Weird Universe Blog — April 12, 2021

B-B-B Sweatshirts

Inexplicable fashion fad: In 1962, San Francisco adman Howard Gossage came up with the idea of putting the faces of classical composers on sweatshirts and selling them for $4. Consumers could choose between Beethoven, Bach, or Brahms. He quickly sold around 60,000 of them.

If you want one of these sweatshirts today (at least, an original one), you'll have to pay significantly more. On eBay, the asking price ranges from $1500 all the way up to $9000.

Life - Mar 30, 1962

Honolulu Star-Bulletin - May 4, 1962

Oakland Tribune - Feb 8, 1962

Posted By: Alex - Mon Apr 12, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Fads | Fashion | Music | 1960s

Follies of the Madmen #505

All scholars of oddball advertising are familiar with the Maidenform Bra campaign that used the tagline "I dreamed my Maidenform Bra." But I don't believe I've ever seen the campaign translated from print to 3-D.

"This is an original vintage photograph from the 1950s. It shows a surreal Maidenform Bra window display at Parsons Souders store in downtown Clarksburg, West Virginia."


Posted By: Paul - Mon Apr 12, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Business | Advertising | Underwear | 1950s

April 11, 2021

Reuben Lindstrom’s Wind Driven Vehicle

In 1940, Reuben Lindstrom was granted a patent for a "wind driven vehicle". It was a toy made out of tin cans. It resembled a model train, and the wind could make it go by itself. In his patent, Lindstrom explained that he deliberately avoided using a sail to propel the toy.

In wind driven vehicles it is desirable to avoid use of elevated wind responsive devices such as sails, windmills and the like and this is particularly true in toy vehicles simulating various types of full-sized vehicles for the reason that it is desired that the toy vehicle resemble as nearly as possible the full sized vehicle which it simulates.

Instead, he had shaped the wheels "to constitute wind responsive impeller blades".

Digging more deeply into the history of this patent, it turns out that Lindstrom was quite a character. For a start, he never cut his hair because, so he said, whenever he did he got heart trouble. In America, in the 1940s, this was unusual enough that it made the news.

Warren Times Mirror - June 28, 1949

He was a regular fixture around Wisconsin Rapids. A 2001 article in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune called him "our most unforgettable character."

In addition to his wind-driven toy train, he had built a kind of motorized bicycle, described as a "weird contraption of bicycle wheel, one cylinder gas motor, pulley, levers, scooter and miscellany." He used this to get around on roads and railroad lines.

He basically lived as a street person/free spirit, always carrying around "a picture of a woman with a large snake wrapped around her neck." Some people referred to him as the "inventor hobo".

One of the quotations attributed to him: "Fashion is the main religion of this world. If you are different, they think you are nuts. Most people stay away from me because they think I'm a religious fanatic. The girls also stay away from me."

Also: "Dirt's natural and it keeps human diseases from penetrating the skin and entering my body."

He died in 1988.

There's some more info about him at

Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune - June 9, 2001

Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 11, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Bums, Hobos, Tramps, Beggars, Panhandlers and Other Streetpeople | Inventions | Toys | 1940s | Trains

The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair

This drama illustrates the contribution of free enterprise, technology, and Westinghouse products to the American way of life. The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair pits an anti-capitalist bohemian artist boyfriend against an all-American electrical engineer who believes in improving society by working through corporations. The Middletons experience Westinghouse's technological marvels at the Fair and win back their daughter from her leftist boyfriend.

Memorable moments: the dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern and Mrs. Drudge; Electro, the smoking robot; and the Westinghouse time capsule.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Apr 11, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Fairs, Amusement Parks, and Resorts | Family | Technology | Bohemians, Beatniks, Hippies and Slackers | 1940s

April 10, 2021

Cow-Tongue Baldness Cure

Several sources have independently reported that the way to cure baldness is to have a cow lick your head.

Regina Leader-Post - Mar 8, 1984

Colombian hairdresser says he can lick baldness
November 29, 2000

PEREIRA, Colombia -- Want to lick hair loss? A Colombian hairdresser says he has found a way to lick baldness -- literally. His offbeat scalp treatment involves a special tonic and massage -- with a cow's tongue. "I feel more manly, more attractive to women," says customer Henry Gomez. "My friends even say 'What are you doing? You have more hair. You look younger.'"

Posted By: Alex - Sat Apr 10, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil | Cows | Hair and Hairstyling

10-Four, Good Buddy Board Game

Did any fad ever evaporate as quickly as CB radio?

Learn details here.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Apr 10, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Fads | Games | Motor Vehicles | Technology | 1970s

April 9, 2021

Marilyke Fashion

In 1953, Reverend Bernard Kunkel of Bartelso, Illinois launched the Marilyke fashion movement. Dresses that were sufficiently modest, like the Virgin Mary would have worn (i.e. 'Marilyke'), were given a seal of approval in the form of a Marilyke tag they could display. The tags were "there to guide the Catholic girls."

It seems that only wedding dresses and formal gowns were tagged. As Kunkel noted, "There's not much to be done about bathing suits... We strongly disapprove of the trend in modern bathing suits."

More info: Aliens in this world

source: University of Dayton

Detroit Free Press - June 13, 1955

Posted By: Alex - Fri Apr 09, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Fashion | Religion | 1950s

The Mimi Award

The Wikipedia entry for MECHANIX ILLUSTRATED tells us:

A long-running feature of Mechanix Illustrated was "Mimi," a shapely young woman dressed in skimpy overalls with blue and white vertical stripes; and, in the early sixties, a matching railroad engineer's cap (later discontinued). She was in a picture holding, standing beside, sitting on, lying on or just in the picture with a new product each month. Each "Mimi" held the job for a year. Their names were never given except for the announcement of a new "Mimi" in the January issue. One Mimi did, however, hold the job for a few years in the sixties. An actress from Southern California, she left to live in Hawaii, and a readers' poll was conducted to choose a replacement from a short list. The readers' choice only lasted a short while, and was replaced by one of the runners-up. "Mimi" was discontinued with the change to Home Mechanix.

Ten more Mimi's after the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Fri Apr 09, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Hobbies and DIY | Magazines | Technology | Sex Symbols | Twentieth Century

April 8, 2021

Avoid Undie Odor

Throughout the 1930s and 40s, the marketing team for Lux soap repeatedly warned consumers that if they didn't wash their clothes everyday, they risked having "undie odor". Some details from Suellen Hoy in her book Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness:

Lever Brothers, the makers of Rinso, Lifebuoy, and Lux soap, revised its advertising copy over the years to reflect the changing cultural meanings of soap itself... In 1916, Lux was "a wonderful new product" for "laundering fine fabrics:; by the mid-twenties it could also preserve "soft, youthful, lovely feminine hands" and, by the early thirties, prevent "undie odor" as well—"She never omits her Daily Bath, yet she wears underthings a SECOND DAY."

Francis Countway, the president of Lever Brothers and the individual most responsible for the "discovery" of body odors and the "stop smelling" ad pitch, was inspired by Listerine's successful advertising campaign against the previously unknown halitosis. Countway and his associates admitted, while Lever Brothers' business boomed, that they cared little "about the opinions of softies who think that the Body and Undie Odor copy is disgusting." They were simply doing their job, "bringing cleanliness into a dirty world."

Lux soap was also responsible for the "undies are gossips" campaign.

Wilmington Evening Journal - Feb 9, 1932

Kansas City Star - Apr 24, 1940

Posted By: Alex - Thu Apr 08, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Hygiene | Advertising | Underwear | 1930s | Smells and Odors

Unlikely Reasons for Murder No. 4

Being the victim of hypnotism pretty much qualifies as unusual cause for murder.

The scan of the story at this source is defective, so some text missing. The second scan gives a condensed version without reference to hypnotism. There is a discontinuity in the text in the second piece as well, and a truncated ending--but that's the way the article appeared.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Apr 08, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Death | Hypnotism, Mesmerism and Mind Control | Nineteenth Century

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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