In a world full of government regulations where every light bulb comes in a package explaining how you shouldn't eat it, it's easy to forget that it wasn't always like this. Once upon a time, not only did manufacturers not care what we did with their product, they seemed to build entire ad campaigns around tempting us to use them to kill our children.
We understand that the 1950s were a different time -- you apparently weren't allowed to file a liability lawsuit until you first proved your worth by fighting a bear in the courtroom. Still, we're fairly certain that even back then, babies needed oxygen to survive.
This Du Pont Cellophane advertisement actually looked to raise the bar beyond mere irresponsibility by promising that this product could asphyxiate a number of babies at once.
One thing we left off our recent list of time travel dangers: In the past, the average five-year-old girl was more of a man than most modern men will ever be. Apparently, little girls took revolvers to bed just in case they needed to kill a dude during their nap. This ad appeared in Harpers in 1904, in case any time travelers are wondering what era to avoid if they don't like playing the most permanent game of freeze tag possible.
We're thinking that generation's whole mindset can be summed up by this ad's two warnings: "Absolutely Safe" and "they shoot straight and kill." These were a people who saw no contradiction in those two statements. If you got shot, it was your own damned fault for getting in front of the gun.
At what age should you be ashamed about your lack of a deep, sexy tan? About two weeks, if you're living in 1960 and believe this ad for a Du Pont Health Tan Sun Lamp. This was decades before infant spray-tans were available, so concerned mothers had no choice but to hold their babies under its "long tanning rays" for hour after hour.
Fortunately, you can mount it on your bed and "Sleep Under It." Though the baby wouldn't know when to turn over to keep his South Beach tan even, so you'd presumably have to strap him to some kind of rotisserie device that'd slowly twirl him around.
We can forgive this 1960 ad for the children's sedative Distaval for the fact that the product's active ingredient was thalidomide (famous for getting pulled from shelves in 1961 for causing birth defects). They presumably didn't know at the time. But we're thinking that even 50 years ago, it wasn't considered good parenting to tell your three-year-old, "Why don't you go to the bathroom and get yourself a little bit o' sedative. You need to mellow out, son."
Though this whole self-service approach to children's medication was apparently not that uncommon, considering ...
Seriously, check out the dazed, stupefied look the kid on the left is sporting, while her sibling tries desperately to somehow open the giant bottle with a spoon. Both can be explained by the fact that Ayer's Cherry Pectoral, a self-proclaimed cure-all for any throat or lung problems, contained opium.
Yeah, don't wait for Mommy and Daddy to pry open the 50-gallon drum of opium juice, young Sally. We'll show you how to get the lid off with common household utensils. Just don't depend on little Mary for help -- she'll be spending the next three days marveling at how the whole world seems to be covered in fur.
This seemed to be a common theme with the Ayer's people ...
Stop and think about the last time you struggled with getting a "childproof" pill bottle open. Now look at this 1890 advertisement for Ayer's Cathartic Pills, which makes pill containers look like a giggling wonderland for naked toddlers to frolic in. "Hey, look, Steve brought a huge stick of butter! Ha-ha, the old days are frickin' rad you guys!"
By the way, if you don't know what cathartic pills are or why it's a terrible idea for children to take handfuls of them, let's just say they uh, evacuate the bowels, which is not particularly something that children or babies need help with. And if you're giving them out in the copious amounts you see here, you might as well give them a non-Iver Johnson revolver to play with.
That's right, in 1952 Santa didn't bring shiny red bicycles or teddy bears down the chimney. He lugged down a gigantic box that seems to contain about two thousand Camel cigarettes.
OK, we admit that Santa gets used in ads aimed at adults, too. And after all, it's not like it actually shows kids smoking or anything. Unlike ...