Through the lens of these health ads, we can see not only what our ancestors believed about health and medicine, but also how far we have come in understanding the health risks of exposure to certain dangers in the years since.
These ads also show shifting social attitudes towards greater protection towards children and less blatant sexism.
You won’t believe how much has changed in the years since the ads below were made.
1. Advertisement portraying vitamin-filled donuts as healthy.
2. A 1940s advert advocating for the use of amphetamines for weight loss.
3. Coca-Cola ad that tells readers to give their children the drink at a young age.
4. Ad promoting health claims concerning butter without including any of its health risks.
5. An 1800s advertisement for stramonium cigarettes used to treat asthma. We now of course know that inhaling smoke can intensify the symptoms of asthma.
6. Cellophane ad showing a baby wrapped in cellophane. In reality, a baby in that situation would suffocate.
7. A 1930s ad promoting the false idea that bad skin is caused by internal toxins and can only be cured by ingesting yeast.
8. This is one example that presents terrible advice for modern viewers, but good advice for people at the time. While modern alkaline batteries are toxic and should not be burned, through the late 1950s, most people used zinc batteries that burned harmlessly in a fire.
9. Ad for an asbestos pad for the dining table. We know now that asbestos powder can cause cancer when ingested or breathed in.
10. Ad for a tonic wine that is claimed to cure depression.
11. Budweiser ad that depicts young kids drinking.
12. A vintage cigarette ad from the days when it was legal to use claims about cigarettes’ supposed health benefits made by physicians.
13. Sugar ad claiming that sugar can be used to prevent overeating, when sugar is one of the main foods associated with the negative effects of overeating.
14. Advertisement depicting milk shakes as healthy.
15. Ad promoting Guiness beer as healthy.
16. An 1800s advertisement for Coca-Cola that claims the soft drink can cure headaches and exhaustion.
17. Ad claiming that Ovaltine cures anxiety.
18. Ad for a milk of magnesia that promotes it as a cure for “feeling like you’re smoking too much.”
19. Advertisement for DDT portraying it as safe. DDT is a pesticide that was found to be incredibly toxic to animals and people that came into contact it.
What did you think of these vintage ads? Crazy, right? Well, some people think it’s not too different in today’s world. We have candy bar cereal, pseudoscience remedies, and things that are proclaimed safe now probably won’t be in 20 years. Something to think about.