Digger Odell Publications 2005

Many patent and proprietory medicines from the 19th century contained substances which today are highly controlled or illegal. Yet ordinary citizens were often unknowing exposed to dangerous and habit forming drugs. It wasn't until the last two decades of the 19th century that serious inquiry about the make up of these medicines began to reach state and federal law makers. This was in part due to the efforts of the American Medical Association. One of the goals of the AMA was to educate not only doctors, but also the public and the state legislatures to rid the market of the innumerable fraudulent medicinal preparations. In May of 1909, the Journal of American Medical Association printed a list of "Habit Forming Nostrums". These they classified into various drug groups including: alcohol, opium and it derivatives (notably morphine and codeine) cocaine, chloral, and cannabis indica (marijuana). As bottle collectors, it is interesting to learn what the old bottles we have contained.


Boschee's German Syrup (morphine) Brou's injection (morphine) Carney Common Sense Cure(morphine)
Children's Comfort (morphine) Colwell's Egyptian Oil (opium) Crossman's specific mixture (opium)
Dr. Drake's German Croup Remedy (opium) Dr. Fahrney's Teething Syrup (morphine) Dr. James Soothing Syrup (heroin)
Dr. Moffett's Teethina (opium) Dr. Seth Arnold's Cough Killer (morphine) Godfrey's Cordial (opium)
Gowan's Pneumonia Cure (opium) Harrison's Opium Elixir (opium) Hooper's Anodyne, The Infant's Friend (morphine)
Jayne's Expectorant (opium) Maguire's Comp. Extr. Benne (morphine) Mexican Oil (opium)
Pierce's Extract of Smart Weed
Rexal Cholera Cure (opium) Shiloh's Cure (heroin)
One Day Cough cure
(morphine and cannabis)
Victor Lung Syrup (opium) Wright's Instant Relief (opium)

Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup (morphine)

Taylor's Sweetgum & Mullein Compound (morphine)

Petit's Eye Salve (morphine)

Dr. Ray Vaughn of Buffalo, New York, proprietor of a line of medicines including Dr. Pierce's Favorite Prescription and his above mentioned Extract of Smart Weed whose products were distributed world-wide was found by the Massachusetts State Board of Health in the 1880s to have opium in several of his products. However, when the Ladies Home Journal repeated the claims in an article in 1903. Dr. Pierce sued, and won, because the staff of the journal was unable to find in the hundreds of bottles they sampled a single one containing opium. Dr. Pierce had discontinued the addition of opium some ten years earlier. It was somewhat surprising then to have the report from the AMA appear six years later repeating the allegation.

Another heavily advertised brand was Piso's Cure for Consumption. This brand was sold by one Ezra Hazeltine of Warren, Pennsylvania for some years. Beginning in 1869 he and several partners promoted this product to become a top seller by the turn of the century, despite its being heavily laden with drugs. It is not hard to imagine back in that time when the science of medicine was far less advanced, that when people purchased and took medicine they want to "feel" some effect. No doubt the addition of strong drugs encouraged the taker to believe the medicine was having an beneficial effect, if not, then they may not have been in a frame of mind to complain or care.

Likewise, Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow, mother-in-law of Jeramiah Curtis, a devoted female physician and nurse studied teething among infants. She compounded a formula for a soothing syrup for children, the ingredients of which consisted of sulphate of morphia, sodium carbonate, spirits of foeniculi, and aqua ammonia. Not surprisingly, this medicine not only "soothed" the child, but relieved the pain of teething or other ailments. First marketed in 1849 as "Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup", the popularity of this medicine climbed to incredible heights under the management of Jeramiah Curtis and Benjamin Perkins, and spawned many imitators.
The advertisement at the right was printed in response to the use of "soothing syrups" and "Anodynes for infants in the Philadelphia North American.

Numerous child deaths were reported in newspapers resulting from overdoses of the soothing medicines. The American Medical Association reported in "Nostrums and Quackery" about one Dr. Siegelstein of Cleveland who investigated the potency of "Kopp's Baby Friend". Thirty drops given to a six day old puppy put the puppy into a sleeep from which it never awoke. Other experiments he conducted on animals testified to the potential for disaster if children were overdosed.

If you collect or enjoy medicine bottles, you'll love Volume 5, Medicines. Pictures and descriptions of hundreds of collectible medicine bottles. Only $25.00 plus $3.00 priority mail. Get your Copy today.


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