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The Deadly Pain Medicine Sold by Skeletons

It seems a bit counterproductive to market medicine with images of skeletons, but that’s exactly what happened at the end of the 19th century. Antikamnia was a medicine purported to fight pain and fever. The promotional materials included artwork and calendars populated by dead people, which might have driven off consumers, but were popular with the targeted audience: doctors.   

The company aggressively marketed its goods to physicians with direct mailings and promotional products. (Although the medicine was never patented and required no prescription, its makers hoped the freebies would entice doctors to recommend the products.) One of those promotional goods was a limited-edition calendar created for the years 1897 to 1901, and featuring the darkly comic illustrations of one Louis Crusius. A doctor as well as an artist, Crusius’s illustrations once graced the windows of the drug store he co-owned in St. Louis. In 1893, he’d published The Funny Bone, a compilation of his jokes and drawings. His calendars, though, seem to have been his most successful effort, and they still routinely fetch hundreds of dollars on eBay, at antique stores, and on ephemera-related sites.

The irony is that Antikamnia turned out to be quite dangerous, even deadly. Read the story of Antokamnia and its marketing materials at mental_floss. See more images from the Antikamnia calendar at BibliOdyssey.


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