18th July 2011
Good News for Bad Legs
The inclusion of interesting ephemera in a specialised collection can do a great deal to bring one’s period of study to life, setting stamps and covers amid their historical background.
The Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 lends itself to this admirably and the Richard Stroud collection of the Orange Free State, currently in preparation for the September auction, contains a number of items that tell of times more oppressive yet somehow more innocent, and occasionally more optimistic, than today.
My favourite has to be his inclusion of the Bloemfontein newspaper The Friend of March 16th 1900 containing Field Marshal Roberts’ “Proclamation to the Burghers of the Orange Free State” which seeks to both justify the invasion of Boer territory and set out terms for the people under Imperial occupation. This is fascinating in itself but right alongside the announcement on the back cover is an advertisement for a product of such note, of such universal efficacy, that it would surely outperform anything we can provide today, for all our so-called “scientific breakthroughs”.
The full transcription of the advertisement reads as follows:
“HAVE YOU A BAD LEG
With wounds that discharge or otherwise, perhaps surrounded with inflammation and swollen, that when you press your finger on the inflamed part it leaves the impression? If so, under the skin you have poison that defies all the remedies you have tried, which if not extracted, you never can recover, but go on suffering till death releases you. Perhaps your knees are swollen, the joints being ulcerated, the same with the ankles, round which the skin may be discoloured, or there may be wounds; the disease if allowed to continue will deprive you of the power to walk. You may have attended various hospitals and had medical advice and been told your case is hopeless, or advised to submit to amputation; but do not, for I can cure you. I don't say perhaps, but I will. Because others have failed, it is no reason I should. Send at once to the Drug Stores for ALBERT'S Grasshopper Ointment and Pills, which is a certain remedy for the cure of Bad Legs, Housemaid's Knee, Ulcerated Joints, Carbunkles, Poisoned Hands, Abscesses, Corns, and Bunions. Agents, B.G. LENNON & CO ALBERTS, 73, Farringdon Street, London, Eng Registered."
Now, I have to admit that on occasion I have had a bad leg. Asking around I find that almost everyone I meet has at some point had one too. I am appealing then, does anyone know where we can now find Albert’s Grasshopper Ointment and Pills? They clearly should be in every medicine cupboard. Better yet, does anyone know a recipe for crushing grasshoppers into a useful paste? We have plenty around here and a few would not be missed.
This also makes our own Grosvenor advertising seem very tame. Perhaps we should try a similar approach. Something like:
"HAVE YOU A DECAYING COLLECTION
With brown spots and a musty smell ? Does your wife suggest that it has an odour of pipe tobacco or that the cat may have sprayed on it ? You may have attended valuation days and had expert advice and been told your albums are hopeless and should be burnt. Well, you should let us sell them for you, then, before they rot away to nothing ..."
On the whole I think perhaps not.