I went ad surfing last night in one of my favourite depositories of everyday happenings in Jamaica’s past: the newspaper archives of the Jamaica Gleaner.
So what exactly do I mean by ad surfing?
The newspaper archives of the Jamaica Gleaner is an online database that contains more than 1 million historical newspaper pages from the Gleaner from 1834, when the newspaper started, to 2008. I was told that they are now in the process of digitizing the 2009 to present editions.
For many these are just old newspapers digitized for history buffs like myself. It sure is much more comfortable on the eyes than going through the microfilmed versions at the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ)! But for me these pages represent windows into the past, a look into some of what concerned Jamaicans in those bygone years and the development of our society within this period. Absolutely fascinating!
(These newspapers also represent reminders of national what-not-to-dos but then again does the former or current Governments even consider looking back at history for these lessons to enable sustainable development of our country? I digress..)
So one of the things I like to do is to read the advertisements in the earlier editions of the Gleaner. I randomly choose dates and scan the pages to see what I can find. I was not disappointed in my little stroll last night! Plus it turned into a nice little family bonding session with my mother and sisters, raucous laughter included! Our neighbours mus’ wondah bout wi cause wi loud bwoy!
The Gleaner, Wednesday, March 1, 1905, p. 16:
Do you suffer from baldness? Then maybe Haerfoda can help, “The Enemy of Baldness”!
Still on page 16, I came across this other ad in smaller print. At first I missed it but then I read it through and understood immediately why it was in smaller print. This one specifically targeted women. You’ll see why:
My mother went down memory lane with this ad for:
I can already see the question mark on your face reader: what exactly was this pill for? Well, according to my mother, Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pill was a laxative aka wash-out, a traditional but dreaded procedure to get rid of all impurities out of a Jamaican child, especially before the start of the school term. For more on Jamaican wash-outs check out this very informative article: “Jamaica’s love affair with wash-out.”
The Gleaner, Friday, March 3, 1905, p. 5:
Do you suffer from poor blood? (These ads are a trip!)
The Daily Gleaner, Monday, November 4, 1957, p. 4:
I deliberately left the following ad for last because it ties in so well with a current (very worrying and even scary) trend, especially represented by one of Jamaica’s most (in)famous dancehall artistes, Vybz Kartel. This ad was for New Nadinola Bleaching Cream:
I don’t know if New Nadinola Bleaching Cream actually did what the ad claimed it could do but Vybz Kartel is definitely working the bleaching cream to the max! Have you seen him lately?
Plus, based on what I’ve seen on people who bleach, they look much older than younger!
Despite, or maybe because of, the controversy surrounding his drastic immersion into skin lightening – even more drastic than what some of his fans can stand! – recently, Adidja ‘Vybz Kartel’ Palmer was invited by the Department of Literatures in English and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) to give a special lecture at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus. Kartel’s presentation was entitled, “‘Pretty as a Colouring Book’: My Life and My Art”, which was all about skin bleaching. According to UWI: “His presentation will provide an opportunity for the UWI to demonstrate its leadership role in engaging public debate on issues of colour, class and gender as manifested in Jamaican popular music.”
Here’s the Jamaica Gleaner’s clip from the lecture:
Didn’t I tell you folks? Our history echoes all around us; we just have to listen!
Until next time…
Dahlia McDaniel, Jamaica’s love affair with ‘wash-out’ – Caffeine may cause constipation, The Daily Gleaner, Wednesday, Octobr 29, 2009, http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20081029/health/health6.html
The Gleaner, Wednesday, March 1, 1905, p. 16
The Gleaner, Friday, March 3, 1905, p. 5
The Daily Gleaner, Monday, November 4, 1957, p. 4
University of the West Indies, Mona, Reggae Artiste, Vybz Kartel Featured at Public Forum at UWI, Mona, http://myspot.mona.uwi.edu/proffice/uwinotebook/entry/4131