Monday, November 12, 2012

The Smith Brothers Take On Canute Water

Sometimes ads are put together on the page in a way that is particularly amusing and I think this is one of those times. It comes from a Life magazine in 1943. The lady in the top ad insists that we all color our hair with Canute Water (which we'll get to in a minute, because what is that?). But the grey bearded and venerable Smith Brothers just below her refuse in capitals: NO! NO!

Actually they are saying NO! to charging you extra for Vitamin A, but if you don't read the small print it really looks like they are upset about the Canute Water.

And what, pray tell, is Canute Water? Made by the Canute Company of Milwaukee, it was "a Safe, Clean, Clear and Pleasant Treatment" for coloring hair. It was sold as early as 1914. You can see a 1930s Canute Water package and bottle here at Hair Raising Stories. And Canute Water was being sold as late as 1960, when the ad below appeared. It notes, rather alarmingly, that you don't need a skin test before you use it, because there has been "not a single injury in more than 46 years."

According to Cosmetics and Allied Preparations, a 1930s publication of the American Medical Association, Canute Water contained silver salts. And a 1921 report by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station* stated that Canute Water "was found to be an alkaline solution of silver nitrate." Silver nitrate was used medicinally, in very small amounts, to treat gonorrhea - but it is, according to Wikipedia, both "toxic and corrosive" and can damage both the eyes and skin. In other words, you probably shouldn't put this stuff on your hair. The Smith Brothers are absolutely right!

*These 2 sources were found in a Google Books search, and since they are Snippet Views, I can't link to the citations except by giving you the search page link - so here it is.

No comments: