View Full Version : Patent medicines

04-27-2006, 04:06 AM
Does anyone have a recommendation of a good source (either print or internet) with information about 19th century patent medicines? I'd like to know what some of the popular ones were (the ones that most people kept on hand), as well as be able to find medicines used for specific ailments. Thank you!

04-27-2006, 04:12 AM
one of the most popular was a pick me and general health tonic you now call Coca-Cola.

04-27-2006, 05:42 AM
I Googled "laudanum" awhile back and found some interesting information. I think laudanum -- a combination of opium and alcohol -- was also called "bitters" because of the horrendous taste.

04-27-2006, 06:41 AM
One of these might be useful (they all focus on American patent medicines):

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/almanac/index.html (patent medicine almanacs)

http://www.mspong.org/cyclopedia/contents.html (an 1881 cyclopedia - the entries under "medicine" are mostly home remedies, but they might have something on patent medications)

http://www.pbs.org/now/science/drugads2.html (history of drug advertising)

http://www.folkmed.ucla.edu/ (if you search for "patent", you will get some references to books mentioning patent medications)

A couple original documents from the Making of America project:
"A Doctor and His Pills" (http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/sgml/moa-idx?notisid=ABL5306-0016-18&type=simple&slice=1&&&q1=patent%20medicine&year1=1815&year2=1926&searchSummary=170%20matches%20in%20135%20journal%2 0articles&size=50&layer=third&coll=serial2) (1852, The Whig Review)
"The Patent Medicine Business" (http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?ALLSELECTED=1;xc=1;g=moagrp;type=proximity;rgn =full%20text;q1=patent%20medicine;op2=near;amt2=40 ;op3=near;amt3=40;c=moa;c=moajrnl;view=reslist;sub view=detail;sort=occur;start=1;size=25;didno=acg13 36.2-03.005;cc=moajrnl;node=acg1336.2-03.005%3A7) (1867)
The Prairie Traveler (http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?ALLSELECTED=1;xc=1;g=moagrp;type=proximity;rgn =full%20text;q1=patent%20medicine;op2=near;amt2=40 ;op3=near;amt3=40;c=moa;c=moajrnl;view=reslist;sub view=detail;sort=occur;start=1;size=25;didno=AFK10 76.0001.001;cc=moa) (1863)

There are probably others too.

Hope this helps!

04-27-2006, 06:56 AM
Also, The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices (http://www.mtn.org/quack/welcome.htm) has some interesting (and scary) exhibits. One that might be helpful to you is the section on "The 1905 Colliers magazine series, The Great American Fraud, exposed the patent medicine industry for it's use of addicting cocaine, morphine and alcohol. (http://www.mtn.org/quack/ephemera/overview.htm) "

04-27-2006, 11:04 PM
Thanks for all of the great links! It is American patent medicines that I was interested in. This will help a lot.

04-27-2006, 11:28 PM
Thanks for all of the great links! It is American patent medicines that I was interested in. This will help a lot. Based on your location, I wasn't sure if American was what you were looking for. Glad to help.

It's kind of funny to think of all the people who must have been walking around half-stoned or drunk after taking those tonics. I'm grateful that it's now regulated, so I'm not likely to inadvertently get a dose of antifreeze or radium.