In the 1890s the back page of many small town newspapers were filled with ads for patent medicines. There are many cringe-worthy ads from the era, but this is my favorite. This ad greeted readers of the Hood River Sun in 1899, and evidences an inordinate concern with digestive regularity.
Cascarets were one of the blockbuster drug store products of the 1890s. Given that this laxative candy derived from a tree bark was an alternative to swallowing spoons of castor oil, it's no wonder. You'll be happy to know a small tin box of Cascarets are in the collection of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.
Glad I ate breakfast BEFORE reading this.
Kenn on 6th November 2015 @ 7:03am
Jeesh....nothing like getting right to the point.
When I was a kid, a lot of the boys would strip Cascara bark to sell.
L.E. on 6th November 2015 @ 7:34am
When young used to make spending money peeling "chittum" bark-indian word- from cascara trees on the coast. Every kid had to lick it once to see if it worked. It did.
Buzz on 6th November 2015 @ 7:51am
While most patent medicines were alcohol based placebos, this one probably was an effective laxative. As L.E. and Buzz have pointed out, the active ingredient was Cascara bark. It was used in OTC laxatives up until 2002 when the FDA ordered it removed because of lack of studies to prove its safety and effectiveness. Apparently the manufacturers didn't see enough money in those products to pay for the studies needed by the FDA.
Arthur on 6th November 2015 @ 9:41am
WOW, what an "attractive" advertisement.....I especially like the free offer...how kind.
Arlen Sheldrake on 6th November 2015 @ 9:52am
Wasn't it just a few photos back that we were complimenting the graphics of this era?
L.E. on 6th November 2015 @ 9:59am
When I was a kid I and my grandpa collected this bark too. I climbed the tree's, (tree climbing was not just for boys), and carefully slit, split, and peeled the bark from the branches, dropping it to the ground where he stuffed it into gunnysacks. We would take the wet bark home and lay it out on the upper portion of our horse pasture to dry and then break it up into smaller pieces using a baseball bat as a plunger inside of a metal garbage can. We then rebagged it in sacks and sewed them shut for shipment to a pharmaceutical company. This was in the early 1970's.
This reminds me of a ditty I once wrote in memory of this foul stuff.
Mr. Clark on a lark, got himself some "chittum" bark.
He chewed it in, then spat it out, and soon began to dance and shout.
He held his stomach, then his rear, and wished that he could disappear.
We'd give a penny for his thoughts, for "chittum" bark gave him the trots.
But we will ask another time, when Clark is feeling more sublime.
Lesa on 12th March 2016 @ 3:33pm