Advertising in the 1930s

A Tasmanian news magazine from August 1930 shines a light on advertising claims for medicines of that time, writes Ralph Tapping

The Illustrated Tasmanian Mail was a 70-page weekly magazine featuring local news, accompanied by a range of advertisments. In the days before television, computers, the internet and smart phones, and when commercial radio was in its infancy, advertising was confined to print media like newspapers and periodicals, supplemented by in-store displays.

The Tasmanian Mail was printed on newsprint-quality paper, so reproducing the images for the AJP
with sufficient clarity is difficult, but it is interesting to reflect on the style of advertising used in the era.

This was a period when exaggerated claims were made for medicinal products, often accompanied by written testimonials endorsing “Cures” for a host of conditions.

Hearne’s Bronchitis Cure, which in later years changed its name to Hearne’s Bronchitis Mixture, was a
typical example.  

One particularly outlandish claim for this product was as a cure for “Fits & Epilepsy”!

“Merson’s Regd. Wonder
For Epilepsy
No Bromide of Potash
Mr Merson Proprietor
Completely cured after
22 years illness
Safe & sure—Send for
Particulars & Testimonials
Advice free—TH Merson
248 Collins St., Melbourne

Another ad for Clements Tonic, features an endorsement from a golf professional who said it “steadies up
the nerves and tones up the system generally”.

The “Barry’s Trichopherous” poster came from a similar era. The advertisement claims that the product was: “Guaranteed to restore the hair to bald heads, and make it grow thick, long and soft”.

It’s hard to know if that one is targeted at the male or female demographic?

In the same publication, radio sets were advertised for sale, with the promise of being able to “Listen into
the Test Cricket”. 

Prices for valve sets started at 35 pounds ($70) which was quite expensive, considering that the average
weekly wage would have been only three or four pounds—hence there was only one radio in a home, with the family gathered around.

A cheap alternative was the crystal set that picked up radio transmissions from all over. Never heard of a crystal set? Ask your father or grandfather to explain…..


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