Scroll Down to Watch the Video
Before the negative side effects of a little something called radium were fully understood, it was the kind of ingredient that got tossed into just about every type of product you could imagine. Of course, this was in the early 1900s, and radium had really only been around since 1898 when Marie and Pierre Currie discovered it and later turned that discovery into a Nobel prize five years later. How could something with an intoxicating glow to it be bad for you, right?
Starting in 1910, if your product didn’t have radium in it, it got lost in an ever-expanding pack of those that did. And those products that claimed to have the radioactive edge but really didn’t? Thankfully the U.S. government would step in and put an end to the misleading advertising.
The number of products seen in the marketplace was astounding. Everything from radium-impregnated fabrics used to wrap babies and help with arthritis to a radioactive heating pad, to a radium tonic to prevent grey hair to radium bath salts to Dengen’s Radio-Active Eye Applicators, a pair of eye-glasses that instead of lenses placed pods filled with radioactive materials right next to the eyes and claimed to restore perfect vision and cure headaches.
For two decades radium was something that was willfully worn, ingested, or shoved up the nether bits with complete disregard for the growing number of suspicious deaths surrounding those that manufactured the goods consumers were clamoring for. Yes, radium isn’t always bad and does exist naturally in the wild (brazil nut, anyone?), but only in extremely small and harmless doses.
As for the the Curries who discovered radium way back when? Their laboratory notebooks from that era are still too radioactive to handle, more than 100 years after the fact.
We can partially blame Marie Curie personally for the radium craze. Right up until her untimely death (due to radiation poisoning) she continued to look for ways her discovery could benefit humanity. Right before she died, with hands burned by radioactivity, she wrote about “medical therapeutics” involving radiation.
She suggested there could be a powerful medicinal benefit to drinking water suffused with radon — a radioactive gas created by the breakdown of thorium and uranium — injecting irradiated saline into veins, muscles or joints, inhaling radon-laced air, or taking a nice bath in radioactive water. Mind you, she was a scientist, so she does note that “the scientific basis is here still little developed and the empirical character prevails.”
The medical profession runs with it anyway, and doctors begin writing radium prescriptions for arthritis, gout, hypertension, sciatica, lumbago and a host of other ailments. In 1916 the medical journal Radium — yes, there was an actual journal of medicine called Radium — declares that “Radium has absolutely no toxic effect, being harmoniously accepted by the human body, as solar light for plants.”
It takes a little time for the empirical characters of dosing yourself with radiation every day make themselves apparent, but by then it’s a bit too late for some.
For the record, the health effects from radium exposure include cancer, anemia, cataracts, and death. Granted, it is used therapeutically in cancer radiation treatments, but only because it is so effective at killing cells; one just hopes it manages to kill all the cancer cells before it has the chance to kill the ones you need. You know, to live.
Radioactive Chocolate Bar
With radium mania taking a firm grip on the consciousness of the shopping decision-makers of the world, producers began shoving the stuff in anything they could. Food was an easy choice. And everybody loves chocolate, right?
The Radium Schokolade chocolate bar was manufactured by Burk & Braun in Germany, and sold as a way to make you look and feel younger. Rejuvenating, they called it.
Europeans could also choose Hippman-Blach bakery’s Radium Bread, made with that amazing radium water.
These were sold from 1931 to 1936, when they were discontinued. Any connection between sweet-loving Germans chowing down on radioactive candy and the rise of Nazism are surely coincidental.
We don’t mean to pick on the poor Germans, but in addition to glowing chocolate and Hitler they also gave us toothpaste laced with a bit of thorium. Honestly, the radiation levels were really low, but it still made claim to some pretty amazing properties:
“Its radioactive radiation increases the defenses of the teeth and gums. The cells are loaded with a new energy of life, the destructive effect of bacteria is hampered. That explains the excellent prophylaxis and the healing process of gum disease … ”
This product flew off the shelves between 1940 and 1945, which of course is smack dab in the height of World War II. So we can probably be glad that German scientists were more interested in putting radioactive stuff into dental hygiene products than they were into, say, bombs.
Batschari Radium Cigarettes
Ok. What is it with the Germans and their radioactive gimmicks? Putting a whole new spin on the concept of the death stick, the Batschari tobacco company in Baden-Baden, Germany made radium cigarettes between 1910 and 1915.
Wait…wasn’t that during World War I? Could there be an unexplored connection between Prussian aggression and the amount of radiation coursing through their blood?
Oh wait, the Americans were even crazier about radium than the Germans. We give you Exhibit A: radioactive suppositories. Because nothing screams “health!” more than shoving a radioactive pellet up your ass.
Seriously, the advertising copy says it better than we ever could:
“Vita Radium Suppositories, for rectal use by men, are tone restorers of sex and energizers for the entire nervous, glandular and circulatory systems. These Suppositories contain a result-producing amount of highly refined soluble RADIUM, carried in a cocoa butter base. The radium is absorbed thru the walls of the lower colon, enters the blood stream and is carried to all parts of the body-to the weakened organs that need its vitalizing aid. After leaving its durable HEALTHY RESULTS, the radium is gradually eliminated in about three days. Vita Radium Suppositories are guaranteed entirely harmless.
Recommended for sexually weak men who, however, should use the NU_MAN Tablets in connection for best results. Also, splendid for piles and rectal sores. Try them and see what good results you get!”
And how would the “Weak Discouraged Men” know that their treatment was working? Well, obviously, they would now:
“Bubble Over with Joyous Vitality Through the Use of Glands and Radium… properly functioning glands make themselves known in a quick, brisk step, mental alertness and the ability to live and love in the fullest sense of the word… A man must be in a bad way indeed to sit back and be satisfied without the pleasures that are his birthright!… Try them and see what good results you get!”
Take that, Viagra.
The company that sold these little miracle workers, the Radium Remedies Company of Pittsburgh, had a number of other irradiated products available between 1917 and 1929, but nothing of this calibre.
Nutex Radium Condoms
So let’s say you’ve been dutifully keeping some highly refined soluble RADIUM, carried in a cocoa butter base up your ass for a while, and are enjoying some properly functioning glands at last. You need to make sure you can enjoy the pleasures that are your birthright with a clear conscience.
Fear not, glowing Lothario, Nutex Radium Condoms to the rescue!
Hell yes, people, those Germans with their chocolate and toothpaste have nothing on American ingenuity. Down the road from Radium Remedies Company of Pittsburgh the Nutex Company of Philadelphia was shilling radioactive rubbers.
But hold. Were they really?
Could this just be an example of clever marketing jumping on the bandwagon and trying to get you to think you were protected by the prophylactic powers of radiation?
Well, the product was taken off the market in 1940 after the Federal Trade Commission rules that the company made “false and misleading” representations that the product “was absolutely perfect, would afford protection, and would be effective for the prevention of disease.”
Now, maybe this was a condemnation of radium as a path to safe sex, or maybe they were just really wretched condoms.
Sources: Nutex Condoms
Radium Hand Cleaner
Now ladies, don’t feel left out because the men got all the cool radioactive toys. In the 1910s, the Radium Compound Company of Phoenix, New York produced radium hand cleaners. And while these were not specifically meant for use by women, and in addition to cleaning hands (“Quickly removes grease, paint, tar, rust and all other discolorations without irritating the skin. It cleanses softens and heals”), the recommended use was also for “Kettles, Frying Pans, Pails, Stewpots, Roasters and Tea Kettles,” we can pretty safely make some assumptions about the target audience here. After all, this was the 1910’s.
So far, this looks like the best stuff to try. After all, it does “take off everything but the skin!”
Tho-Radia Beauty Products
Now that your skin is cleaner than ever before, you need to give that healthy radioactive glow. Lucky for you, Tho-Radia gave you a whole product line to choose from. There were perfumes, creams, facial powders, lipsticks and other beauty products, all with a healthy smattering of thorium-cloride and radium mixed up in them. It promised to rejuvenate and brighten the skin, and surely nobody would promise something like that if they couldn’t deliver.
The ads for Tho-Radia proudly proclaimed that these products were presented to you by a man named Docteur Alfred Curie. Was he real, or was he an Aunt Jemima-like marketing fabrication meant to make you think this product was somehow directly linked to Marie or Pierre?
Surprise! Alfred was a read dude. And a doctor, too! And French, so really a docteur! But not, it would seem, any relation to Pierre Curie. Ah well, at least he was clever enough to take advantage of the coincidence. Or…maybe it was the coincidental same name that got him into the business.
The Tho Radia brand was registered for “pharmaceutical, beauty and pharmacy products” and launched in 1933, the same year Curie registered a trademark for a Crème Radio-Thorium despite, apparently, having no previous interest or experience in pharmaceuticals.
And because we feel bad about picking on the Germans earlier, we’ll point out that Alfred Curie pushed a line of radium toothpaste to the American market as well.
Radium Brand Creamery Butter
Ok, here’s one that probably most definitely for sure didn’t have any radium in it. It’s obvious, because look: those cows all have the right number of legs and horns. No radiation on that dairy farm, nope.
The power of the radium idea was strong enough to merit being used in the branding anyway. It makes no claim to be radioactive, or to offer any of the supposed benefits of radioactivity, or even to be anything except rich, creamery butter. But given the choice between ordinary butter and radium butter, which are you gonna choose, sucker?