Victorian asthma cigarettes: who was Dr Batty?

Dr Batty's Asthma Cigarettes

While browsing your local newspaper in the 1890s, an asthma-cure advertisement might distract you from tales of the latest sensational crimes. ‘Agreeable to use, certain in their effects, and harmless in their action, they may be safely smoked by ladies and children,’ ran the promotional copy. The product was Cigares …

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A breath of maggoty air

Maggot sheds at Jerusalem Farm, pictured in the Leeds Mercury, 31 July 1911. (British Newspaper Archive)

No one likes to be the hapless person who wanders into the garage and finds a forgotten turkey carcase humming with maggots and surrounded in a fug of pungent effluvia. I suppose it would be a great story if this had been a defining moment of my teenage years, inspiring …

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On thorny ground: the human x-ray scientists

Grant household in the 1911 census.

Imagine being able to see through a steel door, or to force the germination of poppy seeds and at once destroy them with the power of your mind. Such were the abilities claimed by Albert Isaac Grant of Maidstone, Kent, in the years leading up to the First World War. …

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Ramey’s Medicator: an inventor’s survival

Ramey's inhaler

Advertisements for Ramey’s Medicator claimed that it would overcome ‘death dealing disease.’ What most customers didn’t know, however, was that the inhaler would never have existed at all if its inventor had not survived a gruesome surgical ordeal. The Medicator was patented by Alfred H Ramey and Frank D Rollins …

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Cigares de Joy

ADvent Calendar Day 17 . Although smoking and asthma now seem an unlikely combination, cigarettes were an efficient way of getting medication into the lungs. According to the Medical Times and Gazette in 1875, the Cigares de Joy were ‘very useful little agents for inhaling the smoke of stramonium.’ Datura stramonium and its relative Datura tatula were …

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Merchant’s Gargling Oil

ADvent Calendar Day 14 If people evolved from apes, why are apes still selling Gargling Oil? Ask this fellow, taking a break from evading sasquatch hunters to advise punters that Merchant’s liniment is good for both man and beast. It was mainly an external remedy for bruises, wounds, skin diseases, …

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The Century Thermal Bath Cabinet

ADvent Calendar Day 10 The Century Thermal Bath Cabinet Company was a leading player in the vogue for portable Turkish baths for home use at the turn of the 20th century. The luxury was not without its dangers; newspapers occasionally reported cases of the alcohol stove setting light to the …

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Smedley’s Chillie Paste

ADvent Calendar Day 9 Smedley’s Chillie Paste was for topical application only, but if you should be tempted to swallow a spoonful of this capsicum-based rub, you would probably be able to cure yourself of a head cold… or of owning a head altogether. According to adverts from the 1870s, …

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Godfrey’s Inhaler

This mainstream medical product enabled the inhalation of vapour for the treatment of asthma, hay fever, coughs, colds and other respiratory problems. The vapour was created by combining hydrochloric acid and ammonium chloride, which were provided in attractive little glass bottles – one clear and one emerald green. There are …

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Ali Ahmed’s Treasures of the Desert

Between March 1852 and September 1853, monthly instalments of Bleak House tempted readers with their eyecatching illustrated covers and affordable price of one shilling. Within these covers, the ‘Bleak House Advertiser’ promoted commercial products, from new publications to false teeth and from wigs to bedsteads. Inserted in part fourteen, however, …

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