• World's Foremost Bedpan Collector Celebrates Objects Most People Pooh-Pooh How many bedpans is too many? 10? 50? Try 250. That's about how many bedpans and items of bedpan memorabilia Eric Eakin has collected thus far. "I have bedpan greeting cards, bedpan poems, bedpan jewelry, and bedpan salt-and-pepper shakers," he says. Eakin's also got plenty of vintage and antique bedpans, each one clean enough to eat out of, should you be so inclined. "It's about saving things …
  • Bloodletting, Bone Brushes, and Tooth Keys: White-Knuckle Adventures in Early Dentistry With all those gleaming, stainless-steel tools readied for painful prodding, few people look forward to visiting the dentist. But modern dentistry is a walk in the park compared with archaic methods of treating oral maladies: Be glad you’re not seeking treatment for mysterious “tooth worms” or using dentures filled with the syphilitic teeth of dead soldiers. "“Dentistry, as we understand it tod…
  • Medicinal Soft Drinks and Coca-Cola Fiends: The Toxic History of Soda Pop Soda’s reputation has fallen a bit flat lately: The all-American beverage most recently made headlines due to an FDA investigation of a potential carcinogen, commonly called "caramel coloring," used in many soft-drink recipes. This bit of drama follows other recent stories that paint an unflattering picture of the soda industry, including New York’s attempt to ban super-sized drinks, the eviction …
  • Getting It On: The Covert History of the American Condom Right now, all across the country, people are having sex, just for the fun of it. Yet despite centuries of birth control designed to maximize pleasure and minimize risk, we still can't admit this basic truth. Maybe that's because contraceptives are such a messy subject: Throughout history, people have used everything from seaweed to sheep intestines in order to prevent pregnancy, when all they re…
  • Treasures of the Corner Drugstore and Soda Fountain I’m fourth generation in the pharmacy business, so I grew up in a pharmacy, and it always was interesting to me. I also enjoyed a lot of the old black-and-white movies that had a hospital scene or a doctor scene. Those just piqued my interest. I’ve collected everything from drugstores except tobacco, and at some point I probably will start doing that. I’ve stuck basically to soda fountains and the…
  • How Snake Oil Got a Bad Rap (Hint: It Wasn't The Snakes' Fault) These days, "snake oil" is synonymous with quackery, the phoniest of phony medicines. A "snake oil salesman" promises you the world, takes your money, and is long gone by the time you realize the product in your hands is completely worthless. But get this: The original snake oil actually worked. Save this one for the next cocktail party; it will blow your friends’ minds. In the 1860s, Chines…
  • Signs, Tins, and Other Advertising Antiques How did I get started collecting advertising antiques? My dad was a lecturer and tutor in graphics and art from the 1960s onwards, and was into vintage automobiles and advertising, like vintage signs, pumps, and globes. So I spent the large portion of my childhood going to auto swap meets and antiques fairs, I think it all started from there. The first thing I collected was old bottles. In one …
  • The Disappearing Art of Porcelain Signs I liked to collect things even as a child. Things that didn’t cost anything, like different colors of stones. There was something about the advertising that I liked, so in the mid-1970s, I started to pick up porcelain signs. I got heavier and heavier into that, and by the 1980s, I had a fairly substantial collection. As a result of collecting telephone signs, I would run into other advertisin…