Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Vim Vigor Vitality, Oh, My!

Vim Vigor Vitality, Oh, My!

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 14, 2012

This ad, a single newspaper column wide and in the tiniest imaginable print, can be found (with some variation) in many newspapers around the turn of the last century; this particular example comes from the Morning Oregonian of Portland, Oregon, on 15 December 1899. I wish the image were clearer, but it’s sooooooooooooo tiny. A transcription follows the image.




Mormon Bishops’ Pills have been in use over 50 years by the leaders of the Mormon Church and their followers. Positive cures the worst cases in old and young arising from effects of self-abuse, dissipation, excesses, or cigarette-smoking. Cures Lost Manhood, Impotency, Lost Power, Night-Losses, Spermatorrhoea, Insomnia, Pains in Back, Evil Desires, Seminal Emissions, Lame Back, Nervous Disability, Headache, Unfitness to Marry, Loss of Semen, Varicocele, or Constipation, Stops Quickness of Discharge, Stops Nervous Twitching of Eyelids. Effects are immediate. Impart vigor and potency to every function. Don’t get despondent, a cure is at hand. Restores small, undeveloped organs. Stimulates the brain and nerve centers. 50c a box, 6 for $2.50 by mail. A written guarantee, to cure or money refunded, with deluxes [?]. Circulars free. Address, Bishop Remedy Co., San Francisco, Cal.

For sale by Woodard, Clarke & Co., Portland, Or.



  1. Oh my, indeed.

    Comment by Paul — September 14, 2012 @ 6:36 am

  2. Well, I’m awfully glad that the pills cure evil desires. Otherwise all that vim, vigor and vitality which the pills unleash could cause no end of harm.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 14, 2012 @ 6:45 am

  3. Imagine that picture of a vigorous man used in the ads today. Wow.

    Comment by Carol — September 14, 2012 @ 6:49 am

  4. Uhhh – do they still make this stuff, and if so, where can I buy some? Not for me, for someone I know!:)

    Comment by IDIAT — September 14, 2012 @ 7:53 am

  5. I’m reading through back issues of The Union (St. George, Utah) and just saw the following from the editor, who must have seen one too many pharmaceutical ads:

    Here My Honey:
    And the birds are numerous among the Mesquit and Greaswood, singing their sweet songs of spring, bringing joy and merriment to the gay, striving to drive away the gloom and ennui caused by the Spring Fever and that Torpid Liver, yet there is still something lacking in order to tone up the blood and system and give that bloom to the cheek, that all are so desirous of procuring, and the article that will do this the QUICKEST is the
    taken once each week, according to directions. The cost of ihis article is nominal being only one dollar and fifty cents per year in advance, and can be procured of
    Joseph W. Carpenter
    Editor & Proprietor,
    St. George,

    (February 22, 1896, all spelling as in the original.)

    Comment by Amy T — September 14, 2012 @ 8:28 am

  6. Whoa. So is this a case of non-Mormons cashing in on rumors of Mormon virility (due to the practice of polygamy no doubt) coupled with an image of Mormon moral rectitude (they know how to overcome “self-abuse, dissipation, excesses, or cigarette-smoking” and “Evil Desires”)?

    Ardis, were Mormons back in the late 1800s commonly recognized as especially virile, potent, and sexually continent? I guess I had never thought about Mormons being sex symbols back in the day. But it makes complete sense if folks imagined strapping Mormon men fully capable of “managing” a harem and producing mass progeny.

    Comment by oudenos — September 14, 2012 @ 10:05 am

  7. I’ve seen a few rude allusions to Mormons as “goats” or “rutting deer” but not too many. There might be more in the ruder exposes that I haven’t read. On the other hand, I’ve also seen allusions to how polygamy “exhausts” Mormon men, leading them to produce mostly daughters. So I suppose it was like everything else in the world of bigotry: you could make whatever claim suited your purpose!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 14, 2012 @ 10:25 am

  8. Looks just like what I get in my spam filter every morning.

    With the reference to constipation, can we assume that these folks got the formula from Catherine Hurst?

    Comment by kevinf — September 14, 2012 @ 10:25 am

  9. How on earth can you tell if you’ve got a Torpid Liver? If I did, I’d like to know it!

    Comment by Mark B. — September 14, 2012 @ 11:21 am

  10. Mark –

    I have a liver with high liver enzyme production (about 5-10 times normal) and when I first started recognizing the problem, I saw the residents at the specialist, before the doctor came in. I told them my liver hurt, at random times, and that it often woke me up at night. The two residents smirked at each other and said “Sounds like torpid liver to me.” They then winked and asked me how much alocohol I drank. Once they realized that it wasn’t an alcoholism problem, then we actually got around to dealing with the real problem.

    So, I am guessing that “torpid liver” was pains in the abdominal area that happen when you drink too much.

    Comment by Julia — September 14, 2012 @ 11:38 am

  11. Don’t you just love smirking doctors? Especially smirking residents–who are doctors, but of course you don’t want them actually treating you!

    Comment by Mark B. — September 14, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

  12. Mark B-

    I have a couple of unusual conditions. They aren’t that odd in any particular specialty, but especially my liver and migraines can get doctors fighting over which meds are okay or not. If I like a resident, I will clue them in to why I take a particular combination of medications. If they are too pompous, I keep quiet and let them take the heat for suggesting a medication change that isn’t appropriate. Sigh. More than half don’t get any extra clues from me.

    I sent the link to this post to several friends who are doctors, or who work with them. Maybe they will share some added insight.

    Comment by Julia — September 14, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

  13. Oh, probably no one but Ardis will care, but I finally figured out how to take off the automatic signature. 😉 🙂

    Comment by Julia — September 14, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

  14. Julia: 😀

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 14, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

  15. Um, wow. I have no words….

    Comment by Chocolate on my Cranium — September 14, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

  16. gee what a useful pill that is. I love the picture of the man filled with vim and vigor…if that doesn’t sell it what will?

    Comment by britt — September 16, 2012 @ 5:48 am

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