Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Ads You’re Not Going to See Again Anytime Soon – Chapter 11

Ads You’re Not Going to See Again Anytime Soon – Chapter 11

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 13, 2008

These ads were published in 1912; the Stall books were heavily advertised in Church magazines and available through Church bookstores at least through the early 1920s.




  1. Dr. Stall appears to be a real piece of work. You can find his book to young men online here.

    He advises parents to not allow their boys to climb trees or slide down bannisters, and cautions against the dread spectre of complete nervous system collapse due to the sin of Onan.

    Comment by Mark Brown — November 13, 2008 @ 8:03 am

  2. Wow. The birds and the bees.

    I’ve been scanning through Mark’s link in comment 1 and have worked through corn and blooming trees and am working my way through oyster reproduction.

    Did you know that baby oysters are orphans? Neither did I, but now I do thanks to Sylvanus Stall.

    By the way, is “Sylvanus” a pen name?

    Comment by Researcher — November 13, 2008 @ 8:16 am

  3. And now I’ve learned that we are very much like dumplings.



    (That is the actual conclusion of the Cylinder VI sex ed section of the book.)

    Comment by Researcher — November 13, 2008 @ 8:29 am

  4. #2 – Re: the pen name question, I have at least one “Sylvanus” in my family history.

    It’s really fascinating to read about how this topic was addressed at different times in different cultures. What do you think Mr. Stall would say about FMH? I’d pay a few cents to read his reaction.

    Comment by Ray — November 13, 2008 @ 8:32 am

  5. The “dumpling” analogy had me giggling, too — I could just see God throwing a sheet of skin around my unborn self and gathering it up tight at the point that was carefully NOT called a “belly button.”

    Also, the visible “evidence” of a young girl’s self-abuse included all the most ordinary symptoms of adolescence. Do you suppose Mrs. Wood-Allen deliberately threw in things like an unwillingness to help around the house in order to scare girls into better behavior, lest they be accused of secret vice, or do you think she honestly believed that oily skin and backache were genuine symptoms of guilt?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 13, 2008 @ 8:42 am

  6. The book Herself by Edith Belle Lowry is a bit more detailed and scientific than the Stall book.

    From a brief look, it is very much worth reading if you are interested in women’s history. As I scan through, there is some very bad advice, some good advice, and a lot of strong opinion. The chapter on birth control is very interesting, because she states simply that she cannot discuss it or risk committing a federal crime. Then she makes a strong case for the knowledge of different types of birth control to be readily available to the public.

    An awful chapter is the one on mental health or “Nervousness” as she calls it. Who knew that mental illness could be cured by finding a hobby or taking a nap!

    Wow, Ardis. A lot of interesting things here! I wonder how much 20th century Mormon views of sexuality were formed by these books?

    Comment by Researcher — November 13, 2008 @ 8:50 am

  7. It’s kind of funny that this one would be “Chapter 11”. Is all of the thinking in the ads bankrupt?

    Comment by queuno — November 13, 2008 @ 10:59 am

  8. queuno, I thought of skipping this number for that reason. Funny you should have noted the same thing!

    Really, though, as old-fashioned and perverse as are parts of the books’ contents, I think some other parts are pretty good, considering the date. They at least try to give accurate information about anatomy, even if they do muddle things by being too delicate to be entirely frank. And I can understand why the church promoted them as heavily as they seem to have done, because biology is presented not just as biology but as a God-given, God-directed process with moral expectations and consequences.

    Let’s just say that the thinking of the ads needs to be “reorganized” as allowed under a Chapter 11 filing — the thinking doesn’t call for the liquidation process of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 13, 2008 @ 11:12 am

  9. I want to know what a man of forty-five ought to know. I’m on a high-speed collision course with that ominous number…

    Comment by Chad Too — November 13, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

  10. If you’d really like to know (I haven’t actually looked at the contents since I am neither male nor particularly close to 45), you can read it here.

    I guess I’ll eventually be 45, so perhaps I should read What a Woman of Forty-five Ought to Know. I see that Sylvanus Stall held the copyright on the woman’s book.

    Comment by Researcher — November 13, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  11. That’s a scary list of keywords at the top of that link, Researcher. I’m not sure I know all that, and I’m approaching age mmmfd mummble mmmfm …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 13, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  12. Mastication?!?!??! You sent me to a website that suggests I need to perfect my mastication?!?!

    Great. Now I have to have my Bishop over for dinner.

    Comment by Chad Too — November 13, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

  13. Maybe I need to read WHAT a WOMAN of 45 OUGHT to KNOW, so I can learn what I missed. Seriously, the Hyrum 2nd Ward Relief Society minutes show the lesson for 14 Sep 1915 as “hygiene for women past fifty.” The lesson for 22 Sep 1915 was “clothing for women past forty,” with caution to the sisters who were indulging in extremes of style. If you look at the RS sisters grouped together in photos from that period, all alike in somber black dresses, you wonder what extremes of style they could be talking about.

    Comment by Maurine — November 13, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

  14. Holes at the elbow and knee, Maurine.

    Comment by Ray — November 13, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

  15. Perhaps (just a guess) “extremes” referred to this being the period when the switch was being made from the corset to the brassiere.

    Comment by Researcher — November 13, 2008 @ 7:04 pm

  16. I came to this fascinating stuff way too late–those instructions for the man approaching 45 are, alas, of no use to me. What difficulties I might have avoided had I only seen this in time.

    I suspect that the references to “Cylinders” are to recordings of the chapters that could be played on an Edison Talking Machine. Here are some great photos of such a machine, with a patent date of 2002–Dr. Stall’s cylinders could have been played on this very machine.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 14, 2008 @ 12:08 am

  17. I just started to skim through those guides for 45 year olds. What a riot! If you need a good laugh, there’s no need to look any further than Sylvanus Stall.

    The double entendres alone! Shudder!

    Anyone whose hair has started to gray should refrain from remarrying, exerting themselves in certain ways (yes, he does say that all those activities should cease!), staying up late, riding bicycles.

    I love this quote; it’s so deliciously horrible: “With the impotence of decreptitude, however, we have little to do…”

    And the advice to women! Unfortunately some of it is still out there in the culture. I have a “queer feeling in the head” (direct quote) but it’s not from impending menopause, it’s from reading Stall’s book.

    Comment by Researcher — November 14, 2008 @ 8:46 am

  18. FWIW, I located a New York Times article noting Dr. Stall’s death.

    Comment by Justin — November 14, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

  19. … and on that day in 1915, there was a great sliding down of banisters by Young Boys, and a great enjoyment of excessively hot and cold foods by Women of Forty-Five! (All queer feelings were banished from heads bowed in the impotence of decrepitude, too.)

    Thanks, Justin. So the religious thought that influenced his sex books is Lutheran.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 14, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

  20. On another note, I’ve discovered that H.L. Mencken had quite a few things to say about Stall:

    First Steps in Divinity

    Blushful Mystery (e.g., pp. 195-96, 199).

    Comment by Justin — November 14, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

  21. That’s magnificent, Justin!

    The first one was funny and interesting. The second was a real laugh. I particularly enjoyed a quote from page 200:

    Moreover, all this new-fangled “frankness” tends to dam up, at least for civilized adults, one of the principal well-springs of art, to wit, impropriety. What is neither hidden nor forbidden is seldom very charming. If women, continuing their present tendency to its logical goal, end by going stark naked, there will be no more poets and painters, but only dermatologists and photographers…

    As my grandmother used to say about certain fashions, “Let’s leave a little bit to the imagination.”

    Ray asked what Stall would think about the discussions on fMh? Stall could hardly object. It sounds like he started it all.

    Comment by Researcher — November 14, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

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