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Maybe It's Medicine, Maybe It's Make-believe

Clarendon I. Shoop, the founder of Dr. Shoop’s Family Medicine Company, first opened his medical practice in Racine, WI in 1883. By 1890, he had established a full line of cure-all “patent” medicines which he sold door to door. His company was incorporated June 30, 1891 and he soon built a six story building to operate from. Medicines like his Cough Remedy were called “patent” medicines, but they were not actually patented. Medicines were sold under this guise to make them seem reliable to consumers while allowing the manufacturer to omit the ingredients list. This particular bottle of Cough Remedy was made sometime after the 1906 Food and Drug Act (the FDA) that made the manufacturing and selling of “adulterated and fraudulent” food and drugs illegal. Before the FDA, Dr. Shoop called it his Cough Cure, but had to start using the word “remedy” instead to stay within government guidelines (surprise, it wasn’t a cure!) Dr. Shoop was so confident in his medicines that he offered to pay for the medical treatment of any person who didn’t feel better after taking his concoctions.

The small vial of white powder is “Matt J. Johnson’s Hay Fever, Catarrh, and Flu Remedy.” Catarrh is the excessive buildup and/or excretion of mucus in the nostrils and throat. Johnson worked out of Eau Claire, WI. This powder was meant to be sniffed to help alleviate symptoms. It could also be dissolved in warm water to be used as a mouthwash to cure foul breath.


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