New York City, NY

Ghost Signs of NYC: Omega Oil

Frank Mastropolo

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287 West 147th StreetFrank Mastropolo

Omega Oil was a liniment that promised to cure everything from weak backs and lumbago to sunburn and sweaty feet. The company moved to New York from Boston at the beginning of the twentieth century and spent decades advertising its dubious curative properties in newspapers and on walls across the country.

A 1901 Brooklyn Daily Eagle ad decribed the wide range of ailments the oil would " cure":

"Omega Oil cures Weak Backs. Lame Shoulders, Tired Arms and Legs. Stiff Elbows, Wrists, Fingers, Knees, Ankles and Joints. Rheumatism, Lumbago, Neuralgia, Sore Throat, Cold in the Chest, Sore Muscles. Aching, Itching, Sore, Swollen, Tired, Sweaty Feet. A godsend to old people. Freshens, invigorates and strengthens the muscular tissues after hard exercise, hard work or hard pleasure. Good for everything a hard liniment ought to be good for."

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New York Daily News, Oct. 31, 1934

Omega pioneered the use of endorsements by professional athletes. A 1934 New York Daily News ad featured boxer John L. Sullivan, who states, "You can put me down as saying that Omega Oil is fine stuff to rub on the body and limbs. Its green color suits me, too."

"The successful athlete doesn’t take chances with his physical condition," another ad advised. "Every other man wants to be strong and vigorous too, no matter whether he is a laborer, a merchant, a professional man or a preacher."

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287 West 147th StreetFrank Mastropolo

Omega Oil was acquired by Colgate-Palmolive-Peet in 1931. The brand disappeared sometime after 1957 when it was accused of false advertising by the Federal Trade Commission. Its majestic three-wall ghost sign remains in Harlem.

Mastropolo is the author of Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York Past and Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past.

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Frank Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever, one of Best Classic Bands' Best Music Books of 2021; New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock; the What's Your Rock IQ? Trivia Quiz Book series; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past, winner of the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Award; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past. Mastropolo is a journalist, photographer, and former ABC News 20/20 producer, winner of the Alfred I. DuPont–Columbia University silver baton. His photography is featured in the Bill Graham Rock & Roll Revolution exhibition.

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