Hal Roth - October 2008

Old News from Delmarva:
A Sure Cure
Hal Roth

   When sharing stories, people frequently punctuate their tales with the emphatic statement: “Now this is the truth!” I once wrote an article under that banner, which later became the title piece for a book. I added three words to the book title, however, that brought frowns from several of the narrators who were quoted: “… and other lies.”
I am often reminded of people’s enthusiasm for such things when reading old newspapers and coming across the term “sure cure,” often touted in medicine ads, letters to the editor and other reports. Consider this first offering, published in 1817:

   A sure cure of cancer in three days and without surgical operation consists simply in a piece of dough, about the size of a small hen’s egg, and a lump of hog’s lard, the older the better, of the same dimensions. These substances, thoroughly mixed, so as to form a kind of salve, must be spread on a piece of white leather and applied to the diseased part.

   Here are a few of the other cures I have collected from Delmarva newspapers over the years – some of them “sure” or “positive” or “permanent” or “infallible” or “guaranteed,” and others perhaps not.

   For Removing A Cancer – Take three living Toads, put them in a new earthen crock, cover them thick with flower of Brimstone, and cover the crock tight, so that no steam escapes, set it on a coal pile, and roast them, until you are able to make both Toads and brimstone into a fine powder. Then wash your cancer with sour wine and apply this powder on the cancer while wet, four times a day. Be careful at uncovering it, not to inhale any of the perfumes of the Brimstone. This is a simple but sure cure. – 1846

   An Exchange gives the following sure cure for hydrophobia: The bite must be bathed as soon as possible with warm vinegar and water, and when this has dried, a few drops of muriatic acid poured upon the wound will destroy the poison of the saliva and relieve the patient from all present or future danger. – 1869

   By 1888, however, the “Philadelphia Medical and Surgical Record” suggested an even surer cure for rabies: Ignore it, and it will go away.

   Let our readers take note that hydrophobia does not seem able to bear the face of skepticism; that it disappears where it is not talked about; that it flourishes where it is cultivated, as in France, and does not exist among savages and unenlightened people. And let them sift carefully any case which seems like hydrophobia, as to its history and symptoms; let them eschew violence of act or of medication in treating it, and see what the result will be.

   I hereby append a recipe that has been used to my knowledge in hundreds of cases. It will prevent or cure the small pox though the pittings are fillings [sic]. It is as unfailing as fate and conquers in every instance. It is harmless when taken by a well person. It will also cure scarlet fever. Here is the recipe as I have used it, and cured my children of scarlet fever. Here it is as I have used it to cure small pox. When learned physicians said the patient must die, it cured: Sulfate of zinc, one grain; foxglove digitalis, one grain; half a teaspoonful of sugar; mix with two tablespoonfuls of water. Take a tablespoonful every hour, and either disease will disappear in twelve hours. For a child, smaller doses according to age. If this were used there would be no need of pest houses. I have tried it recently and recommend it as a sure cure. – 1873

   No fatal results may be feared from yellow fever if the person attacked takes a tumbler full of olive oil with the juice of a lime squeezed into it as soon as the symptoms appear. This dose should be repeated till vomiting and purging ensue. This is infallible in checking the virulence of the complaint, and a speedy convalescence invariably follows. – 1899

   Physicians say that celery is a sure cure for rheumatism. Indeed, it is asserted that the disease is impossible if the vegetable be cooked and freely eaten. The celery should be cut into pieces and boiled in water until soft and the water drunk by the patient. Put new milk, with a little flour and nutmeg, into a saucepan with the boiled celery, serve it warm with pieces of toast, eat it with potatoes, and the painful ailment will soon yield. Such is the declaration of a physician who has again and again tried the experiment and with uniform success. He adds that cold or damp never produces but simply develops the disease, of which acid blood is the primary and sustaining cause, and that while the blood is alkaline there can be neither rheumatism nor gout. – 1902

   I will guarantee that my Rheumatism Cure will relieve lumbago, sciatica and all rheumatic pains in two or three hours and cure it a few days. MUNYON
At all druggists, 25 cents a vial. – 1898

   Doctors are giving a new cure for consumption, which consists of equal parts of raw vegetables. The vegetables selected are scrubbed with a brush in fresh water, then mixed and chopped until the particles are small enough to go into the receiver of a grinding machine, where the mass is reduced to a pulp. This is then collected and the juices squeezed out. Two ounces of this nourishing juice are given twice a day after meals. These juices are said to be the long sought for elements of diet needed to cure obstinate cases, where the lesions in the lungs persisted after the ravages of the disease had been apparently checked. – 1872

   A writer in the Baltimore Sun says: It may interest your readers and the public in general to know that during the great influenza epidemic in London in 1890 the board of health of that city advised the public afflicted with the disease to make an abundant use of hot lemonade. The perspiration caused thereby is in most cases sufficient to relieve the patient of severe colds and consequent complication, and does away with quinine or other drugs, which often have unpleasant results. In bronchial troubles the acid of lemons relieves the irritation of the throat, acting at the same time as a natural disinfectant. Fresh lemon juice, even when diluted in small proportions with water, will kill the cholera bacillus, hence it is not surprising that it will also destroy this so called influenza bacillus. – 1899

   TO CURE FISTULA AND POLE EVIL – For fistula, take your pen-knife and cut in about half an inch wide on the top of the shoulder, as the case may be, then put in a stick of caustic half an inch long and let it remain; and if the first fails to cure, repeat it, and a sure cure is guaranteed. It has been often tried and has never been known to fail.
Proceed in the same way with a case of pole evil, using bluestone in the place of caustic, and it is certain to cure. – 1873

   A FREE CURE FOR CONSUMPTION, bronchitis, asthma, catarrh, throat and lung diseases. Also a sure relief and permanent cure for general debility, dyspepsia and all nervous affections, by a simple vegetable medicine, which cured a venerable missionary Physician who was long a resident of Syria and the East, and who has freely given this valuable specific to thousands of kindred sufferers with the greatest possible benefits, and he now feels it his sacred Christian duty to impart to others this wonderful invigorating remedy, and will send FREE the original recipe complete with full directions to any person enclosing stamp for reply. – Dr. Clark A. Robbins, Greeley Block, Syracuse, N.Y. (P.O. Box 76.) – 1877

   Farmer Richard Jacks has formed a company called the Sanitary Investment Association. The company will turn out some tens of thousands of antisnorers a week. The antisnorer is made of garter elastic and looks like the skeleton of a mask. It muzzles the mouth and is not only a sure cure for snoring but also prevents the formation of wrinkles, and the company insures the purchaser of a mask against consumption. Jacks’ wife got a divorce from him on account of snoring about 25 years ago, and he has been working on the patent ever since. – 1897

   Since I haven’t seen any “antisnorers” at Wal-Mart recently, I guess the snorers of America must have paid off Farmer Jacks to avoid having to wear a muzzle to bed at night. And could the breweries have bought the patent to Golden Specific, advertised in the next clipping?

   A sure cure for drunkards – Any lady can do it at home – A noted Salvation Army worker says: “I think the world owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Haines, the discoverer of Golden Specific.”
A new tasteless and odorless discovery which can be given in tea, coffee or food. Heartily endorsed by W. C. T. U. and all temperance workers. It does its work so silently and surely that while the devoted wife, sister or daughter looks on, the drunkard is reclaimed even against his will and without his knowledge. – 1906

   Moon Cure For Bald Heads: The bald headed should take two ounces of bear’s grease, one dram of the ashes of burned bees, one dram of the ashes of southern wood, one dram of the juice of a white lily root, one dram of oil of sweet almonds and six drams of pure musk. Make an ointment of these, and the day before the full moon shave the place and anoint it every day. – 1906

   The leading scientists of today agree that most diseases are caused by disordered Kidneys or Liver. If, therefore, the Kidneys and Liver are kept in perfect order, perfect health will be the result. This truth has only been known a short time, and for years people suffered great agony without being able to find relief. The discovery of Warner’s Safe Kidney and Liver Cure marks a new era in the treatment of these troubles. Made from a simple tropical leaf of rare value, it contains just the elements necessary to nourish and invigorate both of these great organs, and safely restore and keep them in order. It is a POSITIVE Remedy for all the diseases that cause pains in the lower part of the body – for Torpid Liver, Headaches, Jaundice, Dizziness, Gravel, Fever, Ague, Malarial Fever, and all difficulties of the Kidneys, Liver and Urinary Organs.
    It is an excellent and safe remedy for females during Pregnancy. It will control Menstruation and is invaluable for Leucorrhea or Falling of the Womb.
        As a Blood Purifier it is unequaled, for it cures the organs that make the blood.
This remedy, which has done such wonders is put up in the LARGEST SIZED BOTTLE of any medicine upon the market, and is sold by Druggists and all dealers at $1.25 per bottle. For Diabetes, enquire for WARNER’S SAFE DIABETES CURE. It is a POSITIVE Remedy. – 1881

   Sassafras has been recommended to prevent or cure many things over the years. As one fellow claimed: It’s “good for everybody,” but is this reporter putting us on with that name?

   “It’s twelve years now since I began to supply the market with sassafras, said Thomas Sapp the other day. Mr. Sapp is a tall and portly gentleman; his hair is gray and he wears on his chin a tuft of whiskers of the same shade. “Yes, sir, I’ve been in this line twelve years, and I have some customers now that I had at the first. When I started out, I didn’t have much of a trade, but I have built it up until now I get rid of about $900 worth a year. Oh, yes, it’s a pretty fair business. You see the sassafras that I sell and that which is sold in the stores are two different things. I cut mine when the sap is in the root; the stores get theirs when the sap is in the boughs, making leaves. I calculate that sassafras is good for everybody.
   “Sassafras has different effects upon different people. The best way to take it is to eat a little of it every day. Some folks will take a whole bunch and chew it down at once. That’s no way. Some others will boil it down, get the strength out of it and drink it all at once. That’s no way, neither. The way to do is to eat it a little at a time. It relaxes the system and opens the pores, letting the impurities pass out in that way. Now there’s one man that I have sold to for twelve years, and from the fact that during all that time he has been in one place and at one desk, I suspect that he’s a pretty steady man. He says it does him good, and I guess it does. What does the sassafras tree look like? Well, well, now, the sassafras tree looks like – it looks like – I should say that it resembles – well, it looks more like the black gum than anything else that I know of. It’s a great tree. – 1887

   I’m taking a chance on sneaking this 1846 sure cure announcement past the Tidewater Times censors.

   There are two ways to treat a Secret Disease. The first, so much boasted of, is merely the temporary disappearance of the symptoms by means of mercury or copaiva [sic]. It requires but a day or two, but it is very injurious indeed. The second way is to eradicate it out of the system, slowly, safely and surely.
    Thirty odd years of experience in the scientific practice of curing Secret Diseases in Paris and America have enabled the French Doctor of the French Medical House, 16 South Frederick Street, near Second Street, to eradicate the most virulent disease, no matter from what cause it may have originated, in a very short but reasonable time. Victims of an improper treatment and wearied with disappointment may confidently apply. Persons who have injured their Health by a certain practice called solitary vice, which brings impotency, will be restored to prime vigor. This is the only place in BALTIMORE where a sure cure can be had on written guaranty and forfeiture with strict honesty and terms moderate. The most respectable city references will be given.  Advice gratis.

   And finally, did Dr. Campbell discover the greatest cure of all?

   A truth well known to all really intelligent physicians and worthy to be known to all men and women was plainly declared by Dr. Campbell in a lecture delivered recently to medical students.
“Nature,” said he. “Nature cures diseases, gentlemen. Never forget that. When you get into practice and begin to prescribe largely, you will begin to overlook that fact and to think that you and your medicines cure. As soon as you do so, you begin to kill.” – 1855

   If you have any old news to share, you can reach Hal Roth at nanbk@dmv.com.