Titanic forum and community
Results 1 to 24 of 24

Gilded SelfMedication

This discussion on "Gilded SelfMedication" is in the Health Medicine and Hygiene section; I stumbled upon this link from Collier's magazine (1905) that provides some shocking insights into ...

      
   
  1. #1
    John M. Feeney
    Guest
    I stumbled upon this link from Collier's magazine (1905) that provides some shocking insights into patent medicines of the era. Toxic and addictive substances were apparently rampant in the early 1900's as major components of commonly purveyed -- sometimes even left on doorsteps -- remedies:

    http://www.mtn.org/quack/ephemera/dec02-01.htm [Part 1 of 2]

    It's a very intelligent look at the lack of regulatory controls prevalent in that day and age. (And you may well spot a *highly* familiar current brand name which, though now almost assuredly benign in composition, was then actually fatal in the "prescribed" dose.)

    Just one of the many dangers of the Gilded Age, I suppose. And it ran deeper, in some fairly elite circles, than you might think. Fascinating stuff!

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Posts
    4,566
    Great link- I wonder how many doctors buried their mistakes too. Paints were full of lead, wallpapers contained arsenic in the dyes, household lye and French blueing laundry additive contained prussic acid and all manner of cyanide was contained in rodent and bug killers. Have collected household domestic guides from the 1890's on -and am amazed at some of the health remedies. Old newspapers are full of patent medicine ads -some are funny in that they cure everything from flatulence to baldness. Many were high in alcohol or narcotics- bring on Lydia Pinkham! Remember the scene in Life With Father when the boys dose their mother with dog tonic and nearly kill her? Gosh- we are probably lucky to be here considering what our grandparents didn't know.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    58,188
    Well, at least they got their headaches cured. Gives an ugly new twist to the old cliche about the operation being a sucess, but the patient died.

    Wish I could say things were better today, but I'm not so sure. These days, the medicine wagon peddlers offer things with all natural ingrediants as if "all natural" means it's somehow safe. I'm sure anyone who's ingested arsenic, cyanide, nightshade, hemlock and toadstool mushrooms would find that entertaining.

  4. #4
    Paul Jones
    Guest
    Didnt Coca-Cola have cocaine in it in the early 1900s?

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Posts
    4,549
    Australia had a very bad problem with certain patent medicines until relatively recently. The doctor who found out what was happening tells her story at http://www.science.org.au/scientists...tm#nephropathy

    Not for the squeamish!
    Dave Gittins
    Titanic: Monument and Warning.
    http://titanicebook.com/Book.html

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    295
    Yes Paul- Coca-Cola did have, I believe a minute amount of "cocoa" in the product until the Food and Drug Administration Act of 1906, as many cures or medicines of the time did.

    I have heard of "laudenum" (sp?), usually in a Victorian reference...was that an opiate(morphine) based substance?

    Tucked inside a medical journal (1871) I found a while back was an old scrap of paper with the faded black/brown ink script:

    "Sulph Snow 16 ss
    Guitiau Root oz. 11
    Potasae Chlorid oz. 1
    Potasae Nitras oz. 11

    W."

    I have no idea what this list means....I hope it was just a basic "to get for the lab" thing; rather than a perscription!

    Well, gotta go back to my eye-of-newt remedy...
    Kris

  7. #7
    John M. Feeney
    Guest
    Paul: Yes indeedy, "The pause that refreshes!" (Caffeine alone, I believe, was considered to be a pretty second-rate "substitute", but I guess it was ultimately a necessary evil.) :-)

    A while back I noticed this lovely, antique, glazed stoneware container -- something like a humidor -- at my neighborhood pharmacy, and asked the druggist if he was aware of what the botanical Latin inscription in gold lettering, Erythroxylon coca, signified.

    When I advised him it was the source of cocaine -- the taxonomic name for the Coca plant -- he was pretty surprised. Subsequently I've noticed it's no longer openly displayed. ;^)

    I can't swear that cocaine itself -- the highly refined powder -- was an ingredient in Coke. But certainly some form of coca leaf extract was involved. Incidentally, cocoa -- the stuff of chocolate dreams -- is quite unrelated, coming from the cacao plant. That's an African endemic, as far as I know; coca is a South American native, and addiction there is still a huge problem among the indigenous people, in the form of coca chewing. (All they have to do basically is go out, find a bush, and pick the leaves.)

    Laudanum, my American Heritage Dictionary tells me, was indeed a "tincture of opium".

    Those were dangerous days, I must say. Bad enough that many of those nostrums were essentially useless for their stated purposes or contained unpalatable substances like turpentine, kerosene, or what have you, but addictive to boot? Jeez!

    (I've gotta say, I'm still amazed to learn that Bromo-Seltzer was once potentially fatal.)

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    58,188
    If anyone goes to the Urban Legends Reference Pages at http://www.snopes2.com/index.html, you'll find an icon labled COKE LORE Click on the lable and it'll bring you to the articles with the lowdown on this. An interesting quote from the article;

    "How much cocaine was in that "mere trace" is impossible to say, but we do know that by 1902 it was as little as 1/400 of a grain of cocaine per ounce of syrup. Coca-Cola didn't become completely cocaine-free until 1929, but there scarcely any of the drug left in the drink by then."

    Not much there, but that can't speak to what may have been included befor this time. As this stuff was first marketed as a patant medicine, it wouldn't surprise me if the original homebrew had a bit more "kick"

    You pays your money and you takes your chances!



  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
    Posts
    1,459
    What about arsenic for removing the dead skin cells from ladies delicate faces! How many women must have been left disfigured by that little remedy? Or the old dodge to enable young men to be exempt from enlistment for WW2 - rubbing mercury on the chest to make it appear on X Rays that Tuberculosis was present.
    Somewhere around here I have my grandmother's "Home Remedy Book" which contains some quite horrendous "cures"

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    58,188
    Scary stuff, eh Geoff? The hell of it is, I'm not sure that things have improved that much. All these herbal rememdies which promise to cure everything under the sun and they're followed by that charming little disclaimer (In very fine print I might add at the bottom of the bottle.) that "These statements have not been evalutated by the FDA".

    That sure runs up a few red flags in my book!


  11. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    5,337
    Ah, laudanum...how many of those highly respectable Victorian ladies with vague illnesses passed their hours lying on the chaise lounge, essentially stoned? They would have expressed proper horror at an opium den, but were junkies themselves. Poor Elizabeth Siddal took an overdose of laudanum - the big question being whether it was accident or suicide.

    Then there are those unforgettable scenes relating to cocaine use in Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories - the conclusion to 'The Sign of Four':

    "The division seems rather unfair," I remarked. "You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray what remains for you?"

    "For me," said Sherlock Holmes, "there still remains the cocaine-bottle." And he stretched his long white hand up for it.




  12. #12
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    58,188
    Sometimes, medications with the official stamp of approval aren't so swift to play with either. Anyone ever hear of Fen-Fen?

    This was supposed to be the miracle drug for weight loss and it worked perfectly. One small, tinsey wincey litte problem though; it killed a lot of the people who were using it.

    Embarrassing!

  13. #13
    Paul Jones
    Guest
    I've heard of Fen-Fen. Didnt it cause people who used it to have heart attacks?

  14. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    58,188
    Yep. A su-u-u-u-u-re cure for overweight! (and anything else besides that!)

  15. #15
    John Meeks
    Guest
    My grandmother used to consume vast quantities of tablets called "Rennies" - she assured us they cured/prevented indigestion. Apparently they were about 99% chalk !

    Anybody in the UK know if they're still available?

    Horrible things...

    John m



  16. #16
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    5,337
    Oh, goodness, yes...I remember my Nana using it in Oz, too. Think it also comes in liquid form now. Odd thing is, it worked with problems such as heart burn...suppose it countered the acidity.

    And yes - was like consuming chalk.

  17. #17
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Posts
    4,549
    Rennies tablets are still around in Oz and elsewhere. They are basically calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. They come in spearmint flavour and maybe other flavours. They work perfectly well for simple excess stomach acid but I believe there is some kind of problem if they are used too much.

    Somewhere on this site is a thread about the dangerous things used in old cosmetics, such as belladonna.
    Dave Gittins
    Titanic: Monument and Warning.
    http://titanicebook.com/Book.html

  18. #18
    sashka pozzetti
    Guest
    I am interested in sea-sickness, and what people did, if they became ill. I wondered if people were not as sea-sick as we might be now, because they were more used to travelling on the sea. I know that Lucile was sick in a life-boat, because she describes it, but did other people describe being ill, especially when the ship was sinking and afterwards. Was it the sea, or the shock I wonder?

  19. #19
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    58,188
    >>I am interested in sea-sickness, and what people did, if they became ill.<<

    What they did is sarcastically referred to as the Technicolour Yawn these days. There's a very good reason why there were no carpets to be found in dining saloons even on the biggest ships. It was simply easier to clean a deck covered with oak or tile then it was to get the end result of mal de mar out of the rug.

    >>I wondered if people were not as sea-sick as we might be now, because they were more used to travelling on the sea.<<

    Don't count on it. Some people don't have a problem getting their sea legs. (Seasickness just never bothered me.) However, some never do. As to cures, I recall seeing period adverts to the effect but whether or not any of them really worked is anybody's guess. A lot of so-called medicines across the board were little more then snake oil and about as effective. Others left you so stoned that you wouldn't care if somebody was trying to give you a "haircut" with a guillotine, and some were so downright dangerous that you might as well use the guillotine. The end result would be the same.

  20. #20
    sashka pozzetti
    Guest
    thank you, that is such an interesting point about the carpet,. It is one of those things that is obvious when you think about it Though it seems that 1t class were trusted not to throw up!!!

  21. #21
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    2,614
    Sea sickness is quite common. I wonder sometimes if the "outbreaks" of food-borne illnesses aren't really old-fashioned mal de mer. Most of the symptoms are similar, including the rather quick recovery.

    I believe it was the Navy that discovered a 100% cure for sea sickness. Sit under an oak tree for 30 minutes.

    Oak trees being conspicuously absent, prior to Dramamine and Scopalomine people relied on home remedies such as ginger snaps. This one works, but only if the cookies are made with fresh ginger. There is something in the ginger that sooths upset stomachs.

    I've found that salty pretzels consumed with plenty of liquid can quiet a queasy stomach. Here, the salt and the soggy mass of starch seem to hold the stomach in place.

    The first symptom of sea sickness is withdrawal from the group. The person does not yet sense any illness, they just become silent. Next, they stare at the deck. If you don't catch the problem by this point, get the mop and bucket. The victim often senses no warning of his own impending doom.

    They say you are not really seasick if you think you're going to die. That's just normal. You qualify as really sick after you become so sick you're afraid you won't die.

    -- David G. Brown

  22. #22
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    645
    In addition to Lady DG, others who were reportedly sick in the boats were Marie Young and an unidentified French woman who gave Colonel Gracie blankets in Boat 12.

    Helene Baxter, Margeurite Frolicher and Lily Potter suffered it while still on the Titanic.

  23. #23
    sashka pozzetti
    Guest
    thank you , this is very interesting. I am not surprised. I wonder if anyone was sick out of disgust or horror. Shock can do that, and I would not be surprised. Even as a kind of post trauma reaction.

  24. #24
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Posts
    58,188
    >>I wonder if anyone was sick out of disgust or horror.<<

    Possibly. Can't say as I know, though I've heard it said that seasickness became something of a problem later on when the seas started to kick up a notch. Of course, by this time, all anyone could do was lean over the side to let it go. On a lifeboat, there's no place to hide.

 

 

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •