Famous Products Co. of Chicago, early 1940s, mail order catalogue.
This early 1940s advertisement is for Famous Products Co.’s Van Van Oil. It was manufactured by chemist Morton Neumann, who manufactured and sold many products marketed to the Black community by mail order catalogues and advertisements such as these. The text reads:
Conjure Men, Spiritualists and Voo-doos, it is said, have had Great Faith in a so-called VAN VAN Oil. Many thousands of folks believe in the teachings of these alleged Savants. They believe that the sprinkling of certain kinds of Oil around their Home or anointing their Body with the Oil would produce LUCK or Drive Away Evil. They also sprinkle the Oil in the door step and put it on their clothes. We make no claims that this Oil will Bring Luck or Drive Away Evil and sell only as a compound made of certain oils which we list under the brand name VAN VAN Oil and sell to our customers as a Curio.
The ‘Artist’s Conception’ depicts a person feeding a lodestone Van Van Oil. This is a very traditional practice which predates the advertisement by several decades, and shows not only that the practice was alive and well around the time of the Second World War, but that the advertiser was well aware of the traditions and practices of the intended market.