Dental Agents

WLMD ID: akgp, akgs , akgt, akgq, akgr
Since ancient times, topical applications of plants and drugs have been used to relieve dental pain. In 1845, the dentist Horace Wells (1815-1848) was the first to demonstrate inhalation anesthesia using nitrous oxide gas. The modern era of dental anesthesia began in 1884, with the introduction of hypodermic injections of cocaine. Dr. Waite's Local Anesthetic This injectable anesthetic was widely marketed to dentists in the first decades of the 20th Century. It contained cocaine and several herbal ingredients known for their analgesic effect, including eucalyptus. Oil of Cloves Cloves are the dried unopened buds from the tropical tree Eugenia caryophyllata. Used since antiquity for treating various ailments, topical applications of clove oil were a popular dental remedy in the 19th and 20th Centuries. It is no longer considered an effective treatment for tooth pain. Allergic reactions and other side effects further limit its usefulness. Nopaine This injectable anesthetic contained cocaine and suprarenal extract (the hormone, epinephrine). Epinephrine slows the absorption of anesthetics, making the effect last longer. It also reduces the amount of bleeding from tooth extractions and oral surgery. Narco Toothache Drops This over-the-counter topical remedy was 48% ethanol (alcohol). It also contained chloroform and ether. Like most toothache remedies, it was not applied directly to the tooth. A wad of cotton would be soaked with the drops, then held in place manually or by pressure from the tongue. Dr. Wilson's Local Anesthetic This injectable anesthetic was heavily marketed to dentists in the early 20th Century. The label states that it is "perfectly harmless", perhaps an indication that it did not contain cocaine.

Catalog Record: Dental Agents

Access Key: akgp
Accession No.: 1999-02-05-1 B
Title: Oil of cloves / A.H. Williams Co.

Corporate Author: A. H. Williams Co.

Publisher: Utica, NY : A.H. Williams Co., [1890-1948].

Physical Descript: 1 bottle ; glass, cork, paper : 17 x 6 cm. dia.

Subject: Clove Oil.
Subject: Anesthetics, Topical.
Subject: Anesthesia, Dental – history.
Subject: Analgesics.
Subject: Drug Packaging.

Note Type: General
Notes: Years for the possible year of manufacture are based on an A. H. Williams Co.
advertisement stating they were established in 1890, and the year the company
name changed to H. K. Hineline, Co., 1948. The date range could change if
reliable documentation indicates the range should be corrected.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Brookes R. An Introduction to Physic and Surgery. London: J. Newbery;
1754:340.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Drug firm changes name. Utica Daily Press. April 2, 1948:19.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: First Annual Policemen’s Ball: Benefit of Ilion Police Benevolent Association
… November 24th, 1938 … The Advertisers, in Order of Appearance. Herkimer
County, NY Genealogy, History, GenWeb website. https://herkimer.nygenweb.
net/ilion/policeballads.html. Accessed March 20, 2013.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Hodapp MH. Dental concerns. InL Barratt MR, Pool SL, eds. Principles of
Clinical Medicine for Space Flight. New York, NY: Springer; 2008:547-548.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Hoffmann FW, Manning M. Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. New York:
Haworth Press; 2002:50-52.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Tilton B. Wilderness First Responder. Guilford, Conn.: Falcon Guides; 2010.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: 1 corked clear glass bottle; A white paper label is printed with black text;
The text includes, “OIL OF CLOVES [new line] A.H. Williams Co. [new line]
Wholesale Druggists [new line] Utica, N.Y.”; Embossed on the bottom of the
bottle is the number 6, a number 0 in a box, and the number 8.

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch on January 14, 2013; This bottle was
photographed with four other dental agent containers.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Cloves are the dried unopened buds from the tropical tree Eugenia
caryophyllata Thunberg. Not just a spice, cloves, and the oil extracted from
them, have been used as a medicinal substance for centuries. The compound
eugenol has been found to be the main component of clove oil. In Europe
during the 1700 and 1800’s “oil of cloves” was commonly found in publications
on medicinal substances. Although very expensive during this time, clove oil
was used to provide relief for a number of conditions, including dental pain.
In his 1754 textbook, “An Introduction to Physic and Surgery,” the English
physician Richard Brookes wrote the following about clove oil (the ‘long s’
in this passage has been converted to the letter ‘s’ to augment readability),
” … Essential Oil of Cloves. This is good against Disorders of the Head,
the Vertigo, Weakness of Sight, the Head-ach, Palpitation of the Heart,
Fainting, Weakness of the Stomach, venereal Impotency, Suppression of the
Menses, and hysteric Disorders. The Dose is one or two Drops. Outwardly it is
good in the Caries of the Bones, and in the Tooth-ach applied with a Bitt of
Cotton, especially if the Tooth be hollow.”

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Well into the 1940s, the use of clove oil by dental practitioners was not
uncommon. Thereafter the practice significantly diminished. Clove oil remains
in the homeopathic practitioner’s armamentarium. Additionally, clove oil is
by no means limited to homeopathic circles. The use of oil of cloves for
dental pain is discussed in the 2008, “Principles of Clinical Medicine for
Space Flight”, a book written and edited by NASA physicians, and in
wilderness medicine expert Buck Tilton’s well respected book, “Wilderness
First Responder” (2010).

Note Type: Historical
Notes: The A.H. Williams Co., the dispensers of the bottle of clove oil described
here, was established in Utica, N.Y, in 1890, In 1948 the company’s name was
changed to H. K. Hineline, Co.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Chosen for the WLM website (noted February 26, 2013).

Access Key: akgs
Accession No.: 2007-12-10-3
Title: Nopaïne / prepared by W.R. Black.

Author: Black, W. R. (William Reynolds).

Corporate Author: W.R. Black Dental Manufacturing Chemist.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Nopaine.

Publisher: Birmingham, [England] : W.R. Black Dental Manufacturing Chemist, [1908-1937].

Physical Descript: 1 bottle : glass, paper : 10 x 4.0 cm.

Subject: Anesthetics, Local.
Subject: Cocaine.
Subject: Anesthesia, Dental – history.
Subject: Drug Packaging.

Note Type: General
Notes: Years in the range for the possible year of manufacture are based on a 1908
publication indicating that Mr. Black may still have been in Halifax at that
time. Also, pharmaceuticals that contained cocaine were not required to be
labeled as “Poison” until 1908 in Great Britain. An announcement of the end
of a business partnership between W.R. Black Dental Manufacturing Chemist and
the firm listed on Vere Street, J. Broughton, was published in the October 26
1937 London Gazette. The date range could change if documentation indicates
the range should be corrected.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Advertisement of cancelling: notice (201). London Gazette. October 26,
1937:6644

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Association affairs: Halifax Chemists’ Association. Chemists Druggists.
September 12, 1908;73(11):428.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Cottrell H. The history of the British dental trade – or the first 164 years.
The British Dental Trade Association website. https://www.bdta.org.
uk/news/13/62/An-insight-into-the-development-of-British-dentistry—Part-1.
html Published July 14, 2009. Accessed March 22, 2013.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Seddon T. A History of Drugs. New York, NY : Routledge, 2010.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: 1 brown glass bottle for a local anesthetic; The diameter of the bottle is
slightly more just below the neck (approximately 4.0 cm) than at the base (3.
5 cm); The bottle has a worn and torn paper label; The largest text on the
label is, “NOPAÏNE”;Other text includes, “A reliable local anaesthetic for
both extraction & minor operations.”; The text under “DIRECTIONS” is badly
worn and difficult to read; “NO DANGER [new line] NO SWELLING [new line] NO
AFTER EFFECTS”; “This preparation contains 0.82% Cocaine Hyd.(or 3.60 grains
in each fluid ounce) combined with suprarenal extractive and suitable
antiseptics.”; “Prepared by W.R. BLACK DENTAL MANUFACTURING CHEMIST [new
line] VERE STREET [new line] BIRMINGHAM”; “Labelled POISON according to
Pharmacy Act.”; “THIS PREPARATION MUST BE KEPT IN … DARK P …”. Embossed
just below the neck of the bottle is “W.R. BLACK” and “BIRMINGHAM”.

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch on January 14, 2013; This box was
photographed with four other dental agent containers.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Laws intended to improve medication safety were introduced much earlier in
Great Britain than in the United States. Pharmaceutical regulation began in
Great Britain in 1852 when a ‘Pharmacy Act’ empowered the Pharmaceutical
Society of Great Britain to conduct examinations and grant certificates of
qualification. In 1868, a second ‘Pharmacy Act’ required those who wanted to
use the designation of pharmaceutical chemist, chemist, or druggist to
register with the society. Among other directives, the 1868 act also required
approximately 15 compounds to be labeled as poison when dispensed. The
compounds included opium “and all preparation of opium or poppies,” arsenic,
cyanides, strychnine, and chloroform. The use of opiates in Great Britain
decreased significantly after 1868. The first legislation in the U.S. to call
for the regulation of pharmaceuticals was enacted in 1906.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: The active ingredient in this bottle of Nopaine was cocaine, and “poison” has
been printed on the label. Pharmaceuticals that contained cocaine were not
required to be labeled as “Poison” until 1908 in Great Britain. Nopaine was
manufactured by the company W.R. Black Dental Manufacturing Chemist. A
description of this firm’s display at an exhibition, in a 1921 issue of “The
Dental Surgeon,” paints a picture of a company of that produced and supplied
a large number of dental supplies including other local anesthetics,
antiseptic, toothpaste, modeling waxes and dental rubbers. Regarding Nopaine,
the following was written, “It is well known to most of the dental profession
that Nopaine has a very large output, possibly one of the largest in the
trade.” Pharmaceutical chemist and entrepreneur, W.R. Black was a graduate of
Leeds College of Pharmacy.

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Bell J, Redwood T. Historical Sketch of the Progress of Pharmacy in Great
Britain. London: Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 1880.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Chosen for the WLM website (noted February 26, 2013).

Access Key: akgt
Accession No.: 2006-01-13-1
Title: Dr. J. G. Wilson’s local anaesthetic / Central Chemical Co.

Author: Wilson, J. G.

Corporate Author: Central Chemical Company (Wellsville, New York).

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Dr. J. C. Wilson’s local anaesthetic.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: J.G. Wilson’s local anaesthetic.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: J.C. Wilson’s local anaesthetic.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Wilson’s local anaesthetic.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Wilson’s local anesthetic.

Publisher: Wellsville, New York: Central Chemical Co., [1892-1913].

Physical Descript: 1 bottle : glass, cork, paper, wax ; 7 x 4 cm dia.

Subject: Anesthetics, Local.
Subject: Cocaine.
Subject: Anesthesia, Dental – history.
Subject: Drug Packaging.

Note Type: General
Notes: The early year, 1892, in the range of years for when this bottle of Wilson’s
Local Anaesthetic may have been manufactured is based on an advertisement in
a 1893 publication that states that practitioners have been using the product
for a year. The end year in the range, 1913, is based on the label on this
bottle and on the label as it appears in advertisements. The label when
depicted in advertisements appears to be the same as or very similar to the
label on this bottle until 1913, when the “Food and Drug Act” is printed on
the label in an advertisement. Advertisements from 1910 and 1911 were not
viewed. The date range could change if documentation indicates the range
should be corrected.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: [Advertisement for Dr. J. C. Wilson’s local anaesthetic.] Odontographic J.
April, 1893;14(1):31 [of advertising pages].

Note Type: Citation
Notes: [Advertisement for Dr. J. G. Wilson’s local anaesthetic.] Oral Hygiene. July,
1913;3(7):569.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: [Advertisement for J. G. Wilson’s local anaesthetic.] Oral Hygiene. June,
1920;10(6):1006.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: [Advertisement for Wilson’s local anaesthetic.] Dental Cosmos. April,
1904;46(4):51 [of advertising pages].

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Change in business firm. Allegany County Reporter. March 8, 1904:4.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Howe ME. A History of the Town of Wellsville, New York. Wellsville: Martha
Elston Howe; 1963:146-147.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Wellsville. The Cuba, New York Patriot. March 17, 1904:6.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: One clear glass bottle with a paper label, and a cork; Red wzx covers most of
the cork and the neck of the bottle; The bottle measures approximately 6.6 cm
in heights an 3.8 cm in diameter at the base; The diameter above the neck
measures approximately 3 cm; The label is brown (possibly from age), and is
printed with black markings; Markings include “DR. J. G. [or C.] WILSON’S
[new line] LOCAL ANAESTHETIC [new line] DIRECTIONS. [new line] Inject
thoroughly around and at the roots of the teeth to be extracted. There is no
[new line] danger, use it freely. In extracting a number of teeth, operate
only upon three or four at a time. [new line] No Sloughing of the Gums and is
Perfectly Harmless [new line] CENTRAL CHEMICAL CO. [new line] WELLSVILLE, N.Y.”

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch on January 14, 2013; This box was
photographed with four other dental agent containers.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: The middle initial on this bottle of Dr. J. G. Wilson’s Local Anaesthetic is
quite difficult to read and could be a C. In an advertisement from an April,
1893 issue of the Odontographic Journal the middle initial is clearly the
letter “C.” When the initials were included in an advertisement for this
product most often the middle initial was clearly the letter “G” (ads from
1893 to 1920 were found). This includes an ad from the April, 1896 issue of
The Dental Practitioner and Advertiser. The advertisements from 1893 and 1896
have another difference; the earlier ad states, “We do not depend upon a
cocaine solution …. “, while the latter advertisement lists the ingredients
that comprise Wilson’s Local Anaesthetic and they include, “ … less than 1
per cent. of Cocaine, combined with Trinitrin, Hydronaphthol, Baptisia,
Gaultheria, Thyme, and Benzo-Boracic Acid.” Both advertisements claim that
the local anesthetic causes no sloughing of the gums or toxic effects. The
1896 ad shares the claim printed on this bottle that Wilson’s Local
Anaesthetic is, “Perfectly Harmless.”

Note Type: Citation
Notes: The Central Chemical Company was established in Wellsville, New York in 1892
by three entrepreneurs, two of whom owned the local Central Drug Store. Of
the three, John B. Jones, Herbert B. Smith, and Harry S. Teeple, Herbert B.
Smith was the most active in marketing and growing the company’s sales beyond
New York. “Dr. J. G. Wilson” who is credited with the formulation of the
local anesthetic was a dentist who came to practice in Wellsville in 1872.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Chosen for the WLM website (noted February 26, 2013).

Access Key: akgq
Accession No.: 2012-12-21-1
Title: Dr. R.B. Waite’s local anaesthetic / Antidolor Manufacturing Co.

Author: Waite, R. B. (Ralph Britton), 1871-1965.

Corporate Author: The Antidolor Manufacturing Company.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Dr. R.B. Waite’s antiseptic local anaesthetic.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Dr. R.B. Waite’s local anesthetic.

Publisher: Springville, NY: Antibolor Manufacturing Co., [1909-1925].

Physical Descript: 1 box ; paperboard, paper : 12.5 x 7 x 2.5 cm.

Subject: Cocaine.
Subject: Anesthetics, Local.
Subject: Anesthesia, Dental – history.
Subject: Drug Packaging.

Note Type: General
Notes: The first year, 1909, in the range of years for the possible year of
manufacture is based on the year the first advertisements for this local
anesthetic in ampules. The latest date found for an advertisement of Dr.
Waite’s local anesthetic with cocaine was in 1922. The end year 1925 was
chosen based on this. The date range could change if reliable documentation
indicates the range should be corrected.

Note Type: With
Notes: Held within the box (or container) are 12 glass ampules that taper at both
ends; The ampules measure approximately 10 cm in length and 1 cm in diameter;
The ampules are protected and held in place by three pieces of paperboard;
Also in the box is “7½” point “PROFIT-SHARING CERTIFICATE” and a small cork
cone, which measures approximately 1.2 cm in height and .6 cm at the base.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: [Advertisement of Dr. R. B. Waite’s Antiseptic Local Anaesthetic.] Pract Dent
J. June, 1914;14(6):265.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: [Advertisement for Dr. R. B. Waite’s Antiseptic Local Anaesthetic in
sterilized glass ampules.] Dent Headlight. 1909;30(4):[in unnumbered pages,
12 pages after page 192].

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Concord NY Historical Society – history timeline. Concord Historical Society
website. https://www.townofconcordnyhistoricalsociety.org/timeline.php3.
Accessed March 20, 2013.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Dentist tells of early trials. Olean Times-Herald. September 8, 1938:6.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Manchester AV, Patterson DC. Springville. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing;
2012.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Ring ME. The history of local anesthesia. J Calif Dent Assoc. 2007
Apr;35(4):275-282.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: One box, container, with a telescoping lid, for ampules of a local
anesthetic; The exterior is black and the interior white; A rectangular label
on the front of the box measures approximately 5 x 8 cm; The label is white
with a gold boarder and black and red text; Text in the center of the label
includes,”Dr. R.B. Waite’s [new line] TRADE MARK Registered [new line]
ANTISEPTIC new line] LOCAL ANAESTHETIC [new line] FOR [new line] PAINLESS
OPERATIONS [new line] IN ALL MINOR SURGERY [new line] CONTAINS COCAINE [new
line] MANUFACTURED BY [new line] THE ANTIDOLOR M’F’G CO. [new line]
SPRINGVILLE, Erie Co., N.Y., U.S.A.”; Other text includes, “SEE DR. R.B.
WAITE’S FAC-SIMILE SIGNATURE [new line] DIRECTIONS [new line] Inject all
parts thoroughly and your results will be perfect. Operate immediately or in
about one minute.”; “NON GENUINE WITHOUT THE SIGNATURE [new line] INGREDIENTS
[new line] Cocaine Phenol, Glycerinum, Iodum, Thyme, Eucalyptus,
Mentha-Arvensis, Baptisia, Gaultheria, and Benzo-Boracic Acid [new line] 29.
57 c c CONTAIN 0.344 GRAMMES COCAINE HYDROCHLORIDE (POISON) [new line] THE
ANTIDOLOR M’F’G CO., Springville, N.Y.”; On the center of the back is a label
in the shape of a 26-pointed star; Text on this label includes,”12 [new line]
AMPULES [new line] (2 ½ cc) [new line] Dr. R.B. Waite’s [new line] ANTISEPTIC
[new line] LOCAL ANAESTHETIC [new line] ONE BOX [new line] ONE DOLLAR”.

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch on January 14, 2013; This box was
photographed with four other dental agent containers.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Springville, New York dentist and entrepreneur, Ralph Britton Waite
(1871-1965) preferred to be called “R.B.” He graduated from the Philadelphia
Dental College in 1891. This same year he established the Antidolor
Manufacturing Company and began to produce a solution that the company
claimed kept the dissolved cocaine well preserved and stable for a long
period of time. “R.B. Waite’s Local Anaesthetic” was heavily marketed and
well known among dentists. Around 1914 the Antidolor Manufacturing Co.
obtained a license to manufacture procaine (Novocain). In advertisements from
1914 it was called “Dr. R.B. Waite’s local anaesthetic WITHOUT COCAINE.”
Within a year or two the name changed to include the word Novocain, and later
on the generic term, “procaine”.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Dr. Waite was not the only widely known resident of the Springville area. The
famous football coach, Mr. Glenn “Pop” Warner and Dr. Waite were friends and
golfing companions. Together in the 1920s they laid out the original 9-holes
of the Springville Country Club course.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Dr. Waite may also have been a natural storyteller, as short tales of his
early work and quotes from customers were often woven into advertisements for
the local anesthetics manufactured by the Antidolor Manufacturing Co. Even
the name “Antidolor” hints at a desire for the company name to be more than
just a name (dolor is Latin for “to feel pain”). In describing how Dr.
Waite’s tested the solutions created while developing his cocaine based local
anesthetic, a 1938 newspaper story describes Dr. Waite as recruiting patients
by traveling the countryside in his horse and buggy, “armed with a
hypodermic needle, forceps and an ample supply of his cocaine solution.”
Quotes of Waite included in the story are image provoking: “With a plow beam
or a rail fence for a denial chair, I would prepare the patient for the
extraction.”

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Chosen for the WLM website (noted February 26, 2013).

Access Key: akgr
Accession No.: 2012-01-10-1
Title: Narco toothache drops / North American Remedy Co.

Corporate Author: North American Remedy Company.

Publisher: Philadelphia : North American Remedy Co., [1890-1922].

Physical Descript: 1 container ; paper, paper board : 2.5 x 8 cm.

Subject: Chloroform.
Subject: Ether.
Subject: Anesthetics, Topical.
Subject: Analgesics.
Subject: Anesthesia, Dental – history.
Subject: Drug Packaging.

Note Type: General
Notes: Broad date range based on design of packaging. Also the North American Remedy
Co. is listed in the 1917 Philadelphia City Directory but not in the 1922.
The date range could change if documentation indicates the range should be
corrected.

Note Type: With
Notes: Held inside the cylindrical container is a corked glass vial with a blue
paper label; The vial with cork measures approximately 6.7 cm in height and 1
5 cm in diameter; Most of the markings on the label is dark dark blue, with
the exception of one red line of text; Text on the label includes, “NARCO
(TRADE MARK) Toothache Drops”; Other text on label includes the following in
red print, “Reg. U. S. Pat. Off.”; Again in blue, “Each Fluidounce Contains
[new line] Chloroform 100 Minims [new line] Ether 95 Minims [new line]
Alcohol About 48 Per Cent. [new line] Apply a drop or two on a pellet of
cotton batting and insert in the cavity of the aching tooth. [new line] NORTH
AMERICAN REMEDY CO. [new line] Philadelphia.”

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Street JP. The Composition of Certain Patent and Proprietary Medicines.
Chicago: American Medical Association; 1917.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: One cylindrical paperboard and paper container; The diameter of the cylinder
is approximately 2.5 cm and the length is approximately 7.9 cm; The exterior
is covered in blue paper with dark blue markings, with the exception of three
lines printed in red; Text includes, “”NARCO [new line] (TRADE MARK) [new
line] Reg. U. S. Pat. Off.”; Just to the right of this in blue text is,
“TOOTHACHE [new line] DROPS”; Other text on the container includes, “EACH
FLUIDOUNCE CONTAINS [new line] CHLOROFORM 100 MINIMS [new line] ETHER 95
MINIMS [new line] ALCOHOL ABOUT 48 PER CENT. [new line] Apply a drop or two
on a pellet of cotton batting and insert in the cavity of the aching tooth
[new line] NORTH AMERICAN REMEDY CO. [new line] Philadelphia.”

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch on January 14, 2013; This box was
photographed with four other dental agent containers.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: The term “patent medicines” refers to ‘over-the-counter’ preparations that
generally were not patented, but trademarked. Some of these preparations had
beneficial effects (other than the placebo effect) but some were harmful or
potentially dangerous. Alcohol was a primary ingredient in many patent
medicines. It was not unusual for these preparations to contain drugs such as
cocaine or opium, and early testing by governmental entities found that some
contained poisons such as mercury or strychnine. Unlike some toothache drops
that contained cocaine or opium, the ingredients printed on this container
for “NARCO Toothache Drops” are chloroform, ether and alcohol. The
instructions directed the consumer to “Apply a drop or two on a pellet of
cotton batting and insert in the cavity of the aching tooth.” In 1911 the
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that another product made
by the North American Remedy Co., “Narco Wine of Cod Liver Oil,” tested
positive for the presence of quinine and strychnine (Street, 1917).

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Patent medicines were heavily marketed during the 1800 and early 1900s via a
wide variety of printed materials, including newspapers, magazines, calendars
post cards, and posters. Advertisements painted onto billboards or the sides
of buildings were not uncommon. The often the makers of patent medicines
marketed their creations as remedies for a limitless number of ailments. For
example, “Dr. Guysott’s Extract of Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla” was touted
by its manufacturer as a permanent cure for the following conditions, and
more: corrupt humors, dyspepsia, liver complaints, diarrhea, ulcers, tumors,
syphilis, consumption, fever, piles, and rheumatism. These products were
purchased for a number of reasons, including the same reasons people respond
to advertising today, but in the 1800s and early 1900s there were few
effective prescription medicines for physicians to recommend. Additionally,
many people could not afford or did not have access to a physician, and some
were suspicious of physicians. With few alternatives and little guidance
patent medicines offered hope and were a popular choice. During the late
1800s a number of journalists and activists, later referred to as
‘muckrakers’, began to write and speak on the dangers posed by the
unregulated patent medicine industry. As the public became more informed,
congress and regulators were compelled to enact effective safeguards. In the
U.S. this began with the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. As regulations were
gradually strengthened, the unsubstantiated claims and dangerous ingredients
in patent medicines declined.

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Valuck RJ, Poirier S, Mrtek RG. Patent medicine muckraking: influences on
American pharmacy, social reform, and foreign authors. Pharmacy in Hist.
1992;34(4):183-192.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Chosen for the WLM website (noted February 26, 2013).