You are exploring:  Library  >
Exhibits Home  > 
You can learn a lot from ADVERTISING  > 

Cure All                       Health & Beauty Aids           Cough               Intestinal

Cure All

The weekly newspapers and magazines became the perfect medium, in the early 20th century, for advertisements claiming medical “cure all” products and remedies for other health issues.  Many of the sick lived in rural areas, doctors were not readily available to care for them. The distance and lack of funds prevented many of the sick to seek out a doctor. It was in this environment that the "cure all" advertisers were able to promote the product and tout their medical successes.

The passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 addressed some problems with misbranded and harmful patent medicines. Below, and on the other medical advertisement pages, is a sampling of such advertisements for patent medicines and health remedies.


Tuberculosis Addiline cure The Chicago Ledger, v. XLIX, no. 1, Saturday, January 1, 1921, p. 16.

Tuberculosis Addiline cure
Tuberculosis Addiline cure

"It would make a better furniture polish than tuberculosis remedy."
wrote Dr. Charles J. Hatfield about Addiline in 1920.

Cancer Home Cure
The Chicago Ledger, v. XXXVII, no. 52, Saturday, December 25, 1909, p 7. 

Cancer Home Cure
Cancer Home Cure


Infantile Paralysis The Chicago Ledger, v. XLV, no. 3, January 20, 1917, p 10.

Infantile Paralysis
Infantile Paralysis


In Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society, author Watts addressed the issue of epidemic in New York City, in the article "Epidemics," when he wrote, ". . . the so-called summer plague, more usually known as poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis. In the summer of 1916, several thousand middle-class children in New York City and the surrounding region were struck with a strange new disease. Although outright death was rare–because hospital care was available–many survivors were left severely crippled in their legs and unable to walk. Other less fortunate survivors suffered impairment of their breathing apparatus and had to be placed in an iron lung. . . " [Watts 326]

German-American Kneipp and Nature Cure The Fatherland, v. 2, no. 17, June  2, 1915, p. 14.    

German-American Kneipp and Nature Cure
German-American Kneipp and Nature Cure


“More attractive to mid-19th-century Americans were various non-exercise treatments, cures, and dietary schemes designed to encourage overall health and well-being. Naturopathy, including such practices as hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, herbal medicine, nutrition, massage, and homeopathy, drew on the Hippocratic notion of the healing power of nature and the capacity of the body for regeneration.”  [Encyclopedia Britannica]


Drank Heavily
The Chicago Ledger
, v. XXXVIII, no. 15, Saturday, April 9, 1910, p. 7.

Bailey's Pure Rye
Ardmore Chronicle
, v. 16, no. 19, December 31, 1904, p. [2].

E. J. Wood's I Drank Heavily Bailey's Pure Rye


Nuxated Iron The Chicago Ledgerv. XLIX, no. 1, Saturday, January 1, 1921, p 15.

Nuxated Iron

For more Nuxated Iron advertisements, see Recreational Advertising.

Carter's Little Liver Pills Ardmore Chronicle,  v.  27, no. 13, Saturday, January 1, 1916, p. [7]. 

Carter's Liver Pills Doan's Kidney Pills


Doan's Kidney Pills Ardmore Chronicle, v.  28, no. 20, February 17, 1917,  p. [2].

Michigan Food and Drug Monthly, in 1919, wrote, “. . . The obvious intent of the Doan’s Kidney Pills advertisements is to lead the public to believe that a pain in the lower back indicates kidney disease. It indicates nothing of the kind. . . . Doan’s nostrum, is a powerful irritant to the kidneys and may cause the most serious damage to kidneys that are already diseased.” [Michigan 7]

Ayer's Sarsaparilla Impure blood  Ardmore Chronicle, v. 15, no. 31, April 23, 1904, p. [3].

         See Ayer's Sarsaparilla formula, as published in 1891 by Charles
       Oleson, in Secret nostrums and systems of medicine; a book of formulas.



Magnolia Blossom peculiar ailments The Chicago Ledger, v. XLIX, no. 35, Saturday, August 27, 1921, p. 18.

Vinol cod liver oil Ardmore Chronicle, v. 27, no. 13, Saturday, January 1, 1916, p. [8]. 


Anderson, Maria.  "Six Cold and Flu Medicines you’re Not Taking Today (And for Good Reason)." Smithsonian Insider. History & Culture. 27 January 2015. Accessed 25 October 2016.

Woloson, Wendy A. "The Persuaders: Early American Advertisers And Marketers. (Cover Story)." Ephemera Journal 15.1 (2012): 8. America: History & Life. Web. 9 May 2016.

Fishbein, Morris, and Walter L. Bierring. A History of the American Medical Association, 1847 to 1947. Philadelphia :  W. B. Saunders Company, 1947, p. 533. AMA Archives. American Medical Association. Copyright 1995-2016. Web. 16 August 2016.

Norris, James D. Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865-1920. New York : Greewood Press, 1990, p. 49. Print.

History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “The Pure Food and Drug Act.” Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Hatfield, Charles J., M.D. "The Year's Work of the National Tuberculosis Association: XIX. Fake Cures." Journal of the Outdoor Life, v. 17(6) June, 1920, p. 211.  Web. 17 August 2016.

"Part I Quackery -- Cancer Cures: The Chamblee Cancer Cure." Nostrums and Quackery; Articles on the Nostrum Evil and Quackery Reprinted From the Journal of the American Medical Association. Ed. Arthur Joseph Cramp. Chicago : Press of American Medical Association, [1911], p. 31-38. Web. 17 August 2016.

Watts, Sheldon.  "Epidemics." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society. Ed. Paula S. Fass. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 326. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

"Physical Culture: Health fads". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

Barker, E. O., M.D. "'Nuxated Iron' Not Always 'Nux'-less." Correspondence. JAMA 81(4) July 23, 1923, p. 319. Web. 17 August 2016. 

"Facts: Doan's Kidney Pills." Michigan Food and Drug Monthly. The State of Michigan Food and Drug Department. January, 1919, p. 7. Google ebook. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Additional Notes

Wykoff, Joseph. "Dr. Carter: Pharmacist and Physician." History and Memorabilia -- Erie Pennsylvania. Posted 1/2014. Web. 25 August 2016.

South Bend Remedy Company Building  Wikipedia. Web. 30 August 2016.

History of the expansion of Vinol advertisements by Louis K. Liggett, click here. Woolley, Edward Mott. “How Liggett Built Up the United Drug Company.” Printers' Ink, v. 102, no. 8, February 21, 1918, p. 3+ Web. 31 August 2016.

Federal authorities seized Vinol, during 1917-1918, “on the ground that the therapeutic claims made for the product were fraudulent . . .”  “The Propaganda for Reform: Susto—Nee Vinol Powder.”  Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 79(18), October 28, 1932, p. 1538. Web. 31 August 2016.

"Patent medications weren’t nationally regulated until the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, and even after that, it was updated and amended many times to include more regulations on what shouldn’t be included in over-the-counter medications . . . So for a long time, medicines had ingredients that would never be allowed today.”
Katherine Ott, curator, Division of Medicine and Science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

". . . patent medicine purveyors quite effectively exploited popular - and very real - anxieties about health and well-being at a time when formally-trained physicians were expensive and difficult to come by . . ." [Woloson]











































"The services rendered by the American Medical Association in its battles against quackery have been widely recognized as one of the most important services in behalf of the people of the United States. The effects of its exposes have been most salutary in preventing quackery and charlatanism which might well have been rampant, at least until the passing of the more recent Pure Food and Drugs Act and the Wheeler-Lea bill." [Fisbein]




































Author James Norris noted, in the 1890s, it was "Concern that aroused public opinion might harm the entire advertising business led the more reputable advertising agencies to curtail their business with patent medicine firms."