Snake Oil and Mothers’ Milk: Victorian Patent Medicine Advertising
Before still photography, movies, and magazines radically altered visual culture, lithography made color printing cheap, and trade cards quickly became the first mass advertising medium. Advertising ephemera are exceptional documents for social analysis.
Drawing on the analysis I conducted on a comprehensive medical trade card collection, this illustrated lecture discusses the ways women are depicted in the images found in North American patent medicine advertising trade cards ca. 1870-1895.
I found this collection to be representative of the work of a good range of significant late 19th-century patent medicine proprietors and lithographers.
It offers a fairly representative range of types of advertising images of women, as compared to the images found in trade card reference publications. Significant differences, but also striking similarities, are also noted between the ways women were framed in these first mass advertisements and in contemporary print advertising.
Presenter Profile: Phaedra Livingstone, Assistant Professor, Arts Administration
Phaedra Livingstone is an assistant professor and the Museum Studies coordinator in the University of Oregon Arts Administration Program. She is interested in the many factors that influence the interpretation of artifacts and the limits of museum learning, and in particular, how contemporary historical or intercultural consciousness is mediated by museum and heritage experiences and the normative nature of museum interpretation and display. Livingstone draws from her extensive museum, gallery, and heritage experience, and applies feminist research methods in her work.