Medicine ads targeting the city’s aches and pains

When these medicine trade cards were circulating around New York, surgery was in its infancy and antibiotics had yet to be invented. The average New Yorker wouldn’t have enjoyed easy access to a doctor.


So when aches and pains and ailments struck, potions and remedies like these were there, ready to be picked up at the corner pharmacy.


[Above: the front and back of an ad for “Scott’s Emulsion of Cod Liver Oil With the Hyophosphites of Lime and Soda,” for a cough]


Did they work? Without an ingredient list, it’s tough to know. But the cards are interesting to look atโ€”a reminder that earlier generations dealt with the stomach issues, headaches, and colds that drive us to Duane Reade today.


[Above, the back and front of a trade card for a medicine sold by Charles Schneider of East 17th Street, then the upper reaches of Kleindeutschland, the city’s German neighborhood. What is it for?]


[Above: Alexander’s Cholera Infantum Cure, made by the Alexander Medicine Co. in 14th Street and Sixth Avenue and sold by a druggist named Rosenzweig in Brooklyn, could help your kids get rosy cheeks, apparently.]

They’re part of the wonderful William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards in the New York Academy of Medicine Libraryโ€”which has a recently renovated and reopened Rare Book Room, available to researchers by appointment at their headquarters on Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street.

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11 Responses to “Medicine ads targeting the city’s aches and pains”

  1. justme3362 Says:

    It’s been a while since German class, but I think it’s a lamp cleaner. Better to consult with someone better at this though! Great find. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    That can’t be right! I hope not anyway.

  3. Seacliff1 Says:

    It s a Kind of an add for a special wick (and a warning of Brand pirsch), invented by a German guy… No Medicin ๐Ÿ™‚ (i’m German…)

  4. Bruce R. Gilson Says:

    Not a lamp *cleaner* but a *wick* — and not a medicine at all.

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks for translating; interesting that a pharmacist would have patented it.

  6. Bruce R. Gilson Says:

    Back in the days before electric lights, people tried to make chemical treatments for wicks to make the light brighter. A pharmacist would be one with lots of chemicals at hand. So it doesn’t really surprise me.

  7. Bob_in_MA Says:

    Just given the placebo effect, they must have worked to some extent. Plus, it gave mom the feeling she was doing something. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. justme3362 Says:

    Thanks Bruce! Now that you’ve figured out the mystery, the headline makes infinitely more sense!

  9. Drew Gordon Says:

    Thanks so much for featuring our collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards. Your readers can actually find our digitized collection of them here:

  10. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you for sharing them and making them available digitally!

  11. arcruz34481 Says:

    Reblogged this on She Blogs Daily and commented:
    Beautiful medicine trade cards around New York, but average New yorker had limited access to doctors. aren’t you glad we have obama care.

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