Allenburys milk foods: a triumph of industrialisation

In my previous post, I examined an Allenburys feeding bottle and its box. There a smiling mother and a happy, healthy baby took central stage. The box was marketed towards mothers, and aimed at alleviating their fears and guilt surrounding artificial feeding. Sounds familiar? That is most probably because the same tactics are still in use today.

Here, I turn my attention to the way in which Allenburys advertised their milk foods. This too they did on the box of the Allenburys feeder.

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Allenburys Milk Food, as advertised on the box of the Allenburys feeder

Allenburys infant milks came in three ages, described as follows:

The Allenburys Milk Food no. 1. Similar in composition and digestibility to maternal milk. For use from birth to 3 months of age. Rich in bone-forming Vitamin D.

The Allenburys Milk Food no. 2. Contains added nutritive constituents to form bone and muscle. For use from 3 to 6 months of age. Rich in bone-forming Vitamin D.

The Allenburys Malted Food no. 3. Baby’s first stepping-stone to solid food. For use from sixth month onwards. Rich in bone-forming Vitamin D.

Again, there is much that will look familiar here: the division into three ages; the claim that the first milk is very similar to breast-milk; the milk that helps the transition onto solid food; and the scientific claims about the benefits of vitamin D. However, while nowadays taking vitamins is nothing extraordinary, in the first decades of the twentieth century, it was still relatively new. Allenburys (aka Allen and Hanburys) were truly at the forefront of pharmacological innovation with their milk products. Vitamin D also featured in Allenburys adult milk products, made from full-cream milk and whole wheat:

Allenburys rush and Allenburys diet for adult, as advertised on the box of the Allenburys feeder
Allenburys rush and Allenburys diet for adult, as advertised on the box of the Allenburys feeder

A noteworthy feature is the addition of synthetic Vitamin D which enhances the value of the product as an accessory food for everyday use for people of all ages, or as a staple article of diet in sickness and convalescence.

The box of the Allenburys feeder, then, is quite busy (it also features adverts for Allenburys baby powder; Allenburys baby soap; and Allenburys rusks). It mixes scientific claims with images of domestic bliss. It reassures mothers: they are doing the right thing by feeding their baby a safe product in a safe bottle. And it also builds on the expectation of ‘brand fidelity’.  Once a mother has fed Allenburys milk products to her baby, she will probably go on to use their rusks and their milk for invalid and convalescent adults.

On other Allenburys advertising products, however, the mother all but disappears. Here is an image of a calendar blotter dating to 1905.

Blotters: Allen & Henbury, 1904-1909 Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Blotters: Allen & Henbury, 1904-1909
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

 

You will recognise the Allenburys feeder at the centre of the image, together with tins of Allenburys Milk Foods and some ears of wheat. To the left, by contrast, is represented the Allen & Hanburys factory in Ware, Hertfordshire. Allenburys Milk Foods here proudly proclaim their industrial origin. Without modern factories, it would not be possible to produce these wonderful products, which are “absolutely pure and in use will be found superior to any home pasteurization of cow’s milk, for while such process may kill the noxious bacteria, it does not get rid of the products of decomposition”.

In 1905,’bacteria-talk’ was still relatively new. Again, Allenburys were making very modern claims. While they could not – and did not – boast that their products were better than breastmilk, they could maintain that they were better than home-pasteurized cow’s milk. And in that, they were probably right. Cow’s milk is not an adequate food for infants.

This blotter is clearly aimed at a different audience from that of the Allenburys box. It is an audience of science-savvy people; people who believe in the progress bolstered by new discoveries and industrialisation. It is an audience of people concerned with the well-being of their family, but who do not require tender images of mother and child. I dare say this is aimed at the modern Edwardian father.

 

 

 

 

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