Barbwire: If only pictures could talk to us | Columns

While visiting recently, my eldest son expressed a desire to retrieve some of my mother’s genealogy information. During my mom’s later years, she became very involved in genealogy.

She did researching for numerous people all over the United States. All of her materials and books remain in her house, as well as other items she had, just across the driveway from mine. One of those items, for no explainable reason, has often kept coming to my mind. It is a picture that has hung in my mom’s bedroom for as long as I can remember. I suggested that, while getting the items he wanted, that my son bring me that picture. That request led to a very interesting discovery!

The frame on the picture is 15 inches wide and three feet in length. The full length picture is of a beautiful young woman with brown hair and blue eyes. She is wearing a long, evening-style dress of a pale lilac color and matching slippers. There is a matching band around her hair with plumes attached and she wears a long beaded necklace.

She is surrounded by flowers, most of them are yellow. Near the bottom of the picture is what seems to be a very large glass or mug with a brown bear sitting inside. You can only see the woman, nothing else is showing in the picture.

My son took a picture with his phone and began to research on the internet. He found several pictures of young women similar to it, but none exactly like it. These pictures are referred to as “art pieces”. They were used to advertise numerous beer companies’ products before and after prohibition. The pictures were done on textured material by a unique method for making multi-colored prints developed in the 19th century called “chromolithograph”.

Brewers made advertising an art before prohibition and one of the advertising strategies was, “the more beautiful the object, the longer they keep it on the wall”.

One of the items these pictures were used to advertise was “Pabst Blue Ribbon Extract” and it was sold as a tonic for many purposes, but especially for mothers and babies. The following appeared in an advertisement: “For Mother and Baby-at that anxious period before and immediately after baby is born, when mother must bear a double burden, it is vitally important that she take on double strength. Nourishing and strengthening food must be provided in plenty for both mother and child, while for the mother herself there comes a time of suffering, the dread and realism of which will be greatly lessened if she will steadily prepare the way by the use of ‘Pabst Extract, The Best Tonic’.

This rich, wholesome, food combining the nutritive and tonic properties of malt and hops in palatable and predigested form is welcomed by the weakest stomach and quickly assimilated by the system. It gives strength to the muscles, revitalizes the blood and furnishes nourishment in abundance for the growing child, at the same time it calms the nerves, inducing sweet, refreshing sleep for the mother and babe.”

It was also recommended for the convalescent, to aid digestion, restoring the nervous system, for the weak, worn-out and overworked and for quick relief of dyspepsia! “For sale at leading druggists. Guaranteed by the National Pure Food Law U.S. Serial No. 1521”.

In loosening and lifting a very small piece of the covering on the bottom of the back of the picture, we discovered four small calendar squares with the months of January, February, March and April, 1916! The discovery of this picture has led to a lot of questions for us. Where did it come from and when, how did it wind up in my mother’s bedroom, did she know what it was for?

My grandmothers on both sides were dead set against alcohol and drinking, so I can’t imagine them having this type of advertisement on display! If only this picture could talk to us! The tales it might tell!

Barb Lumley wrote this column to be published in The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.

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