Once Upon a Malady (Part 2): Of Mandrake and Maltobeef

Here are four more patent medicine ads from Fort Worth newspapers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (See Part 1.)

Hood’s Pills and Hood’s Sarsaparilla: The pills were good for biliousness. The sarsaparilla tonic was good for dropsy. Of course, because each bottle was 18 percent alcohol, it could cure your dropsy but cause you to swerve your buggy into a bar ditch. The Hood company also made Maltobeef, an emulsion containing cod liver oil, extract of malt, and extract of beef. Mmm-mm.

Hixson’s X-Ray Oil: good for la grippe and lumbago. This ad, from 1908, mentions the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Before that act was passed, makers of patent medicines could legally say and sell just about any fool thing they wanted. Note that X-Ray Oil was sold at H. T. Pangburn’s pharmacy, which was at 9th and Houston streets. In 1914 Mr. Pangburn would go into the candy business.

The technology of X-rays was fairly new in 1908. Manufacturers quickly latched onto the word X-ray to name all kinds of unrelated products. For example, there were X-ray brand golf balls and X-ray brand razor blades, X-ray stove polish, X-ray liniment, X-ray soap, X-ray coffee grinders, X-ray lemon squeezers, X-ray whiskey, and, I swear, X-ray prophylactics.

Beecham’s Pills: good for costiveness, scurvy, and biliousness. Also works wonders for wind and giddiness (an unfortunate combination). Manufactured from 1842 to 1998.

Schenck’s Pulmonic Syrup and Schenck’s Mandrake Pills: Dr. J. H. Schenck was not above using scare tactics to sell some syrup. And his mandrake pills were good for biliousness. They promote “sweet secretions,” the ad promises, and heal “irritated and excited parts.” Feel free to supply your own punchline.

More on patent medicines:

Once Upon a Malady (Part 1): Of Cod and Continence

From Drooper to Super: Of Snake Oil and Lip Service

The Weaker Sex? “Ladies, Here’s to Your Health (Hic)”

Shock Jock: “Just Let the Electrodes Work Their Magic”

Up a Lazy Liver: Snake Oil, Celery, and Feeling No Paine’s

Near Beer, a Steer, and “Better Take Something for That Cough, Dear”

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