Saturday, May 30, 2015

page 36 -- Mrs. W. Bartholomew, Burdock Blood Bitters, Excelsior Eclectric Oil, Sapolio, White Sewing Machine


updated 5 November 2017
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All the fans on this page are die cuts without commercial affiliation.
They were used by scrapbookers to make their pages more colorful.

The 1877 Transactions of the Housatonic Agricultural Society (p.24) had this to report regarding a Mrs. W. Bartholomew:


Foster, Milburn & Co., Buffalo NY
addition to Collection; reverse of card below



Burdock Blood Bitters, like many medications of its time, was found to be ineffective. It contained a goodly percentage of ethyl alcohol (that's booze, folks!) and was administered in many cases just for the effects of the alcohol rather than the burdock. Quoting the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station Bulletin, the Canadian Medical Association Journal (v.37 no.1 p.86, July 1937) reported:




The promotional materials put out by Foster, Milburn & Company--years before the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which mandated some honesty in the labeling of these products--endorsed the product as curative of many ailments, some of which might be called imaginary. Take a look:

Archiv.org presents the complete text (1887)
For an excellent summary of this product's production history, Rob Campbell's Dumpdiggers post on Blood Root Bitters is highly recommended. Rob's post is comprehensive and will give you a balanced perspective on the whole story.


According to Debra Kelly's 10 Old Timey Quack Remedies That Inspired the FDA (2013),

"Dr. Thomas’s Eclectric Oil was a miraculous cure-all that made some unbelievable claims, purporting not only to cure a wide variety of ailments, but to do so in a very specific amount of time. A backache would be gone in 2 hours, while an earache would disappear in 2 minutes. Toothaches, deafness, coughing, and sore throats could all be cured by this miracle drug, and it would also relieve the pain associated with burns when applied to the skin.  
"Developed in the mid-1800s by Dr. S.N. Thomas of New York and later marketed under the name Excelsior Eclectric Oil, this remedy had as an eclectic mix of ingredients as ailments it claimed to cure. Active ingredients were opium, chloroform, hemlock oil, turpentine, an unspecified type of alcohol, and alkanet (for color). The commercially produced product was so popular that recipes were published in books like 1899’s Secret Nostrums and Systems of Medicine by Charles Wilmot (free eBook on Google Books), giving people the chance to mix their own version."


Want more ingredients of suspect potions? Feast your eyes!

Full text, Archiv.org

Reverse of previous card as it was when obtained outside of the
Arnold Collection. 
An extensive discussion of Sapolio soap is on page 109 of the Earl J. Arnold Advertising Card Collection.




To pursue the White Sewing Machine Company story in the Earl J. Arnold Advertising Card Collection, see also:

card, page 159
multiple cards, page 110
additional card and information, page 178


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