Staff Person: Matt Reynolds
Description: This late 19th Century advertising card for E.S. Wells Rough on Rats vermin extermination powder depicts a peeved family chasing a variety of pests from their home. The powder, which contained a mixture of arsenic and ground coal was said to “clear out rats, mice, flies, bed-bugs, ants, roaches, mosquitoes, etc.”. The Wells Company, based in Jersey City New Jersey, offered a wide range of products including Rough on Corns, Rough on Itch, Rough on Toothache, and Wells’ Health Renewer.
Wells promoted all of the company products far and wide in both newspapers and via advertising cards. He even produced a Rough on Rats song touting the effectiveness of the poison, which included the chorus:
“R-r-rats! Rats! Rats! Rough on Rats, Hang your dogs and drown your cats:
We give a plan for every man to clear his house with Rough on Rats”
Sadly, some purchasers of the product chose to misuse it both to take their own lives and to take the lives of others. The most notorious case of the latter was the poisoning of Ada Appelgate by her husband Everett Appelgate and his mistress Frances Creighton. Both were convicted of murder in 1936 and were sent to the electric chair at New York’s Sing-Sing prison shortly after.