Notorious Chrimes: The Blackmail Pills

Richard and Edward Chrimes

In 1890s London, the ‘Lady Montrose Pills’ blackmail scheme efficiently and heartlessly targeted more than 8,000 victims. In this comprehensive account of the case, Dick Weindling introduces the Chrimes brothers, who manufactured this audacious scam.   In April 1896 adverts began to appear in newspapers across the country. Addressed to ‘Ladies …

Continue reading

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 …

Continue reading

The bogus lady doctor

The Alleged Bogus Lady Doctor

In a recent post for the British Newspaper Archive, I mentioned Maria Owen, who posed as a doctor in late Victorian Birmingham. Here’s some more information about her, adapted from my book, The Quack Doctor: ‘I can cure you,’ the representative of the Ladies’ Medical Association told 37-year-old Julia Ann …

Continue reading

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 1870s and worked as a general practitioner, also devoting time to literary pursuits. During the …

Continue reading

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 …

Continue reading

The most uncanny look

 IRRESISTIBLE EYES MAY BE HAD BY TRANSPLANTING THE HAIR. a story from The Dundee Courier, 6 July 1899 If your eyes are unattractive you may make them irresistible by transplanting the hair. Transplanted eyelashes and eyebrows are the latest things in the way of personal adornment. There are specialists who make …

Continue reading

The Electropathic and Zander Institute

Regular readers might remember Cornelius Bennett Harness, who carried on a lucrative business in electro-magnetic products in London in the 1880s and 1890s. I have blogged about his Electric Corsets and the Ammoniaphone, an inhaler promising artificial Italian air to singers and public speakers. Harness’s showrooms, known as the Electropathic …

Continue reading

The Benefits of Phrenology

In honour of UK Census Day, here’s one way in which phrenology proved of great help in 1891: Source: The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, 11 April 1891 . .

‘Roast ribs of beef and plum pudding’ – Christmas in the Victorian hospital

Above: Christmas at the Middlesex Hospital, Illustrated London News, 3 January 1874 . On Christmas Day 1898, one of the house surgeons at the London Hospital dressed as Father Christmas and did the rounds of the wards, accompanied by a medical student togged up as Pierrot and pushing a trolley …

Continue reading