Side Effects May Include Universal Satisfaction

With sideburns like those, you’ve got to believe Dr. A. W. K. Newton’s claims on 19th-century miracle cures.

Side Effects May Include Universal Satisfaction

Lately I’ve come across social media postings from people who are surprised at just how many pharmaceutical advertisements Americans are subjected to on a daily basis, and how Americans can rattle off the names of such fabulous products as Skyrizi, Ozempic and Trempfya. Indeed, this part of our brilliant healthcare industry is omnipresent, but its roots go back a long way.

Take a glance at the Alameda Daily Encinal newspaper of the 1890s, and you’ll find each page riddled with advertisements containing descriptions of health remedies. Indeed, some of the names are equally ridiculous.

Take for example Dr. King’s New Life Pills and Bucklen’s Arnica Salve and Electric Bitters. They both claim to provide universal satisfaction. How wonderful. A miracle drug capable of fixing whatever ails the patient. These seem way more efficient than a drug that merely targets excema and provides a dozen unwanted side effects. The nice part was F. Binder’s Drug Store (location not provided) offered a complete refund to dissatisfied customers.

A. M. Prosser’s Drug Store, corner of Park Street and Encinal Avenue, had something for those folks out there whose liver is bothering them. Not sure about you, but I can generally tell when its my liver and not my spleen bothering me. Prosser’s ad reads, “He is bilious, constipated has indigestion and dispepsia ... A few doses of Park’s Sure Cure will tone him up.” Supposedly the cure was also good for the kidneys. But if it really, truly was the liver causing the problem, you might also try Simmons Liver Regulator, “Perfectly sure, perfectly pure, perfectly harmless.”

One ad hawks Hood’s Sarsaparilla as a blood purifier. And here we thought it was just root beer. Clearly the stuff worked because as the ad claimed, “its proprietors could not continue ... if the medicine did not possess merit.”

Several of these snake oils sing the praises of celery. We know the prime producer of Beef, Celery and Iron Tonic lived on Buena Vista Avenue near McKinley Park. But then there was the nationally known Paine’s Celery Compound. The Encinal carried a scientific article backed by medical doctors of the time extoling the compound as “pre-eminently the remedy that makes people well.”

Just all the way well. Doesn’t matter what’s bugging you, celery has you covered. Boston’s Dr. A. W. K. Newton said, “I prescribe it for men and women who have no appetite, cannot sleep and are weak and run down. For this condition, and for disorders of blood and nerves, it has no equal.”

Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets promised to be “smaller; easier to take; no gripping; no disturbance; no reaction afterward.” Sounds effective. These pellets immediately go to work on the intestines “positively curing” constipation, billious headaches, sour stomach, jaundice and dizziness. They’re sugar coated and “put up in tiny sealed vials, and thus kept always reliable ... in the vest-pocket.”

Just general rheumatic pain (arthritis) is Dr. W. S. Halpruner’s specialty. His Rheumatic Cure and Liniment Combined can be taken both internally and externally for cramps, pains, colic, cholera morbus, indigestion, dyspepsia, dysentery, diarrhoea (sic), colds and La Grippe (influenza). It goes on to claim to treat rheumatism, neuralgia, malaria, ague, constipation, skin, liver and kidney disease. Standard dose: “One half to one tablespoon in a wine glass full of water every four hours until cured.” When used externally, Halpruner’s could treat toothache, sprains, lame back, inflamedbunoins and corns, swollen feet, chilblains and salt rheum, bee stings, mosquito, flea, spider and animal bites, inflammation, pains and swellings. Gargle the stuff to treat sore throat, diptheria and bronchitis. They also recommend using it as a spray for catarrh in the nose. Halpruner’s was prepared and sold exclusively at 850 Market St., San Francisco.

Some ads promote a local out fit, but the Encinal definitely car ried ads for national brands, for example, Ripans Tabules “sold by druggists everywhere.” Another digestive claiming to combat any “billious attack,” Ripans Tabules “promote digestion, regulate the stomach, liver and bowels, purify the blood and ... take the place of an entire medicine chest.”

One-pill-cures-all is definitely a and “put up in tiny sealed vials, and thus kept always reliable ... in the vest-pocket.” Just general rheumatic pain (arthritis) is Dr. W. S. Halpruner’s specialty. His Rheumatic Cure and Liniment Combined can be taken both internally and externally for cramps, pains, colic, cholera morbus, indigestion, dyspepsia, dysentery, diarrhoea (sic), colds and La Grippe (influenza). It goes on to claim to treat rheumatism, neuralgia, malaria, ague, constipa tion, skin, liver and kidney disease. Standard dose: “One half to one tablespoon in a wine glass full of water every four hours until cured.” When used externally, Halpruner’s could treat toothache, sprains, lame back, inflamed bunoins and corns, swollen feet, chilblains and salt rheum, bee stings, mosquito, flea, spider and animal bites, inflammation, pains and swellings. Gargle the stuff to treat sore throat, dip theria and bronchitis. They also recommend using it as a spray for catarrh in the nose. Halpruner’s was prepared and sold exclusively at 850 Market St., San Francisco. Some ads promote a local out fit, but the Encinal definitely car ried ads for national brands, for example, Ripans Tabules “sold by druggists everywhere.” Another digestive claiming to combat any “billious attack,” Ripans Tabules “promote digestion, regulate the stomach, liver and bowels, purify the blood and ... take the place of an entire medicine chest.” One-pill-cures-all is definitely a concept we could benefit from today, along with Frank Bexen’s promise “No cure, no pay.” Bexen prepared his Sure Cure for Rheumatism out of his location on Alameda Avenue near Park Street. His product’s effective ness received accolades from E. H. Beardsley, a salesman for the Revere Rubber Company of Chicago. Only problem was, you had to get Bexen himself to apply it.

Beardsley wrote, “I had been troubled very bad with rheumatism in my arm for over three months, and it was growing worse all the time: could not get my coat or vest on alone, and didn’t have a good night’s rest over the three months. With nine applications of your medicine, with you applying it, which only took three days, I am completely recovered and get my natural rest. I would recommend any person that is troubled with rheumatism to get your treatment at once, even if they have to come to California.”

Entire generations of children coming of age since the 1890s would be cursed by a lifelong fear and loathing of Castor Oil. Marketed as Castoria in the Encinal, this product specifically for infants and children was known to “invariably produce beneficial results” for treating colic, constipation, sour stomach, diarrhea, eructation(?), worms(!), gives sleep and promotes digestion. And this is important, “without injurious medication.”

Castoria is supported with statements from several New York City doctors, and decried by children of the era as being absolutely disgusting tasting.

The Encinal isn’t without reference to another quintessential pharmacy product: makeup offering health benefits. Pozzoni’s Complexion Powder came in three shades: “Pink or flesh, White and Brunette” and removed “freckles, pimples and all impurities of the skin.” The ad claims the product had been tested over 30 years and “proved its merit.”

All this kind of makes you won der how we’ll look back on health care now in another 130 years.

Eric J. Kos is a historian who has contributed to several titles including Lost San Francisco and Bay Farm Island: A Hidden History of Alameda.