Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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Pills, Potions and Practical Advice

Doan's Backache Kidney Pills
Doan's Backache Kidney Pills

The Isle of Wight Press has always been full of interesting adverts. There is the wonderful promotion of Doan’s Backache Kidney Pills, which were a must for every poor, suffering Ryde woman in 1913, with a full testimonial from Ryde resident, Mrs Bushell.

However back in 1897 Kearsley’s, Widow Welch’s Female Pills appear to be pretty good:

• a reputation of over 100 Years
• acknowledged remedy for all Female complaints
• restore a healthy hue to the complexion, in place of the deathly pallor so distressing to witness
• contain no irritant drug, and have the approval of the medical profession

Below these claims for Widow Welch we read of a wonderful medicine for ladies (married or single), Dasmail’s World Famed Specific, which corrects irregularities and obstructions!

A century and a half later in 1944 a correspondent wrote how ‘Many women suffer in health unnecessarily from the so called natural results of married life; they suffer, because they have not the foresight to regulate their lives. They suffer in health and tend to become depressed. If you are ailing today and you have every reason to expect that your health will become worse with the passing years, allowing yourself to become a semi-invalid, with dire results to your husband and children. Do not despair. Nurse Drew has written an excellent little booklet entitled “Hygiene for Women,” which it is suggested, should be in the hands of every woman.’ All you had to do was apply to a London address, enclose 3d. in stamps or your chemist might be able to supply you with a copy.

In 1897 there is a little advert for Carter’s Little Liver Pills but a large, eye catching declaration on Gibbs and Gurnell’s Iodine Poultice, ‘Superior to Linseed Meal Mustard Poultices, and all similar applications.’ It continues: ‘An invaluable counter-irritant to Chest Complaints, Liver Derangements and other internal Inflammatory Diseases, quickly soothes and allays pain, and Restores Healthy Action of the Respiratory Organ.’

Gibbs and Gurnell had long been advertising their wares. Back in 1863 they promoted Emilie Dean’s Crinilene, which ensured luxuriant hair, whiskers, moustachios and eyebrows. Remedies for lack of hair are ever present in the press. In 1868 Mr R Cooper wrote of his discovery that ‘hot water from the spring rising from the mountain near the Timavus river, with the juice of the poemegranate’ will prevent baldness. Years later in the 1920s, Samboy was the King of Hair Tonics, registered in the Strand, Ryde and available from local agents at Pier Street and Union Street.Thank goodness for J H Reeves Esq., of New York City, who put his discreet little ad in the IW Observer in 1882 so that if you were, like him, ‘A victim of youthful imprudence causing Premature Decay, Nervous Debility, Lost Manhood, &c.,’ and if you had tried in vain every known remedy, do not worry because he has discovered a simple self cure, which he will send Free to his fellow sufferers.

In 1897, ‘Special to Young Men, just published, a medical work entitled “How to ensure Health” on the laws governing life,’ covered the causes, symptoms and treatment of all diseases. Nervous debility, palpitations of the heart, noises in the head and ears, indecision, indigestion, lassitude, loss of energy and appetite, are only a few of the problems listed. Almost as an afterthought, in smaller print at the end, ”The Females’ Friend & Adviser,” could also be sent for enclosing the required postage stamps.

During WW2 not only could Nurse Drew be applied to by depressed wives but in the personal column we find:
RUNDOWN MEN, WOMEN! NEW LIFE OVERNIGHT! Stimulants in Oystrax tonic tablets start new vim, energy instantly; revitalise whole body in seven days. Only 1/9 (plus purch. tax). At all chemists.
Just below this encouraging advert was a rather alarming account under the big bold heading, WAKE UP YOUR LIVER BILE, explaining how much liquid bile should be emptied into your bowels daily! Best not to read any more of the details but they did claim, ‘you’ll jump out of bed in the morning full of vim and vigour.’ What did you need to purchase? At the end we read the small, modest print, ‘Carter’s Little Liver Pills,’ They were obviously as good as ever, a century and a half after the Gibbs and Gurnell advert.

Sources: Isle of Wight Observer 13 June 1863, 23 May 1868, 29 July 1882 & 15 November 1913; Isle of Wight Times 30 Sept 1897, 25 May 1922 & 4 May 1944
Image ‘Special to Young Men’ from www.victorianweb.com; Advertisement Trade card image for Carters Liver Pills – Wellcome Collection