Picture this: A poster featuring a boy in old-fashioned short pants and with a bandaged face scrawling “Liar” in chalk on the wall of a dental office with a sign that reads “Painless Dentist.”
Scroll further through the vintage posters and artwork displayed at dentalposterart.com and you’ll find other intriguing works such as an old-time ad that claims a dentist recommended smoking Viceroy cigarettes and another advertising “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup” for children feeling the pain of teething.
The website featuring prints of old-time dental artwork is run by Mike Danley, a retired registered dental hygienist who got interested in collecting items related to his profession about a decade ago. He practiced for many years in Kansas and now lives in Fort Myers, Fl.
He put some of his collection of memorabilia to good use in 2003 when he started the business that provides prints for dental offices. The items he sells includes dental art, dental cartoons, and limited edition serigraphs that highlight dental history.
The sources of these works are paper ephemera that include postcards, Victorian trade cards (the first form of color advertising), dental journals, catalogs, comic books, games, old-time textbooks, paintings and cartoons.
“A lot of them are humorous,” said Danley of the artwork and other dental memorabilia that he started gathering when he first noticed that there was a wide range of items available for purchase via his computer. Dental history spans centuries so there was plenty to choose from.
“The idea came from the web,” he said. “I’d just go on eBay and look under dental collectibles and there was just a lot of stuff out there that hadn’t been exposed.”
In addition to the artwork he sells, Danley has amassed a collection that includes intriguing items such as a dental chair from the mid-1800s, dental games, dental trading cards and posters, and bone and ivory teeth.
Nearly anything from old dental textbooks to tins that were used for dental soap to vintage instruments and equipment have found their way into Danley’s collection.
“I like looking at the history of my profession and seeing how it has evolved,” he said. “Even some items that seem like they are relatively new ideas are actually ones that were tried before. Reach came out with the angled toothbrush, but that had been done a long time before that. It just didn’t take. Now people think it’s a brand new thing.”
Danley said it’s not as easy to find items on eBay as it used to be.
“There didn’t use to be as much competition with people bidding against you,” he said. “Prices have gone up.”
With prices on the rise, he said he focuses more on sharing his collection with the dentists and others who purchase it. He also enjoys playing a role in the preservation of dental history.