Summary

Rare and novel panoramic format advertising postcard titled 'All the Dam Family Swear by Dr Morse's Indian Root Pills'.

It features cartoon style caricatures of 'The Whole Dam Family' which was the centre of an early 20th century pop-culture fad that spawned a variety of ephemera including postcards, posters, music, and toys. The humour centred around a dysfunctional family with an unfortunate last name that was compounded with a variety of first names and initials to extend the joke - in this case Miss U.B. Dam, Nurse, Mr. I.B. Dam, Lizzie Dam, Baby Dam, Jimmy Dam and The Dam Dog.

Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills were one of the most popular of thousands of patent medicines and remedies widely sold throughout the world during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Like many of these products it was based on a secret recipe variously described as containing 'herbal' or 'purely vegetable' ingredients. Much of the commercial success and longevity this product was due to the entrepreneurial genius of William Henry Comstock, whose father Edwin P. Comstock, had founded a patent medicine business in New York City in 1833. The product itself was actually first formulated and manufactured Andrew B. Moore of Buffalo, New York, in 1854. There was no real "Dr Morse", the character was entirely factious, although the Comstock Company later invented an elaborate history for the origin of the pill's secrets in which "the famous and celebrated Dr Morse after completing his education in medical science travelled widely in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America and spent three years among the Indians of the west country". The product was sold by local chemists and storekeepers, for 1s l½d per bottle, or six bottles for six shillings, and could also be obtained by mail order.

When William Henry Comstock died in 1919, control of the company passed to his son, William Henry Comstock II, known as "Young Bill." William Henry Comstock II died in 1960, and W.H. Comstock Co. Ltd. ceased operations a year later. In Australia advertising of the product tapered off in the late 1940s in line with a general decline in the popularity of patent medicines as the pharmaceutical and medical industries became increasing scientific.

Physical Description

Illustrated advertising folding postcard, printed in sepia, comprised of three illustrated internal panels, address panel and advertisement panel on the reverse. Postally used with Sydney postmark 12 September 1905 and received postmark of Cirencester (UK), 17 October 1905.

Significance

Whilst numerous postcards featuring the 'Dam Family' were produced for advertising purposes in the USA, this rare Australian example was released by W.H. Comstock Co. Ltd of Sydney, manufacturers and distributors of Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills and cleverly taps into popular culture of the day while reinforcing the company's key message that this was a product recommended for regular use by the whole family.

This item relates strongly to other parts of the MV collections concerning patent medicines and remedies such as the 1850s Trade Tokens for Professor Holloway's, Pills & Ointment and the extensive W.T. Rawleigh Company Collection.

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