Deep Dive: Exploring the Exhibits

Updated: 6 days ago

Bottle of Dr. King's New Discovery for Consumption, by H.E. Bucklen & Co.

During the late 19th and early 20th century, 'consumption' was the term for tuberculosis. The demand for a cure brought about countless patent medicines claiming to be the sole remedy. H.E. Bucklen & Co. - based in Chicago, IL - was no different with this product. The tagline reads "The True remedy at last discovered!"

One was instructed to take a teaspoon 1-4 times a day (or for infants: ten drops to a half a teaspoonful). The corked bottle is still fairly full with this dark brown liquid. The 'medicine' was a mixture of chloroform (to cure the cough), morphine (to provide a sense of relief, euphoria), and alcohol (to further dull the sufferer's pain). While this elixir surely would have been effective in numbing the mind and body, it would have been detrimental to the user's longevity.


The brand was featured in many advertisements. It also fell under intense scrutiny and criticism by Samuel Hopkins Adams, who authored a few articles in a magazine about this crooked, duplicitous patent medicine industry.


"It is a pretty diabolical concoction to give to anyone, and particularly to a consumptive... the combination is admirably designed to shorten the life of any consumptive who takes it steadily. Of course, there is nothing on the label of the bottle to warn", said Adams in Colliers Weekly in the Jan. 13, 1906 issue.


Adams was justified in his statement, the label does not state the ingredients, nor does it provide warning of possible side effects.


The Pure Food and Drug Act, passed during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, would make it illegal to mislabel drugs. It was mandated, by law, to label drugs containing alcohol, morphine, and cocaine. Considering how this bottle does not specify the contents, one can presume that it predated the passage of the act.


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