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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Dr Ralph’s Pills

ADvent Calendar Day 2 Dr Ralph’s Pills and the ‘Ralphian Theory’ appear to have been inspired by the Hygeist principles of James Morison, who introduced Vegetable Universal Pills to Britain in 1825. Joseph Ralph’s system, like that of Morison, comprised two varieties of remedy – the Alterative Purgatives (No. 1) …

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ADvent Calendar 1: The Health Jolting Chair

  Every day until Christmas, The Quack Doctor will be showing a different historical health-related advertisement. First is this brain-refresher and household blessing – the Health Jolting Chair (1885), courtesy of the US National Library of Medicine. . .

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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10 Victorian products for Movember

As more than a million people across the world spend this month growing moustaches to raise awareness of – and funds for – Movember‘s men’s health projects, here are a few 19th-century products to help them along the way.   1. Latreille’s Excelsior Lotion Advertised in the 1870s by John Latreille, originally …

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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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The Quack Doctor Book

I’ve written a book! It is out now and I must embark on the excruciating task of self-promotion, about which I ought to have learnt something from the quacks by this time. Unfortunately I can’t promise that this book is made from rare ingredients known to ancient tribespeople, that it …

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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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Wonder-workers and styptics

When your Magic Chicken is suffering from cholera, there’s no need to panic. This bottle for the Magic Chicken Cholera Cure is one of around 195 medicine bottles in the collection of Michael Till, a retired GP from Gloucestershire. Michael became interested in historical remedies after looking into the story …

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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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