The Modena Fossil

Modena Fossil

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This is perhaps the most bizarrely named product yet featured on this site. It is not surprising that it should be obscure to the modern observer, but in fact it made no sense to the denizens of the early 19th century either.

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……………HEALTH
……….A MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERY.

……….The Modena Fossil

……….A SPEEDY AND EFFECTUAL CURE
For the Hooping-Cough, Palsy, Rheumatism, Asthmatic
…..
Fits,   Scrophulous   Swellings,  and   Diseases  of the
…..
Glands  ;   White   Swellings of   the   Joints  ;   Pains
…..and  Diseases of   the  Breasts  of  Women  ;  Spasms,
…..
Cramps,   Pains and  Weakness of  the  Head,   Sto-
…..mach,   or   any   other  part  of  the Body  ;  Sprains,
…..
Bruises, and Chilblains, &c.

……….BY OUTWARD APPLICATION ONLY.

Price  2s.  9d.—5s.  5d.—and  11s.  6d.  the  bottle
…………………..(Duty included)
…………….To Mr. OXLEY, Surgeon, Hull.
……………………………………..Howden, August 4th, 1800

…..DEAR SIR
I   Did   not   expect   writing   you   again  so  soon,
by  any means;  but  calling  at  Bromfleet yesterday
I found Mr. JOHN KITCHING,  of  that  place,  per-
fectly  recovered  from  a  very  severe  attack  of  the
RHEUMATISM; by using your MODENA FOSSIL,
which I recommended to  him.  For  several  days  the
pain was so violent in his Back, Hip,  and  Knee,  that
he could not rest day nor night, and could but just  get
over the room, leaning upon a  staff  with  both  hands.
MRS. KITCHING is at times  much  afflicted  with  a
Pain in her Head, but  has  it  always  removed by the
application of  the  MODENA  FOSSIL.  When  you
advertise you are at liberty to  mention  these  as  your
witnesses, if you choose.  I  shall,  at  all  opportunities,
recommend the MODENA FOSSIL, which I  believe
will be of general benefit to mankind.
……………………………..I remain Sir, yours, &c.
……………………….JOHN WILTSHAW.
The Modena Fossil is  prepared  and  sold  Wholesale
……..and Retail by the Inventor and Proprietor,

……………..EDWARD OXLEY,

Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of London;
And   Surgeon   to   the  Poor  and  Strangers’  Friend
Society,  in  Hull,  at  his  House,   No. 17, Bowl-alley
Lane, Hull.
Sold   also   by   Mr.  Pidding  (late  Surgeon  in  the
army)   No.   76,   (opposite   the  Pantheon)  Oxford-
street;   and   Retail   by   Mr.  Tutt,   Royal  Exchange,
Mr.  Ward,   No.  324,  Holborn,  Mr.  Swinney,  No.
21, Pall Mall,  Mr.  Walsh,  Chemist,   No.  6,  Catha-
rine   street,   Strand,   London;    Savage,    Howden;
Christopher and Jennet, Stockton;  Turner  and  Ains-
worth, Scarboro’; Stephenson, Bridlington-Quay; and
all respectable Venders of Medicines in the Kingdom.
…………A saving of FIVE SHILLINGS by purchasing
the LARGE Bottle at 11s. 6d. which contains equal to
SIX of the SMALL, at 2s. 9d.

Source: The Hull Packet, Tues 26 August 1800

The basis of the product was oil of amber, and as The Medical Observer (1806) explained ( or rather, in its usual outraged fashion, exclaimed!!!):

Amber is now supposed to be a fossil, and having probably been obtained near Modena in Italy, our advertiser thought that the title of Modena Fossil was not altogether inapplicable to his nostrum, and from its novelty very likely to attract the attention both of the medical profession and the ignorant!!!

The Medical Observer also made a point that is still pertinent today:

If the Modena Fossil be capable of curing cancer, he need not incur the expense or disgrace of advertising it. A person that can cure that disease, would not only amass a considerable fortune by his practice, but would also receive a very handsome remuneration from parliament.

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