Racist Laxative Ad (Dec, 1937)

Setting aside the ridiculously stereotyped language of the porter, a laxative to cure a cold? Really?

She caught cold on her honeymoon
BRIDE: Wouldn’t you know? I’m catching cold! Guess I’ll arrive saying, “Califordia, here I cub.”

GROOM: What you need — pronto — is a laxative and something to help counteract acidity. If only…

PORTER: Pahdon me, fo’ overhearin’ yo’, but Sal Hepatica does BOTH dose things. It’s a min’ral salt laxative and it helps Nature counteract acidity, too. Las’ trip a doctah tole me.

GROOM: Well, honey, here’s California. Got everything?

BRIDE: Everything except that cold. Lets tip that porter double for telling us about Sal Hepatica. Lucky for me he had Sal Hepatica on board!

1. Cleanse the intestinal tract.
2. Help Nature counteract acidity.
Sal Hepatica does BOTH!

  1. Thundercat says: October 2, 200712:45 pm

    Yeesh, if something like this was printed today Reverend Al would have a heart attack!

  2. Firebrand38 says: October 2, 20075:09 pm

    In that case, let’s print it!!!

  3. nlpnt says: October 2, 20077:23 pm

    A feeble attempt to explain how this sounded to me:

    (Over-the-top exaggerated Uncle Remus voice):Pahdon me, fo’ overhearin’ yo’, but Sal Hepatica does BOTH dose things. It’s a min’ral salt laxative (switches to James Earl Jones-esque professional-pitchman voice); and it helps Nature counteract acidity, too. Um, uh, I mean- Las’ trip a doctah tole me.

    You think with a name like “Sal Hepatica” they’d use offensively exaggerated, stereotypical *Italians*, though….

  4. Firebrand38 says: October 3, 20073:29 pm

    You know, the whole laxative thing to fight a cold is stupid, but I just can’t join in the self-righteous uproar over this. Even setting aside that stereotypes don’t appear out of thin air, when Snoop Dog appears in a commercial babbling about “fo’ shizzle, ma nizzle”, and Sean “Puffy” Combs aka P-Diddy appears in a Burger King commercial and says that he’s “hongry” I suppose that doesn’t count as ridiculously stereotyped language for some reason?

    By the way, never mind the 1930’s but in 1960’s New Jersey I could find folks that really did talk like that.

  5. Chris says: October 16, 20074:22 pm

    The biggest problem is stereotypes arise from reality, whether it’s a good or bad stereotype. Some people speak perfect english, some don’t, in every race. Portraying life accurately should not be a bad thing. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t have this odd urge to pretend that we’re all living in harmony when we’re not.

    But yeah… they could’ve left out the million apostrophes from the porter’s dialog. hahah

    and who knows, we’re hardly so advanced in 2007 that we know cleansing the intestinal tract DOESN’T help the body cure a cold. We’ve recently discovered that a great portion of the immune system works withing the colon. So there.

    I love this site by the way =)

  6. Will S. says: October 21, 200710:51 pm

    Well, if you have a cough, and you’ve taken laxatives, you might be afraid to cough, so that’d work! 😉

  7. Blueberry says: April 25, 20104:32 pm

    DOESNT it sound a bit silly and ridiculous to take laxatives for a cold, i mean, not that it cant help, but just to WANT to take laxatives for a cold. That must be some cold, or maybe she has a million dollar performance to put on once they get to California… oh GOD now I HAVE to poop everything out, right MEOW!! If I can’t have fun as soon as I get to those Cali beaches… I’ll just DIE!

    Having Uncle Remus from the Boondocks say his lines would be perfect 🙂

  8. Toronto says: April 25, 20108:47 pm

    I believe the idea was to poop out the germs and make yourself slightly more alkaline to kill off any that remained. Of course, you’d have to do this before you got most cold symptoms. Maybe the crowded dining cars, drafty sleeper cars, and ‘open’ toilets just made everyone feel constipated by the time they got to Albuquerque, and a good poop made them feel better. Heaven help the AT&SF track workers.

  9. Luke says: July 22, 201012:34 am

    I can’t see how the ad is racist….You know why? cause it’s not. I haven’t seen a single reason posted as to WHY this is racist either.

  10. jayessell says: July 22, 20109:04 am

    I hear it in the voice of cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn.

    In the late 1930s ‘Amos and Andy’ was the most popular show on radio.
    (There was an article about that here months ago.)

  11. Firebrand38 says: July 22, 20109:21 am

    jayessell: You just helped make his point. Foghorn Leghorn’s voice was partly based on Senator Claghorn from Fred Allen’s radio show http://en.wikipedia.org…

    Too bad he was a white character. More can be found here http://www.cartoonresea…

  12. Groneezl says: October 12, 201011:51 pm

    Whut dat brudda be done sayd? Ah bleeves he done took de stuff hisself, dass how he know what it do, an he jes be beein moddiss, play like de dockta done tole him dat. But ain’t was no dockta on de train dat time. Ah knows—ah were dair.

  13. temujin khan of the yakka mongols says: March 15, 201111:11 am

    …Holy Mackeral…Kingfish..??

  14. John says: March 15, 20111:27 pm

    Doesn’t sound like The Kingfish http://www.youtube.com/…

  15. rivas2750 says: August 19, 20115:43 am

    I agree with some of the comments above. This ad is not particularly racist, in fact it shows the African-American as the person with the solution to the problem. The accent we now look upon as racist was the black street lingo of the day, no different from hip-hop speak is today as someone pointed out.
    Because the guy is a porter on the train one can look at it as politically incorrect. Were something like this done today there would be care to portray him as a fellow passenger instead of a service person.
    Unfortunately these stereotypes were based on the reality of the kinds of jobs then available to African Americans. Our social structure has changed drastically and so have our attitudes. Most people today grasp the idea that something that clears your bowels has little to do with a head cold and maybe back then this ad was just a polite way to sell laxative…but racist? There were far more racist ads and campaigns than this one. On the racist scale from one to ten I give it a three.

  16. keith says: October 29, 201112:02 pm

    most of the movies and ads of that time that involved african americans were covertly racist.
    to deny this is a denial of the history of the united states.

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