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.
The fonts, the text, the subject, the whole thing just made alarm bells go off.
Purely visually speaking it just isn’t a real Victorian enamel sign, it is not embossed, painted on or even printed onto the enamel, it just doesn’t look like a proper enamel sign.
There are also a lot of perfectly straight lines in the image, which is possible in a real antique sign but almost impossible on a scan or photo of such a sign.
The enamel sign would somehow have been perfectly, not one degree off, lined up for the photo or on a scanner.
I also thought at least some of the fonts used were not Victorian but comparing and looking them up is one hell of a job which I wasn’t willing to do unless I got completely stuck.
But as always, I don’t like claiming something is completely fake without being able to prove the real origin of the object.
There actually were Asthma cigarettes back then, yes they were a real thing.
This may sound weird to us, which 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, but the image of his face.
As a historian, time traveller and general collector of old stuff I’ve got quite a large collection of all sorts of things.
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 relatively recent Photoshop creation.
On a website discussing this image I found 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 but at the time of writing I’ve not heard back from him yet so this “confession” has not yet been confirmed.
By the way you can still get Sloan’s Liniment today, Asthma cigarettes not so much.
If you see the picture shared online with the incorrect description, please direct the person posting it to this article.
Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to this picture, I only share it here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.