On this Day 23rd February 1918

Remedies for All Ills

February 23rd 1918. It’s Saturday morning, and time to relax with the Cornishman. Although these days, with the war dragging on so, the Saturday edition is just the same as the Thursday edition: same old news. In the same column: “Russian Surrender” – but also “Successful Raids” in France, and bombers shot down even as they threatened London itself.

Throughout the land, though, a new threat is making itself felt. There is illness – a lot of it – about. So perhaps, as you feel a little bit of a tickle in your throat, a little bit of a shiver in your shoulders, it’s time to jot down some remedies to bring home from town and store up in the larder. After all, as the advertisement for Holroyd’s Gravel Pills says, “Tomorrow May Be Too Late. Get a Box Today”.

Of course there are the usuals. Dr Cassell’s Tablets for that “torpid liver”, those “windy spasms”. Zam-buk for everything from pimples to ringworm. Widow Welch’s Female Pills and all rest of the small ads claiming that if you need to get rid of female “irregularities” - even the “obstinate and unyielding cases” - their products will do the trick. Products to which your household, living upright lives as they do, has thankfully never needed to resort.

But some of the weapons in the chemist’s armoury carry their own testimonials. Take Clarke’s Blood Mixture for example. Here’s Mrs Trevis of Portsmouth: three useless operations for a nasty “discharge from the bone”; a course of Dr Clarke’s and she’s completely cured. It purifies the blood, you see. Gets rid of scrofula, leg abscesses, gout and a whole host of other wearing conditions at only 2/9d a bottle.

You need some prevention, perhaps. Something to buck you up in these dark, wintry days. Newman’s Fortreviver might do the trick. It’s British-made, which is welcome reassurance after all that trouble with Sanatogen at the start of the war. “A pyramid of strength in every bottle”. Davy’s in Market Jew Street stock it, only 4/6d for the large size. It’s recommended after a morning’s shopping – which is only sensible, what with all the queuing and worry that putting food on the table involves these days. You can’t even get butter from the butter factory any more – all going up country, every ounce.

And what about Sanatogen itself? They’re going to rename it Genatosan soon, so that everyone knows what they're buying and – more important –that they’re not supporting the Hun. But you can’t deny that it’s the best: just tuppence a dose, the powder, and it “re-animates all the molecular activities of your body…., invigorates harmlessly the thinking matter in the uppermost strands of your brain…. smooths out the lines of worry and depression”.

Then there’s the old favourite, Veno’s. Under a shilling a bottle and the “surest cure” for asthma, whooping cough, the worrying taste of blood in the mouth. Yes, and influenza too. That’s what everyone’s starting to worry about now. Influenza.

Perhaps postpone that trip to town. Weather not looking too good. Bank up the slab, save your money. Wait and see, and perhaps better stick to the old favourites. After all, as everyone knows, Mother Seigel’s Syrup is the “Ideal Family Medicine”. And “Box’s Pills Save Doctors’ Bills”.

Cornishman 23rd February 1918

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Penwith Local History Group
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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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Sally Corbet

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