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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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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For the blood is the life

The Quack Doctor is currently providing Victorian remedies for Sky Living’s online newspaper, The Inquisitor, which accompanies the channel’s new ten-part drama, Dracula. If you are visiting the site for the first time via sky.com, welcome!   ‘For the blood is the life’: the evocative quotation appears in the very …

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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 give more detailed case studies of those who had supposedly benefited from their products. This one …

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Poison. To be applied night and morning.

I have some wonderful pictures to share with you today thanks to collector Rex Barber from Perth, Western Australia, who owns several hundred 18th – 20th century proprietary remedy lids. Rex has exhibited his collection as far afield as the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors’ 2012 show in Reno, NV. …

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Bailey’s Rubber Complexion Brush

  A harmless alternative to the arsenical preparations then in vogue for improving the complexion, Bailey’s rubber brush was intended to improve the circulation, clear the pores and allow the blood to free itself of impurities. Charles J Bailey of Newton, Massachusetts, invented the product in 1887, immediately patenting it …

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Terradermalax – a skin laxative

Source: The Pittsburgh Press, 11 March 1923 . . Why, when a woman is 30, do her blushes no longer show? How does a skin grow dull and unlovely while the eyes are still clear and sparkling? Science has learned the reason, and – glorious news! – a painless, pleasant …

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Ludlam's Electric Rubber

Source: The Medical Directory for Scotland, 1853 (click to enlarge ad or see transcript below.) This product was reviewed by The London Lancet, (vol.1 1851) which heartily endorsed it as a way of creating rapid and healthy circulation of the blood on the surface after bathing. “Rubber” here means something …

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Albert's Grasshopper Ointment

Grasshopper Ointment was registered in 1874 and the name was trademarked in 1884. It was still listed in Martindale’s Extra Pharmacopoeia in 1989, where the ingredients were given as rosin, yellow beeswax, larch oleoresin, arachis oil, white soft paraffin and copper acetate – but no grasshoppers. The copper would have …

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Samaritan Water

The proprietor of this remedy, Thomas Greenough, was better known for his other preparation, the Lozenges of Tolu, which were for coughs and colds. The Samaritan Water, patented in 1779, was not widely advertised, but the lozenges continued to be sold by Greenough’s successor at Ludgate Hill, R. Hayward, during …

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