Healing the Masses
In North Carolina, as in other states,
the decades after the Civil War witnessed a dramatic rise in the number
of patent medicines that were sold in general stores, by
pitchmen from wagons, and through mail orders. Many of these concoctions
promoted themselves as "surefired" cures for illnesses ranging
from deadly cancers to the common cold. While the curative claims
of these nostrums were usually bogus, their widespread promotion in
newspapers and through colorful signage established mass-marketing
strategies that continue in American advertising to this day.
Trade card for J. H. Wells, Druggist, ca.
Patent medicine generally categorizes
the assorted tonics, pills, ointments, powders, and other compounds
that in the 1800s and early 1900s were widely sold. Although many
of the names and label designs of these dubious mixtures were trademarked,
very few of the "medicines" were ever officially patented
by the federal govenrment and had their ingredients and their alleged
health benefits recorded in Washington, D.C.
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LOG CABIN PHARMACY, 1910
Introducing modern medicines to
the backwoods of North Carolina and coaxing residents away from
their homemade remedies were no easy tasks, especially for a woman
in the early 1900s. Shown here is one of the first pharmacies in
Henderson County. Located between Edneyville and Bat Cave, it was
operated by Dorothy Sharpe, who is standing at the right in the
NCC Photo Archives
TURPENTINE, KEROSENE & VINEGAR
Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia by Anthony
Cavendar (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2003).
"Folk Medicine," like patent medicine,
should not be dismissed or categorized entirely as quackery, although
there were many outlandish treatments that mountain folk used to combat
diseases and relieve their aches and pains. Turpentine, kerosene,
and vinegar served often as bases in homemade liniments and tonics.
Among the many remedies documented in this book is one for headaches:
. . .believing that a headache was caused by
an excessive flow of blood to the head, some residents tied a rag
or bandanna (some believed it must be red) tightly around the head
to curtail blood flow. More often than not, the rag was soaked in
turpentine, camphor, or vinegar.
THE "CURING POWERS" OF TOBACCO
The Alumni Review, University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill, volume 23, number 1 (October 1934).
While various cancers, emphysema, and other deadly
illnesses are well documented and firmly linked to tobacco, for over
four centuries smoking and chewing the "weed" were widely
regarded and promoted as beneficial to one's health. In the 1500s,
Spanish and English doctors routinely prescribed the smoking of tobago
(a Native American term) for patients who suffered respiratory problems,
serving as an aid to "expunge" congested lungs. In the
1934 advertisement (right) smoking is touted as a provider of "well being"
and reliable dispenser of "vim and energy." "I have
also learned," professes writer Rex Beach in this testimonial,
"that Camels do not interfere with healthy nerves."
C378 UTs 1934-35 c.2 v. 23
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