Ads From The 1800s

The Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising has over 60 Buffalo Lithia Water advertisements listed on their site!  One of my favorites is shown below:
Apparently there must have been a large segment of the population that was worried about uric acid poisoning, because that appears to be the headline of this advertisement more than Buffalo Lithia Water.  Testimonials and appeals to various authorities appear throughout ads of this era.  Buffalo Lithia Water was recommended by Dr. Lapponi, "Physician to the Late Pope Leo XIII., and now Physician in Ordinary to Pope Pius X.," Dr. I.N. Love, Dr. Alexander B. Mott, The Late Professor W.B. Towles, M.D., Hunter McGuire, M.D., LL.D., Graeme M. Hammond, M.D., J. Allison Hodges, M.D., and dozens more!  I think you get the point.  Nearly every Buffalo Lithia Water advertisement appeals to authority as their main method of advertising and persuasion.  But how reliable were these "recommendations"? 

Piggybacking on the last blog about Buffalo Lithia Water, I found more information (similar to that of the last post) in "Personal Hygiene Applied" by Jesse Ferring Williams (1922).  Concerning Buffalo Lithia Water and similar mineral waters in regard to actual health effects, he states:

"Some years ago Alexander Haig evolved the theory that most diseases are due to uric acid. The data on which he founded his theory were not corroborated by scientific men, and investigation showed that his methods were unreliable. In spite of the fact that Haig's theories are utterly discredited and have been for years, the uric acid fallacy still persists, although it is now largely confined to the public. Shrewd business men, especially those who are more intent on making money than they are concerned with the manner in which that money is made, owe much to Haig's theory. As a business proposition, uric acid has been one of the best-paying fallacies on the market - and possibly still is.

The government has shown that, to obtain a therapeutic dose of lithium from Buffalo Lithia Springs Water, it would be necessary to drink 200,000 gallons of the water. The government also declared that Potomac River water contained five times as much lithium as does Buffalo Lithia Springs Water. Contemporary with, and to a certain extent a corollary of, the uric acid fallacy was another, viz., that lithium would eliminate uric acid. This at once gave a good working principle for the proprietary men. Uric acid, we were told, causes disease; lithium, we were also told, would eliminate uric acid; therefore, lithium is the new elixir of life! Could anything be simpler?

Accepting this theory, it was inevitable that mineral waters containing lithium salts should become highly popular. Many exploiters of mineral waters began to place most emphasis on the lithium salts in their waters even in those cases in which lithium was present in such infinitesimal amounts as to render its detection impossible by any but spectroscopic methods.

One of the best known because most widely advertised, of the so-called lithia waters is Buffalo Lithia Water - or what used to be called Buffalo Lithia Water. After the Federal Food and Drugs Act came into effect, by which falsification on the label was penalized, the name of Buffalo Lithia Water was changed to Buffalo Lithia Springs Water When Buffalo Lithia Water was subjected to examination by the government chemists it was found to contain so little lithium that the amount present was unweighable - it could be demonstrated only by the spectroscope. It was evidently, therefore, not a lithia water in that it did not contain - at least in quantities that could be consumed - an amount of lithium that would give the therapeutic effects of lithium. Possibly the company imagined that by changing the name from 'Buffalo Lithia Water' to 'Buffalo Lithia Springs Water' it had cleverly evaded the federal law. Their argument, apparently, was to this effect: The springs from which this water is taken are known as Buffalo Lithia Springs; therefore, it is not a misstatement of facts to call this Buffalo Lithia Springs Water.

WHAT IS A LITHIA WATER? The Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, holding a district court, has recently given an opinion on the Buffalo Lithia Springs Water case. The findings of the court are refreshingly simple, and characterized by that broad common-sense view that is becoming increasingly more common among modern jurists. Read Judge Gould's opinion as to what constitutes a lithia water:

'Speaking generally, and as an individual of average intelligence and information, it would seem that if one were offered a water which the vendor told him was a 'lithia' water, one would have the right to expect enough lithium in the water to justify its characterization as such, thus differentiating it from ordinary potable water; and this amount would reasonably be expected to have some effect on the consumer of the water by reason of the presence of the lithium.'

Certainly a reasonable attitude, and one which the man in the street not only can understand but will agree with. Then came the question as to the actual lithium content of Buffalo Lithia Springs Water, and the court said:

'For a person to obtain a therapeutic dose of lithium by drinking Buffalo Lithia Water he would have to drink from 150,000 to 225,000 gallons of water per day. It was further testified, without contradiction, that Potomac River water contains five times as much lithium per gallon as the water in controversy.'"

It is amazing to see the development of science and medicine within just a few decade's time.  This obviously still happens today - the science or medical world makes a new discovery about a disease, or gene, or medicine, or diet, and everyone jumps on board with the new theory.  Many times, these same ideas may be changed or even refuted entirely by the same community.  In the meantime, pharaceutical companies and others that see an opportunity for profit capitalize on the latest medical/health "trends."  I guess if just goes to show that history really does repeat itself.  We can look at some of these ads and almost laugh at how absurdly ridiculous they seem, and yet our modern-day advertising (in the same vein) will likely be mocked by those in generations to silly we

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