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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The Amateur Anatomist and the Amputated Finger

19thC Finger Saw

Injuries acquired in unusual circumstances, spurious news stories of medical happenings, bizarre or gruesome reports from doctors’ casebooks… Strange cases is an occasional feature on the Quack Doctor that reproduces these tales. In this excerpt from the London Courier and Evening Gazette of 4 December 1824, we meet a young poulterer whose ‘itching for …

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Luminous spectres and electrical kisses

Decapitation - from 'How to Entertain a Social Party' 1875

The Quack Doctor wishes you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Thank you to all who have read the blog, bought the books, liked and shared my posts on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, or been in touch to share fascinating family history stories and pictures of medical ephemera during …

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Detective Caminada and the quack doctors

Advertisement for the Rev E J Silverton, 1884

Angela Buckley’s book, The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada, published in March 2014, tells the story of a real-life Victorian supersleuth. In this guest post, Angela relates Caminada’s encounter with an ecclesiastical con merchant touting a dodgy elixir. . Urban life in Victorian England was precarious enough, …

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‘A new sensation’ – hair-brushing by machinery

The New and Delightful Method - Punch vol 45 p175

Among the gems released into the public domain by the British Library last December is an advertisement for Batkin & Kent, Hairdressers and Perfumers of Stafford, (or Staffford – whoever proofread it probably hoped it would disappear with the next edition of the book rather than re-emerge on the internet …

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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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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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Hunt’s Remedy

ADvent Calendar Day 7 Take THAT, Death! POW! The skeletal figure of the Grim Reaper drops his scythe and cowers before the might of a strong, healthy opponent wielding a bottle of Hunt’s Remedy. The Remedy became popular in the 1870s after it was acquired by William Clarke of Providence, Rhode …

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