Monday, February 13, 2012

Wright's Indian Vegetable Pills and the Civil War - Part I - Almanacs

This is the first of a 2-part series on Wright's Indian Vegetable Pills, one of the earliest and best known of the American patent medicines, and the Civil War era.

In this first post I share pages from copies of their 1864 and 1866 almanacs (my collection).

In the next post I will share some photos of a late 19th-century package of Wright's Indian Vegetable Pills in my collection (including the actual pills!) as well as some great excerpts from soldier letters and other wartime literature mentioning the pills.

The illustrations here include:

Front and back covers of the 1864 almanac

Page from the 1864 almanac extolling the many purported virtues of the pills

A typical almanac calendar page

Typical pages (from the 1866 almanac) showing the many uses of the almanac in the home: medical advice, joke book, home and farm advice, proverbs, and song book (in this case a tune written by a soldier in the 57th Pennsylvania Infantry).

Enjoy!




































































4 comments:

Mark Noce said...

Why does this remind me of Upton Sinclair's _The Jungle_? ;) I wonder how nutritional some fo this food really was.

Jim Schmidt said...

Mark - Thanks for the comment!

In this case the word "vegetable" in Vegetable Pills refers to a natural source for the medicine and not for its nutrition (see the follow-up post #2 for more), but you are on to something...two things actually:

1) some quack/patenet medicine drug companies also sold nutritional supplements

2) your reference to Sinclair is on mark; "muckraking" journalism like his relative to food production was also done for the quack cures and led to legislation as to labeling of claims and ingredients.

Jim

Bob Gibney said...

The song "Dreary Black Hills" has a line "I left my trade selling Wrights Patent Pills to hunting for gold in the Dreary Black Hills." The song talks about the gold rush in South Dakota's Black Hills (think Deadwood) in the late 1870's and 80's. Thanks for your blog post explaining the history of those pills.

Bob Gibney said...

The song "Dreary Black Hills" has a line "I left my trade selling Wrights Patent Pills to hunting for gold in the Dreary Black Hills." The song talks about the gold rush in South Dakota's Black Hills (think Deadwood) in the late 1870's and 80's. Thanks for your blog post explaining the history of those pills.