Friday, February 28, 2014
Snake oil! The term "Patent Medicine" has been used frequently to describe drug compounds marketed (mostly) prior to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Perhaps "proprietary" is a little better term, because it denotes the the more common trademarking of "secret (often old family) recipes". I'm fascinated with this phenomenon, and I collect ephemera and memorabilia associated with the Lydia E Pinkham Medicine Company of Lynn, Massachusetts. Lydia's medicines were marketed to women to cure all manner of "women's complaints". Enterprising Lydia started out cooking each batch on her kitchen stove and sending her sons door to door with her brew. Eventually her company became a booming concern in Lynn, selling throughout the country.
You had to love the elaborate and artistic marketing materials! Trade cards with cherubic children, kittens, and smiling healthy people. Not only are most of these concoctions laced with plenty of alcohol, but they often contained opium, heroin, morphine or cocaine. They were marketed for people of all ages, including babies.
While browsing my favorite estate shop, I came across some sewing machine oil, which was being stored in a bottle which originally contained one of these magical elixirs. The owner had taken care to scratch out the label, but the original label is still very readable. Active ingredients? Opium and alcohol...
So, of course, I brought it home!
Have you found anything fun lately?