Smoke as many as you want...they never get on your nerves!

This was the slogan of Camel cigarettes, circa the 1930s. The advertisements proclaimed that Camels used "costlier tobaccos," which would "never jangle your nerves." A series of ads inquired of the reader whether they displayed classic symptoms of "jangled nerves." Examples included:

  • "Are you a HUMMING-BIRD?" (accompanied by a picture of a man humming nervously)
  • "Are you a NEWSPAPER CRACKLER?" (accompanied by a picture of a woman, well, crackling a newspaper)
Each of these unfortunate characters was also being assaulted in illustration by a demon-like figure, replete with horns, a spear of sorts (really more like a long arrow), and the text JANGLED NERVES across his chest. You don't want to be visited by the Jangled Nerves Demon, now do you? Of course not. So smoke Camels!

In some ads, the interested reader was invited to send away for a free (with the fronts of two packs of Camels, that is) "Know your nerves!" booklet, containing "20 ways to test your nerves - all illustrated." I was fortunate enough to acquire a copy of this booklet on eBay. The tests are all fairly rudimentary connect the dots or brainteaser type exercises, interspersed with testimonials for Camels from gym teachers, lawyers, college students, and so on.

ALFRED WALDO, JR. is a Senior in College. He says: "Working out a tough assingment can make me feel all tuckered out. The second I feel myself getting tired, I like to get a 'lift' with a Camel."

Admittedly, laughing in earnest at the naivete expected of us to actually believe this hype is sort of passe, sort of like making fun of the infamous Duck and Cover cartoon produced by the Civil Defense folks back during the Cold War. But hey, on the occasions when I smoke, I smoke Camel Lights, and I've never been visited by the Jangled Nerves Demon.

Long before Joe Camel came and went, Camel did indeed have competent art direction. Just imagine if they had stuck with it - did we have the chance to live in a world where a cartoon demon with the words JANGLED NERVES on its chest would have been more recognizable to children than Mickey Mouse?

The fantastic archives of the MIT student newspaper, which contain two examples of these ads, in Adobe PDF format:
The Camel "Know your Nerves" booklet
The "Are you a HUMMING-BIRD?" ad, which a former roommate of mine found at a fleamarket and posted in my living room, which began my interest with this whole series