Friday, June 4, 1897: Sparagus Kidney Pills

Posted on October 31st, 2005 – 2:00 AM
By Ben Welter

Why buy a newspaper ad when you can hire a cheerful and energetic albino to wear a colorful sign on his back and tout your product in cities from coast to coast? This ingenious marketing strategy landed a free mention of an unfortunately named product on Page 5 of the Tribune when the walking advertisement, Horace T. Calver, had a brief run-in with the law.

If you can explain the main headline, please post. I just don’t get it.



Horace T. Calver, an Albino, Visits
Minneapolis in the Interests of
Hobbs, the Pill Man

Does a man need a license to walk around Minneapolis with the letters “Hobb’s Sparagus Kidney Pills” sewed in fancy colors on his back?

That became a decidedly practical question just two days ago. A policeman said he did and the man with the asparagus remedy sewed over his back thought otherwise. The policeman thought it was his business to arrest any man violating what he said was proscribed by the ordinance, and it took a conference between Supt. of Police Smith and City Attorney Healey to determine whether the policeman or the pill man was most competent to construe the law. Of course the policeman lost. The point had never been raised in Minneapolis before, and it will serve as a precedent.

The man who wears the suggestive legend as the adornment of his broad backbone knows more about the geography of American cities, perhaps, than any other man in the country. His sole business is to walk everywhere for the purpose of having people see him – and reading the sign on his back – and they do see him. He has been walking about Minneapolis for a few days, and the chances are that not a person reading this has not noticed his striking appearance. He is a pronounced Albino, and his hair, which is as luxuriant as a meadow in summer, stands out from his head like a great bush. His eyes twitch and twinkle all the while, and his skin is as fair as any lady might wish.

His name is Horace T. Calver. He is only 28 years of age, and yet he has been almost everywhere in the civilized world. Strangely enough, he has never been in the show business. His father was a printer on the celebrated London Graphic, and like his mother, he was very dark skinned. There were three Albino boys in the family, the first two and the fifth children. Four of the children were dark like the parents.

Mr. Calver was apprenticed, when a boy, he was too restless to stay his time out, so he quit. He tried his hand at nearly everything with more or less success, and for five years he was a farmer in Manitoba, running a farm near Brandon, about 200 miles west from Winnipeg. Two years ago he went into the advertising business. He represents Hobb’s company, and besides showing himself, he superintends the distribution of literature in behalf of the Sparagus kidney specific.

Last evening Mr. Calver gave an exhibition of paper tearing at Voegeli’s drug store, and he is scheduled to give another impromptu show in the windows of the same establishment tomorrow evening.

“I have a good deal of fun out of my peculiarity,” said Mr. Calver. “As you see, I am not very sensitive about it. People look at me with curious interest, but I have stood it for 28 years, and it never hurt me. In fact, it does me good. The other day down near the Madison school, a hundred kids came out and shouted their lungs at me, and we had a jolly time. They all remember the Sparagus pills, and that is what I am after. I have been in every city in the United States, and when I get tired of sight-seeing here I am going to Europe. I don’t know how they will receive me there, but I mean to have a good time of it all the while.”

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