Cure bottles are interesting as they serve as a documentary evidence of how the general public was fooled in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were advertised to cure all types of physical and emotional problems. The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission stopped the sale of these “miracle drugs”.
Many people were delayed or prevented from seeking proper medical aid. There was no rules at that time in the “cure all”. In 1816 J. Andrus placed a cancer cure on the market and some years before W. Stoy had a sure way to cure rabies.
The success of the “miracle cure” was largely based on the distrust of doctors. If a doctor pronounced a case incurable and then a “cure” was available through a medicine maker, people tended to believe the medicine maker over the doctor. Some people today still rely on store-bought medicine rather than a doctor.
Patent medicine cures were in such a demand that road shows were organized around them. They worked out of wagons and some were even booked into theaters throughout the country. There was a cast of who traveled with the “medicine man”. These included several persons who had been “chronic sufferers” but due to the repeated use of the cure were totally healed. They would come forward and tell their stories. The show would close with the product being sold by the bottle or case.
The more bizarre the product name the better. Some used foreign names and claimed the product was from that country. Some cures were suppose to be Indian in origination. It was a well known fact that Indians didn’t visit the white man’s doctors and didn’t take their medicines. They made their own cures from closely-guarded recipes. The ingredients of these cures were disregarded and the name was given to the product for the purpose of more sells.
These bottles was found in the 1960s when the expressway came through the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, KY. The site was a city dump many years before. When building began they dug down about 20 feet and unearthed many bottles that were thrown away years ago.
My father gathered many and put them in boxes behind his shed until around 2001 when I became interested in the history.
To my amazement the bottles were still intact and in very good condition despite the harsh winters.