In Fort Worth newspapers of the late nineteenth century, the ads—almost as much as the new stories—tell us about life in old Cowtown. Take, for example, ads for patent medicines that were guaranteed to restore “lost manhood” and “vigor of men.”
In the ads below note the early use of “before” and “after” images. Also note that in each “before” image the man’s mustache is droopy, downtrodden. Sad, sad ’stache. But in each “after” image the man’s mustache has a definite uptilt. It’s positively poised to take flight. I think we all recognize a symbol when it’s right under our very nose.
Indapo was a “great Hindoo remedy” that would give “vigor and size to shrunken organs” and restore “lost manhood” in just thirty days. Indeed, the images show that after just twenty days the tips of the man’s mustache have risen above the horizon.
Cupidene was a “Vegetable Vitalizer” based on the prescription of a famous French physician. Cupidene cured “lost manhood” and “unfitness to marry.” “Cupidene strengthens and restores small weak organs.” And indeed, judging from the illustrations, Cupidene was guaranteed in just thirty days to transform a weak, debilitated man into Inspector Hercule Poirot.
Nerve Berries were guaranteed to restore the “vigor of men.” They were the cure for “weaknesses” resulting from “early errors and later excesses.” They stopped “unnatural losses caused by youthful errors or excessive use of tobacco, opium and liquor, which lead to consumption and insanity.” Once again we can see that after just thirty days of Nerve Berries, a man’s mustache would be cleared for takeoff on Runway Whoopee.
Today we dismiss such patent medicines as snake-oil quackery marketed to prey on the insecurity and gullibility of men, but such medicines were respectable in their time. Note that all three products were sold locally at the drugstore of J. P. Nicks on Main Street. Joseph Preston Nicks (1850-1899) was a prominent citizen: a city councilman, even mayor pro tem, a school board trustee, chairman of the city Democratic Executive Committee. He was president of the Tarrant County Druggists’ Association and a member of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church.
It is not known if he had a mustache.
Read All About It
Lost Fort Worth is available as a paperback and as an e-book (Kindle, Nook). Readers can buy the book at local Barnes & Noble bookstores, Sam's, and Costco or order from
Barnes & Noble
Book signing and presentation: 5 p.m. Saturday, March 15 at Starr Conspiracy, 122 South Main Street, as part of the Wildcatter Exchange, “a two-day multi-venue festival celebrating Fort Worth’s history as an epicenter of narrative energy.”
More information at Lost Fort Worth.
About the Header
March's header is a cascade at the Water Gardens on a warm summer day. Remember warm summer days?
Hometown Top 10
- About Face
- Bricks and Martyr
- Casas Grande
- Century Club
- Cities of the Dead
- Cowtown in Motion
- Downtown, All Around
- Fort Worth Underfoot
- Life in the Past Lane
- On a Clear Day
- Public Art
- Rails 'n' Roundhouses
- Rollin' on the River
- Water Works