A Deep Dive into the Deadly World of Victorian Patent Medicine


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In the Victorian era, a deadly and unorganized medical system bred an even more deadly and unregulated world of patent medicines filled with high proof alcohol, dangerous narcotics, and more. So why were these medicines so popular, and why did they run wild? Come learn with me!

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The Influence of Victorian ‘Patent Medicines’ on the Development of Early 20th Century Medical Practice by F. Charles Tring

The Patent Medicines Industry in Georgian England: Constructing the Market by the Potency of Print by Alan Mackintosh

The Pharmacology of Nineteenth-Century Patent Medicines by J. Worth Estes

Nervous Women and Noble Savages: The Romanticized “Other” in Nineteenth-Century US Patent Medicine Advertising by JANE MARCELLUS

The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle, 1851-1914 by Thomas Richards

The Mighty Healer: Thomas Holloway’s Victorian Patent Medicine Empire by Verity Holloway

British Patent Medicines: “Injurious Rubbish”? By Lori Loeb

From Cure-alls to Calcium Tablets: A Comparative Semiotic Analysis of Advertisements for 19th and 20th Century Patent Medicines and Contemporary Dietary Supplements by Karin A. Albrecht

National Museum of American History— Balm of America: Patent Medicine Collection https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/balm-of-america-patent-medicine-collection/history

Digital Public Library of America— Quack Cures and Self-Remedies: Patent Medicine https://dp.la/exhibitions/patent-medicine/1860-1920

Patent medicines and the public’s health. By J Parascandola

Snake Oil Salesmen Were on to Something by Cynthia Graber for Scientific American https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/snake-oil-salesmen-knew-something/

Bitter medicine: gout and the birth of the cocktail by Richard Barnett for The Lancet https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)60586-8/fulltext

Secret remedies : what they cost and what they contain by British Medical Association

Annals Of Weight-Loss Gimmicks: From Bile Beans To Obesity Soap by Scott Hensley for NPR https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2011/01/19/133048309/annals-of-weight-loss-gimmicks-from-bile-beans-to-obesity-soap/

Snake Oil, Hustlers and Hambones: The American Medicine Show By Ann Anderson

The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris