Monday, December 14, 2015


Advertising Strips: Fan Tan Anne

In the heyday of the black newspapers, there were a lot of journeyman cartoonists, but very few real  cartooning stars. Ollie Harrington, of course, would become something of an icon, but mostly forgotten today is the great Jay Jackson.

While Jackson's drawings didn't betray a great deal of academic study, his subject matter was sure to please. He loved to draw beautiful girls, at which he excelled, and he never shied away from suggestive, and sometimes downright blue material. The black papers were more permissive of this sort of stuff, and male readers apparently were greatly appreciative, if Jackson's constant presence in those papers was an indication.

One of Jackson's series was actually an advertising strip. Titled Fan Tan Anne, it was a series of ads for Fan Tan Bleach Creme. The series ran in the Philadelphia Tribune, where I indexed it, from February 21 to July 4 1935 in weekly installments. Other black papers ran it as well, though their running dates will likely differ.

Fan Tan was one of the concoctions marketed to blacks that was claimed to not only clear up any zits and other facial blemishes you might have, but lighten the tone of your skin as well. As light-skinned blacks were generally considered to be more attractive, customers flocked to these products just as white folk were buying self-tanners to do the opposite fifty years later.

Every week Anne would find a wretched lonely heart who had a face full of zits, or just felt they could get a leg up in the love match game if their skin was a tad lighter. Applying whatever was in these jars, the ugly duckling quickly became the belle of the ball. Whether the product did anything that it claimed to I don't know, but I can only cringe at the idea of putting anything on your face that boldly advertises that it contains bleach!

Here are a few more of Jay Jackson's Fan Tan Anne ads on Google Newspapers:

Baltimore Afro-American April 27 1935
Baltimore Afro-American April 6 1935


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