In the time before the National Health Service, a trip to the chemist was the best course of action, and what an array of ‘cure alls’ on offer. Adverts for these potions and pills could be found spread across the pages of Doncaster’s local newspapers.
The most bizarre was Dr. Cassell’s Tablets, the list of ailments they claimed to cure was endless – from paralysis to malaria! The following are quotes taken from the Doncaster Gazette during 1919.
Mr Arthur Dixon, ex-soldier of Birmingham, says “I could not sleep after shock and could hardly stand. I was always depressed, even after treatment in hospital I was no better. Dr Cassell’s Tablets made a new man of me. My nerves are steady and I sleep well now.”
Here is the plain testimony of Private C. F. Tyle of the R.A.M.C. who, as a result of malaria caught while in service, was reduced to a physical wreck, wasted with diarrhoea and helpless with nervousness. “When I returned to Blighty I weighed 5 stone and was in bed for three months. After taking Dr. Cassell’s Tablets in a week or two I was on the mend and six months later I got up to 10st 18lbs.”
“Ministers in the pulpit have commented on the miracle of my cure” reports Mrs Agnes Strain of Ayrshire. “The attack came on quite suddenly and lasted four years, my right side was completely dead and both legs were affected. I could not move a finger and the pain made me cry like a child. I had fallen away to a shadow; my case was believed to be hopeless. After only two months after taking my first dose of Dr Cassell’s Tablets I am as strong as ever in life”!
Other medicines sounded equally impressive. Mr F. Kendrick of Saltley, says “I have suffered so severely with indigestion and stomach troubles that I frequently had to leave work and come home to have hot flannels applied. I gave up eating solid food and only take hot milk. My wife got me a bottle of Bisurated Magnesia from the chemist and I felt great relief after taking the first dose, and by the end of the bottle I was cured.”
Another strong claim was that ‘Dr William’s Pink Pills for Pale People’ had often restored men and women who were mere nervous wrecks to calm strong workers. “People who are startled by sudden noises, jarred by the rattle of street traffic or factory, irritable in temper, easily alarmed, or tormented by headache or neuralgia, require a nerve tonic that will feed the blood and so invigorate the nerves.” Just another potion advertised in the papers!
“Get a small bottle of old time honest St Jacob’s Oil from your chemist, and in a moment you will be free from all pains, aches and stiffness. There is no need to suffer.”
Or what about Budden’s S.R Skin Ointment? It will cure itching after one application, destroys every form of Eczema, heals old wounds and sores, acts like a charm on bad legs, is infallible for piles, prevents cuts from festering, will cure Ringworm in a few days, removes most obstinate eruptions and Scurvy.
And don’t forget, “No child is less liable to contract whooping cough than a child whose mother follows up her morning kiss with a Pep to suck on their way to school. To let a Peps tablet dissolve in the mouth is a real protection against infectious colds and influenza.”
Doncaster’s newspapers contained some truly bizarre claims from pharmaceutical advertisers. You can explore these further by browsing the newspapers on microfilm at Doncaster Local Studies Library.