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The Antikamnia Chemical Company’s Skeleton Calendars


These are fantastic and I would like to own one. The images come from Antikamnia Skeleton Calendars, put out by the Antikamnia Chemical Company, St. Louis, MO.

Antikamnia’s analgesic compound, which was never patented, was marketed as a ‘proudly ethical drug’ and used to treat headaches, fever, stomach aches, nervousness, insomnia and ‘the blues’. It was claimed to be a new synthetic coal-tar derivative but in fact contained almost 50% acetanilid, which was sometimes mixed with codeine or quinine. The toxic effects of acetanilid were exposed in a 1907 California State Journal of Medicine article, ‘Poisoning by Antikamnia’, and the company was prosecuted by the government in 1914 for violating the disclosure terms of the Food and Drug Act of 1906. The calendars were issued from 1897 until 1901. Each panel in the Antikamnia calendars depict fantastic and comical skeletons dressed in different styles and occupations.

This particular Antikamnia calendar includes:

January/February, “Extra! All About The [-----]!!!,” as a raggedly-clad newsboy, hawking newspapers;

March/April, “His Fourth of July!”, with March 17 printed in green, the skeleton wearing a top hat with clover leaf, and green sash, smoking a pipe;

May/June, “Ein Stein!”, with beer stein and German pipe;

July/August, “The Doctor’s Enemy,” as patent medicine salesman, with top hat and spectacles, in one hand a bag marked “No Genuine Goods, Substitutes Only,” in the other, a card “Fred. Smith & Co. Manf’g Chemists / Motto / Quantity not Quality”;

September/October, “Practicing – At The Bar,” as a prosperous-looking attorney or business man, with top hat and cigar, leaning against a bar with shot glass in hand;

and (pictured) November/December, “A Rough Rider,” as a cowboy, with appropriate hat, gun and holster/ perched atop a box “From the Antikamnia Chemichal Comp. / St. Louis, Mo.”

Verso of each card with text regarding the various products of the company and the diseases for which they are recommended (a sampling: Chronic Rheumatism, Puerperal and Malarial Fevers, Bronchitis, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis, Typhoid, all Neuroses due to Irregularities of Menstruation, etc.).

I love it. So ghoulish!

The Antikamnia Chemical Company hired local physician-artist Louis Crucius to do the art for the calendars. Crucius was also a pharmacist, and did the “Skeleton Sketches” drawings while working at a pharmacy. Five years worth of the calendars – 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, and 1901 – were printed.

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Beth Carswell

About Beth Carswell

I've been reading, selling, researching, loving and writing about books with AbeBooks since 2000.

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