2014 Best of Saturdays: Quack Cures and Surnames

Before I settled on the regular Surname Saturday column, I did a few columns (and still may from time to time) on Home Remedies and Quack Cures: Home Remedies and Quack Cures:  Hall’s Catarrh Cure (356) – This article was the third most-viewed this past year after these two:  Henry Collins and Zipporah Chandler Rice – Sodom Laurel, NC and Far-Out Friday:  Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly (The Luckiest Fool on Earth).  At the time I wrote the article I had been trying out my new Newspapers.com subscription and was amused at all the “miracle cures” advertised in nineteenth and early twentieth century newspapers especially.   These so-called miracle cures were all the rage back then. Surname Saturday:  Kitten (172) – This was the most-viewed Surname Saturday article.  I had been asked by a friend to research it (her husband’s family) and I  do believe the whole Kitten family stopped by to read it!  Plus, it was a really interesting story. Surname Saturday: Utter (129) – I try to write articles on unique or unusual surnames, and I’m always amazed at names which are common words in our language (sometimes those are the hardest to research actually).  One early American named Abraham Utter was devastated when his family was massacred by Indians — a fascinating early American story of what colonists faced. Surname Saturday:  Hutchins-Hutchinson-Hutchings (95) – In my research I had come across an unusual name, Strangeman Hutchins, and decided to write a surname article, including Strangeman’s story.  Another story caught my eye about a large family (sixteen children) who formed a singing group, The Hutchinson Family Singers.  The toured both...

Home Remedies and Quack Cures (and a “Royal Touch”): Curing Consumption

It’s known by various names – most commonly tuberculosis, but at times throughout history referred to as:   “consumption” because the patient experienced severe weight loss and was almost literally “consumed” with the disease; phthisis (derived from Latin-Greek phthinein meaning to waste away); scrofula or Pott’s disease; White Plague (making patients appear pale). Evidence of tuberculosis has been found in both human and animal remains known to be between 15,000 to 20,000 years old.  Egyptian mummies were infected with the bacterium and Hippocrates identified “phthisis” as one of the most widespread diseases of his time, observing that autumn was a particularly bad time of the year for persons with consumption. Tuberculosis in the Middle Ages was known as “scrofula”  which affected the lymph nodes.  Alternatively it was known as “king’s evil” because it was thought to be curable by the touch of royalty.  In King Henry VII’s time, the diseased were given amulets or charms to wear that had been “touched” by the King.  Charles II may have touched as many as 90,000 victims between 1660 and 1682.  By 1712 the practice had declined in England but continued in France until around 1830. In eighteenth century Europe the disease killed 900 out of every 100,000 persons.  Contributing factors were poor sanitation, malnutrition and overcrowded conditions.  During this epidemic the disease became known as the “White Plague”.  By the next century, it was discovered that the disease was communicable so the idea of isolating patients came about through the use of “sanatoriums”.  The first sanatorium was founded in the United States in 1884 by Edward Livingston Trudeau. In isolating patients from...

Home Remedies and Quack Cures: Sobering Up – Dr. Haines’ Golden Specific

Before it became illegal to lie on the package label, this “cure” for alcoholism was called “Golden Specific” – later changed to “Golden Treatment” when the law went into effect.  Dr. James Wilkins Haines of Cincinnati, Ohio claimed his medicine was endorsed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and that by merely slipping a bit of it into the husband’s cup of coffee in the morning, the wife could cure him of his taste for alcohol.  According to Haines’ ads it was possible to cure one’s alcoholism in 24 hours!  (Click to enlarge the image) From the book “Nostrums and Quackery”, compiled by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association): Any one with an elementary knowledge of the treatment of alcoholism knows how cruelly false such claims as these are.  Not only is the statement that the stuff will cure the drunkard ‘without his knowledge’ and ‘against his will’ a falsehood, but it is also a cowardly falsehood in that it deceives those who in the very nature of the case will hesitate to raise any protest against the deception. Notwithstanding the AMA’s point of view, Dr. Haines was probably seriously concerned with curing the alcoholic given the fact that he was a homeopathic physician, an educator, a spiritualist and a prominent Quaker minister.  During his career he served as both President and Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Miami Valley College (Ohio), a Quaker institution. In 1879 Haines was sued for malpractice and was also involved in a breach of marriage contract suit filed by Mary Bonner in 1878-1879.  Haines eventually married another woman and paid Bonner $1,000...

Home Remedies and Quack Cures: Hall’s Catarrh Cure

I’ve recently been performing a lot of historical and ancestral research by combing through digitized newspapers.  Inevitably, in the newspapers of the mid-1800’s until the early 1930’s, I am reading advertisements extolling the benefits of so-called miracle cures, also known as patent medicines.  These “medicines” claimed to cure everything from A to Z.  So, I thought it would be fun and interesting to do a series on the history of patent medicine, or “nostrums” as they were called, and some of the quack cures that literally flooded the market in that era.  Here and there I’ll do some articles on home remedies as well. Today’s subject, “Hall’s Catarrh Cure,” caught my eye in an ad above a story I was researching this week, so I decided to do a little extra research on the history of this patent medicine – was it really a miracle cure? Background First of all, what the heck is “catarrh”?  According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “catarrh” is an “inflammation of the mucus membrane, chronically affecting the human nose and air passages.”  Hey, I’ve had catarrh for years and didn’t know it! In or around 1870, Frank J. Cheney purchased the rights to Dr. Henry S. Hall’s “cure” – a drug that Dr. Hall had formulated and prescribed to his patients.  I was unable to locate any specific information on Dr. Hall himself but Cheney appears to be one shrewd and powerful (as in “connected”) businessman.  Cheney Medicine Company did a booming business for several years …. until the patent medicine industry began to be investigated and exposed by scientists and the American Medical Association. In...