Bourbon Poultry Cure

If your Easter chicks aren't looking too chirpy, why not perk them up with a dose of this 20th-century Kentucky remedy? As a 1911 advert put it: Sick fowls don't pay, Droopy hens won't lay and the Poultry...

Don’t be gulled by misleading advertisements

This 20-page booklet from about 1927 appears at first glance to be an official publication intended to raise public awareness of the 'preposterous claims concerning so-called “patent” medicines, which are a disgrace to any...

A Patent-Medicine Song, 1892

Some of the most famous patent medicine brands of the late Victorian era found their way into this humorous song by John Johnston, MD, in 1892. Originally from Dumfriesshire, Johnston settled in Bolton in...

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....

A Wife is the Peculiar Gift of Heaven

This advertisement for Eno's Fruit Salt appeared in the special Royal Wedding Edition of the Penny Illustrated Paper on 8 July 1893. The edition commemorated the nuptials of Prince George, Duke of York and Princess...

To whiten hands and skin

ADvent Calendar Day 21 The juxtaposition of 'harmless' and 'arsenic' is quite amusing, but the manufacturer's assertions about the product's safety were more believable than they might now appear. In the 1890s, the fashion for...

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...

An ulcer as big as a hen-egg

Patient testimonials were (and indeed remain) an integral part of the promotion of non-evidence-based health products. While 19th-century newspaper advertising only had room for concise endorsements, promotional books and pamphlets allowed medicine proprietors to...

Valentine’s Meat-Juice

  The Quack Doctor is not a hearts and flowers kind of person, so was interested to learn of a dark side to this product's history. Brought into production in Richmond, VA, in 1871, Valentine's Meat-Juice...

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,...