The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive

16 Bizarro Ads From Scientific American, December 1881

The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive

In late 1881, the first issue of the Los Angeles Times hit newsstands, President James Garfield died and was replaced by Chester Arthur, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral went down, and Pablo Picasso was born. It was a tumultuous time, but Scientific American barreled on as a home for the science-minded, which in those days meant inventors! Patent-seekers! Tool-makers! Tool-users! The magazine began publication in 1845 (!) and is still around today, making it the longest continually published monthly magazine in the U.S.

If you turn to the last few pages of the December 3, 1881 edition of Scientific American, you find the best treats: the ads. Here are some of my favorites.

1. A Permanent Cure for Asthma

Poor Dr. Stinson. I don't think this one worked.

2. Dyke's Beard Elixir

"Forces" hair growth, even on the bald. Again... not a winner.

3. Bronchitis (and Catarrh) Cure

Comes with free "valuable treatise!" And here, like a chump, I'm still paying for my treatises.

4. Alcoholism & Opium Addiction Cure

Oh, come on. At least it's free.

5. Steady Work

Always a solid offer. Would be nice to see a salary listed, but hey.

6. (Asbestos-Lined) Boiler Coverings

Yay, asbestos! Slap some of these on the boilers you made in #5 and you're all set!

7. Deafness Cure

"Garmore's Artificial Ear Drums?" I don't think these worked all that well.

8. Ice By the Ton

This is selling a machine to make ice. Ice has a surprisingly cool history.

9. Patent for an Electric Lamp

Granted to Joseph Best, you can read the text of this patent online. Appears to be a carbon arc light.

10. An Electric Light

If you don't want to buy a patent, how about a working light?

11. Sell Your Patents

Everybody's inventing stuff, so why not sell your ideas?

12. The Bell "Speaking Telephone"

Okay, this one turned out to be a winner.

13. Pensions for Soldiers

With many veterans still living, and maybe unaware of their rights, this firm promised to tell them how to get some dough out of lost limbs and such.

14. Calligraphy

Rather than use the four-syllable "calligraphy," "round writing" sounded much more approachable. Pen included!

15. The Science of Life, or Self-Preservation

You can read this book online. Virtually all of it is concerned with issues of spermatorrhea and "the physiology of marriage." Ahem. Know thyself, indeed.

16. The Organita!

"The finest instrument of [its] kind in the world." This was a kind of barrel organ, playing prearranged music on paper tape. Over 300 tunes available! Music only $0.04 per foot!

BONUS: Advertising Rates for Scientific American

So what did it cost to place these ads? Not much! You could manufacture one ton of ice for a single ad line on the back pages! Okay, maybe a buck a line was actually a lot. (Approximately $23 in today's dollars.)

All images courtesy of The Internet Archive, where you can read the entire magazine for free.

How Google Chrome’s New Built-In Ad Blocker Will Change Your Browsing Experience

If you can’t stand web ads that auto-play sound and pop up in front of what you’re trying to read, you have two options: Install an ad blocker on your browser or avoid the internet all together. Starting Thursday, February 15, Google Chrome is offering another tool to help you avoid the most annoying ads on the web, Tech Crunch reports. Here’s what Google Chrome users should expect from the new feature.

Chrome’s ad filtering has been in development for about a year, but the details of how it will work were only recently made public. “While most advertising on the web is respectful of user experience, over the years we've increasingly heard from our users that some advertising can be particularly intrusive,” Google wrote in a blog post. “As we announced last June, Chrome will tackle this issue by removing ads from sites that do not follow the Better Ads Standards.

That means the new feature won’t block all ads from publishers or even block most of them. Instead, it will specifically target ads that violate the Better Ad Standards that the Coalition for Better Ads recommends based on consumer data. On desktop, this includes auto-play videos with sound, sticky banners that follow you as you scroll, pop-ups, and prestitial ads that make you wait for a countdown to access the site. Mobile Chrome users will be spared these same types of ads as well as flashing animations, ads that take up more than 30 percent of the screen, and ads the fill the whole screen as you scroll past them.

These criteria still leave room for plenty of ads to show up online—the total amount of media blocked by the feature won’t even amount to 1 percent of all ads. So if web browsers are looking for an even more ad-free experience, they should use Chrome’s ad filter as a supplement to one of the many third-party ad blockers out there.

And if accessing content without navigating a digital obstacle course first doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t worry: On sites where ads are blocked, Google Chrome will show a notification that lets you disable the feature.

[h/t Tech Crunch]

Why Subliminal Messaging Doesn't Work (Unless You Want It To)

Subliminal messages—hidden phrases in TV programs, movies, and ads—probably won't make you run out and join the Navy, appreciate a band's music, or start smoking. That's because these sneaky suggestions don't really change consumer behavior, even though many people believe otherwise, according to Sci Show Psych.

We say "don't really" because subliminal messages can sway the already motivated, research shows. For example, a 2002 study of 81 college students found that parched subjects drank more water after being subliminally primed with words like "dry" and "thirsty." (Participants who weren't already thirsty drank less.) A follow-up experiment involving 35 undergrads yielded similar results, with dehydrated students selecting sports drinks described as "thirst-quenching" over "electrolyte-restoring" after being primed for thirst. Experiments like these won't work on, say, chocolate-loving movie audiences who are subliminally instructed by advertisers to purchase popcorn instead.

Learn more about how subliminal messaging affects (or doesn't affect) our decision-making, and why you likely won't encounter ads with under-the-radar suggestions on the regular.


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