Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt, a vintage ad, is tailor-made for a post I have wanted to write for some time. Mine is not an advertisement for horse shoes; it’s for cough syrup. What makes the ad unique though is the testimony of the wife of my first cousin 3X removed: Nannie June Fogg Jollett.
This ad appeared on the front page of the Alexandria Gazette published in Alexandria, Virginia, December 19, 1899.
Children Never Cry
When they have to take
Dr. Bull’s Cough Syrup
It is pleasant, pure and reliable. It soothes while it cures.
Portsmouth, VA Jan. 18, 1899
I am never without a bottle of Dr. Bull’s Cough Syrup in the house, because it prevented my two children of dying of the whooping cough. I think it an excellent medicine.
Mrs. C. B. Jollett
A.C. Meyer & Co., Baltimore, Md.
Dr. Bull’s pills cure Constipation and Biliousness.
Trial 20 for 5¢. At Dealers, or by mail.
Nannie June claimed that the cough syrup was so effective that she kept a bottle on hand at all times.
I wonder if she knew about the morphine.
In 1905, Collier’s Weekly published a series of articles called “The Great American Fraud” in which journalist Samuel Hopkins Adams exposed the false claims made by many drug companies. He analyzed the contents of some of the most popular medicines, including Dr. Bull’s formula, which included morphine.
Adams also exposed the dangers of such medicines, which in some cases actually damaged the health of users. Dr. Bull’s medicine was blamed for several deaths due to morphine poisoning. Eventually the formula for cough syrup was altered replacing the morphine with codeine.
Later ads for Dr. Bull’s miracle medicine emphasized how safe and effective it was for children. But the muckraking Adams achieved what he set out to do: in 1906, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act. However, it would take several more pieces of legislation to tighten the reins on both ingredients and advertising claims in the food and drug industry.
Whether Nannie June remained a loyal customer is anyone’s guess.
Sepia Saturday makes no claims to cure whooping cough, constipation, or biliousness. But try it anyway. It’s safe and effective.
Adams, Samuel Hopkins. "The Great American Fraud/Chapter 5." Collier's Weekly (1905): n. pag. - Wikisource, the Free Online Library. 4 Jan. 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. <http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Great_American_Fraud/Chapter_5>.
McCoy, Bob. "The Great American Fraud: Overview." Museum of Quackery. N.p., 13 Apr. 2013. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. <http://www.museumofquackery.com/ephemera/overview.htm>.
Meyer, Ferdinand. "So Who Is A. C. Meyer?" Peachridge Glass. N.p., 12 Jan. 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. <http://www.peachridgeglass.com/2014/01/so-who-is-a-c-meyer/>.
© 2015, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.