Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pepto Bismol (1945-1948)

Good morning!

I'm always on the hunt for vintage advertisements of note for you guys, and what should I dig up yesterday evening but these practically framable photographs and illustrations from Pepto Bismol campaigns in the mid to late forties'. Now, usually, the idea of Pepto Bismol wouldn't come immediately to mind when I think "cute vintage ads", but look at these, for cryin' out loud! The red, white, and black color scheme, the photographs paired with drawn backdrops and weird laments/boasts of either dyspeptic discomfort or braggartly claims as to the iron-lined nature of one's stomach (the latter category always ends up in the former category by the end of the first sentence!). Take a look at this Colonel Mustard type, obviously dining out at a dinner and drinks type establishment:

What is he shoveling out of that silver tureen? It looks like General Tso's chicken to me, but this seems unlikely in the mid forties' for businessman dining choices.  Look at his tiny claret wine glass! I like the icy look of the ostrich, like "Oh, do you really now...". The ad reads, "Too much to eat and drink...hastily gulped meals...can make even an 'ostrich stomach' feel sour, sickish, and upset." The ads seem to run in three general categories: men overestimating the tensile strength of their stomach linings, children eating too much, too fast, and party people waking up the next morning with both mental and physical symptoms of regret.

The typography on this one is a winner. Imagine a mashup of Jake and the Fat Man and Nick and Nora Charles. Or don't! That actually might be a little too scary to imagine. Neither of the men fare very well by the pen of the ad copy man: "jittery, twittery thin man" and "roly poly fat man" each suffer their own indignancies due to indigestion-- one eats too fast and one eats too much. Luckily, both can find relief from the familiar pink bottle. Pepto Bismol was invented in 1901, and first marketed under that name in 1919. The FAQ sheet on the Pepto Bismol website (um, who "frequently asks questions" about PB? What all do you need to know?) mentions that no one knows why the formula is tinted pink, but that the original doctor who invented the substance used this color, so "why mess with a good thing". Gives you a lot of faith in the time and research that went into answering the other questions, right? I hate to peak early, but this next one may be my favorite.

Johnny Anybody was just trying to do the right thing and get the project done under the wire by staying late at work...when he stopped into a greasy spoon on his way home and indulged in a particularly pungent, self congratulatory dish of liver and onions, he was pinshed by A HUGE HUMAN HAND GRABBING HIM IN HIS BED WHILE HE SLUMBERED THAT NIGHT! Look at his Dracula hand raised in self-defense. "Why is there a disembodied hand squishing my insides in my sleep! Why!"


Once again, the distinguished gray haired man of the first panel has insulted a member of the animal kingdom. Was it fair to call that poor turkey "a gobbler"? Was it right? You know he paid for it later.

Here's the first of the late night revelers. I love the miserable hint of wistfulness in the text!

I wonder if Elmer (below) and the first guy were at the same party! Or were they each the star of their own get togethers. If I was making a tv commercial of these ads, I would cast John Garfield as the first guy and Robert Mongomery as Elmer. They're dead ringers!

Worse than waking up with a hangover and no Pepto Bismol? Waking up with a hangover, no Pepto Bismol, two other dudes, and each of you is dressed for Continental Congress 1776. "Last night", in the world of Pepto Bismol ads, is always faraway and much better than this morning! The founding fathers below probably drank too many tankards of ale at the tavern, and are now sleeping it off on a hay bale in Connecticut.

Last but not least, the children! Think of the children! Why are they being punished so for eating too much blueberry pie or PBJ sandwiches? The humanity!

This little girl's face was one of the first things that convinced me to do a post on this subject in the first place. Look at how sour her expression is! It seems wrong for a little girl in her cutest organdy dress to be held accountable for all the cakes and cookies you can eat in a picnic setting.

Contemporary Huck Finn didn't fare much better:

Corn! How could corn hurt you like this, son? What has corn done to you?! Now meatloaf, gravy, rich cakes, cookies...I understand how these can get to you. But Huck, you love corn! Why! What a backstabber of a vegetable!

You can click on any of the thumbnails below to see the whole ad. Some of the copy is pretty cute, so give it a go if you have a minute:

Which ad do you like the best? Have any hangover or overindulgence stories where Pepto Bismol or aspirin or Dr. Enuf saved your life? I was a devotee of BC Powders in my college years-- they probably stripped my liver to the base coat, but I still swear by 'em!

Have a great Wednesday, I'll see you tomorrow!


  1. I'm almost positive that is Winston Churchill's face superimposed on a little girl's body...SCARY!!! I lived on Pepto-Bismol for a short time!!! It's the power of the pink!

  2. the giant hand for sure! i love these! and i love pepto bismol. we keep it chilling in the fridge for when we over indulge.



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