Health

Medicine of days gone by

Updated 4:38 PM ET, Wed February 28, 2018
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In this illustration from about 1830, a doctor provides a vial of medicine for a sick woman. Medical treatments in the 19th and early 20th centuries looked a lot different than ones we see marketed today. From "magic" treatments to retro spectacles, check out some of these products sold in the United States 100 years ago or more. They are kept at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
It may look like a vial of mouse droppings but, according to its packaging, this treatment was marketed for a variety of purposes: "A mild cathartic. For biliousness, dizziness, nervous or sick headache, nausea, coated tongue, loss of appetite, bad taste in the mouth, sleepiness, sallow skin, dyspepsia and indigestion, sour stomach caused by inactive or sluggish liver or constipated bowels." No word on what the little mouse has to do with this remedy, made between 1898 and 1902. Smithsonian National Museum of American History
This medication was manufactured by the Quaker Bitters company around 1900. Apparently, it had all kinds of uses: "A stomach tonic. For nervousness, catarrh of the head and stomach, scrofulous humor, canker, pimples and humors on the face, summer complaints, female weaknesses. Restores the appetite, purifies the blood. For dyspepsia, constipation, sick headache, dizziness, low spirits caused by disordered stomach, rheumatism, neuralgia, kidney and liver complaints, bilious attacks, piles, malaria, torpidity of the system, languor, general debility, fever and ague." Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Wow, magic?! We're not sure which spell manufacturer George Tallcot used, but the packaging on this product promises that it "Cures malarial fevers, headaches, dyspepsia, neuralgia, rheumatism, piles, costiveness." It was made between 1875 and 1883. Smithsonian National Museum of American History
This medicine, according to its label, is "The Great Blood Purifier and System Regulator. The Only Herbal Alternative and Depurative Ever Discovered." The company that made it, Dr. Kilmer & Co., was founded in the 1870s and was one of the first firms to advertise nationally. Its other remedies included "Swamp Root and Kidney Cure." Smithsonian National Museum of American History
These "life force pills" were made in 1905. According to its manufacturer, they "will positively cure biliousness and bilious headache, constipation, sick and nervous headache, torpid liver, nausea, jaundice, general debility, indigestion, malaria, fever and ague, sluggish bowels, dizziness, cramps, loss of appetite, sour stomach, sallow skin, and are an invaluable aid in curing piles, colds, and 'grip.'" Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Thermometers, while commonplace today, didn't become a standard physician's tool until after the Civil War. The early varieties were made of thin tubes of glass with mercury and were mounted to ivory or wood. This particular thermometer was sold by Francis Arnold, a surgical instrument maker in Baltimore, who was listed in the Baltimore City Directory from 1845 to 1874. It's used in the armpit. Smithsonian National Museum of American History
German physician Samuel C.F. Hahnemann, who lived from 1755 to 1843, founded the field of homeopathy. At the time he was practicing, techniques such as bloodletting and purging were common. He experimented on himself to come up with a new drug therapy system. The driving theory was that if a drug causes certain effects, it will be a useful treatment for diseases with those symptoms. Hahnemann emphasized that the preparations of his treatments should be heavily diluted. Today, homeopathy is still widely practiced worldwide. Smithsonian National Museum of American History
This constipation remedy, made by the appropriately named "Crampton," was also marketed for "offensive breath" in addition to sick headache, biliousness, torpid liver and jaundice. It was made around 1900. Smithsonian National Museum of American History
In the 19th century, people wore these kinds of glasses, called "eye protectors" or "railroad glasses." This pair, from 1850, has steel frames with four colored lenses. They were meant to protect weak eyes from bright light, dust and wind while riding or driving. The lenses are tinted with shades of blue and blue-green, although other lenses could also be amber and gray. Smithsonian National Museum of American History
The packaging says: "Successfully used in the treatment of colds, grip, headache and as a gentle laxative for the bowels." It was made sometime after 1927. Smithsonian National Museum of American History