Ocean Hill is a small triangular section of Bedford-Stuyvesant located between Malcolm X Boulevard (formerly Reid Avenue) and the V formed by Broadway and Fulton Street and Broadway Junction. Here you will find an intriguing faded ad on the south side of Fulton Street east of Rockaway Avenue for Virgin Leaf tobacco and another one that occupied the same space advertising some sort of “tonic for the blood,” probably one of a number of marginally medicinal liquids peddled in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The two ads have sufficiently faded so that they appear mingled in an effect called a “palimpsest.”

Virgin Leaf tobacco, which could be smoked or chewed, originated in 1863 when David H. McAlpin purchased the trade mark from John Cornish. Ads for the brand, which could be seen rather frequently on buildings in Manhattan till fairly recently, also featured McAlpin’s name. The company, like others of its time, also distributed hand colored cards promoting the brand. 

Photo: Gary Fonville

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