Black and white photographs of a "ghost" sign for Ayer's Pills painted on a brick wall circa 1900
This beautiful, peeling advertisement for "Ayer's Pills for the Liver" has not only outlived the product, but it has almost outlived the city where it still exists. Perhaps the only reason this 117-year-old sign is still visible today is because it was hidden inside adjoined walls of neighboring buildings for decades, not revealed to the elements until the neighboring structure was demolished a few years ago.
This antique sign was photographed in Cairo, Illinois, a sad example of a city in extreme decline — a city where many historic buildings have either collapsed or been demolished in recent years. The Ayer's Pills building and its neighbor are the last two left standing on what was once a full city block.
(Above) This 2013 image, courtesy of Google Street View, shows the Ayer's Pills building with its historic painted signs still covered by a neighboring structure, which has since been demolished.
Black and white photograph of Ayer's Pills antique painted wall ad in Cairo, Illinois, shot by Keith Dotson. Click to buy a fine art photograph for your home or office.
Ayer's Pills for the Liver
Ayer's Pills for the Liver was a "miracle cure" that promised to aid in numerous ailments, including constipation, indigestion, dyspepsia, heartburn and disorders of the liver. Ayer's Pills are the best remedy for gout, dropsy, and kidney complaints. They even promised to open pores, allowing release of inflammatory secretions. It seems to have been offered in the US from the 1870s until at least 1900.
Above: Ad (front and back) for Ayer's Pills, courtesy of East Carolina University Digital Collections
Ayer's Pills were one of many pharmaceuticals offered by Dr. J.C. Ayer and Co., of Lowell, Massachusetts. James Cook Ayer was America's leading and wealthiest manufacturer of patent medicine. In the 1870s, he spent the unbelievable sum of $140,000 annually to advertise his medicines, and amassed a fortune of $20 million (Wikipedia).
Ayer graduated from medical school, but never practiced medicine, choosing instead to concentrate on the development of his medicines and the subsequent business. He died in 1878.
Print ad for Ayer's Pills
Old Wall Ad for Ayer's Pills - Cairo, Illinois. Click to buy a fine art black and white print.
1. East Carolina University Digital Collections
2. Wikipedia, James Cook Ayer
3. Advertising to the American Woman, 1900-1999, by Daniel Delis Hill, "The Terrible Headache" Ad