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Old English Patent Medicines in America   By:

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CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY:

PAPER 10

OLD ENGLISH PATENT MEDICINES IN AMERICA

George B. Griffenhagen and James Harvey Young

ORIGINS OF ENGLISH PATENT MEDICINES 156

ENGLISH PATENT MEDICINES COME TO AMERICA 162

COMPLEX FORMULAS AND DISTINCTIVE PACKAGES 166

SOURCE OF SUPPLY SEVERED 168

PHILADELPHIA COLLEGE OF PHARMACY FORMULARY 174

ENGLISH PATENT MEDICINES GO WEST 176

THE PATENT MEDICINES IN THE 20TH CENTURY 179

OLD ENGLISH PATENT MEDICINES IN AMERICA

By George B. Griffenhagen and James Harvey Young

Bateman's Pectoral Drops, Godfrey's Cordial, Turlington's Balsam of Life, Hooper's Female Pills, and a half dozen other similar nostrums originated in England, mostly during the first half of the 18th century. Advertised with extravagant claims, their use soon spread to the American Colonies.

To the busy settler, with little time and small means, these ready made and comparatively inexpensive "remedies" appealed as a solution to problems of medical and pharmaceutical aid. Their popularity brought forth a host of American imitations and made an impression not soon forgotten or discarded.

THE AUTHORS: George B. Griffenhagen, formerly curator of medical sciences in the Smithsonian Institution's U.S. National Museum, is now Director of Communications for the American Pharmaceutical Association. James Harvey Young is professor of history at Emory University. Some of the material cited in the paper was found by him while he held a fellowship from the Fund for the Advancement of Education, in 1954 55, and grants in aid from the Social Science Research Council and Emory University, in 1956 57.

In 1824 there issued from the press in Philadelphia a 12 page pamphlet bearing the title, Formulae for the preparation of eight patent medicines, adopted by the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy . The College was the first professional pharmaceutical organization established in America, having been founded in 1821, and this small publication was its first venture of any general importance. Viewed from the perspective of the mid 20th century, it may seem strange if not shocking that the maiden effort of such a college should be publicizing formulas for nostrums. Adding to the novelty is the fact that all eight of these patent medicines, with which the Philadelphians concerned themselves half a century after American independence, were of English origin.

Hooper's Female Pills, Anderson's Scots Pills, Bateman's Pectoral Drops, Godfrey's Cordial, Dalby's Carminative, Turlington's Balsam of Life, Steer's Opodeldoc, British Oil in this order do the names appear in the Philadelphia pamphlet all were products of British therapeutic ingenuity. Across the Atlantic Ocean and on American soil these eight and other old English patent medicines, as of the year when the 12 page pamphlet was printed, had both a past and a future.

Origin of English Patent Medicines

When the Philadelphia pharmacists began their study, the eight English patent medicines were from half a century to two centuries old.[1] The most ancient was Anderson's Scots Pills, a product of the 1630's, and the most recent was probably Dalby's Carminative, which appeared upon the scene in the 1780's. Some aspects of the origin and development of these and similar English proprietaries have been treated, but a more thorough search of the sources and a more integrated and interpretive recounting of the story would be a worthy undertaking. Here merely an introduction can be given to the cast of characters prior to their entrances upon the American stage.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, the early English history of these patent medicines has been obtained from the following sources: "Proprietaries of other days," Chemist and Druggist , June 25, 1927, vol. 106, pp. 831 840; C. J. S. Thompson, The mystery and art of the apothecary , London, 1929; C... Continue reading book >>




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