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Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4

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In my most recent Headache article, I shared the 1880s craze for antipyrin, a favored ingredient in headache specifics. Today, in Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4, I’ll focus on “medicines” that were headache remedies in the 19th Century United States.

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Cures, Pills, Medicines

Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4

Today’s exploration through Victorian-American Headaches (Part 4) contains a focus on Victorian-era newspaper advertisements for headache remedies. Whether for pills delivered by mail or remedies for sale at the corner drugstore, Victorians apparently loved their headache medicines. Don’t forget that Coca-Cola began as a headache specific at the corner druggist.

I’ve read several novels with a “headache powder” or two… so this “headache specific” is included among the vast list of Victorian-era “Patent Medicines.”

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. "Something Lacking" -- as in chastisement from a headache sufferer. Why do you not advertise your headache powders? From Philadelphia Call, and printed in Kellogg's Wichita Record of Wichita, Kansas on April 27, 1895.

“Something Lacking” — as in chastisement from a headache sufferer. Why do you not advertise your headache powders? From Philadelphia Call, and printed in Kellogg’s Wichita Record of Wichita, Kansas on April 27, 1895.

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No Aspirin

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Today, headache sufferers are trained to reach for OTC (over-the-counter) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Like aspirin. Or Tylenol.

So naturally, I had to dive into aspirin’s history. What did druggists put in that stone pestle of theirs, to make a “headache specific”? Just what ingredients belonged in a headache powder?

Aspirin? Yes? Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4.

Apparently not.

An examination of American medical literature reveals that in the 19th century, headache was seen as an important diagnostic sign, and served to demonstrate medicine’s concern with explanations, rather than its therapeutic effectiveness. Headache treatment was therefore directed at causes rather than its chief symptom: painkilling was regarded as empirical, quackish, and sectarian. Even when nonnarcotic analgesic drugs, such as phenacetin and aspirin, were introduced towards the end of the century, physicians tended not to use them for headache.

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~ Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain

(emphasis added)

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Ads in Vintage Newspapers

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Each advertisement contains the original source (newspaper, city of publication, and date). As remedies are so diverse and with a wide swath of self-proclaimed uses and conditions the medicine will eradicate, it seems silly to try and group the ads by “type.” Instead, I’ve listed the headache remedy advertisements in order by date of publication.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Cephalic Pills cure sick headache. For sale by individual mail-order, advertised in New England Farmer of Boston, Mass. on November 24, 1860. Part 1 of 2.

Cephalic Pills cure sick headache. For sale by individual mail-order, advertised in New England Farmer of Boston, Mass. on November 24, 1860.

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Cephalic Pills cure sick headache. For sale by individual mail-order, advertised in New England Farmer of Boston, Mass. on November 24, 1860. Part 2 of 2.

Part 2 of 2: Cephalic Pills cure sick headache. For sale by individual mail-order, advertised in New England Farmer of Boston, Mass. on November 24, 1860.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Plantation Bitters, advertised in form of a doctor's endorsement within an article about headaches. Atchison Daily Patriot of Atchison, Kansas on June 7, 1870.

Plantation Bitters, advertised in form of a doctor’s endorsement within an article about headaches. Atchison Daily Patriot of Atchison, Kansas on June 7, 1870.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Advertisement for Radway's Ready Relief (R.R.R.) in Chicago Tribune of Chicago, Illinois on December 9, 1876. Complete Text: RADWAY'S REMEDIES. R.R.R. Radway's Ready Relief Cures the Worst Pains in From One to Twenty Minutes. NOT ONE HOUR After Reading this Advertisement Need Any One Suffer with Pain. Radway's Ready Relief IS A Cure For Every Pain. It was the First and is the Only Pain Remedy that instantly stops the most excruciating Pains, allays inflammations, and cures congetions, whether of the Lungs, Stomach, Bowels, or other glands or organs, by one application," (continues on part 2)

Radway’s Ready Relief (R.R.R.) advertised in Chicago Tribune of Chicago, Illinois on December 9, 1876. (Part 1 of 2)

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. R.R.R. Pain Relief, Part 2 of 2. Ad from Chicago Tribune, December 9, 1876. Image Text reads: "IN FROM ONE TO TWENTY MINUTES. No matter how violent or excruciating the pain, the Rheumatic, Bed-ridden, Infirm, Crippled, Nervous, Neuralgic, or prostrated with disease may suffer RADWAY'S READY RELIEF WILL Afford Instant Ease. Inflammation of the Kidneys, Inflammation of the Bladder, Inflammation of the Bowels, Mumps, Congestion of the Lungs, Sore Throat, Difficult Breathing, Palpitation of the Heart, Hysterics, Croup, Diptheria, Catarrh, Influenza, Headache, Toothache, Neuralgia, Rheumatism, Cold Chills, Ague Chills, Chillblains, and Frost Bites. The application of the Ready Relief to the part of parts where the pain or difficulty exists will afford ease and comfort. Twenty drops in half a tumbler of water will, in a few minutes, c cure Cramps, Pains, Sour Stomach, Heartburn, Sick Headache, Diarrhea, Dysentery, Colic, Wind in the Bowels, and all internal pains. Travelers should always carry a bottle of RADWAY'S READY RELIEF with them. A few drops in water will prevent sickness or pains from change of water. It is better than French Brandy or Bitters as a stimulant. FEVER AND AGUE. Fever and Ague cured for fifty cents. There is not a remedial agent in the world that will cure fever and ague, and all other malarious, bilious, scarlet, typhoid, yellow and other fevers (aided by Radway's Pills) as quickly as Radway's Read [sic] Relief. Fifty cents per bo [sic]. Sold by Druggists".

R.R.R. Pain Relief, Part 2 of 2. Ad from Chicago Tribune, December 9, 1876.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Dr. C.W. Benson's Celery and Chamomile Pills to cure sick headache, nervous headache, neuralgia, nervousness, sleeplessness. Published in The Eaton Democrat of Eaton, Ohio on July 19, 1877. Text continues: "and will cure any case. Office, 106 N. Eutaw St., Baltimore, Md. Price 50c., postage free. Sold by all druggists and country stores. REFERENCE: -- Howard Bank, Baltimore, Md.

Dr. C.W. Benson’s Celery and Chamomile Pills to cure sick headache, nervous headache, neuralgia, nervousness, sleeplessness. Published in The Eaton Democrat of Eaton, Ohio on July 19, 1877.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Dr. Heisley's Victor Headache Powders, advertised in Green Bay Advocate of Green Gay, Wisconsin. December 20, 1877. Full image text reads: "A Certain Headache Cure. If you suffer from sick or nervous headache, morning sickness or neuralgia, go to your druggist and get a ten cent trial pack of Dr. Heisley's Victor Headache Powders, or J.R. Heisley & Co., Salem, N.J., will mail them post-paid. A single powder actually cures the most distressing cases in ten minutes. I tis purely vegetable, entirely harmless, a physician's discovery and we guarantee it to do all we claim. You can get the 50 cent packs or teh 10 cent trial size at Cherrot & Co, or J. Robinson & Co., Green Bay, and at all other first-class druggists everywhere. Convince yourself.

Dr. Heisley’s Victor Headache Powders, advertised in Green Bay Advocate of Green Gay, Wisconsin. December 20, 1877.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Kellogg's Columbian Oil for a variety of ailments, including headache, toothache, earache, neuralgia and beyond. Advertied in Steuben Republican of Angola, Indiana on January 5, 1881. Image text in full: "THE GREATEST MEDICAL DISCOVERY OF THE AGE. Kellogg's columbian oil is a powerful remedy, which can be taken internally by the tenderest infant. It cures almost instantly, is pleasant, acting directly upon the nervous system, causing a sudden buoyancy of the mind. In short, the wonderful effects of this most wonderful remedy cannot be explained in written language. A single dose inhaled and taken according to directions will convince any one that it is all that is claimed for it. Warranted to cure the following diseases: Rheumatism or kidney disease in any form, headache, toothache, earache, neuralgia, sprains, bruises, flesh wounds, bunions, burns, corns, spinal affection, colic, cramping pains, cholera morbus, flux, diarrhoea, coughs, colds, bronchial affection, catarrh, an dall aches an dpains, external or internal. Full directions with each bottle. Sold by J.S. Draper."

Kellogg’s Columbian Oil [sic] for a variety of ailments, including headache, toothache, earache, neuralgia and beyond. Advertised in Steuben Republican of Angola, Indiana on January 5, 1881.

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Speaking of Advertisements…

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Note the format of ads in the 1860s and 1870s. Paragraph format. Endorsements. Authoritative speech from “doctors.” Yet in the 1880s, ads became more of a visual feast. And more of a blatant advertisement. Note the gorgeous use of typography in the following dandelion tonic. Not only does the ad catch the eye, it also makes bold claims about various ailments eradicated by its use.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Leis' Dandelion Tonic: The Great Blood & Liver Purifier. A Sure Cure for Sick Headache. Published in The Lyons Republican of Lyons, Kansas on Aug 25, 1881. Image text continues, "(Sick Headache), Dyspepsia, Langour, Nervous Exhaustion arising from over-work or excess of any kind, --AND FOR-- Female Weaknesses. -- IT PREVENTS-- Malarial Poisoning and Fever and Ague, And is a Specific for Obstinate CONSTIPATION. Price $1.00 per bottle; six for $5.00.

Leis’ Dandelion Tonic: The Great Blood & Liver Purifier. A Sure Cure for Sick Headache. Published in The Lyons Republican of Lyons, Kansas on Aug 25, 1881.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Sick Headache Cure- Carter's Little Liver Pills. Advertised in Manhattan Mercury of Manhattan, Kansas on September 18, 1889. Text reads: SICK HEADACHE Positively cured by these Little PIlls. They also relieve Distress from Dyspepsia, Indigestion and Too Hearty Eating. A perfect remedy for Dizziness, Nausea, Drowsines, Bad Taste in the Mouth, Coated Tongue, Pain in the Side. TORPID LIVER. They regulate the Bowels. Purely Vegetable. Price 25 cents: Carter MedicineCo., New York. Small Pill. Small Dose. Small Price.

Sick Headache Cure- Carter’s Little Liver Pills. Advertised in Manhattan Mercury of Manhattan, Kansas on September 18, 1889.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Carter's Little Liver Pills advertised for Sick Headache in Pittsburgh Dispatch of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 8, 1891. Text simply reads: "SICK HEADACHE -- Carter's Little LIver Pills." As often occurs in vintage newspapers, the simple text is repeated (this time, a 4x repeat) to catch the eye.

Carter’s Little Liver Pills advertised for Sick Headache in Pittsburgh Dispatch of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 8, 1891.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Beecham's Pills, advertised in The Salt Lake City Tribune on March 15, 1891.

Beecham’s Pills, advertised in The Salt Lake City Tribune on March 15, 1891.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Carter's Little Liver Pills Cure Sick Head Ache. Ad from The Meade Republican of Meade, Kansas on September 30, 1891.

Carter’s Little Liver Pills Cure Sick Head Ache. Ad from The Meade Republican of Meade, Kansas on September 30, 1891.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Krause's Headache Capsules-- Warrated, For sale by Smoot Drug Co. Ad in The Daily Enquirer of Provo, Utah on April 27, 1893.

Krause’s Headache Capsules— Warranted, For sale by Smoot Drug Co. Ad in The Daily Enquirer of Provo, Utah on April 27, 1893.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Carter's Little Liver Pills AND Burdock Blood Bitters. Advertised in Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York on February 23, 1893.

Carter’s Little Liver Pills AND Burdock Blood Bitters. Advertised in Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York on February 23, 1893.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Hoods' Sarsaparilla Cures Dull Headaches. Advertisement (and endorsement) published in The San Francisco Call on February 19, 1894. Advertisement image reads: "Mr. W. H. Toles - Dull Headaches That tired feeling and poor appetites affected both myself and wife. We both took Hood's Sarsaparill and the effect was like magic, and I believe Hood's Sarsaparilla saved us a severe sickness and a big doctor's bill." W. H. Toles. 145 Twelfth street, San Francisco, Cal. Hood's Pills became the favorite cathartic with wevery one who tries them. 25c per box."

Hoods’ Sarsaparilla Cures Dull Headaches. Advertisement (and endorsement) published in The San Francisco Call on February 19, 1894.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Quote from Dr. Wright, within his popular treatise on headache, "I am convinced that it is unwise ever to neglect a headache."

Quote from Dr. Wright, within his popular treatise on headache, “I am convinced that it is unwise ever to neglect a headache.” See this quote within the following newspaper ad for Dr. Miles’ Restorative Nervine.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Illustration (logo?) of Dr. Miles' Restorative Nervine: The Only Remedy For Nervous Diseases Admitted to The World's Fair.

Illustration (logo?) of Dr. Miles’ Restorative Nervine: The Only Remedy For Nervous Diseases Admitted to The World’s Fair.

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Dr. Miles' Nervine Medicine, advertised in Ellsworth Reporter of Ellsworth, Kansas on March 22, 1894.

Dr. Miles’ Nervine Medicine, advertised in Ellsworth Reporter of Ellsworth, Kansas on March 22, 1894.

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The company selling Dr. Miles’ Restorative Nervine did more than ensure entrance to The World’s Fair and all the sales that exposure to their product would bring. They took out a full-page newspaper advertisement (also in the Ellsworth Reporter of Ellsworth, Kansas on the same day (March 22, 1894):

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Kristin Holt | Victorian American Headaches: Part 4. Full-page advertisement (with numerous endorsements), illustrated. Dr. Miles' Restorative Nervine: The Only Rememdy for Nervous Diseases Admitted to The World's Fair. Published in Ellsworth Reporter of Ellsworth, Kansas on March 22, 1894.

Full-page advertisement (with numerous endorsements), illustrated. Dr. Miles’ Restorative Nervine: The Only Rememdy for Nervous Diseases Admitted to The World’s Fair. Published in Ellsworth Reporter of Ellsworth, Kansas on March 22, 1894.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Advertisement for Royal Headache Tablets (R.H.T.), advertised in News and Observer of Raleigh, NC on June 18, 1899. Text reads: "ROYAL HEADACHE TABLETS. R.H.T. Do you suffer with Headaches? Indigestion? Nervousness? Or any other trouble caused by a disordered stomach? ROYAL HEADACHE TABLETS will at once give relief and almost as quickly cure the cause. Take one or two of the tablets after each meal. SOLD BY ALL DRUGGISTS-10 cents. Royal Headache Tablets are Absolutely Harmless.

Advertisement for Royal Headache Tablets (R.H.T.), advertised in News and Observer of Raleigh, NC on June 18, 1899.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Anti-Cephal-Algine. Leads all Headache Remedies. A newspaper full-half-page advertisement in News and Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina on June 18, 1899.

Anti-Cephal-Algine. Leads all Headache Remedies. A newspaper full-half-page advertisement in News and Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina on June 18, 1899.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Syrup of Figs: Acts gently on the Kidneys, Liver and Bowels. Cleanses the system, dispells effectually, colds, headaches, overcomes headaches and fevers. Habitual contstipation permanently to get its beneficial effects. Buy the genuine - Man'f'd by California Fig Syrup Co. of Lousiville KY, San Francisco CA, and New York NY. Published in Carlisle Evening Herald of Carlisle, Pennsylvania on October 30, 1899.

Syrup of Figs as a headache remedy. Published in Carlisle Evening Herald of Carlisle, PA on Oct 30, 1899.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Paragon Headache Remedy. The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) on June 16, 1900. Full image text reads: "YOU DONT' WANT HEADACHE. Then drive it quickly away by using Wright's Paragon Headache Remedy. It cures. Try it."

Wright’s Paragon Headache Remedy, advertised in The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) on June 16, 1900.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Dr. Humphrey's Specifies Cure by acting directly upon the disease, without exciting disorder in any other part of the system. Various numbered preparations are assigned to specific ailments. Headache is #9, for 25c. Dr. Humphrey's Manual of all Diseases at your druggist or mailed free. Sold by druggists, or sent on receipt of price. Humphreys' Med. Co., Cor. William # John Sts, New York. From Salina Daily Republican-Journal of Salina, Kansas on September 18, 1900.

Dr. Humphrey’s Specifies Cure by acting directly upon the disease, without exciting disorder in any other part of the system. Various numbered preparations are assigned to specific ailments. Headache is #9, for 25c. Dr. Humphrey’s Manual of all Diseases at your druggist or mailed free. Sold by druggists, or sent on receipt of price. Humphreys’ Med. Co., Cor. William & John Sts, New York. From Salina Daily Republican-Journal of Salina, Kansas on September 18, 1900.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Dr. Miles Anti-Pain Pills. Illustrated Advertisement from The Hays Free Press of Hays, Kansas on July 20, 1901.

Dr. Miles Anti-Pain Pills. Illustrated Advertisement from The Hays Free Press of Hays, Kansas on July 20, 1901.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Krause's Headache Capsules advertisement in The Topeka State Journal of Topeka, Kansas on November 27, 1901. Image text in full reads, "When You Get a Headache don't waste a minute, but go to your druggist and get a box of Kruase's Headache Capsules. They will prevent pain, even though your skull were cracked. They are harmless, too. Read the guarantee. Price 25c. Sold by George W. Stansfield, 632 Kansas ave.: Marshall Bros., 115 Kansas ave.

Krause’s Headache Capsules advertisement in The Topeka State Journal of Topeka, Kansas on November 27, 1901.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4. Dr. King's New Life Pills. Advertised in El Dorado Daily Republican of El Dorado, Kansas. November 25, 1901.

Dr. King’s New Life Pills. Advertised in El Dorado Daily Republican of El Dorado, Kansas. November 25, 1901.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches, Part 4. Advertisement for SLOAN'S HEADACHE WAFERS CURE, ad within Sloan's Cook Book and Advice to Housekeepers, published 1905. Image Text reads: "SLOAN'S HEADACHE WAFERS CURE. Cold, La Grippe, Nervous and Bilious Headache. These Wafers are made from the formula of an eminent specialist, contain only pure and harmless drugs and leave no bad after-effects. If your druggist does not keep themn in stock, send 25c. to Dr. Earl S. Sloan, 615 Albany St., Boston, Mass., and a package will be mailed to you, postpaid." Text continues with three quotations from letters, containing testimonials. An illustration shows a middle-aged woman, hand to head, in evident pain.

Sloan’s Headache Wafers Cure, ad within Sloan’s Cook Book and Advice to Housekeepers, published 1905.

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Conclusion

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Did you notice the lack of ingredient listings? Manufacturers might claim “all vegetable” and “harmless,” but none were required, then, to disclose what the products actually contained. The nineteenth century would officially close before anyone decided to offer a voluntary program of drug approval, beginning in 1905 and lasting until 1955.

In 1911, in U.S. v. Johnson, the Supreme court ruled that the 1906 Food and Drugs Act did not outlaw false medical claims. Great. Snake Oil Salesman, Rejoice!

Desperate people no doubt turned to patent medicines (and other “commercially available” compounds sold as medicine) for cures. Even when promises seemed too good to be true, people in pain must have sought something–anything!–that might alleviate the pain. People do the same thing today.

Remember, too, that legislation that protected the public from contamination of food, drink, and medication was only beginning. People may have been aware of the risks with meds, as they certainly were (becoming) with food and drink. Even if individuals weren’t aware that bacteria and fillers contaminated foods, nineteenth century U.S. residents lived with indigestion and biliousness. (Cook books, newspaper advertisements, diaries, letters, etc. all paint this picture.)

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Up Next

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 5

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In previous blog articles in this Headaches series, I’ve covered medical explanations about why people suffer from headaches. Including causes, lifestyle choices (for avoiding headaches), and “patent medicines.” Part 5 will contain a focus on how Sundays lead to headaches. (And more about the mysterious headache powders.)

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Invitation

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Do you have thoughts to ad?

Do you own a vintage medicine bottle? Might you share a photo with us?

Please scroll down and comment. We value your thoughts!

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