Dr Wheeler and the Bacillus of Death

In May 1895, a low-key but intriguing advertisement appeared in British local newspapers. What could this ‘death microbe’ be? Did it refer to the lethal pathogens such as anthrax and tuberculosis that had been identified within the past two decades? Announcements of newly isolated bacilli regularly reached the general population …

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A devil of a cure

One must always be grateful for small mercies. When a giant jazz-hands Satan is trampling amok on your planet of residence, you can at least gain comfort from the fact he has kept his underpants on. This depiction of Old Nick was registered as a trademark in 1915 by the …

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Guest post: England’s ‘only female doctor’?

Esther Jane Neumane

Last year, The Quack Doctor featured some bottles from the collection of Michael Till, including this gorgeous and rare example of Cavania’s Wonder-Worker Lotion. A father and daughter team, Professor and Mademoiselle Cavania practised in the north of England during the 1860s and 70s. The prospect of formal medical qualifications …

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Happy Christmas!

Burdock Blood Bitters, late 19thC

ADvent Calendar Day 24 I hope you’ve enjoyed the daily posts during December – I’ve had fun compiling them! I leave you with a festive late-19th century trade card for Burdock Blood Bitters or ‘B.B.B.’ This famous tonic, which was around 20% alcohol, was advertised as the solution to numerous …

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Stay Vigorous at Seventy

ADvent Calendar Day 23 Ah, good old John Harvey Kellogg – everyone knows the cornflake-inventing, masturbation-disapproving, enema-giving sanitarium owner of Battle Creek, Michigan. It’s not much of a surprise that he would be promoting something called Sanitone Wafers… But, hang on a minute, this ad says F. J. Kellogg. Who’s he when …

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The very thing for ladies

ADvent Calendar Day 15 ‘It seemed to me that I was standing in a Temple of silence. Outside was the rush and roar of London life. Inside, all was calm and peaceful. The interior, in its blend of colours and graceful hangings, and its rich carpeting, reminds one of Oriental …

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The sparkle of perfect health

ADvent Calendar Day 12 The Favorite Prescription was just one part of a range marketed by Dr Ray Vaughn Pierce in newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets and on the side of barns across the late 19th-century US. After his death in 1914, his profitable business continued in the hands of his son, …

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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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Dr Ralph’s Pills

ADvent Calendar Day 2 Dr Ralph’s Pills and the ‘Ralphian Theory’ appear to have been inspired by the Hygeist principles of James Morison, who introduced Vegetable Universal Pills to Britain in 1825. Joseph Ralph’s system, like that of Morison, comprised two varieties of remedy – the Alterative Purgatives (No. 1) …

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ADvent Calendar 1: The Health Jolting Chair

  Every day until Christmas, The Quack Doctor will be showing a different historical health-related advertisement. First is this brain-refresher and household blessing – the Health Jolting Chair (1885), courtesy of the US National Library of Medicine. . .