I was walking to pick up a fire hydrant permit in Brooklyn yesterday when I noticed a really interesting ghost sign on the side of 208 Livingston Street:
For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a “ghost sign” is an ad for a company that no longer exists.
This one is an ad for a company called Pomeroy, and it was the unusual list of products that caught my eye: trusses, elastic stockings, abdominal belts…
…and artificial legs:
There’s just something so early-1900’s about a company using a wall sign to advertise their artificial legs, as if you might happen to be walking down the street and suddenly think, “well, I am in the market for a new left gam.” I also love the elevator entrance sign, with one of those cute little pointing hands (it’s really too bad we no longer direct people with pointing hands).
Sadly, you can no longer buy artificial limbs of any kind at 208 Livingston Street. But what was Pomeroy? And where did it go?
From the early 1800’s through the 1930’s, Pomeroy was a prominent maker of “surgical appliances” in New York City. Now, I’m no doctor, but some of these devices feel a bit like quackery to me. For example, “The Pomeroy Surgical Corset” promises to cure various ailments, including those where your internal organs start sliding below their normal position. Er, should I be concerned about this??
Pomeroy also made a number of custom-fitted “supporting belts.” If you’re not sold by the picture, the Pomeroy catch phrase (printed in italics below) is sure to win you over: “If you miss it, you do not score at all.” Huh.
Oddly, the ad closes with “One of the Pomeroy Belts – You should know them all!” It seems very unusual to know a company’s entire line of girdles…but those were different times.
Also, this anti-hernia device really freaks me out:
If you’re curious about where these elastic stockings and abdominal supporters were being made, this ad from a 1910 edition of the New York State Journal of Medicine offers a rare peek into the Pomeroy factory…
…and I’m almost positive the location featured is 208 Livingston Street, where the ghost sign is located. Several ads for elastic hosiery specifically mention the 208 Livingston address, and if it’s a further indication, the room is lined with three windows…
…which seem to match up with the building as it stands today. I checked some of the other Pomeroy addresses listed in the ads, and none seem to fit correctly.
Another picture, showing men in vests knitting elastic hosiery:
The main showroom appears to have been at 16 East 42nd Street – prime real estate!
Today, that storefront is occupied by a Cafe Metro, though one could imagine a show room on the second floor as well:
Finding anything on the history of Pomeroy is next to impossible. The last mention of Pomeroy appears in a 1936 medical journal, and then…gone. If you happen to know any more, please leave a comment!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to be fitted for a surgical corset. My kidneys feel a bit lower than usual.
PS – While I was going through a bunch of turn of the century medical journals, I found this very interesting ad:
Yes, that is heroin as in heroin, and yes, the directions include a prescription for children as young as three. According to this awesome website on pre-prohibition-era drugs, heroin was used not only as an analgesic, but also asthma, coughs, and pneumonia. The glycerin (glyco) was added along with sweeteners to make the bitter opiate taste better.
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