Friday, January 13, 2023

Pain Killers of the 19th Century- Opiods and Alcohol

 By Kimberly Grist

As I was researching medical treatments in the 19th century, I ran across some interesting articles that were actually advertisements for "Dr. Pierce's Golden Medical Discovery Pills," "Dr. Pierce's Favorite Prescription Tablets," and "Dr. Pierce's Pleasant Pellets" which were peddled for all sorts of "female ailments" like hysteria, fatigue, and menstruation pains.

Today's over-the-counter drugs market was valued at over 300 billion dollars in 2018 and is estimated to exceed $491 billion by 2024.

It is also readily available and highly regulated. In the 19th century, unregulated secret formulas such as the above-mentioned patent medication were also substantial money makers.


In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Dr. Ray Pierce became famous for his patent mail-order medicines.
They were advertised widely and sold directly to the public.

According to Charles Oleson’s Secret Nostrums and Systems of Medicine (1906), the ingredients of Dr. Pierce's Favorite Prescription included digitalis, opium, and alcohol.

Alcohol for Medicinal Purposes
During the 19th Century, Alcohol was used in various forms as medication for various ailments, including cough and snake bites, and was the main pain-killer used in surgery.

Many farmers produced alcohol as a cash crop, which was in itself not illegal, but after the installation of the IRS and by 1865, the tax on alcohol was two dollars per gallon, up to twelve times the cost of making liquor. Many farmers found it cheaper and easier to transport corn as mash to feed livestock or use in the distillery business and refused to discontinue distribution or pay the tax. Such people became known as “moonshiners” because they operated their illegal stills at night.

Bethel: Runaway Brides of The West - Book 18
While researching the luxury tax implemented in 1862, my imagination took flight as I considered what it might have been like to be a young woman living in a state left destitute by the war, with few resources. What choice might I have made if my family's next meal depended on the revenue earned from Apple or Peach Brandy and corn liquor? Life as a bootlegger wasn't easy. What extreme measures would you have taken to avoid being caught or escape?

Daughter of a traveling merchant, Bethel is tired of peddling her Daddy’s "Special Sauce" and being run out of town by every sheriff east of the Mississippi. That’s why she’s heading west. She just needs to sell a few more bottles to help fund her trip. After all, who wants to meet their new husband looking like a gypsy? If only she could shake off this pesky detective waiting at the stage stop.

Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th -century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance, emphasizing Faith, Friends, and Good, Clean Fun.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your post and Happy New Year! In regards to medication, I'm grateful for progress and regulation!! You pose an age-old question as far as earning income for supporting our families and earning income.