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UpToDate Online
American Academy of Pediatrics Journals
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Harriet Lane Handbook
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The Perfect Gift from Santa is a Bottle of Vi-Daylin

Sometimes the most interesting and fun items in a collection are the oddballs.  Take a look at this special Christmas edition of Abbott Laboratories’ in-house magazine What’s New from December 1953.  Although it’s part of the H. Richard Tyler Collection, it has nothing to do with neurology or anatomy. Instead it’s a piece of ephemera from a pharmaceutical company that Dr. Tyler chose to keep and hand over to us as part of his donation.  While it might not fit in with the collection’s overall focus, it still provides us with an interesting – and amusing – look at 1950s medical advertising.

Abbott Laboratories was founded in 1888 by Chicago physician Wallace Calvin Abbott, whose business consisted of distributing alkaloid remedies in the form of tiny pills.  It was incorporated as the Abbott Alkaloidal Company in 1894, and in 1907 began to expand internationally by opening an office in London.  The company manufactured a variety of products, including antiseptics, anesthetics, and vitamins; and in the latter part of the 20th century began to focus on diagnostic services.  They are still in business today, with their headquarters located in North Chicago. 

Information on What’s New is fairly scarce. It was the brainchild of DeWitt Clough, who became president of Abbott Industries in 1933, and was published through the 1970s.  The company wanted the publication to appeal to a distinguished audience consisting of doctors, and to that end hired members of the Associated American Artists to provide illustrations.  While this Christmas issue is certainly appealing to look at, the overall effect is just a little bit odd – chances are children would not be overly excited to find bottles of vitamins in their stockings, and seeing a holiday street scene above a headline reading “Testosterone Test for the Male Climacteric” is a bit jarring.  Nevertheless, that’s all a part of this item’s unique charm.


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