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Tuesday, September 29, 2009


To the American public. - Violet now claims its promised assistance, and prays to be freed from the hourly persecution of her enemy (a vindictive sister, and not the jealous wife, as represented).
The weapons most earnestly implored are simply the eyes of the public, that they be blinded to Violet's existence, that she may escape the daily torture extorted from them, and that this woman receive their full battery until she, too, is goaded to cooperation and despair. American justice will spare her family.
What. The. F---?

I hate to always just fall back on assuming an ad is a code just because I don't understand it, but this is a doozy. It's not that it's so cryptic - although that too - but that it literally does not make sense. Violet goes from being an it in the first line to a she by the end, though that could just be a typo. I read that last two lines like five times to get what it's saying: Violet is currently being tortured by the public's eyes (um, okay), and the writer of this ad wants the public to divert said eyes to the vindictive sister and torture her instead until she's forced to stop persecuting Violet. But not to worry, because her (the sister's?) family will be fine.

I repeat: What. The. F---?

I did think of one possibility that does explain this, which is that this is an advertisement for a play or - less likely - a novel. It makes sense - certainly more so than anything else I can come up with (actually, I can't come up with anything else). Back when I was talking about the excellent Sadda and Lalla Rang, I mentioned that a lot of people believed personals were used for real advertisements. It's a pretty clever idea; everyone read the personals - especially in this particular newspaper - so why not use it as a medium to advertise your wares? You're much more likely to be seen, and you could be so much more creative. Presumably "real" ads would have come out simultaneously or shortly thereafter so that the baffled American public would get the joke.

You know what? If that's what this was, it was a pretty darn brilliant advertising campaign! I would go see that play! Unfortunately, I only make copies of the personals, not of entire newspapers, so if there were ads for such a play, I'd have to go look them up on microfilm and that is just not going to happen - especially because I'm not using these ads in my dissertation (one day I will write the book in which I get to talk about Violet and Sadda and Lalla and all the others who have fallen by the wayside...but let's just get through the defense first). So if such a play existed, I can't find it - did a quick Google search and nothing came up, but obviously "Violet" isn't much to go on.

Yet another unsolved mystery.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


HCG September 29, 2009 at 10:39 AM  

Brilliant find.

This sounds really remarkably like the phone calls I get from an old college friend who is subject to paranoid delusions - her stepmother is conspiring with her physicians to poison her, she's being tortured, she's being spied on, etc. etc. Every phone call is more off the deep end. It's not considered paranoid schizophrenia only because there are no "voices."

That or this is code, as you speculate.

NB I think the "it" at the start is the American public, not Violet.

Pam September 29, 2009 at 11:26 AM  

HCG - you're totally right about the "its"; I'd say I don't know how I didn't see that, but given the confusing nature of this ad, I'm going to forgive myself on this one!

God that's awful about your friend - how tragic! It does sound a little bit like schizophrenia - I didn't think of that. But anyone with this serious delusions back then would be packed off to an insane asylum post-haste - not shelling out a ton of money for an ad, you know?

Darby September 29, 2009 at 12:26 PM  

Pam, how much would an ad like that have cost?

Matt September 29, 2009 at 12:29 PM  

19th century viral marketing? Cool.

Pam September 29, 2009 at 1:17 PM  

Darby - no clue. But if I were to hazard a wild guess, I'd say somewhere around $1.50-$2, which was a lot back then.

Matt - I know!

Rachel September 30, 2009 at 11:03 PM  

Facinating stuff :)

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