Where my research takes me: 19th century health ads


As many of you know, I find a lot of cool stuff as I peruse 19th century newspapers. Usually the items aren’t relevant to what I’m trying to find out, but I like to tuck them away to share with you! Hope you get a kick out of these, as you imagine yourself in the position of a 19th century consumer in need of a health cure.

Testimonials can go a long way:

19thc ad2
The Sun, Dec 1, 1898.

Look at that woman…I mean, “the Queen of Beautiful Women.” Not a wrinkle on her. A ringing endorsement if I ever saw one.

Then there’s the fact that beer has malt, so it must be healthy…who knew? So that’s why hubby drinks it. Never mind the now-trendy pomegranate, acai, and goji berry juices…pull some Buds out of the fridge, honey! 😉

But if beer isn’t to your liking, you could always try this:

The World, May 15, 1900, via Chronicling America (Library of Congress)
The World, May 15, 1900

I wonder what other ingredients are in a bottle of celery compound? Perhaps…gasp…alcohol? I don’t know about you, but Mrs. Cummings looks like she could use a third bottle of celery. I don’t think she’s feeling like “another woman” yet.

And why is it that I keep running into celery in my 19th century researches? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out my post on Kalamazoo celery.


Perhaps you want to avoid ingesting questionable substances completely. How about this:

The San Francisco Call, November 27, 1898, via Chronicling America (Library of Congress).
The San Francisco Call, November 27, 1898.

You wear it when you sleep? Oh, right, nothing can go wrong there.  Do I smell burnt hair…?


What if nothing works, and you’re still sick? Maybe it’s where you live:

The Sun, May 11, 1890.
The Sun, May 11, 1890.

Isn’t it reassuring to know that malaria has been cured on Staten Island? Sign me up.

What’s the funniest ad you’ve run across? Do you know of any neighborhoods that could use a good fumigation? I’d love to hear from you.


Until next time,


P.S. – all pics are taken from the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, and are public domain.

6 people like this post.

10 thoughts on “Where my research takes me: 19th century health ads”

  1. PatriciaPatricia

    Oh man, that belt thingey looks like a torture device. Drugs may not work, or so they say, but I’m willing to try them in lieu of that “miracle” belt. Wow.

    Interesting how advertising really hasn’t changed that much over the years. Products come and go, but the same old “buy me” lines have endured.

    As always, thanks for sharing.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  2. Vinnie HansenVinnie Hansen

    Fun post, K.B. I don’t think we’ve changed much as consumers. Just the other day on the news there was a report on the number of people swearing they needed gluten-free diets who couldn’t say what gluten was!

  3. Sharla RaeSharla Rae

    Love the blog and the ads. I have a book called the Great American Medicine Show by David Armstrong & Elizabeth Metzger Armstorng that I love. It has a lot of these ads and is sort of history of good and bad medicine. Very fun. Thanks for sharing your stuff. I always enjoy it.

  4. Emma BurcartEmma Burcart

    You know, it kind of makes me think that all the crazy things people do today don’t seem so weird in comparison. Kale smoothies and coconut butter facials are just the new celery compound. I don’t think I’d have been trendy in the 1900’s either. 🙂

  5. Karen McFarlandKaren McFarland

    Good one Kathy. Here’s what scares me. Okay, we know there were a gazillion remedies at the turn of the twentieth century. Yeah, they had their claims, people tried them, but they really didn’t know exactly what they were taking. Now today, we have commercials that tell us about the ailment, what the remedy is for, and…all the numerous side affects from taking the drug. And some of them are insane. I’d rather wet my panties, IYKWIM? So I don’t know what is worse. 🙂


Comments are closed