Introduction

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"The Great External Remedy for Man or Beast." Courtesy of the Duke University Libraries via North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

"The Great External Remedy for Man or Beast."

—Patent Medicine advertisements

Images of animals were often featured in patent medicine advertisements. Some products leveraged the “cute factor” of animals and used kittens, puppies, and birds to promote a wide variety of products. Manufacturers used images of celebrity animals, such as Jumbo the Elephant, to promote everything from thread and coffee to patent medicines. Images of livestock animals, such as horses, cows, and pigs, were also used to promote concoctions that could be used to treat medical problems shared by humans and animals.

Some patent medicine makers created tonics that they promoted as appropriate for all creatures living on the farm. According to them, horses, cattle, and humans faced similar (if not identical) medical issues. Eye problems, rheumatism, coughs, and skin irritations were common to both humans and animals, and these remedies were marketed as providing relief to either “man or beast.” A number of contextual factors made these ideas believable: the convenience of buying a single preparation, a lack of knowledge about the differences between human and animal physiology, and the affordability of the medicines. In a time when both human and animal diseases were less well understood, it is not surprising that some individuals assumed that generic medications could work across species.