• North Star Lung and Throat Balsam advertisement. Courtesy of the Hennepin County Library via Minnesota Digital Library.

    More info
    Select an item:
    If You Have a Cough, Cold or Sore Throat Try the North Star Lung and Throat Balsam, Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • Creator
    • Spink & Company
    • Description
    • Business trade card advertising North Star Lung and Throat Balsam from Spink & Company.
    • Rights
    • Please contact the Hennepin County Library for permission to use.
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Hennepin County Library, James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library

  • Tarrant's Seltzer Aperient, advertised to help people keep their “blood cool and brain clear,” ca. 1870-1920. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

    More info
    Select an item:
    Tarrant's Seltzer Aperient. I keep my blood cool and brain clear by use of Tarrant's Seltzer Aperient
    • Date
    • 1870-1900
    • Description
    • Title from item. Item verso is blank. Date supplied by cataloger.
    • Rights
    • No known copyright restrictions. No known restrictions on use.
    • Partner
    • Digital Commonwealth
    • Contributing Institution
    • Boston Public Library

  • Schenk's Mandrake Pills helped with digestive problems, ca. 1885. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.  

    More info
    Select an item:
    Schenck's Mandrake Pills for all bilious complaints
    • Date
    • 1870-1900
    • Description
    • Title from item. Date supplied by cataloger. J. H. Schenck & Son.
    • Rights
    • No known copyright restrictions. No known restrictions on use.
    • Partner
    • Digital Commonwealth
    • Contributing Institution
    • Boston Public Library

  • “Laws Relating to the Practice of Pharmacy, General Statutes, Minnesota 1923.” As the twentieth century progressed increased government regulation at the state and national level changed drug production and the pharmaceutical field. Courtesy of the East Polk Heritage Center via Minnesota Digital Library.

    More info
    Select an item:
    Laws Relating to the Practice of Pharmacy, General Statutes, Minnesota 1923
    • Creator
    • Minnesota State Board of Phamacy
    • Description
    • This booklet is a compilation of statutes of the State of Minnesota regarding the practice of pharmacy. Sample topics include the qualification and registration of pharmacists; the sale of cocaine, poisons or abortifacients; and the distribution of s... more
      This booklet is a compilation of statutes of the State of Minnesota regarding the practice of pharmacy. Sample topics include the qualification and registration of pharmacists; the sale of cocaine, poisons or abortifacients; and the distribution of samples of drugs. less
    • Rights
    • No known U.S. copyright restrictions.
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • East Polk Heritage Center

The so-called golden age of patent medicines lasted from the mid-nineteenth century into the first two decades of the twentieth century. By modern standards, Americans during this period knew very little about human physiology, biochemistry, and endocrinology. They sought quick solutions for medical problems that they did not necessarily understand. Doctors, when available, were not always to be trusted. Hospitals, where available, were often considered places where people went to die. Patent medicines offered quick, convenient, and inexpensive relief from arthritis, depression, and mental illness, as well as women’s problems, indigestion, liver problems, and lack of hair growth. Children were dosed with medicines to aid their growth, feed their blood, and facilitate the movement of their digestive tract.  

A lack of government regulations enabled the sale of drugs that contained opium, laudanum, paregoric, alcohol, tar, and other ingredients consumers would not consider ingesting today. Increased government regulation brought about the end of the patent medicine era. In 1906 Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, with the strong support of President Theodore Roosevelt. Although patent medicines continued to be produced after that date, new, stricter regulations demanded that ingredients be printed on labels, false claims be toned down, and advertising be more truthful. The legacy of this era lives on in today’s television infomercials for “miracle cleaning products” and “fast weight loss solutions.”