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Teachers could have students look up online versions of 1905 newspapers to get an immediate impression of the number and quality of patent medicine advertisements.
The answer to this intriguing question is veiled in the history of patent medicines.
Pearson and Rollason, the printers of Aris's Gazette, similarly acted as sole Birmingham distributors for many of the patent medicines on the market.
As part of a curator's fellowship she was awarded through the Museum of Healthcare in Kingston, Ontario, Livingstone began researching a collection of patent medicine trade cards - and particularly the way in which women were depicted in the advertisements in the late 19th century.
The question was no longer whether you would drop dead from taking a single dose of bad patent medicine.
Today, herbal concoctions and other supplements are cooked up and marketed with wild abandon, with all the unrestrained, unverified boasting of the patent medicine era still on display.
Why does this sound like a carnie hawking patent medicine and magnetized amulets in a traveling show?
The result is From Stone Orchard: A Collection of Memories (HarperCanada), a delightful collection of essays and vignettes that bring to life such mundane activities as attending a country auction, being adopted by a stray cat, or excavating century-old patent medicine bottles from the kitchen garden.
The intimate, potentially sexual relationship between mesmerizer and subject -- so evident in the cover illustration, which comes from an early twentieth-century patent medicine advertisement -- was not permissible.
As early as 1893 the Illinois legislature had attempted to limit the popular use of opiates by imposing labeling requirements on patent medicine manufacturers.
She also posed as, among many others, a patent medicine merchant (to bribe a powerful lobbyist), a charity hospital patient, a chorus girl and even a female job applicant at newspapers (where she was routinely patronized).
Gun defenders and their well-oiled lobby are not ashamed to use the rhetorical trick that once served the phony con men selling worthless patent medicine from the back of their wagons: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people.