|Dr. Hartman relied heavily on bogus|
"testimonials". The women in this ad
probably never used the product.
Patent medicine inventors often called themselves "Doctor" (or at least "Professor") despite the lack of any credentials to that effect. The claims they made regarding the efficacy of their product were often ridiculous, and definitely shameful. The creation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission in the early part of the last century came about because of the need to stop the deceptive advertising, the fraudulent claims, and the occasional deaths by unintentional poisoning.
The most successful patent medicine ever marketed was made 45 miles west of Zanesville, in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Samuel Hartman (and he really was a medical doctor) created Peruna which he claimed would cure "catarrh", a word with which our ancestors were quite familiar. Catarrh is a word we hardly hear now, but it is a real thing: the build-up of mucus, usually affecting the nose and throat. We all have suffered from this condition at some time or other. Dr. Hartman, however, told people that almost every human ailment could be attributed to catarrh. So no matter what you suffered from, Dr. Hartman, backed by hundreds of celebrity (paid) endorsements, recommended you chug down some Peruna. If you did feel better, it was probably because each bottle of Peruna was nearly one-third alcohol. And if you didn't feel better, after all that alcohol, you probably didn't care.
Some Patent Meds Our Great-Grandparents Might Have Used
|If you suffered from kidney or bladder problems, you reached for the bottle of Dr. Kilmer's|
Swamp Root medicine. Developed by Dr. Sylvester Andras Kilmer, Swamp Root, at least
toward the end of its life in the 1930's when the Pure Food and Drug Act required ingredients
to be listed, contained golden seal root, skullcap leaves, larch gum,peppermint, cinnamon,
valerian root, and sassafras. It was also 10% alcohol. Of course, we have no idea what Dr.
Kilmer put in his original concoction, although it's safe to say alcohol was a constant.