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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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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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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Event: Do not untimely die!

I will be speaking at Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol on 27 February 2014 as part of their ‘Matters of Life and Death’ programme sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. Tickets are £5 via the Cemetery’s website, and you can find the full list of talks here. Do not untimely die! …

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Why smoke and spit your life away?

  ADvent Calendar Day 22 Advertised with this beautiful Art Nouveau poster designed by William H Bradley, Narcoti-cure claimed to put smokers and tobacco-chewers off their habit for life. ‘Why smoke and spit your life away?’ advertisements asked. ‘Why suffer from dyspepsia, heartburn and drains on your vital force?’ The …

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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 arsenic as a cosmetic led vendors to cash in on the poison’s reputation for creating …

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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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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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Claxton’s Patent Ear Cap

ADvent Calendar Day 4 ‘It has often been observed by experienced elders, that since it became the fashion for babies to discard caps, protruding ears are but too common. They are very ugly, and the ear-cap just invented is a safe preventive, without the heat that made the cap objectionable.’ …

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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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