Who Needs a Doctor?
You may not believe it, but before the war there was the forerunner of the National Health Service. It was a free health service of sort, but if you did not like queuing in a crowded doctors waiting room where coughs and sneezes were handed out free or if you felt you needed a special examination or attention you probably went to see the doctor privately. As well as paying the doctor anything from 2s 6d (12p) to one guinea (£1.05p), you also had to pay for the medicine on your prescription.
So it was no wonder few people felt ill enough to go to the doctor. It was easier and cheaper to see the chemist and get one of the wonder drugs lining his shelves. And what wonder drugs they were! Seeing the labels and advertisements of them today one wonders why they are not available for they cured literally anything and everything from toothache to chilblains, and from headaches to rheumatism and all for 1s 1d (6p) per bottle. What can you get from the chemist today with such magical properties?
Take St. Jacobs Oil for instance. Just reading the label was more fun than watching Jimmy Tarbuck. With a touching picture of a maiden clutching the heros tunic as he slays two snarling animals the caption reads The bold and fearless knight, Sir Modern Science with his goodly shield St. Jacobs Oil and trusty sword, doth gallantly rescue that suffering damsel Humanity from ye two fierce and ravenous wolves called pain and death. Goodness, doesnt that clutch at the heart?
The advertisers say with touching modesty Acts like magic-there is nothing as good and claim that it cures everything from sore throats to feet ache, so if you have been running for the train whilst yelling your head off at the New Street Station then you need a bottle of St. Jacobs Oil.
An advert for the 1920s
Bu what about Vogelers Curative Compound? That showed a painting of the Queen of Medicines and the label says that the formula had been prepared under the personal supervision of one of the most eminent living physicians now in active practice in the West End of London. It emphasises It makes you well! who could doubt these claims as it claims to cure everything from dyspepsia to eczema and indigestion to ringing noises in the head, even Melancholia.
So it not only cured your heartburn, it also cheered you up. Perhaps it contained a wee dram of whisky in the formula? And like the wonderful St Jacobs Oil, cost only 6p per bottle. (See photo on next page)
An advert form 1907
There were many cure-alls, one advert depicted a rather embarrassed young girl wearing a flouncy dress with a pair of wings; surrounded by flowers, leaves and berries. She was holding a tray of fruit and in the middle, just showing above the fruit, a carton of Enos fruit salt. It warned you The jeopardy of life is immensely increased without Enos fruit salt. It went on to claim that testimonials from pole to pole had been received.
The jeopardy of life may be losing your partner/relation, your livelihood, maybe a pet but how this could be cured by an Enos fruit salt powder, one cannot comprehend such a miraculous effect.
They even managed to produce an advert during the war effort suggesting with Enos fruit salt you could Keep bright and smiling.
An advert from the Second World War
If the fruit salts didnt keep you bright and smiling, then Mr Beecham put a much higher price on his cure-all remedy. He stated it was worth a guinea (£1.05p) a box and gave a long list of its cures. The adverts depicted a variety of people from young gentlemen losing their top hats exclaiming When you see a good thing-go for it! To young girls in flimsy dresses walking along the waters edge and suggesting that the waves were whispering a message Try Beechams Pills.
Mr Beecham claimed an annual sale of six million boxes of his little wonders per year and it is more than likely that most of these were purchased by Blackpool landladies. The reason was that when you went on holiday, it was more than likely that you wouldnt go for a few days. It was claimed, with more than a hint of truth, that certain landladies would mix one or two of Mr Beechams little pills in the puddings they served to their visitors. This exercise would make certain that the guests would visit a certain room in the house and because of this regularity; it would be certain that knowing this they would return year after year to the same establishment. Undoubtedly proving that the little pills were worth more than a guinea a box.
The pills and fruit salts also claimed to keep a lady trim. However, if this wasnt the case, if you had plenty of money, and you wished to appear slim and elegant in those tight dresses then you could visit the London Corset Company.
Elegant corsets in fawn or black at just 25/- or the luxury model at £2 12s 6d. The most alluring black corsets could be purchased and your maid would help you get into it. It was so attractive that it could be worn outside your best frock and it certainly wouldnt cause a stir as you strolled along the promenade.
Finally, I think we all remember those wonderful chemist shops with the magnificent array of coloured bottles. In years gone by a visit to the doctors was rare, instead a chat with the local pharmacist would cure most ailments. Such an establishment can be found at the wonderful Museum of the Black Country and Blists Open Air Museum (photo below).
I hope you have enjoyed this brief glimpse into Days Gone By. I am not sure who wrote the article but I found it recently in some old files. I know it appeared in an Oracle before the Millennium Issue, it certainly doesnt appear on the website, so a lot of the present membership would not have read it. My thanks to whoever it was that put pen to paper.
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