PUBLISHED: 07:25 EST, 4 September 2012 | UPDATED: 10:41 EST, 4 September 2012
- Vintage advertisements show just how far medicine and advertising have come since the introduction of regulation
It’s not a drug known for its benefits to health. In fact, if you were caught with this class A substance and claimed it was for ‘medicinal purposes’ you’d probably be laughed at all the way to the police station.
But, bizarrely, cocaine – and other drugs like morphine – were routinely used in remedies for coughs, colds and toothaches as a cure-all magic ingredient in the Victorian era.
Long before the drugs were criminalised – and prior to the regulation of both medicine and advertising – the substances were frequently touted as effective treatments for illnesses as serious as cancer and liver disease.
Inappropriate: An advert for cocaine toothache drops, marketed at children, which cost just 15 cents in 1885
An advert for Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, a patent medicine of the late 19th century which contained morphine, and was used as a cure for teething troubles in infants
These bizarre posters reveal the lethal medical concoctions containing cocaine and opium once unwittingly consumed by millions.
The quack cure adverts – often depicting children – claimed to heal a long list of illnesses including cancer, liver disease and coughs.
But the miracle cures were often loaded with substances such as cocaine, morphine and alcohol – all of which have been proven to be detrimental to our health in large doses.
This series of images highlights how far medicine has come since the introduction of regulation.
Up in smoke: An advert produced by Minnesota Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company in 1895 claiming its cigars don’t damage health because they are pure and scientific
An advert from 1900s for Vin Mariani (left), French tonic wine made from coca leaves, a source of cocaine. Pictured right is a drug advert from 1891 for a kidney and liver cure from US drug company Warner
Dr Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer, which contained morphine, from the late 1800s was claimed to cure coughs, asthma, pneumonia, malaria and many other diseases
All the products were once readily available over the counter and millions rushed to snap them up around the world in the late 1800s.
One advert for Ozone paper urges buyers to ignite its special paper and inhale the smoke to cure their asthma and bronchitis.
While Dr Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer’s campaign showed a young girl clutching a puppy – but contained high levels of Morphine.
Another ad dating back to 1885 advertised its ‘instantaneous cure’ for toothache – using cocaine.
Purely ridiculous: These products from the early 1900s were advertised as a ‘blood purifier’ to treat cancer
Weighty issue: An advert, left, from 1895 selling a product that makes you fat – something seen as the sign of good health before regulation was introduced – and one for weight loss, right, in 1878
An advert for Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for children from the late 19th century, which contained morphine
Stephen Jackson, a quack cure and medicine historian, said: ‘There were a lot of medicines before the 1900s that incorporated cocaine and alcohol, simply because they were cheap components.
‘Since nobody tested them to see if they lived up to their wild claims, companies could say and claim anything they wanted to.
‘They invested a tremendous amount of money in advertising and the public was pretty gullible. People made a tremendous amount of money around the world hawking this stuff.
‘They used a lot of alcohol in products for kidney and liver problems for example, which is the last thing you want in that situation.
Dr Scott’s Electric Flesh Brush, featured in this 1881 advert, is a concept still used today. Millions use body brushes to improve circulation and skin condition
An advert from 1912 (left) claiming to offer treatment for female diseases and piles, which consisted mainly of cocoa butter. A breast enlargement advert (right) dating from the early 1900s
This tubular device claimed to cure erectile dysfunction in the 1900s. The Vital Power massager created a vacuum via a crank that supposedly increased blood flow to the penis
‘It was largely down to a bit of ignorance due to the lack of understanding into medicines and a big desire to make money.’
The posters and magazine adverts were all in circulation in the late 1800s to early 1900s before regulation was formally introduced.
It wasn’t until the Pure Food and Drug Act was introduced in 1906 in America that regulation was slowly introduced.
In the UK the practice was largely eradicated by the time WWI ended.
Shock tactics: This advertisement from 1889 shows a product that supplied patients with a continuous current of low intensity electricity for a range of health remedies
Vintage health clinic advertisement in a newspaper dating from the early 1900’s for Dr. Flint, Chicago Rupture Specialist, an unproven proprietary or patent medicine