Vintage Toronto Ads: Food for the Flesh
Torontoist has been acquired by Daily Hive Toronto - Your City. Now. Click here to learn more.



Vintage Toronto Ads: Food for the Flesh

Sources: (left) the Globe, April 23. 1904, (right) the Telegram, May 11, 1904.

For a product designed to enhance the beauty of early twentieth-century women, Dr. Charles might have chosen a name that better delivered his aim of enhancing one’s attractiveness (without drawing the ire of prudes) than one which now sounds more appropriate for a horror yarn (“What was the terrifying secret of Dr. Charles’ Flesh Food?”).
In the free guide to massage offered with a sample of Flesh Food, users were told that “the woman of 30 may remain as she is for 20 years, and her sister of 50 even can go back over life’s pathway and pick up the threads of youth and weave them anew.” Detailed, illustrated instructions on how to apply the Flesh Food and where were included so that customers would soon discover that “there will arise from the sunken chest a bosom of which a woman may be proud.”
Simpson’s prominently featured the beauty aid in several of its daily newspaper ads with assurances that the Flesh Food “received unqualified praise from all who have used it.” While the department store claimed that “it is made of the purest materials from the prescription of a celebrated physician and is thoroughly endorsed by the medical profession,” the American Medical Association begged to differ. A report on the product noted that “whatever Dr. Charles’ Flesh Food may lack in therapeutic efficiency, it makes up in colo[u]r and odo[u]r. The preparation is a highly perfumed, pink ointment.” For those wishing to recreate Flesh Food in your home laboratory, you’ll need starch, Vaseline, a dab of zinc oxide, and a few drops of “impure stearic acid,” along with your choice of perfumes and colouring agents for prettifying or horrifying effects.
Additional information from An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform Volume III, compiled by Christopher Hoolihan (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2008), and the July 16, 1904 edition of the Toronto Star.