25 Disturbing Vintage Ads Featuring Creepy Kids and Questionable Products
Here we present a collection of 25 disturbing vintage ads featuring creepy kids and some outrageous products that may just make you cringe or even laugh out loud. What was going through the minds of these advertisers? Did creepy kid illustrations really help sell these products? Did people back in the day really not understand you shouldn’t wrap a baby in cellophane?
Many of these old ads feature frighteningly illustrated children or ominous products with the potential to harm or even cause death. These vintage ads, from the late 1800s to the 1950s, used kids to promote cigarettes, guns, dangerous and addictive drugs, and more.
National Restaurant Association Magazine Advertisement – May 1957
Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic – Late 1800s
“Makes children and adults as fat as pigs.” Featuring the head of a child on a pig’s body, this was indeed a creepy advertisement – even for the 1800s. Grove’s Chill Tonic was created as a preventative treatment and relief (not a cure) for malaria chills and fever back in 1878. History records show that the tonic was not actually “tasteless” as claimed, although it was better than taking the other malaria treatment of the time – straight quinine. Grove’s was actually a hugely popular product, as it was the only effective malaria treatment until the 1930s. The tonic was so popular, in fact, that the British army made it a standard item for every soldier being sent to mosquito infected lands. By 1890, Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic had actually sold more bottles globally than Coca-Cola.
Diamond Dyes – 1885
“It’s easy to dye with Diamond Dyes.” This disturbing vintage ad depicts a little girl seated on the floor, proudly showing her mother a doll and a kitten she has dipped into a bowl of red Diamond Dye. The creepy factor in this 19th Century American Trade Cards promotional trading card is increased by the choice of red for the dye color, which makes it look like she has murdered the poor little kitty.
Du Pont Cellophane – Disturbing Magazine Ad – 1950s
“You see so many good things in Du Pont Cellophane” These babies are actually really cute, but surely the people at Du Pont in the 1950s were smart enough to know that a baby could be suffocated by cellophane, right? Well, apparently not. This is just one of several advertisements by Du Pont featuring babies bagged up in the good old plastic wrap.
Pears’ Soap Advertisement – 1904
This 1904 disturbing advertisement features a pouting, crying baby in an old-school wash tub with the headline “He won’t be happy til he gets it!” The drawing of the baby is creepy enough, but does this really make one want to buy soap?
Vintage Karo Syrup Ad – 1952
Yep… I’m strong for Karo Syrup” This November 1952 advertisement from Good Housekeeping Magazine for Karo Syrup featured a super-strong, weight lifting toddler in a leopard print leotard. Makes you want some corn syrup right now, doesn’t it?
Pillsbury Cake Mixes – 1954
“Mother, I love you” 1954 Pillsbury Cake Mixes magazine advertisement featuring a cute, but ominously creepy young girl who appears to have taken a piece of cake without permission and is eating it in a furry.
Nabisco Cookie – Oreo Advertisement – Early 1950s
“Open Up an Oreo (Creme Sandwich) and Take a Lick!” Here we present two advertisements from Nabisco Cookie during the early 1950s. Illustrations of the little boy and girl with their tongues sticking out to lick the cookie are just realistic enough to make them creepy.
Du Pont Cellophane – 1954
“Bread’s better ’cause it’s fresher in Cellophane” Another disturbing vintage ad from Du Pont Cellophane. Instead of babies appearing to be wrapped in cellophane, this ad features an extremely creepy looking young lady and her intense desire for the fresh bread and jelly her mother is preparing.
W.K. Kellogg’s Signature Toasted Corn Flakes Cereal Advertisement – 1915
The Gas Council Advertisement – 1950s
Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup – Late 1800s
“The Mother’s Friend – For Teething Children.” This product was developed and hit the shelves way back in 1845. It sold millions of bottles every year at just $0.25 each. It is reported to have worked very well for teething children to give parents a break, but it also caused a great number of accidental deaths from overdosing as well. Why might that be, you ask? Because the product’s two main ingredients were alcohol and morphine! The American Medical Association denounced the product and tried to have it banned in 1911. But, it continued to be sold to the public as late as 1930.
Stokely’s Finest & Van Camp’s – 1952
Pears’ Soap – Late 1800s
Pears’ apparently really believed that creepy looking images of babies in distress was the key to sales.
Wringer Washing Machines – ca1910-1930
Duke of Durham Cigarettes – 1890s
Puffin Biscuits – 1956
“So light they almost fly!” The kids in this 1956 advertisement for Puffin Biscuits aren’t creepy at all, but the floating biscuits make it feel very odd. And, why does one kid have a space helmet while the other doesn’t?
Disturbing Vintage Ads – Gillette Safety Razor – 1905
Kraft Marshmallow Creme – Late 1950s
Florida Citrus Commission – 1951
Johnson & Johnson – 1959
Maple City Soap Works – ca1895
Disturbing Vintage Ads – Pears’ Soap – 1899
“Mamma, this isn’t Pears’!” Pears’ Soap seems to have cornered the market on creepy kids in advertising. This vintage turn-of-the-century ad features a crying baby in a wooden wash tub that has the face and hair of a 40-year-old man.
Canada Dry – Pale Ginger Ale – 1938
“They Call Him Ginger (He’s Got So Much Of It)” Drink Canada Dry Ginger Ale – It’s Gingervating. Canada Dry used this extremely creepy illustration of a young boy to promote their beverage back in the 1930s and 1940s.
Stokely’s Finest & Van Camp’s – 1952
“The Joy of Good Eating” We end our post on disturbing vintage ads featuring children with a second joint advertisement from Stokely’s Finest and Van Camp’s. This 1952 advertisement featured an illustration of a devilish looking little boy digging into a can of Van Camp’s Pork and Beans. It appears they were possibly going for a campfire look, but this just screams future serial killer.
Advertising has changed quite a bit since these ads ran in mainstream newspapers, magazines, trading cards and other printed publications. And, thankfully, some of these products have changed or been taken off the shelves altogether. If you enjoyed this list of disturbing vintage ads, please leave a comment below.