HOW TO TREAT CATARRH, FALLING DOWN SICKNESS (November 29/96)

“Have you thought about trying Stanton’s Pain Relief?” I said, picking up the cards my brother had dealt me. “The ad said it cures rheumatism as well as colic, chills, sprains, neuralgia, toothache, cramps and sore throat.”

Carl looked at me blankly, “huh?”

“Well, if that doesn’t appeal to you, there’s Dr. Arnold’s English Toxin pills. They should help your sore shoulder; besides that, they’re also a remedy for nervous troubles and all diseases of the kidney and bladder.”

I paused long enough to throw cards into the discard pile. “Now if you had catarrh, canker mouth, diphtheria, and a headache along with your touch of rheumatism, you could try Shiloh’s Catarrh Remedy. The ads for these medicines are in all the papers.”

Carl gave me a puzzled look. “What’ve you been reading?”

“Newspapers,” I said. “The Western Chronicle, The Advertiser and the Orchardist.”

“The only one I get is The Advertiser and I never saw anything in it about Stantons, toxin pills or anything about catarrh or whatever else it was you said.”

“I forgot to mention they’re dated from 1890 to 1919.” I wasn’t popular at the cribbage game that night. Earlier that day I had gone through a stack of old newspapers Kentville collector Louis Comeau has given me. I found a plethora of patent medicine ads offering quick cures for every common ailment known to man. The ads were amusing and during pauses in card playing, I entertained my opponents by quoting some of the more outrageous claims.

“Did you know that in 1909, Minard’s Liniment was being offered as a cure for dandruff and you can still find it on drugstore shelves?” I said during a lull. “And severe ankle sprains could once be cured in three days with Chamberlain’s Pain Balm.”

“Wasn’t there anything in those old papers besides medicine ads?” Carl asked when I held up the deal to tell him about a cure for scrofula and wasting diseases offered in the 1890 Western Chronicle.

“Yeah. According to the October 24, 1910 issue of The Advertiser, the tuition fee at Acadia University was $230. While you’re comparing that to the cost of higher education today, did you ever hear of Gates Certain Check? The ad said it was good for cholera morbus, pains, cramps and dysentery. Or how about Leibigs Fit Cure for falling down diseases?”

A chorus of groans. “Not interested, eh? Well, how about this. Red Rose Tea was on grocery shelves as far back as 1919.”

More groans, but I didn’t give up. “Wrigley’s Gum was being advertised in the 1919 Western Chronicle for five cents a package,” I offered. “There was an ad for Bayer Aspirin in the same issue.”

Silence. “Well, how about these goodies. Sugar was offered for $5 a hundred pounds in 1913. Bananas were 20 cents a dozen and pork was 12 cents a pound.”

When no one spoke I said, “well, how about a house in 1903 Kentville with 14 rooms, large lot and a barn for only $1,600.”

Now that got some interest.

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