Torn Between Two Lovers

October 10, 2007 | 24 comments
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English manufacturers were not the only ones to make Mormons the butt of a joke to advertise their products. Exactly the same image was used by a Connecticut pharmacist — but, it turns out, the trade card we looked at earlier was only one of a series of related cards telling a story:

Two women are enamored of the same man. The man chooses Lady A — which so devastates Lady B that she casts herself into the river. Lady A, glorying in her victory, is charitable enough to toss a life ring to her rival.

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Our tender-hearted hero rushes to the side of the sodden Lady B, who remains so distraught that she attempts to swallow poison. Having lost her love to Lady B, Lady A seizes a pair of convenient pistols and aims one at her fickle lover and one at her own head. Alas!

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But wait! There is a solution! Lady A and Lady B drop to their knees and propose a joint marriage to their beloved.

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He accepts their dual proposal — the instruments of destruction are cast aside — the happy trio prepares to journey to that polygamous paradise, Utah.
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Or at least that’s how I reconstruct the tale. How would you write it?
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24 Responses to Torn Between Two Lovers

  1. Mark IV on October 10, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Ardis,

    Wouldn’t it be great if R.S. Woodruff turns out to be related to Wilford? Waterbury is only 20 miles from Farmington where W.W. was born. I checked his Woodruff line on familysearch and there were several generations of Woodruffs all over that area, including a grandfather in Waterbury.

  2. Edje on October 10, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Wow! It’s just like in seminary: advance the projector when you hear the beep.

    In your earlier post you say: “The signpost points to Utah. So far so good — but I’m at a loss to explain the whisky bottle, coiled rope and pair of pistols lying on the ground to the right of the figures.” Congratulations on solving the mystery of the unexplained objects.

    Did the diving board break in image 2? or, what is that sticking out from behind her abdomen?

    I can’t think of an improvement in your telling unless the bottle contains a restorative of some sort–smelling salts or whiskey or tonic or something–provided by the male and thus enraging suitress A. I can’t make out any markings on the bottle; also, his facial expression doesn’t match smelling salts.

  3. Proud Daughter of Eve on October 10, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    I think you got it exactly right, Ardis! *lol*

  4. Ardis Parshall on October 10, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Mark, that *would* be ironic! I know that R.S. Woodruff was in the pharmacy business in 1888 but know very little else about him. I hadn’t realized the nearness of Waterbury to WW’s old ground — now I’ll have to identify RSW to see what connection I can find.

    Edje /beep/ Yeah, it was fun to find the rest of the story. That does seem to be a broken board behind our damp maiden — so maybe she didn’t jump; maybe she was running away from the painful sight of Lothario and Jezebel and didn’t see the broken boardwalk through her bitter tears. /beep/ I added a closeup of the bottle at the bottom of the post so that you can see it is labeled “POISON.” No telling why she just happened to have it with her at that fateful moment … or where Lady A happened to find those handy pistols. /beep/

  5. Adam Greenwood on October 10, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    A cipher . . . in the water.

  6. Edje on October 11, 2007 at 12:00 am

    Ardis, thanks for the enlarged view of the poison bottle.

    New question: What’s with Lady A’s scandalously (I presume?) short dress? I mean, we can see almost her whole gastrocnemius! Have I misunderstood 19th century sartorial norms or does her costume contribute to the general buffoonery/disreputability or does it it accomplish something else?

  7. Jonathan Green on October 11, 2007 at 2:16 am

    Ardis, this is awesome.

  8. CAW on October 11, 2007 at 3:33 am

    How did you find these others in the series? Do you own them all? What a fun collection! I could kind of make the “twisted” connection between the polygamists and the thread manufacturer, but I don’t get why the pharmacist is touting the usefulness of poison in the resolution of the conflicts of love. It says the pharmacist is also a dealer in Japanese novelties — do you think you could find this image in Japanese novelties?

  9. Ardis Parshall on October 11, 2007 at 8:52 am

    Glad you’re enjoying this, all. Me, too — I think we’re having more fun with it than, say, a missionary who might have arrived in Waterbury the weeks after these cards were distributed.

    Yes, these four cards are part of my collection. I have a fondness for odds and ends connected with Mormon history — I prefer artefacts we produced ourselves, whether for ourselves or for the world, but I pick up strange things like these advertising cards when I come across them, too. You can occasionally find ephemera like this in antique stores, dealers’ catalogs, ebay, and flea markets. I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of how to go about hunting for a particular object, like this specific series in Japanese sources, for instance, CAW. I just pick ‘em up when I find ‘em.

    Edje, I wonder about the dress, too. The man is obviously not wearing normal clothing — is he a generic clown from a generic show? or does he represent a specific character? I wondered if Lady A were also wearing a costume — maybe the amorous tug-of-war was between an actress and an outside admirer?

    It would also be interesting to know who designed and printed the original cards, which were available for any local merchant to customize; at least, that’s how advertising cards usually worked. But how did these cards, or at least the one with the punch line, make it into the advertising repertoire of merchants on two continents? What did they cost to produce? It doesn’t really show in the scans, but the backgrounds on these fans are sparkly metallic ink, in silver and gold, and the novelty shape instead of the usual rectangle must have cost extra, too. Well, what’s a little expense when that knee-slappin’ funnin’ about the Mormons would guarantee that the merchant’s name would be passed around from friend to friend?

  10. Edje on October 11, 2007 at 9:56 am

    I handed Mr Woodruff’s name to the hamsters in the box on my desk and they came back with…

    The _Proceedings of the American Pharmaceutical Association at the Annual
    Meeting… of 1891_ lists a “Woodruff, Roderick S.” of “91 Blank St., Waterbury, Conn.” in its “Alphabetical List of Members” (p 753); it also shows him paying dues (
    p 252
    ).

    _The Town and City of Waterbury, Connecticut_ by Sarah Johnson Prichard (3 Volumes) notes that: “One of the best known and most fiilly equipped drug stores in town was carried on by R. S. Woodruff, from 1876 to 1888, at which time the business passed into other hands. His former store is now occupied by the firm of Cannon & Webster, who in addition to the dispensing of drugs have in their establishment a nurses’ register, which contains the names of thirty-five trained nurses, seven of whom have diplomas” (p 875)

    Putting –Roderick Woodruff– into FamilySearch yields an 1880 Census hit for a “Rodrick S. Woodruff,” a druggist born in 1844. IGI yields a Roderick Samuel Woodruff, son of William Ensign Woodruff and Laura Sophia Steele, and some of his marriages.

    More hits, including two of his daughters’ births, the death of his first wife, etc. show up in Google Books:
    –History of Ancient Woodbury, Connecticut: From the First Indian Deed in 1659 … By William Cothren
    –The Town and City of Waterbury, Connecticut By Sarah Johnson Prichard

  11. Edje on October 11, 2007 at 10:03 am

    While I’m tossing out questions… I don’t recall ever seeing a contemporary portrayal of polygamy that placed the initiative with the women. The more prominent meme, as I recall, was a captivity narrative with a hypnotic or violent male overpowering the women.

    Is this just my ignorance of the sources, a reflection of the late-polygamy non-Mormon acknowledgment that Mormon women were more willing than had been previously conceded, or something else?

  12. Ardis Parshall on October 11, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Edje, your perception matches mine — unless it’s a scandalous tale about an especially degraded woman, it’s always about those evil men forcing innocent women into something that their nobler natures abhor.

    These cards, though, are not so much a commentary about Mormonism, I think, as they are a supposedly witty solution to a problem that has nothing to do with Mormonism — “Well, they can always go out to Utah, har-har-har!” Maybe there’s a parallel today in wisecracks about “72 virgins” in situations that have nothing to do with Islam.

  13. Ardis Parshall on October 11, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Oh, you’re good, Edje! I want you on my team.

    With that headstart, it looks like our Roderick Samuel and our Wilford are … /drumroll/ … 5th cousins twice removed, with their common ancestor being Matthew Woodruff (1612-1642). Not as close as I’d like in order to make something fun with it, but at least we do know the connection. Thanks!

    Matthew Woodruff
    … | …………… | …
    Matthew ….. John
    … | …………… | …
    John ………. Joseph
    … | ……………. | …
    John ………. Jonah
    … | ……………. | …
    John ……….. Eldad
    … | ……………. | …
    Samuel ……. Aphek
    … | …………….. | …
    Enoch ……… Wilford
    … | …
    William
    … | …
    Roderick

    I dunno what that table is gonna look like when I hit “submit comment” . . .

  14. Ardis Parshall on October 11, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Well, not very pretty. Imagine two columns of names, linked by the bars to show two separate lines of descent from the first Matthew; the line to Roderick is two generations longer than the line to Wilford.

  15. Mark IV on October 11, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Ardis: Awesome.

  16. Mark IV on October 11, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Edje too.

  17. Ardis Parshall on October 11, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    “Ed-je … Ed-je … Ed-je …”

    – sounds of distant cheering coming from the assembled masses of T&S readers

  18. Matt W. on October 11, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    This is now my new favorite comic book.

  19. Adam Greenwood on October 11, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    AEP,
    I did a quick fix. Its rough.

  20. Edje on October 11, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    /blushes/ …then returns to regularly scheduled homework. Thanks.

  21. J. Stapley on October 11, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Totally Awesome.

  22. Ardis Parshall on October 11, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks, Adam. That makes it much clearer.

    Matt W, I almost titled this as a comic book — you’re channeling me again.

  23. Kaimi Wenger on October 11, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Cool find, Ardis.

    When is the Deseret Book commemorative edition coming out?

  24. Ardis Parshall on October 11, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Whenever they find a leather exotic enough to bind it in.

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