Paper war on patent medicine

The fact that it relies on patent medicine advertisements for a substantial portion of its revenue does not stop the Toronto Telegram, November 3, 1885 from warning its readers to shun such snake oil.

Six patent medicine ads in this four-page issue included those for Putnam’s Painless Corn Extractor; Burdock Blood Bitters, which promise “the secret of beauty;” and St. Jacobs Oil, which “relieves and cures,” rheumatism, neuralgia, sciatica, lumbago, headache, toothache, sore throat, swelling, cuts, bruises, burns, scalds, and all other aches and pains,” for 50 cents a bottle.

They were all mostly useless, the Telegram warned. But people flocked to patent medicine because medical doctors “frequently fail to effect cures.” Medical science was said to be “a dark science” groping on the “the outskirts of absolutely knowledge.”

Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 067

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