Avoiding the trickcyclist and nutpicker: First World War home remedies and miracle cures

I’m delighted to welcome author Suzie Grogan to The Quack Doctor. Suzie’s latest book, Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s Legacy for Britain’s Mental Health was published in October 2014. In this guest post, she explores some of the commercial remedies that claimed to tackle the psychological effects of war.   …

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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 devil in disguise

Hall's Coca Wine - 1897 ad from Country Life

John Michael Smith is one of those fleeting figures who cross history’s pages when they get into trouble and then disappear, leaving only a hint of a life where destitution is more prominent than criminality. At the age of 11 he lived in Lodge Lane, Derby, with his mother and …

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Armbrecht’s Coca Wine

Between now and Christmas (and probably beyond) I’ll be taking a different tack with the Quack Doctor and posting more frequently but more briefly, showing just pics of medical adverts, snippets about strange cases, and occasional photos of health-related objects from the past. For the time being I don’t have …

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Make-Man Tablets

Do You Want A Vacation? It’s Make-Man Tablets You Need. Fifty Cents Worth of Make-Man Tablets Often Do More For A Man or Woman Than a Three Hundred Dollar Vacation. Do you feel played out—nervous, tired, irritable, don’t sleep good, wake up every morning with a bad taste in your …

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The Cordial Balm of Rakasiri – part 2

For part 1 of this article, click here. There’s also a transcript of an 1818 Rakasiri advert here. In 1828, a ‘nervous young man’ who had wasted more than 10l. on the Cordial Balm of Rakasiri went to a magistrate and succeeded in getting his money back. During the proceedings, …

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The Cordial Balm of Rakasiri – part 1

Source: The Morning Chronicle, Saturday 12 December 1818. For transcript, click here. On this site I include anything medical or surgical provided it was advertised, so not all the remedies were considered quackery in their time. Some were endorsed and prescribed by reputable doctors, and many were no worse than …

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Ambition Pills

At first glance I thought this showed pictures of three men, but no – it’s the same fellow, transformed from the seedy old roué on the left into a fine specimen of manly vigour,  ambitious to take on the world and all its laydees. The perkiness of a chap’s moustache …

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The Guttae Vitae, or Vegetable Life Drops

Although no proprietor is shown in the following advertisement, the Vegetable Life Drops were one of several cures touted under the name Dr Walter De Roos. De Roos was an enigmatic character and the name was purported to be an alias for one John (or George) Robinson, who might well have bought the business in 1858 from …

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Walker's Jesuits Drops

Robert Walker obtained the King’s Royal Letters Patent for his remedy in 1755, and on his death, surgeon Joseph Wessels took it over. The drops were still around, under the name Wessel’s Jesuit Drops as late as the 1870s. In 1843, the Medical Times published a note stating that the …

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