Patent Medicine Cartoon

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, June 18, 1912: I seemed to have had sort of a hard time today.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sounds like things still weren’t going well. The previous day Grandma wrote that she didn’t feel well, but that no one took it seriously.

Yesterday, I posted an old advertisement for a patent medicine. A hundred years ago, they were controversial and were just beginning to be regulated by the government.

Here’s a cartoon about patent medicines that appeared in the September, 1910 issue of National Food Magazine.

A SUGGESTION FOR AN “AD” FOR ANY OF THE FOLLOWING BABY KILLERS:

BEFORE TAKING

“That’ll make it stop crying, 50 cents, please.”

AFTER TAKING

<<drawing of crying mother>>

6 Responses

  1. That cartoon is very horrible and upsetting. But it probably illustrated a real problem back then.

    • A hundred years ago some patent medicines were very controversial and there was a national debate going on about whether they should be regulated. At that time, laws were just being put into place that regulated drug sales. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created in 1906. The Harrison Act, which regulated opiates, wouldn’t be passed until 1914.

  2. wow! That would make you stop and think before giving your baby some weird mixture.

    • By 1912, people were becoming aware that some of the patent medicines may not have been safe. I’ve seen a number of political cartoons on this topic in old newspapers and magazines. This cartoon sure had an alarming tone.

  3. That’s brutal! It sure makes the point, though.

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