The History of Quack Remedies


Enlightening History of “Mothers Little Helper” and other historical cures.

In the 1800’s there was a rise in the production of quack cures and the peddlers that went door to door selling them. Considering the number of children most women had they were more than excited to buy a bottle of “Mothers Little Helper” or a similar cure to deal with their cranky babies. Toted as a miracle drug able to cure such maladies as colic, teething pain, wind colic, cramps, dysentery and canker sores every harassed mother was anxious to buy a cure from their local snake oil salesman. One such product, called “Beggs Soothing Syrup” contained a whopping 65 mgs of morphine PLUS chloroform, codeine, heroin, powdered opium, and cannabis. Can you imagine how many mothers inadvertently killed their children?
Speaking of heroin, it was initially developed by Bayer, the company that makes aspirin. I haven’t seen that fact in any of their advertising. Also, as a side note, they used to be called IG Farben and was heavily involved in Nazi experiments.
And we know at that time the men ruled the roost. Women had to obey them or face the consequences; their husbands could do to them what they willed, even have them committed to a mental institution. Women were considered weak and emotional and to suffer from “vapors” and “hysteria.” And since the cause of a woman’s hysteria and vapors just naturally had to originate in her vagina, the following treatment came into use. Renowned healers such as Dr. Swift could be called to go into the women’s’ home to administer a therapeutic massage, guaranteed to cure any sickness from their midsection to their knees. The treatment was simple, if not daring. They would simply stick their arms up the women’s skirts and massage their vagina until they felt better. Yes, husbands paid for this. Apparently, the women did feel better. Dr. Swift probably did too. And if they were a little overweight, he could also give her some pills with dried tapeworms in them for that pesky problem.
And last but certainly not least let’s discuss ED. We have all seen the commercials for the little blue pills, why in the world do the men of today take a pill when they used to have such “shocking” treatments in the 1800’s? Probably from the same snake oil salesmen, and no doubt ones who did not have trouble with ED since they were feeling up everyone’s wife, you could buy an “Electric Belt and Suspensory for Weak Men.” Yes, guys, it is just what it sounds like. It’s a belt with a cup that you hook up to the electric. Guaranteed to cure impotence, bladder problems, rheumatism, etc. this was produced by the Sanden Electric Company in Portland Oregon, and I’m sure it was a “hot “seller. Can’t imagine why it isn’t available today….

Published by TheOddPast by Matthew A. Perry

Writer, teacher, broadcaster, and podcaster from West Virginia. I write about and discuss the wacky and weird side of history on my website and my podcast "The Odd Past Podcast" available everywhere

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