19th century personal “enhancement” products


It’s Flashback Friday, where we take a look at an item, trend, or event from history.

In the course of some recent research, I was looking through my copy of the 1897 Sears Roebuck catalogue when the following page caught my eye:

I know the left edge is hard to see (I couldn’t hold it flat enough over the scanner), so here is some of the pitch for the “Princess Bust Developer”:  “If Nature has not favored you with that greatest charm, bosom, full and perfect, send for the Princess Bust Developer, and you will be pleased over the result of a few weeks’ use.”

And don’t forget the bust cream (or food?!) – looks like a peanut butter jar, doesn’t it?  I wonder how many ladies ingested the cream instead of slathering it on themselves.

Also, for those ladies “inclined to baldness,” we have the Princess Tonic Hair Restorer (below).   Wow, it does everything: gets rid of gray, restores shine and body, grows new hair, and removes dandruff and “scurf” (a term that’s new to me, but it sounds awful, doesn’t it?).

Ah, yes, we’re all laughing….

However, tonics, gadgets, pills, and creams to cure various cosmetic problems aren’t unique to the 19th century.  Remember these more recent inventions?

The Thigh Master

image via amazon.com

The Neckline Slimmer:

image via amazon.com

And how about – Spray-On Hair:


image via amazon.com
image via amazon.com


What do you think of “enhancement” products?  Do you have any guilty secrets collecting dust in your closet or medicine cabinet?  I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,


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23 thoughts on “19th century personal “enhancement” products”

  1. Gloria RichardGloria Richard

    LOVE those old adverts, Kathy. I purchased a magazine from the 50’s (BH&G perhaps?) and it had an advert for “ODOR OHNO.” A “brand new product” to eliminate embarrassing personal odors.

    And, Chef Boy R Dee was THE latest thing for making the “June Cleaver look-a-like” sketch keep HUBBY happy. It was all about keeping HUBBY happy back-in-the-day.

    SO glad I finally found your site.

  2. Julie GloverJulie Glover

    It just supports that saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I’m sure there are many plastic surgeons glad that the bust cream didn’t work that well. Great stuff, Kathy!

  3. Nancy LauzonNancy Lauzon

    Soooo funny. I guess things haven’t changed much, except we’ve gone high tech with enhancement surgeries. People are forever looking for that ‘magic bullet’!

  4. Coleen PatrickColeen Patrick

    So funny! I remember reading the old ads on the Wendy’s tables when I was a kid.
    I guess we’re always looking for the magical answer 🙂

  5. Tiffany A WhiteTiffany A White

    I believe in some enhancement products, like the thigh master, etc. But not the “sexual” enhancement products. Call me a pessimist. Or better yet. A Realist. Or maybe an experimentalist. Haha. Just Kidding! LOL

  6. Alyssa Linn PalmerAlyssa Linn Palmer

    I’m wondering what was in that Bust Cream…. ‘vegetable oils’ and…?

    I suppose we should be glad it wasn’t lead. 🙂

  7. Karen McFarlandKaren McFarland

    That is so cool that you have an old Sears catalog Kathy. Those are rare gems. It never seems to amaze me how many people fell for those ads. Even today. Thanks for sharing this. I had forgotten about the old catalog. No wonder they used it in lieu of toilet tissue. LOL! 🙂

  8. Louise BehielLouise Behiel

    What fun Kathy. The more things change, the more they stay the same. great read to start my Saturday (can you tell I’m behind?)

  9. IcessIcess

    Been reading for awhile but I’m just now commenting. Mostly because, the “bust cream or food” part of the first ad made me laugh so much!

    Great post!

  10. Tim L O'BrienTim L O'Brien

    I bet there is an overload of funny things from that Sears Catalog. I remember as a child looking through a Sears Catalog for Christmas gift ideas. That big, thick book was fought over with all my brothers and sister. Makes you wonder just how many of those products they actually sold back in the day. Funny stuff. Things really haven’t changed much. The snake oil salesmen just dress a little different these days!

  11. Sonia G MedeirosSonia G Medeiros

    ROFL. Gotta love the funny products. I can only imagine what current products will be even more hilarious years from now.

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