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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What WAS Momma feedin' this kid??

In honor of my friend, Donna, from Maine, I am focusing today's entry on one of the best and rarest trade cards in my collection: Dr. John F. True's Pin Worm Elixir, made originally in Auburn, Maine. Boy, is this a story waiting to be told!

In the 19th century, people worried a good deal about getting worms. Some of the concern was warranted and some of their fear was drilled into them by ads and notices of itinerants who claimed their medicines had successfully extracted worms of gigantic proportions. I just read one such itinerant's claim in a Lynn, Massachusetts newspaper from 1875 of a patient who had been relieved of a worm 147 feet long! More likely, the only big thing that had been "passing through" was the itinerant himself once he had a sufficient dose of his patients' money.

Adults and children were equally susceptible to getting worms by eating food containing tapeworm segments and eggs or pinworm eggs. Yum.

Dr. John F. True's Pin Worm Elixir was one of the best-selling anthelmintics (dewormers) in the 19th century. Bottle diggers in New England find his bottles all the time. Skinny little bottle, big fat claims. In the attached trade card (circa early 1870s), the Lincolnesque doctor tells you with a straight face,

Being a mild and gentle laxative, it is a corrective of the greatest value. ... It has also expelled several lizards, one eight inches in length, is spotted, belongs to the water species, and looks like a veritable young aligator.

There were lots of medicines back then promising to remove worms, but as far as I know, only True's promised to remove lizards and alligators. No wonder there are so many of those bottles being found now.

By the way, the world is still full of tapeworms and pinworms today. Well look at that - it's almost lunchtime!


  1. I loved the highlight of lizards and alligators. This is good stuff.

  2. Ha ha! Umm, I think I'll skip lunch! :o)


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