Lately, I’ve been exploring 18th and 19th century medical ephemera that advertised old medicines and medical procedures. Some of these fliers are weird, some are creepy, and most haunt my dreams. But these “trade cards” for an 18th century “skeleton supplier” in London are fascinating and I kind of want to frame them. Trade cards were advertisements that businesses handed out to potential customers during the 18th to the 19th centuries and are considered predecessors to the modern business card. These fliers included a description of the business and directions to a store.
Medical schools, public and private, flourished throughout Europe in the 18th century. Because human anatomy was a required part of this curriculum, there was a demand for quality medical specimens. Some business owners identified this need and started selling anatomical specimens to medical school faculty and students. Nath Longbottom and his son owned one of these shops and sold articulated skeletons in the Southwark neighborhood of London. According to one of their early trade cards (this card is identified as being mid-18th century, but a similar card has a date of 1782):
“Sells Skeletons of different sizes &
both sexes, of good color & accurately
articulated, & packs them safe either
for Sea or Land carriage.
He also mounts for such gentle-
men as have loose sets of bones.”
The artwork on H. Longbottom’s card, the son of Nath Longbottom, is a bit more sophisticated and the text of his advertisements changed a bit. Below is the wording for the 1791 card, which changed a bit on the 1797 card but was basically the same:
“Begs leave to inform Gentlemen of the Faculty
in general, that he makes & sells skeletons of
different sizes & both sexes of good color and
accurately articulated, likewise packs them
for Sea or Land Carriage
He always keeps a variety for the inspection of
Gentlemen, who having loose sets of bones may
have them mounted in the compleatest manner.”
Categories: Art and Ephemera
I love these flyers. I always wonder where Mr Longbottom acquired his skeletons!
oh you know…. here and there…. Burke and Hare….. 😉
I agree, I was just going to say they likely got them from Resurrectionists or bought dissected bodies from medical schools to mount the skeletons. I tried finding more info on the Longbottom shop but failed 🙁 It would be great to know for sure.
Michael Sappol has a whole book about where these types of skeletons came from. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-traffic-of-dead-bodies-anatomy-and-embodied-social-identity-in-nineteenth-century-america-michael-sappol/1104162416?ean=9780691118758
Thank you for the suggestion. I just ordered this book-I can’t wait to read it.