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18th century fliers for a business that sold human skeletons

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.

Trade card for Nath Longbottom “skeleton supplier” in London mid-18th century. Image via: the Wellcome Collection on Wikipedia

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.”

Trade card for H. Longbottom “skeleton supplier” ca. 1791. Image credit: British Museum

Trade card for H. Longbottom “skeleton supplier” ca. 1797. Image credit: British Museum

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.”




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