Beer for Babies and the Tapeworm Diet

In our podcast “100 Ways to Fight Obesity,” Steve Levitt and David Laibson discuss the possibility of using tapeworms to fight weight gain. (Seriously.) That prompted a reader named Scott Genevish to send us a real-seeming (?) old advertisement for “Sanitized Tapeworms, Jar Packed” (below). It was accompanied by a bunch of other old ads that are all, from the perspective of 2013, radically outdated for one reason or another. I have no idea if all the ads are real; I’m sure most of them have made the online rounds before. Still, it might be worth a look — especially when you think about how the line between repugnant and not repugnant can shift over time, sometimes faster and more dramatically than you’d ever predict.


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  1. Fred Bush says:

    I think the tapeworm ad is faked. Here’s what looks like the original:

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  2. william says:

    When I was at The House on The Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, their streets of yesterday collection included a replica drugstore that had a bottle of tapeworms in the window display with a very similar advertisement. Most of the collections there seem to be authentic.

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    • Fred Bush says:

      Well, the tapeworm ad clearly uses the same text and iconography as the Graham Sanitarium ad I linked to. R Lincoln Graham was a quack who worked with “water cures” and an obesity cure based on neutroids, ad above. He loved publicity, sold by mail, and took out multiple newspaper ads for neutroids.

      However, I can find no link between Graham and tapeworms. There are plenty of scanned old newspapers with the neutroid ad, but none with the tapeworm ad.

      There aren’t a lot of possibilities here that involve the tapeworm ad being authentic.

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    • Dave says:

      The House on the Rock is the most anti-authentic place in the world. It is worse than the Internet. EVERYTHING is fake!

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  3. Clancy says:

    Ok, but the Real Question is: What ads do we see as normal that future generations will find repugnant or laughably ignorant?

    We should start a (long-running) contest.

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    • Dwight K Schrute says:

      hopefully reality TV, the kartrashians and cat videos on you tube would be found by a future civilization as being repugnant or laughably ignorant

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  4. Rick says:

    And exactly how is the Colt ad outdated?

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    • matt says:

      It hearkens back to a time when insecure men equated masculinity with the potential exercise of deadly force, and the illusion of control such a device could create. Oh wait. Not dated.

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  5. Paul Craig says:

    “Go On – Have A Fag!” is a fake too, it’s from a 90s (?) British adult comic called the Viz.

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  6. says:

    Funny politically incorrect advertising

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  7. SC says:

    This particular tapeworm ad may or may not be authentic, but I know it was a real fad diet. There was a similar ad in my American history textbook in HS.

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    • Matt says:

      As a high school history teacher, that may very well be a lazy publisher who thought it was a neat factoid but got duped by the fakes… Those books aren’t definitive sources of much.

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  8. Janice says:

    The beer wasn’t for the baby, but for the nursing mother. It was frequently recommended to help a mother relax and stimulate her milk supply

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    • silent e says:

      The funny thing about the beer for baby ad isn’t the beer, which as Janice points out is recommended for milk production (although nowadays usually non-alcoholic beer is the recommendation). The funnier part is their refusal to mention breast-feeding as the reason which makes the ad seem so weird. Don’t mention boobies!

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