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The extravagance of hypnotism posters, circa 1900


People behave as they would never, were they not “under the influence” of the newly discovered hypnosis.

In these turn of the century posters we see the aristocracy turned on its head. It’s as if what we’ve been shown was seen through a secret window and no one who’s looked there should speak of it. A group of people use umbrellas and broomsticks as musical instruments. Women mount the backs of men like horses. One man dresses as a woman and two other men fondle each other. Recall that hypnosis, with its roots in “mesmerism” began to gain influence with the work of the Scottish surgeon James Braid (1795-1860), a pioneer of the practice and one who paved the way for hypnotism’s mainstream acceptance at the end of the 19th century.

The images show an imaginary map of what is thought to occur under the influence of hypnosis, a map perhaps more fun and strange than what actually happens “under the influence.” All that’s known about these images is that they’re the products of The Donaldson Lithographing Co., based in Newport, Kentucky, and they seem to be from around the year 1900.

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