A heavenly cure?

Houghton Library Blog 2014-06-12

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection

As you look at the cover of this pamphlet you might wonder what divine content might hide within its covers, well that would be… The Pink Pills!  The Pink Pills for Pale People were introduced in 1886 by Dr. William Frederick Jackson and supposedly helped with anemia and fatigue.  This type of product is known as a patent medicine or a compound that was both promoted and sold as a medical cure but was simply hucksterism at its finest.  Patent medicine in its early days was known as nostrum remedium, or “our remedy’ in Latin.  It is especially misleading since these products are not actually patented, but trademarked.

The promotion of patent medicines was one of the first major products highlighted by the advertising industry, and we can see many of the techniques pioneered by them still in use today.  These types of “cures” were widespread in the early 20th-century and included liniments with snake oil, which is supposedly where the term snake oil salesman originates.


The back cover depicting a Santa figure with his sack full of pink pills is particularly manipulative as the logo touts that they regenerate or refresh the blood and are a tonic for nerves. 

This item can be found at the Countway Library at the Harvard Medical School in Longwood. Almanach Pink.[Paris ?] : [publisher not identified], [1902-]. RM671.P6 A44.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager and Joan Thomas, Rare Book Cataloger at Countway for contributing this post.