Health, just as it is today, was a major selling point and a host of patent medicines were readily available. Separate ads from Alexander Davidson, chemists at 172 High Street, Montrose, offered their own Improved Cod Liver Oil Emulsion with Hypophosphites at 1/- (5p) and 2/- per bottle and Harrison’s “reliable” Nursery Pomade for ‘every mother who values the health and cleanliness of her child. One application kills all nits and vermin, beautifies and strengthens the hair. In tins 4.5d (2p) and 9d.’
Readers suffering from ‘Anaemia, Weakness, Brain-fag, Run-Down, Sleeplessness or Coughs and Colds’ could send off three penny stamps and receive ‘a liberal trial bottle of “Wincarnis” free.’
If that wasn’t good enough for you, you could always try ‘Clarke’s Blood Mixture – A Good and Useful medicine’ which claimed to cure ‘Eczema, Scrofula, Scurvy, Bad Legs, Abscesses, Ulcers, Boils, Sores, Pimples, Blood Poison, Glandular Swellings, Piles, Rheumatism, Gout, & All Skin & Blood Diseases.’ Some of the claims made for patent medicines were sweeping and probably downright dangerous.
A lady from Nottingham, whose full name and address was given, explained how her son had been taken with a wasting disease and eventually crippled from the waist down. "We had made up our minds that he was to be a life-long cripple when we got some of Dr Cassell’s tablets. We went on with the tablets, and steadily he improved, till he was quite cured. He is now at work, for he is seventeen.”
I have little doubt that although such claims might be treated more sceptically today there are those who, faced with the trials of a loved one, would no doubt try anything that might effect a cure.
Older readers may recall when virtually every household had a home doctor’s book, probably a throwback to pre-NHS days when self-treatment was the cheap option.
From the same time I can remember when administering weekly doses of castor oil or something similar was considered to be imperative for a youngster’s health. UGH!