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 It was accompanied by a bunch of other old ads that are all, from the perspective of 2013, radically outdated for one reason or another.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.


Fred Bush

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


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.

Fred Bush

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.


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.

Dwight K Schrute

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


And exactly how is the Colt ad outdated?


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.

Paul Craig

"Go On - Have A Fag!" is a fake too, it's from a 90s (?) British adult comic called the Viz.

Funny politically incorrect advertising


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.


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.


How disappointing. Makes sense though...


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


cola ad is fake. thanks for checking up on these!


Don't know about babies, but when/where I grew up (way back in the hills), we got cola as a remedy for an upset stomach - and only as a remedy, it wasn't thought of as a drink.

Kirsten Nelson

Love the ads for domesticated women. We dream of new vacuums and kitchen appliances for Christmas!

Joe D

Sometimes, the kitchen appliance is the right gift for the right person, when it's done thoughtfully.

One year, my mom's mixer broke down right around Thanksgiving. My dad brilliantly bought her a restaurant-quality KitchenAid 5Q stand mixer. It stayed, wrapped, behind the couch, through her entire ordeal of Christmas preparations (especially the cookies) with arthritic hands.

Christmas morning, she unwrapped it, and he had no idea why she nearly killed him.


In simple words... ' Paradox of time '