Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Adorably Creepy (and a Little Bit Racist) Skeleton Cartoons of Dr. Crusius

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge January and February. - WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
  • Washington University School of Medicine
  • January and February.

In an age when advertising was still a novel way to introduce customers to your product, the St. Louis-based Antikamnia Chemical Company printed whimsical calendars featuring morbid-yet-fascinating sketches of skeletons acting out everyday life.

The company's name, Antikamnia, means "opposed to pain," and it produced a patented fever reducer and pain reliever at the turn of the 20th century. Sure, the medicine was technically toxic and made your skin turn blue, but that just makes the skeleton illustrations even more apt.

When the owners of Antikamnia Chemical Company were looking for an artist to illustrate their advertising calendars, they settled on fellow St. Louis College of Pharmacy graduate Louis Crusius, who used his drug-store windows to display the sketches he drew in his free time. Crusius dressed his skeletons in the clothes of the time and gave them funny little sayings or titles, keeping his illustrations lighthearted despite their macabre subjects.

See also: County Executive Dooley Says St. Louis Post-Dispatch Political Cartoon of Him is Racist

These rare images -- taken from the 1898 calendar and published online by the Bernard Becker Medical Library at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine -- are also interesting for their occasional and unfortunately racist angle.

The September-October cartoon, featuring a threadbare man with a can of tomato juice tied around his waist and the caption "A Prodigal's Return," plays on racial stereotypes of Irish immigrants, according to Washington University. The November-December image, featuring Uncle Rufus telling Professor Johnson in patios how he's misunderstood a doctor's orders, is based on black racial stereotypes.

Crusius graduated from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 1882 and co-owned the drug store Scheel and Crusius at the corner of 14th Street and Clark Avenue with his brother-in-law Gustav Scheel. After graduating from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1890, he worked as a doctor and lecturer until he died in 1898 at 35 years old from a renal cell carcinoma discovered during an operation.

  • All images courtesy of Becker Medical Library, Washington University School of Medicine
  • March and April.
May and June.
  • May and June.
July and August.
  • July and August.
September and October.
  • September and October.
November and December.
  • November and December.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at [email protected].

Tags: ,

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 26, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2022 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation