Sweet Extract Of Hokum


The Pinkham children filled and corked the bottles and folded handbills. Mother got up the medicine and demonstrated a real Hair for publicity. Son Dan, too, was touched with promotional genius. One of his ideas was to scatter little cards in the parks of Brooklyn, New York, “so small …” he pointed out in a family letter, “that it wouldn’t pay for rag and paper pickers to pick them up”; another gambit, which worked out very well, was to drop personal notes, appearing to have been accidentally lost, in cemeteries just before the Memorial Day crowds arrived. The notes urgently recommended, of course, the regular useof Lydia’s “Greatest Remedy in the World.” But the gut idea was to put Mrs. Pinkham’s picture on the package, right above where it said “Contains 18 per cent of Alcohol.” How Lydia, an enthusiastic member of the W.C.T.U. , adjusted her principles to this generous infusion of spirits, or how, being a Victorian lady, she endured the exploitation of her picture, history does not disclose. No doubt she found that the end justified the means. At any rate, she died rich in worldly goods, which became the subject of bitter litigation among the surviving Pinkham stockholders. Lydia was blessed also in the gifts of the spirit, for she was friend, confidante, and benefactress of untold thousands of women who had some maladjustment in their lives and had responded gratefully to her invitation to “Write to Mrs. Pinkham.”

“OH-H-H, we’ll sing of Lydia Pinkham…”
Women and Children First
“After using your product for one week, I am happy to state…”

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when country editors were not well supplied with portraits of prominent women, the electrotype of Mrs. Pinkham was often the only one to be found in the print shop, with the result that her face was presented at one time or another as a recent picture of Lily Langtry. as Dr. Mary Walker, the lady who wore men’s trousers, as President Cleveland’s new bride, as Sarah Bernhardt, and even as Queen Victoria. The cast-iron smile of the famous picture, the black silk dress with a bit of white ruching at the neck, the evident sincerity and respectability of homey, trustworthy, sadly sweet Mrs. Pinkham, tickled the national sense of humor. There were Pinkham jokes and editorial pleasantries. Bill Nye, the professional humorist, nominated Mrs. Pinkham for President; college boys wrote in pseudonymously for advice on timidity, frigidity, and similar intimate matters, and they sang merrily in fraternity houses, to the tune of the old Gospel hymn. “I Will Sing of My Redeemer”:

Tell me, Lydia, of your secrets, And the wounders you perform, How you take the sick and ailing And restore them to the norm? Mrs. Jones of Walla Walla, Mrs. Smith of Kankakee, Mrs. Cohen, Mrs. Murphy Sing your praises lustily There’s a baby in every bottle, So the old quotation ran, But the Federal Trade Commission Still insists you’ll need a man. Refrain: OH-H-H, we’ll sing of Lydia Pinkham And her love for the Human Race. How she sells her Vegetable Compound, And the papers, the papers they publish, they publish her FACE!

No objections were ever raised by the Pinkham Medicine Company to the free advertising contained in the quips and the sometimes-ribald verses about the efficacy of their product.