We’re all spending countless hours trying to work our way to better health like a bunch of suckers. But who needs hard work? These vintage ads from a simpler time prove bulging muscles, luxuriously thick hair, and the perfect figure could once be yours for $2.98 plus shipping and handling. Their ridiculous claims sound like this article from ClickHole: “Contact me IMMEDIATELY if you want to know how I turned my scrawny body into an OUT OF CONTROL PRISON OF MUSCLE from which DEATH IS THE ONLY ESCAPE.” But they’re real.
“Just tell me where you want it”
What it does: In just 15 minutes a day, in your own home, the program will “broaden your shoulders — put trip-hammer power in both your arms — make your legs two pillars of strength,” “shoot new strength into your old backbone, exercise those inner organs — help you cram your body so full of pep, vigor and red-blooded vitality that you won’t feel there’s even ‘standing room’ left for weakness.”
Best line: “I’ll wake up that sleeping energy of yours and make it hum like a high-powered dynamo! … Man, you’ll begin to LIVE!”
Price: The 32-page book is FREE! Wowsers. And was created by the “world’s most perfectly developed man.” What more do you want?!
What it does: Use these weighted wristlets to “build the powerful arms you want without special equipment or exercises” just by wearing them “during your ordinary activities at work or play.”
Best line: “Just wearing your ‘Power Packed’ wristlets will give you the proud masculine feeling that says ‘I can take care of myself.'”
Price: $3.98 plus postage and handling but the good news is you can return them for a full refund if you “don’t instantly feel more powerful, more masculine, more capable” after using them.
Don’t be bald. That’s an order.
What it does: Keeps your hair from running away in horror by shielding it from the world underneath what looks to be a salon hairdryer. It also, apparently, prevents premature grayness. The mustachioed man in the illustration is very serious about it, so it must be legit.
Best line: “It forces circulation of blood through the hair roots. It means perfect health for the hair. Endorsed by the leading physicians.” The leading physicians need more training.
Price: I mean, wth is wrong with you? Why would you be bald when you could have a 30 day trial of this scientific advancement for free?
Oooooh yeah! Diet candy.
What it does: You devour candy all day long to lose weight. It undoubtedly tasted like foam and was made of some kind of carcinogenic appetite suppressant.
Best line: “Here is thrilling news for fat folks! You can lose up to 25 lbs. in 25 days by simply nibbling on this tasty appetite satisfying candy.” It works “almost like magic” and “keeps you from overeating — the reason most doctors give for being fat!”
Price: A “liberal supply of candy” for $3 or a “large economy supply” for $5. And, of course, there’s a money-back guarantee.
Free to Thin Folks
What it does: “Make[s] you nice and plump” by adding “firm, solid flesh at the rate of ten to thirty pounds a month” because “nothing is more embarrassing than extreme thinness.” My, how times have changed.
Best line: “It is the plump, well-developed man who ‘cuts the melons’ and has fun socially. Scrawny, skinny women are seldom popular.” What does “cutting the melons” even mean? Do we want to know?
Price: 50 cents plus 10 cents to “defray expenses”
What it does: The “super bodybuilding system” gives you a “massive chest,” “big, powerful arms — the kind girls love to be held in,” a shirt full of “bulging muscles,” “muscular legs,” a “washboard waist,” and the ability to “command respect from everyone you meet!”
Best line: Most men “wouldn’t mind having a REALLY MASCULINE BODY — one that will ‘turn on’ the girls and make the guys envious.”
Price: The coupon says it all: “RUSH me those FREE COLORFUL BROCHURES TODAY! I want to be able to KNOCK ‘EM DEAD with a FABULOUS BODY!!!’
Circa: 1970s or 80s
What it does: It either treats acne or appeals to people who are into some really weird and disgusting stuff. Let’s say it’s an acne elixir so that we don’t lose our lunch.
Best line: “Meet the man… who can tell you how to lick pimples.”
Price: Your dignity
Weight reducing cocktails? Yes, please.
What it does: Helps you drop 15 pounds in two months by adding some shady-sounding drops into your beverages. That’s mostly illegal these days. “Just add a dropperful of the new ‘DROPEX’ Reducing Cocktail to your favorite drink before each meal and let ‘DROPEX’ curb your excessive appetite.”
Best line: “You have nothing to lose but fat — so easily, so safely, so pleasantly.”
Price: $2.98 with a money-back guarantee, of course.
“An exciting, romantic, impressive look anytime!”
What it does: Gives you facial hair “that is so real looking your friends will think it is your very own!” Or, more likely, a stick on piece of fuzz that looks like a caterpillar is pausing to contemplate building a cocoon on your upper lip.
Best line: “Competition tough [sic]… want to impress your employer or girl friend… want to look older or younger or different… cool or sharp??? Do you miss the attention you should be getting??” Chicks dig it, guys.
Price: $2 for the mustache, $3 for the sideburns or Van Dyke beard, or $6 for the whole range of facial accouterments.
“Let’s Go, Pal!”
What it does: Oh man, what doesn’t it do? It’ll make you a “winner at anything you tackle,” “no matter how flabby or puny you are” by “power packing your whole body so quickly it will amaze you.” All this from a “physical wreck the doctors condemned to die at 15” who became “the holder of more strength records than any other living athlete or teacher!”
Best line: “Yes, I’ll jam you with power and self confidence to master any situation — to win popularity — and to get ahead on the job.” Sounds painful.
Price: The photo book of strong men plus five muscle building courses, all included in “How to Become a Muscular He-Man” could’ve been yours for a mere 10 cents for postage and handling.
What it does: In the dark ages of menstruation, women had to wear sanitary protection in the form of liquid repellant panties that “wash in a jiffy.” Thank goodness for modern conveniences.
Best line: “Enjoy extra freedom from annoyances. No pins — no hooks… wear under slacks, shorts, swimsuits, dresses.” Don’t hesitate to put on those slacks, ladies.
Price: Two pair for $1.98. There’s a 60-day free trial but let’s hope that they never had any returns.
What it does: This “amazing new health supporter belt” that’s “scientifically constructed to help you look and feel years younger” is essentially Spanx for dudes. Good for golf, dancing, locker room, or beach.
Best line: “Does a bulging ‘bay window’ make you look and feel years older than you actually are?… Why go on day after day with an ‘old-man’s’ mid-section bulge?” Also, there’s a “detachable pouch” between the legs.
Price: $3.98 plus postage “with the understanding that includes my EXTRA pouch.”
The Electronic Activator
What it does: It, um, activates electronically? People are still trying to sell junk like this today. “A fantastic machine that contracts muscles 300 times a half hour to use calories and reduce sagging and untoned muscles.” Also, to completely numb your face if you’re dumb enough to put it there.
Best line: “No disrobing necessary.”
Price: Rent it for a $1 a day or buy for 50 cents a day. There seems to be some wheelin’ and dealin’ involved.
Kill the head gremlins!
What it does: You know why people go bald, right? Bacteria on their heads. Science is all “oh, it’s hereditary,” but what has science ever taught us? This scalp treatment kills “millions of trouble-breeding bacteria, living on your sick scalp” because “medical authorities” have recognized “these destructive scalp germs” as “a significant cause of baldness.”
Best line: “Once you’re bald, that’s it, friends! There’s nothing you can do. Your hair is gone forever.”
Price: $2 plus postage and if it doesn’t nip your head gremlins in the bud, you’ll get double your money back.
The Spot Reducer
What it does: Much like its pal the Electric Activator (above), the Spot Reducer would like you to hold a machine around problem areas as the “relaxing, soothing massage breaks down FATTY TISSUES, tones the muscles and flesh, and the increased awakened blood circulation carries away waste fat.”
Best line: “It’s almost like having your own private masseur at home. It’s fun reducing this way!’ The Spot Reducer “obeys your every wish” and its “soothing gentle massage” can “help you sleep when massage can be of benefit.” Okaaaaay then. The model appears to enjoy her appliance. That counts for something.
Calling all skinny weaklings.
What it does: You’ll “develop your 520 muscles, gain pounds, inches fast!” You’ll be “A WINNER at EVERYTHING you tackle.” You’ll “win new strength for money-making at work! for WINNING at all SPORTS!” You’ll “win new popularity, NEW FRIENDS, BOYS & GIRLS, NEW CHANCES for BUSINESS SUCCESS.” All in “10 PLEASANT MINUTES A DAY IN YOUR OWN HOME” that will transform your “OLD SKELETON FRAME” into a ‘NEW HE-MAN BODY.” Seems legit. But why are you yelling at us?
Best line: “‘I’m proud to be seen with Jim NOW! Everybody admires his build,’ says Nellie. ‘Jim can lift the front of a 2700 lb. car. He amazes his friends!'”
Price: 10 cents for postage and handling
Boys! (II) Men!
What it does: Dude wants to give you the ultimate hot bod in 10 minutes a day, including a “chest that will have you popping the buttons off your shirt with pride!” with “absolutely NO weights—NO bar-bells—NO EXERCISE AT ALL.” Yup, their model certainly looks like he’s never lifted anything heavier than a coffee cup in his time.
Best line: “I can take those skeleton arms and PACK EVERY INCH with explosive virile MAN-MUSCLE.” “Be a fellow with TWO-FISTED BIG MUSCLE APPEAL… they only laugh at skinny guys or ‘fatsos.'”
Price: $1.98 is all it costs to be transformed into a “two-fisted dynamo of manly beauty, rippling with power, glowing with magnetic appeal.”
“FAT FOLKS! Your Dream Has Come True!”
What it does: They gave not one fig about political correctness back then, did they? The MELTABS are yet another appetite suppressant offering to help you “lose as much weight as you wish” with “no do’s or don’ts… no dieting… no exercising… no massaging… no drugs.”
Best line: In their study, “not one person ever had a single hungry moment” because “one Meltabs wafer has the hunger satisfying capacity of 1 lb. boiled potatoes,” or 5 slices of white bread, or 4 eggs—yet it contains only 5 calories.”
Price: $3 for a 30-day supply of wafers created by doctors “after more than 17 years of research.” What could go wrong?
Swedish Health Shorts
What it does: “Reduce up to 5 inches and more of unwanted excess weight” by wearing inflatable shorts that make your junk sweat and give you the appearance of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the waist down.
Best line: “Swedish health shorts contains dozens of tiny air pockets that gently massage and soothe your hips, thighs and waistline.” Oddly enough, neither model seems to be wearing these monstrosities while they play volleyball with a bowling ball or whatever it is that’s happening there.
Price: $8.95 plus 30 cents shipping and handling, which seems like a lot, but look! It comes with a free pump and “imitations are selling else where for as much as $15.00.” So there’s that.
Reliable authorities are wrong.
What it does: Cures constipation, biliousness, indigestion, and dope fiending via macerated wheat, nuts, and fruit. Oh, and “makes life worth living.”
Best line: “Reliable authorities tell us that Constipation is the primary cause of 97 per cent of all diseases.” “Reliable” is such a subjective term.
Price: 10 cents for a trial can of the miraculous foodstuff.