This picture has been shared online but also in exhibits, documentaries and other situations as a genuine Victorian advert for Asthma Cigarettes.
It is not.
When I first saw this advertisement I immediately knew something wasn’t quite right.
I’ve studied and examined countless Victorian images, adverts and enamel signs and this one just set off a few alarm bells.
Purely visually speaking it isn’t a real Victorian enamel sign, it is not embossed, painted on or even printed onto the enamel, it is a picture of an enamel sign, but not a actual sign.
There are also a lot of perfectly straight lines in the image, which is possible in a real antique sign of course but very difficult to achieve when you are taking a photo of a sign..
One of the first things you can do when you’re suspicious of something that uses text is looking up the letter type being used, the font.
There are websites and apps that can help you figure out what the fonts are called and with that information you can easily figure out who made them and in this case more importantly, when they were created.
The results all suggested fonts that were not around in the Victorian era.
There actually were Asthma cigarettes back then, yes they were a real thing.
This may sound weird to us and that may explain the popularity of this sign, but administrating medication through smoking (inhalation therapy) is not that unusual and of course Marijuana cigarettes are still used for the benefits they offer people suffering from certain conditions to this day.
As I was researching this add I started focusing on “Dr. Batty”, why did his face seem familiar to me?
Suddenly I knew I had seen him before, very recently… in my house!
No not the actual man or his ghost, unfortunately, but the image of his face.
As a historian, time traveller and general collector of old stuff I’ve gathered quite a large collection of all sorts of peculiar artefacts.
And in my kitchen on a shelf I found the good doctor staring at me from the label of an old bottle;
How did I not identify him right away?!
And what are the odds of me actually owning the evidence in a case I was investigating?
Anyway, you will probably notice right away what I also realised;
This man is not Dr. Batty, he is Dr. Sloan, Doctor Earl Sawyer Sloan (1848-1923).
He found out that the liniment his father used to ease the stiff muscles of horses also worked on people and soon started advertising it as being good for horses and men.
He did quite well and the brand was sold world wide, every bottle with his face on it.
It would be highly unlikely for a Victorian brand to be stupid enough to steal this very famous face for their Asthma cigarettes under another name.
Not only would countless people have realised that this face was not Dr. batty and that the brand was thus dodgy, but Dr. Sloan’s lawyers would also have pounced on them.
So we can now say with 100% certainty that this is not a genuine Victorian sign but in stead a Photoshop creation.
But I still wanted to know more and see if I could get closer to the original source.
It is very popular, not only is it being sold on mugs and T-shirts, but a very creative soul even made this brilliant advert for it;
While continuing my search I eventually stumbled upon a website discussing this image that contained a confession by someone claiming to have made it;
I should be able to shed some light on this.
The two fonts used are ‘Manzanita’ and ‘Aristrocrat’.
I work at a sign company and I designed this one as a fledgling graphic designer about 8 years ago. We still sell this one quite often.
I found most of the wording from old ads for actual asthma cigarettes.
I made up the line “Not recommended for children under 6.” Seemed appropriate for the time….
I think it is really funny how this has been presented as an authentic vintage advertisement on more than one site.
Looks pretty fake too me!
Hope this helped!
I contacted Mr. Howe and he replied;
I am the same person who created the Dr. Batty’s Asthma Cigarette artwork.
The link you reference was written by me.
The clean-images website is no longer in existence.
I think it’s pretty funny how this image kinda took off and pops up in random places around the world and online.
Hope this helps, Cheers,
By the way you can still get Sloan’s Liniment today, Asthma cigarettes not so much.
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