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Let’s Read The Cosmopolitan, June 1900 Part II

Welcome to the second half of my two-part review of The Cosmopolitan from June 1900! This week will be heavy on the advertisements and cartoons and no less head-scratchingly weird than the first half of the magazine.

A blogger who writes on early quack science has an article on this product and this very advertisement. The man in this ad is the company founder George H. Wilson himself, frowning and cupping his ears to look like “the deafest deaf man you ever saw” although the only evidence I can find that he was actually deaf are testimonies from his other ads. But come on, if he said he was deaf and these broken earplugs cured his deafness, then clearly he’s telling the truth!

Here’s a fun bit of trivia, and you should take my word for it as someone with a gramophone tattooed on her arm: if you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a gramophone and a phonograph, the phonograph is pictured above and uses a needle to read the grooves in a wax cylinder. The gramophone is the kind with the large fluted trumpet horn and uses a needle to read the grooves in a wax or vinyl disc. A phonograph plays cylinders, a gramophone plays records. Now you know!

The Northern Steamship Company offers your the chance to see the world! Well, ok, America. Ok, ok, the Great Lakes.

I love that Bausch & Lomb, the company that sells primarily contact lenses today, was initially established as a monocle company. Interestingly, there was recent talk that B&L’s surgical instruments division was going to be sold to Zeiss AG, which is kind of a century old historical eff you to their initial partnership.


Why do I get the impression that kids who were made to use these were mocked mercilessly at school?

“20th Century Electro Vapor Launch” is the name of my campsite at Burning Man.

I bet you dollars to donuts that you have or have had silverware in one of these patterns in your flatware drawer. I believe I got the “Astoria” set as a wedding present a decade ago and it was bought from Target. On the subject of Astoria, all things named “Astoria” are in name of the Astor family, so naming things as such in this time would be like having your choice of silverware in “The Joan”, “The Stuart” or “The Trump”.

Not worth the investment, if you ask me. Flash in the pan.


Here’s some Wikipedia background on the Second Boer War if you want a more modern overview. As much as I can attempt to simplify, it was a war in Africa between the English and the Dutch over gold mines. This article was written by Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage and a popular war correspondent. Crane was supposed to actually go to the site of the war and report, but he was too ill to travel so this is unfortunately not a firsthand account but more of a history of the events leading up to the conflict.


I’m afraid it isn’t very visually exciting, and I hate just putting up blocks of text here. Still, it’s not too bad for being written by someone who was literally dying from tuberculosis at the time. Crane died the same month this was published.

“Your camera might be a cheap piece of crap, but our lenses aren’t!”

“Mother, the spots have risen up to greet me again, fetch me my Brandreth’s–” *dies*

Two very compelling arguments for why one needs a typewriter.

The latest in camera tech. $5 was something in the neighborhood of $135 by today’s inflation, so photography would have been exclusively an upper-middle class hobby.

Political cartoons! These are deeply entrenched in long-forgotten political cartoon symbolism, and many of them are in response to the current events of the moment (ie, ones that happened 117 years ago), so I haven’t the slightest clue what any of it really means. At least none of it involves sexually assaulting your secretary, so that’s a nice break right?

1900 was an election year, so naturally the candidates are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It’s clear that the cartoonists are not fans of “Bryanism”, which I’m going to assume is in reference to William Jennings Bryan. WJB was sort of like a turn-of-the-century Ralph Nader, who had weird ideas about money and hated war and really really loved running for office. So naturally everyone with a pen in their hand loathed him and couldn’t get enough of making fun of him.

The top right cartoon references Bryan’s stance against the US annexing the Philippines by portraying Emilio Aguinaldo, who was at the time leading the Philippines against America and was on the run (things I did not know until three minutes ago: America was once at war with the Philippines. Thanks, California public schools!). For what it’s worth, I think that Aguinaldo was actually quite handsome during this period, but you know how these things go.

The little rotund man on top of the elephant dragging Teddy Roosevelt behind him is Senator Mark Hanna, who oh god who cares these people have all been dead for a century.

Cameras were heavily marketed towards women, for some reason, given that they were barely trusted to open a window by themselves let alone handle expensive and cutting edge technology.

Mother Goose is done with your shit. Done with your dumb bear pun, done with your “breakfast food flakes”, done with your sassy bear butts, DONE. The illustrator was clearly not confident in his ability to draw cartoon bear faces, but could draw the heck out of a mob cap.


You can read the whole Hiprah Hunt story here, because the Internet is a beautiful thing. Where do I even go on this. Art Young was a staunchly socialist cartoonist who was often in legal trouble for being too radical in his cartoons. As he didn’t leave any one legacy-defining work behind, there isn’t much to go on academically with him so it’s safe to say I am completely over my head if there is more than the obvious being satirized here, aside from people who are jerks getting what’s come to them in Hell and a riff on Dante’s Inferno. They seem awfully volatile for Cosmopolitan’s general interest family magazine vibe at the time, but maybe people were less easily offended back then (right). So just enjoy some weird creepy images and sayings and just take this as the 1900 equivalent of Doonesbury.


I love the little demon here, and whoever’s just taking a swim in what I have to assume are the flaming waters of damnation looking up with some concern. “Watch your step, I’m suffering eternally in the firey lake of Hell down here!”


Boy, can’t wait for next month’s installment of how much everything sucks and we’re all going to Hell!

“I say, Mr. Plant, I just can’t understand why we can’t keep the other styles in stock while we can’t even give the MANNISH ones away!”

“More than one string to her bow”


And finally, the back cover, where even more advertisements are crammed into the borders with more weird Illuminati imagery to accent them. Try saying “The laundress is sure of satisfactory results if she uses Ivory soap” in a really creepy voice. It’s fun.

Thanks for reading another week of old magazines with me! Next week is Boys’ Life, the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America, from December 1986!


Keep in mind that Boys’ Life has already done a gorgeous job of digitizing their back issues so you can browse through those to your heart’s content.