Friday, August 30, 2013

Jack the Ripper in St Louis -- and a Contest!

Note: "Fedora Amis" is a long-time friend of mine. I read Jack the Ripper in St. Louis a while back and loved it! You will, too. Here we learn about Fedora and her love for all things old and cool! -- Joanna

 By Fedora Amis

Ads from the past...

Call me strange, but I like to read newspaper advertisements--from 1897.  For a mere three cents, I can paper shop to my heart’s content.  A fine pair of Storm Queen winter boots cost $1.37.  I could buy a living room sofa for $7.75 or have my hernia repaired for under $20.

With no Truth in Advertising laws,  companies offered miracle products. One boasted it would cure a cold in a single day.  Dr. Dromgule’s Female Bitters promised to cure any and every female complaint. These nostrums didn’t really cure anything, but the consumer would feel better after taking a big swig. Most contained equal amounts of molasses, water and whiskey.

Fedora Amis loves reading and writing about the past.

Recipes for cosmetics...

Before Revlon and Maybelline, ladies had to make their own cosmetics. Here are two recipes--which I beg you never to use.

     For women’s hair: Was no oftener than every three weeks using egg yolk and cold water.

     For men’s baldness: Rub scalp with parafin. Stay away from fire.

     For the lady’s  face: Wash face seldom, and then with milk or salad oil.  Sleep with cloth soaked in strong lead lotion laid across the nose.   

     Thank heavens we now know that lead collects in the body.  Lead poisoning leads to pain, confusion, headache, seizures, coma and death. Suffering for beauty may be one thing--but this is definitely going too far.

Dangers lurked...

With no pure food or drug laws, candy makers used arsenic to color their confections green Morphine was the key ingredient used to calm tots in Winslow’s Baby Syrup and Kopp’s Baby Friend. I’ll bet it worked wonders on fussy babies--and opened many to lives of addiction. Drugstores sold paregoric and other opiates over the counter--as they did a variety of poisons.

The late Victorian era was a time when the earliest child labor laws reduced the working day for children under twelve years of age to a mere 10 hours a day. Smoke from coal-fired factories so blackened the air that buildings near the riverfront had to use artificial light at high noon even on a sunny day.  Local streets were flowing or rutted mud for three-fourths of every year. Shopgirls made 6 cents an hour. Trousers were called “unwhisperables.” Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan, invented cornflakes in 1896 because he believed that a bland diet would reduce unhealthy sexual desire. 

I revel in the delicious irony of those times. Atlanta druggist John Pemberton cooked up a blend of cocaine and Kola nut in 1886. He called it the great National Temperance Drink. Substitute addiction to cocaine for addiction to liquor--what a concept! That’s why I love to read old newspapers.

I like nothing better than to discover odd bits of pop culture from the 19th century and to use them in writing my humorous Victorian whodunits


"Fedora Amis," author of Jack the Ripper in St. Louis, is the winner of the Mayhaven Award for fiction, now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine booksellers.

Visit Fedora's website at and follow her on Facebook at

Also online is a new interview


Fedora has kindly agreed to give away one copy of Jack the Ripper in St. Louis to a lucky commenter. Add your comment and we'll choose a winner! 


You have until Sunday, September 8 at midnight to make a comment. We'll choose one lucky commenter at random. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 9.


ceblain said...

I think this would be a great book to read; sorry that I never heard of it before this, but now I will surely get that chance. I would really like a product like female bitters to "cure all my complaints" but that would take a lot of female bitters I guess. :) Looking forward to reading one way or another Thank you to the author and to you for offering the book, Joanna. Take care, Cynthia

Marla H. said...

I think this would be a great book to read. I'm always looking for books to expand my ever growing library :) Thanks! Marla

traveler said...

Thanks for this compelling and great feature which would be memorable.

petite said...

This novel would be extra special since it is unique and appealing. love to read it.

Nancy said...

What great information about the old time. I would love to win this book.

elluvel said...

I've lived in St. Louis all of my life, and I have never before associated the city with Jack the Ripper. Intriguing, does this have any basis in fact??

Lynn Cahoon said...

Hi Fedora!

I love the history around St. Louis. Growing up in Idaho, the area we now live in is filled with places right out of the history books. Jack the Ripper in St. Louis sounds great.

Barbara T. said...

Really enjoy those old remedies. Yikes! More likely to kill than cure. Love mysteries injected with humor.

Joanna Slan said...

Oh, gosh, I'm so glad to hear that all of you are excited about Fedora's book. I happen to know that Fedora gives talks in costume, as she portrays a time gone by. I'll try to get her to respond to some of your queries.

SinC St. Louis said...

Elluvel. Yes, indeed. Quack doctor Francis Tumblety died in St. Louis in 1903.

Right now that selfsame scoundrel sits at number 2 on ripperology suspect lists. I have lots more to say on my website

Just click on the Jack the Ripper in St. Louis button.

Unknown said...
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lbisset said...

I would love to read anything you recommend.

SinC St. Louis said...

Hi Cynthia,

Jack The Ripper in St. Louis just came out on June 1--so it's pretty new.

As for the old elixirs--they didn't work. But they were about 30% alcohol--and many also had cocaine or opium so I bet they felt like they were curing something.

Charlotte Hubbard said...

I've known Fedora for a long time, and am thrilled that her book is out—partly because I, too, have whiled away many an hour reading about those old elixirs and nostrums as research for my own Victorian-era romances! Wishing you much success and many sales, Fedora!

tess said...

Sounds interesting! :-) i've heard of this guy before, but never read up on him -- now i'll just read THIS! said...

Thanks, Tess
There are no times like the old times.

Fedora said...

Today is a significant day--last day of the book giveaway at Joanna's blog, but also a very significant and sinister day to Jack the Ripper followers.

On this date, September 8, 1888- Jack the Ripper slew "DARK" ANNIE CHAPMAN. Her brass rings were missing. Among the possessions of Francis J. Tumblety when he died were two cheap brass rings. Were they souvenirs of his second grisly murder?

Anonymous said...

The Ripper case has fascinated me for years. Seven years ago I was fortunate enough to travel to London, and the Whitechapel tour was tops on my list! Books on this topic are intriguing; I've read about Tumblety as a suspect before, but I've never decided in my own mind who I truly believe the killer was. I'm very interested to read this book to see if helps me "solve the case"! And congratulations to the author!