An illustration done by Louis Crusius for the 1898 Antikamnia Calendar.
Here’s a fantastic vintage flashback for you—macabre illustrations done by Louis Crusius, a pharmacist, artist, and surgeon from the late 1800s for a series of calendars put out by the Antikamnia Pharmaceutical Company of St. Louis, Missouri.
Before Louis Crusius’ skeleton illustrations were published by Antikamnia, they were seen on the windows of a local pharmacy where Crusius worked in the early 1890s and later co-owned. Historical accounts regarding Crusius say that he gave away nearly all of his illustrations before he started selling them off to Antikamnia which would use them for their promotional calendars. What makes Antikamnia’s use of the ghoulish illustrations especially odd is the fact that Antikamnia manufactured a pill/tablet named for their company that was classified as an “analgesic” or pain reliever which was sketchy at best. Also morbidly curious is that Crusius would die before he was able to see most of his waggishly whimsical illustrations published in the Antikamnia calendar. Are you following me? Good.
Made with coal tar, Antikamnia was later found to contain a substance called acetanilide which diminishes the ability and even prevents red blood cells from releasing oxygen to tissues which in a nutshell is not good for you unless you’re okay with maybe dying prematurely. This is why acetanilide was illegal then and still is now. The deadly powder could also be mixed with Codeine by request. All that grim history aside, acetanilide would eventually become an ingredient in a little pill called Tylenol. With a bit of judicious digging, I found an old advertisement for Antikamnia (a word that the company invented which meant “Opposed to Pain”) published in 1890 and that provided an interesting description of the “benefits” of ingesting the substance. Here’s more on from an ad (which I have paraphrased below) for the early analgesic from The Phrenological Journal and Science of Health put out by the University of Michigan in 1901:
“Antikamnia has been found to be superior to any of its predecessors in this field in cases of acute pain and all forms of a headache which yield to its influence in a remarkably short time, and in no instance have any evil after-effects developed. The chief claim advanced in favor of Antikamnia over all other products is that its use is not followed by depression of the heart. In short, all headaches caused by anxiety or mental strain will be relieved by two tablets, crushed, followed by a swallow of water or wine. It is also suggested to be used by women on shopping tours and invariably to those who come home cross and out of sorts.”
So did people die after taking Antikamnia? Yeah, they sure did, and it wasn’t very pretty. Since we all now know that acetanilide stopped red blood cells from sending oxygen on its merry way, you should now know that the definately “evil” side effect would cause a person’s extremities to turn blue. Deaths associated with the pain remedy were first reported in 1891—barely a year after the Antikamnia Company started making the sometimes lethal medication. I’ve posted photos (which are even more cryptic now that you know the history of the drug) from various runs of the Antikamnia promotional calendars below.
More macabre illustrations by Louis Crusius, after the jump…