"their nostrums"

Better known as patent medicines, nostrums were the drug compounds of dubious medicinal value sold under a variety of names and labels during the 19th and early 20th century, claiming to prevent or cure everything from ‘female complaints’ to cancer. William Radam’s Microbe Killer had the bold claim ‘Cures All Diseases’ embossed on the front of the bottle, while Ebeneezer Sibley went one step further with the promise that his Solar Tincture was able to ‘restore life in the event of sudden death'.

In 1936 patent medicines were effectively banned after stricter regulations came into force. Many products previously marketed as patent medicines remain on supermarket shelves to this day (albeit in revised or repurposed forms), including Anadin, Vicks Vaporub, 7-Up, Bovril, Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper.

 

Wolcott's Instant Pain Annihilator (c. 1863)
Public DomainWolcott's Instant Pain Annihilator (c. 1863) - Credit: R. L. Wolcott (Library of Congress)
Dr. C.Y. Girard's Ginger Brandy - 'A Certain Cure for Cholera, Cholic, Cramps, Dysentery, Chills & Fever' (c. 1860)
Public DomainDr. C.Y. Girard's Ginger Brandy - 'A Certain Cure for Cholera, Cholic, Cramps, Dysentery, Chills & Fever' (c. 1860) - Credit: Library of Congress
Dr. D. Jayne's Tonic Vermifuge. 'The Cure for Coughs, Colds, Asthma, or any Lung or Throat Disease' (c. 1889)
Public DomainDr. D. Jayne's Tonic Vermifuge. 'The Cure for Coughs, Colds, Asthma, or any Lung or Throat Disease' (c. 1889) - Credit: Knapp & Co. (Library of Congress)