5 September 2017

Just over a month ago, I wrote about an ongoing project that I am working on (See 2 August 2017), transcribing old editions of The Washington County News, the weekly newspaper of my home.  While it is imbedded with little snippets of humor,  most of which I won’t even claim to understand because I guess you had to have been there to get it, some of the funniest entries I’ve come across in the papers are the medical ads.  Yes, that’s right, the medical ads.

Now I’m pretty sure, or at the very least pretty hopeful, that these tonics, balms and elixirs pedaled in small-town newspapers across the country at the turn of the twentieth century,  were actually thought of as cures by their manufacturers and not grand money-making ruses.   But, viewing it from a “modern” vantage point, they seem pretty nonsensical; like Castoria that was touted to cure fever, sleeplessness, diarrhea and constipation in infants or Oxidine that was said to cure biliousness, fever, chills and even MALARIA!  Cure-all medications that could be conveniently mail-ordered or purchased at any local druggist for less than $1.00.

One of the advertisers of these wonder drugs that has repeatedly caught my eye is the Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company, who manufactured a vegetable compound for the cure of feminine ills.  Back aches, nervousness, sparks before the eyes, blues and even an impending sense of doom, apparently all documented symptoms of female weakness, didn’t stand a chance against this magic tonic.  See for yourself:


So when I came across an old Lydia E. Pinkham Cosco-sized medicine bottle in a local estate sale, its contents long-since drained by some haggard Southern woman,  I couldn’t help but smile, giggle, and immediately purchase the darn old thing.

Lydia Pinkham bottleHere’s to you Mrs. Lydia E. Pinkham and to your vegetable compound for still curing the blues almost 100 years later!


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