While we wonder what will happen with the new coronavirus, here in Salem later in February of 1920 there was a resurgence of influenza and the City invoked some quarantine measures.
|A small ad, one-column wide typical in 1919, August 13th|
More interesting is the surge of large, national advertising for Vick's VapoRub. Its sales had exploded during the epidemic the previous year, and now they were ready to capitalize on this next year's flu season.
The advertising touted it for a broad range of aliments beyond the flu, and dressed things up in a good bit of pseudo-science. It also drew on patriotic and military themes as well as racist themes. It's quite a package for a something of a patent medicine. (Like a goop, as it were?)
The preparation started in a North Carolina drug store, and I suppose this is the reference for "Dixie" here.
A few days later the ad package really picked up "Dixie" and moved to cotton-picking, the Mammy trope, and invoked racist nostalgia. Quite a leap for a mentholated petrolatum rub!
That part of the campaign didn't linger here, and a few days later the advertising shifts to focus on the external application in more pseudo-scientific mode.
This is just a curiosity, and I don't think it really discloses anything significant about Salem. Mostly it testifies to the way advertising and consumerism were more nationalized after World War I.
Separately, an editorial bit from the same period recommends walking to work to "stave off" the flu.
Maybe there will more to say later about Salem's quarantine efforts in 1920 or about other elements of that year's flu season.
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