of electric wires;” the heart is “a powerful pumping station.”

Workers and control centers are arranged and many of the details are labeled just as they are in Kahn’s original image.

Imitation is the purest form of flattery.

More Patent Medicine Artifacts

Moving boxes in my office, I came across two patent medicine bottles. The smaller one comes from Philadelphia’s own Dr. Jayne’s. Dr. Jayne’s started selling its tonic in the 1840s and became incredibly successful. By the end of the century, the factory occupied the entire city block on Chestnuyt between 2nd St. and 3rd St. Images of the building can be seen on the cover of Dr. Jayne’s almanac (on these almanacs, see Dr. Jayne’s Family Medicines).

A small bottle from Philadelphia’s own Dr. Jayne’s patent medicine company.
A small bottle from Philadelphia’s own Dr. Jayne’s patent medicine company.

A quick search on the National Library of Medicine’s site shows that Dr. Jayne’s ran afoul of the FDA a number of times in the early 20th century. In 1917, the Pennsylvania Co. for Insurance on Lives and Granting Annuities—a corporation set up by Henry LaBarre Jayne and Henry Paxson— was fined $200 for shipping their product into New York (with Spanish labels). The charge was misbranding. Analyses turned up opium and alcohol among other things (report here):

Analyses of samples of the articles by the Bureau of Chemistry of this department showed the following results:
The Balsamo Carminativo consisted essentially of opium, a laxative plant drug, probably rhubarb, carbonates, ammonium and potassium salts, aromatics, sugar, alcohol, and water.

The Expectorante consisted essentially of opium, an antimony salt, sugar, alcohol, and water flavored with oil of anise and methyl salicylate.

The Pildoras Sanativas consisted essentially of aloes, gamboge, and a salt of mercury.

The Alterativo consisted essentially of sarsaparilla, sassafras, licorice, potassium iodid, traces of an unidentified alkaloid, sugar, alcohol, and water.

The Linimento 6 Contra-Irritante consisted essentially of oils of turpentine, sassafras, and capsicum, and of soap, alcohol, and water.

In 1933, 1942, and again in 1943 Dr. Jayne’s was charged with misbranding. Although the ingredients varied, each time they were found to have no therapeutic effect.

The second bottle comes from Buffalo Springs in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Apparently, the springs there were thought to have healing power. By the late 19th century entrepreneurial types were bottling and selling the water as Buffalo Spring Lithia Water, Nature’s Materia Medical, claiming it cured, among other ailments, “Bright’s Disease, Albuminuria, Renal Calculi, Gout, Rheumatism, and all Diseases Dependent Upon a Uric Acid Diathesis.” (see, for example, this ad from 1899).

A large bottle that once contained Buffalo Spring Lithia Water.
A large bottle that once contained Buffalo Spring Lithia Water.

Like Dr. Jaynes, Buffalo Spring Lithia Water was charged with misbranding. Analyses didn’t reveal the cocktail of ingredients found in Dr. Jayne’s, but it also didn’t find any appreciable quantity of lithium, the celebrated active ingredient.

A Historical Perspective on DTC Drug Marketing

An article in the NY Times reports on a recent research about Direct-to-Consumer drug marketing. The article draws attention to authority and power of a “survey” in convincing consumers to self-diagnos and to request particular drugs.

Dr. Jayne’s Almanac—Patent Medicine Propaganda by a local, Philadelphia company.

All this sounds a lot like the techniques used a century ago to market patent medicines. At that time Muckraking journalism helped expose an industry that was probably not helping anybody and might actually be harming many consumers.

In Markting Drugs Then and Now I draw out some of the many similarities between the two eras. There are a number of related posts on patent medicines linked to from that post.