Popular Poisons of the Roaring Twenties

Popular Poisons of the Roaring Twenties. A great senior thesis topic, huh? And why not? It’s a fascinating subject, not to mention a necessity when writing about murder and suicide in the 1920s.  

Part One: Arsenic.

One of the oldest poisons is arsenic. Because symptoms of arsenic poisoning are so fuzzy, it has been a murder weapon of choice since Roman times, if not earlier. There are legitimate uses, of course, the main one being pest extermination, and arsenic has appeared on the shelves of general stores in America since general stores first appeared in the colonies. A variety of brands developed over the years, including my favorite (and the one I use in my novel): Rough on Rats.

Don’t you love that name? So alliterative, so growlingly fierce. You just know Rough on Rats is going to eliminate your problem, critter or human–especially when you see the marketing images of a dead rat with his little paws in the air.

 Rough on Rats                                                                                                                                                  






Or this other great visual of the chaos that occurs when you fail to use Rough on Rats:

Rough on Rats #2                                                                   

Caption says: “All this trouble might have been avoided by the use of our Fifteen Cent box of Rough on Rats. Clears out Rats, Mice, Flies, Bed-bugs, Ants, Roaches, Mosquitos, &c.” 

I’m trying to locate an actual package of Rough on Rats for my collection of Roaring Twenties ephemera . . . no luck yet but I have one of the country’s leading experts in period store merchandise on the look-out for me. Suzanne of Squashapenny Junction has tens of thousands of merchandise antiques and collectibles (ie, old but not antique) crammed into her old store in Doswell, Virginia, and she constantly travels all over the U.S. to find more.  (I’d put in a link but she doesn’t own a computer . . . her inventory is in her head.)

Coming next . . . Poisons Part Two: Mercury Bichloride

Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment