What's in a name, popular remedies in 1877

Sandy Vasko

    Of all the businesses that came and went in Braidwood, we have never mentioned the druggists. It is an oversight that I am correcting.
    Surely the druggist was one of the most necessary businesses in an era where manual labor in dangerous environments, and wretched health conditions existed.
    However, the drugs that were sold were not exactly like the kind we get over the counter now. Set the way-back machine for 1877.
    The first mention of any druggists that I can find is a Mr. Allison, Barr & Watson and Dr. Henri LeCaron in 1877.
    All had stores in Braidwood. But not all were trained, in fact only LeCaron. He was particularly successful, opening bigger and bigger stores each year, including branches in Lockport and Braceville. In 1880 LeCaron bought out Barr & Watson.
    Dr. LeCaron would go on to be the president of the Illinois Druggist Association, the first group to try to educate, test and regulate the pharmacists of the state. Until that time, anyone could set themselves up in the trade, whether they knew anything about medicine or not.
    Others in the drug trade were C.K. Charleton, Peter Barr & Sons, Dr. Wade & Co., Smith & Co. and one operated by the coal company called the Miners' Drug Store.
    The shelves in most drug stores of the time were filled with “patent medicine.” There was no testing of the contents or the claims made for it. It was a serious situation.
    However, the Braidwood correspondent to the Joliet Weekly Sun wrote a column in September 1877, making fun of these drugs, or at least their names.
    “The genius of man and the inventive faculty of woman have well-nigh exhausted the resources of the new $12 edition of Webster's dictionary in fashioning suitable names for the various patent medicine which line the shelves of our pharmaceutists (gilt-edge term for druggists), and crowd the columns of our favorite family newspapers with mysterious advertisements, which almost smell of the articles whose many virtues they so eloquently portray.
    “What oceans of bliss are contained in the simple announcement, Mrs. Losefast's Soothing Syrup! How much earthly joy is expressed in that alliterative decoction, Rightofway's Ready Relief! How many bushels of contentment are to be found in a 25 cent bottle of Lickspittle's Lockjaw Lubricator! How much unalloyed peace is foreshadowed in the very label on a bottle Killmequick's Kangaroo Korrective!
    “As you ride into town from your rural residence how often are your forced by love of art to stop and admire the beautiful fresco work on the fences, depicting the glorious benefits of some newly invented drug, warranted to cure hams and force a luxuriant moustache to grow on the smoothest door knob in 3 minutes.
    “How the soul is entranced in contemplating the chromatic sketch of Captain Jack's Modoc Mutilator and Sitting Bull's Blood Purifier. Pike's Long-horned Tooth Prod also occupies an occasion side of a barn.
    “In introducing a new remedy for man or beast there is nothing like having an attractive title. The latest achievement is a notorious web-foot pill, which is bound to take, and be taken. The very name is sadly suggestive of disease and mutely appeals for relief.
    “We expect soon to see it followed by knock-kneed bitters, cross-eyed cordial for the left lung, one-armed essence of new mown smart weed, spindle shanked extract of Braidwood coal, three-fingered never-failing ague destroyer, double jointed wrestler, bald headed juice of dog fennel, and red nosed, sugar-coated, in-growing toenail eradicator.
    “With a few of these invaluable remedies, together with a silver-plated liver scraper and a first-class hem stitched abdominal supporter, a man may be able to bounce his family physician and bid defiance to all the ills in the last will and testament of flesh.
    “P.S. Except for rheumatism. Nothing but suicide and the clods of the valley can conquer rheumatism, and we have heard of cases requiring several doses of death to effect a cure.”