A Cure For What Ails You

In the late 1960’s and Early 1970s two bottle books were printed which captured collectors’ interest, Collecting the Cures and Collecting All Cures, by Bill Agee in which were listed about a total of 500-600 bottles . "Cure" bottles suddenly became highly collectible. Today over two thousand medicine bottles with the word "Cure" embossed are known. One very knowledgeable collectors estimates there might be as many as three thousand with new ones being discovered every year.

Patent medicine promoters prior to the Civil War used the words "Cure" sparingly. There are probably no more than 60 pontil age bottles known with the word "Cure" embossed and none are common. Less than 3% of the known embossed cure bottles pre-date the Civil War.

The Era of the embossed cure was relatively short. Beginning in the early 1860s, medicine makers, in response to the ever growing competition, turned to more outrageous means to attract public attention. The word "Cure" increasingly appeared as part of the advertising spiel through the next four decades. It was the passage of the 1906 Food and Drug Administration Act that all but ended the practice by the end of the first decade of the new century.

In response to harsh Government regulations, postal crack-downs, and a litany of court actions the proprietary medicine makers, to keep their products legal, replaced the word "Cure" with the word "Remedy" or simply went out of business. For example, one very popular cure was the Warner’s Safe Kidney & Liver Cure. About 1907, the company began to make Warner’s Safe Kidney Liver Remedy. This allowed them to continue doing business almost as usual. But the end was near.

Hundreds of companies were taken to court under various sections of the new statute. The burden fell upon the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary. In Notice of Judgment No 180 of the Food and Drug Act issue March 4, 1910 were the results of a 1908 suit against Gowan's Pneumonia Cure for the misbranding of a drug. The product was sold in a 3 3/8 tall clear glass cylinder embossed on the base Gowan’s Pneumonia Cure. 

The District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois handed down the sentence after the Gowan Medical Company, a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of North Carolina and transacting business through a branch office at Chicago pleaded guilty and was fined $200. The offense? The government had intercepted a shipment of four cases of the medicine bound for Washington D.C. The company was accused of making false and misleading statements on their labels and circulars. On a green circular enclosed in the carton and surrounding each of the bottle was printed, "Supplies an easily absorbed food for the lungs that quickly effects a permanent cure." On a white circular also enclosed and surrounding each of the bottles was an advertisement that stated the product, "…was endorsed and advertisement accepted by the American Medical Journal, as a valuable therapeutic agent," also branded as false and misleading. 

It was this dogged relentless legal pursuit of a few hundred of the thousands of companies engaged in the pseudo-medical business that dramatically changed the patent medicine business. At the same time advances in glass blowing technology forever changed the kinds of containers put before the public. 

Fewer and fewer embossed private mold bottles were made as cheaper paper labels became the industry standard, screw caps replaced the traditional corked mouth and the common inexpensive bottle glass went from aqua to clear.

In the decades from the Civil War until the passage of the Food & Drug Act, patent medicine makers claims outdid each other as they offered a cure for every ill known to man and probably for some imagined. Determined collectors can find such oddities as Miner’s Damiana Nervous Disease Cure, Rupturine Cures Rupture, Babcock’s Cancer Cure, Anti-Apopplectine and Paralysis Cure, Elepizone a Certain Cure For Fits. Harper’s Cuforhedake Brain Food, Keeley’s Gold Cure for Drunkenness, I.L. Stl John’s Magnetic Oil Cure, Fitzgerald’s Membrane Cure and Radam’s Germ, Bacteria, or Fungus Destroyer cures All Diseases.

There are the more common ailments for which the medicine men traipsed out an enormous number of products: For coughs, colds, lung complaints, One finds: One Minute Cough Cure, Otto’s Cure for the Throat and Lungs, Hire’s Cough Cure, Shilo’s Consumption Cure, Dr. Slade’s Cough & Asthma Cure. Veno’s Lightning Cough Cure (an English preparation), For Diarrhoea, Dyspepsia (stomach upset) and other "stomach" troubles.collectors might find: Foo’Digests Cures Dyspepsia, No Acid No Alkali, Foley’s Safe Diarrhoea and Colic Cure. Bromo Pepsin Cures Headache & Indigestion.

For Pain: Dr. A. Coyle’s Cure of Pain, Porter’s Cure of Pain, Paine’s Vegetable Pain Curer, Elmer’s It Cures Like a Charm Pain Killing Balm, Vita Oil Cures Pain; For Rheumatism: Cures:Clay’s Sure Cure for Rheumatism, Certain Cure for Rheumatism, Wadleigh’s Rheumatic Cure, Mystic Cure for Rheumatism and Neuralgia; 

For Fever & Ague: Dr. Frank’s Turkey Febrifuge for the Cure of Fever & Ague Herrig’s Grip, Fever & Ague Cure, Hall’s Chill Cure For Dandruff: Dr. Noid’s Antiseptic Cure Dandruff, Eczema & Falling Hair, Hamilton’s Dandruff Cure & Hair Restorative For Kidneys: The Clinic Kidney & Liver Cure, Dennis’ Blood, Liver & Kidney Cure, Original Kidney Liver Cure, Dr. Fenner’s Kidney & Backache Cure For Hay Fever Asthma: Davenport’s Asthma Cure Dr. Harding Celebrated Catarrh Cure, Joesph’s Asthma Remedy, A Sure Cure; 

There were VeterinaryCures: Spohn’s Distemper Cure, Blue Grass Mange Cure, Daniel’s Wonder Worker Liniment Natures Cure for Men or Beast, Dixon’s Distemper Cure, Dunlap’s Colic Kidney Cure For Horses For Mules, Ellis’ Spavin cure, C.T. Whipple’s Garget cure, Hillemann’s American Chicken Cholera Cure,

  And Foreign Sounding Cures: Egyptian Corn Cure, Brazilian Cure, Himalya the Kola Compound Nature’s Cure for Asthma. Stern’s Alpine Asthma Cure The Great south American Nervine Tonic and Stomach & Liver Cure. There were Cures for Diseases which might prove embarassing: Elixir of Youth Cures Weak men

Many of these contained dangerous substances. In a time when medical treatment was less understood than it is today, people who took the medicines wanted to "feel" a difference. In the President’s Homes Commission Report, Dr. Lyman F. Kebler, chief of division of drugs of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture says: "There are on the market many medicinal preparation which contain as ingredients habit-forming drugs. Such drugs are : Alcohol; opium and its derivatives, notably morphin, codein and heroin; cocain; chloral ; cannabis indica, acetanilid; ect." Shilo’s Cure for example contained heroin.

Some companies were wildly successful earning millions for their proprietors who lavishly displayed their wealth in fancy homes and elegant businesses. Others came and went quickly as their products failed to catch public imagination. Some of the common cures include: Kilmer’s Swamproot Kidney Liver Bladder Cure Warner’s Safe Kidney Liver Cure Shilo’s Cure for Consumption , Piso’s Consumption Cure Kendall’s Spavin Cure , Glover’s Mange Cure and many others.

Collectors look for a number of factors to determine the desirability of a given bottles. Color and age rank high as factors. Clear and aqua cures are most common, amber colored ones are more scarce any others colors are rare with a few minor exceptional such as Sanford’s Radical Cure, which comes in cobalt and is fairly common. Pontiled cures almost always demand high prices as do pictured examples, odd variants and one-of-a-kind bottles. Regardless there are cures for almost every budget and type of collector. You might just look into it and see if it is a cure for what ails you.