Blood, Phlegm, and Bile

Snake oil salesmen used to peddle their magic cure-alls in town squares, but now they hawk their tonics through print ads. (Flip to this publication's back page and count how many times you see the word pain.) The Wolfsonian Museum examines the evolution of such messages in its recently opened exhibit "Advertising for Health." It features rare advertisements, printed material, and posters from the past century, all donated to the museum by William H. Helfand, a former pharmaceutical exec and fanatical collector of medical ephemera.

One of our favorites from the show is a 1904 ad that states, "Girls who go to work are often sufferers from biliousness and anemia. For such cases Bile Beans are unequal." We had a hunch that our jobs were making us sick. Now we just need to find these 97-year-old magic beans, which, if you believe the writing on the wall, can cure workplace ailments such as liver chills, constipation, and hallucinations. Oh, Bile Beans, you had us at girls.
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: May 16. Continues through Dec. 31, 2010
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Amanda McCorquodale

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