The red vegetable pill or the blue vegetable pill?

Graefenberg Gazette (New York, NY),  August 1847.

464331_0001The first thing that should grab your attention about this advertisement sheet is that it is printed in red ink.  This was a marketing trick by the Graefenberg Company that put out a wide variety of pills and elixirs.  This particular sheet promoted their vegetable pills, sarsaparilla compounds, eye lotion, Green Mountain compound, fever and ague pills, children’s panacea, and health bitters.  The promotional pieces on the back page are in English, German, French, and Spanish.  This is issue number three and on the front page is the third chapter of a story that began in the first issue.

Because it is an advertising piece, very few copies have survived.  As far as we can tell, this third issue is the latest known.  We happen to have the first issue dated September 1846.  It states under the title that it is published periodically.  Considering ours is the third issue in almost a year, periodically is an understatement.

Now back to the red ink.  When this was first printed, the text must have been a vibrant red on clean white paper.  As you can see, today the red ink has faded a bit (common with this color), and the foxing of the paper has added to the difficulty of reading the text.   Even when you enlarge the image, it is very difficult to read the faded text against the slightly browning background.  Perhaps you need their eye lotion.

Published by

Vincent Golden

Curator of Newspapers and Periodicals, American Antiquarian Society

One thought on “The red vegetable pill or the blue vegetable pill?”

  1. I have a very small oval box–made of thin wood–from Graefenberg Company and it is their Vegetable Pills. There are actually pills inside it. It has beautiful blue graphics and in the center I thought it was glue residue where some picture or emblem had fallen off. But no–it is red ink and I used a Jeweler’s Loupe to see the wording. Very rare item! Happy to provide pictures if you want.

    Thank you so much!
    Kari Hayes

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