March 16, 1982


(Names and other words that could not be transcribed exactly are in italics. Unknown voices are referred to as “man” or “woman.” There were several women present during this meeting, but no way of knowing who was who, so I can only refer to them as “Woman.” Comments, explanations, and additional names are in parentheses.)


Harold Fenlason: . . . became quite a process, so to do that, we always had a balance, and the one that was in use then was what was called a torsion balance. You might be interested to know that I remember a nice little thing - a little box like this about this - about that long, about this square and it had a cover on it to protect it from dust. It wasn’t terribly accurate, not anything like a good analytical balance but pretty fair, and those balances cost about $60. Talking with young Erickson, I asked him if he had a balance. He said yes, and I asked him, “Do you have a torsion balance?” “Oh yes.” I said, “Well my memory says $60, what’s yours? And, he said “Somewhere between $350 and $400.” Of course that’s pretty much in line with the differences in price. Now, we also for liquids had to use graduals, and these were glass of course and they were tapered and all sizes, and a foot on the bottom, and not like they use in chemistry so much where they use cylindrical graduals, but these were tapered and on one side they had English measure and on the other side they had metric measure, because even back then we did quite a lot of work in metrics.


Millie Winckler: Excuse me, Harold, did you use apothecary’s weights?


Harold Fenlason: Yes, yes.


Millie Winckler: In school we had to learn apothecary’s weights, I remember.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, yes, thanks Millie, I’m glad you spoke of that. Not only were English and metric measurements, but a measurement of apothecary’s weight, and this was a funny one. 20 grains make one scruple. Do you remember that?


Millie Winckler: Yes.


Harold Fenlason: And so many scruples made a gram and so many grams - I think it was 8 grams to the ounce. I remember, and four - which way? There was one that had 437 and ½ grains to the ounce and another one that had 480. I think the apothecary’s had 480, but the avoirdupois had 437 and ½ grains to the ounce. Then you combine these two things and the metric and then try to decide what you were working in. Then the doctors would scrawl these things and they have funny looking symbols and sometimes it was quite a job to figure out what they really wanted. If you got stuck you had to call the doctor. That’s true. We had all those weights.


Woman: Harold, were you allowed to make up compounds yourself?


Harold Fenlason: Yes.


Woman: What training was required?


Harold Fenlason: I just hung around Fred Twist’s store and he showed me. That’s different from what it is - -


Woman: Did you have a Materia Medica to consult?


Harold Fenlason: Oh, yes, yes. We had a Materia Medica. We had the - I’ll talk about that right now. We had the U.S.P. which is the United States Pharmacopeia. We had the N. F. which is the National Formulary. And, there was another book, and I have one at home but I can’t get at it, because the building is covered with snow. I can’t get in. Remington’s Practice of Pharmacy. It’s about this thick, and it combines materials from both the pharmacopeia and the National Formulary. And this you would be interested in hearing - I talked to this young fellow, Erickson, and I said “What about books? What reference books do you use? Do you still use the old U.S.P. and N.F.?” He said, “Well, they have been combined into one book and modernized.” And, he said, “We still have that book and we still use it.” It must have been a considerable amount of modernizing because I know very well that many of the things in those books are archaic by now. And, they still use them. So, that was of quite some interest. Going on with equipment, of course we had mortar and pestles, and these are the big bowls and they had them even from - well we had little bits of ones that we used to make - for making eye solutions and then we had one almost this big when we made big batches of powder.


Jane Dudley: They were porcelain, weren’t they?


Harold Fenlason: No.


Jane Dudley: They were white.


Harold Fenlason: They were white but it wasn’t porcelain. It was a soft, almost - -


Jane Dudley: Alabaster?


Harold Fenlason: Yes, maybe. Something sticks in my mind - the thing sticks in my mind - almost like Wedgewood. And, they - - the process was this. If you had to make powders, you’d weigh out your powder and dump it into this thing, and then you’d take the pestle and you stirred it. You’d be interested to know that you never stirred it this way - never. You always stirred this way. I don’t know why but if you stirred it the wrong way, you were a rank amateur and you just didn’t know anything about pharmacy. You must stir toward the left all the time, and you had a spatula, and after you stirred a while you scraped the bottom with the spatula and kind of folded it over and then stirred some more, and went on and on and finally got the powder made. And if there were any signs of lumps in it, you put it through a sifter because you couldn’t have any lumps. So that was a part of the thing. We also had a glass for making ointments. I understand now they use - instead of using a glass very much, they use these glazed papers and when they’re through they just throw the paper away. We used to make ointments and there were a lot of them. We’d weigh out the stuff, and sometimes you’d have oh things like Vaseline, cold cream, and oh, what’s the one that - -


Woman: Unguentine?

Harold Fenlason: Unguentine, yes, that was one that went in. There was a - it doesn’t matter, I’ll think of it. But what you’d have - these ointments, and then they’d incorporate powders into them to make a special ointment for a special thing. I remember we used to make a sulphur ointment for itch. People had a case of itch and some doctor would prescribe this sulphur ointment and we’d mix it up on the slab.


Woman: All you had to do was take some lard and sulphur and mix it.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, yes, that’s right.


Woman: You made a blue ointment with maybe mercury for lice.


Harold Fenlason: That’s right. Blue Butter, it was called. Blue Butter, you’re right.


Jane Dudley: And, everyone who had blue hair, you knew. (Laughter)


Pliney Frost: If I may comment just a bit, I remember a solution of sulphur and lard and kerosene that was used for the itch.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, yes. There were great things.


Woman: First time lard was used for (indistinct words).


Harold Fenlason: To go on, of course we had to use funnels for filtering things, and we used a hydrometer jar. This was a cylindrical thing and it was quite high, like this - about that big - and this was for finding specific gravity of liquids. And, you’d have a hydrometer and you’d put the liquid in the jar and drop it in and read it off just about like you do with battery acid now as far as that goes. But, it was bigger. I don’t think - they don’t have any of those any more in drug stores.


Woman: Why would you need to know the specific gravity of any liquid?


Harold Fenlason: Well, that’s the measure of its concentration.


Woman: Oh, I see. Yes. Un huh.


Harold Fenlason: See, if it had a higher specific gravity, you could translate that into a percentage of strength, and that’s why they had that. I asked about some machines of this young fellow and I’ll just run through the machines and then I’ll tell you about each of them - a little. We had a pill tile. We had a pill roller and a pill cutter. We had a conceal machine. We had a suppository machine, and this was - one thing before my time was a percolator. I asked the young fellow - I said I bet I know one you don’t have and that’s a percolator. He said “Only for coffee.” So, that is all gone and I never used a percolator when I was there, but its use was to digest drugs with alcohol or alcohol and water and so forth and make a solution of some kind, but that’s a very old machine, and as I say, it’s even beyond my time. But, these others. I made pills and this is quite a little trick. You’d again put a powder together and you’d use what they called a pill incipient which was a sticky liquid that was used to bind the powder together. Gum arabic was one and one - I’m going to blow this name, I know - gum trajacins. (Gum tragacanth in my dictionary)


Woman: Yes, trajacins.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, ins on that word. That’s a terrible word. But, we used those and it helped to bind the powder together and then after you got that all together in a mass, you rolled it out in a roll about like a pencil like this and you rolled it to a certain length, and then you had this pill tile - that’s the way I did it. And, you laid it on there and there were little marks all along. Say if you wanted ten pills you’d roll this out until it was ten of those little marks long. take a spatula and cut it off. And, then you’d take these little increments and roll ‘em and you’d come out with a round pill. And we’d use a powder - you’d use a powder after you got all through - like a podian which kept it from sticking. And so, that was a very interesting thing. But, they don’t do that any more. This young fellow said he had never made a pill in his life. And I said (indistinct words)


Jane Dudley: Harold, all these things would be collectibles.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, yes. As a matter of fact, down in the Augusta library there is a book on these collectibles. And, I consulted that and I not only got some of this stuff but some other things from it. And, I know very well that I’ll never finish what I want to tell you so I’ll go as long as I think I’m not boring you and then I’ll quit. So, this pill thing - that was how it went. There was a conceal machine. A conceal was a little rice flour disk, and - well, you know, it was about like this and it came and made a little scoop across and then another little lip and then you could put and seal it together.


Woman: I remember them.


Harold Fenlason: And, the purpose of those was to put powders in there and then, at least theoretically, the patient swallowed this thing and didn’t taste the very bitter powders as they frequently were very bitter. And, we used those. I’ve made a good many conceals so I’m familiar with them. We also had a suppository machine.


Woman: I used to have one.


Harold Fenlason: You know, over the counter we used to sell glycerine suppositories, but then doctors would recommend these special suppositories and we had a machine that was - oh, long like that and had a barrel on it and a crank out on the end, and you - went through all this business and put them in and come out with this mess of suppositories which you gave to the patient. But, they don’t have those any more. They just don’t make them at all.


Woman: The drug companies have taken over. They make all this stuff by machine.


Harold Fenlason: Oh yes. At the present time - I asked this fellow particularly, and I’ll go into that next, about the types of materials that they have in the modern drug store, and I think he exaggerated a little because he didn’t want to admit that we had gone completely away from the old time methods. But, you go into a drug store with a prescription and I’ll guarantee that probably 90% of the time you’ll come out with a little bottle of pills or capsules maybe. That’s what you get. You don’t get a liquid. You don’t get a powder. You don’t get, of course. hand made pills. But, I just jotted down here the things that we used to have. We had fluid extracts, tinctures, syrups, elixirs, powdered extracts, a thing called spirits, and we also made - I should have had this in the other part - a thing called an emulsion which was a combination of oil and water and it was a very tricky thing to make. There also were commercial emulsions. Some of you may remember a grand old one, Scott’s Emulsion.


Woman: Yes, Scott’s Emulsion. It had cod liver oil in it.


Harold Fenlason: Cod live oil, an emulsion of cod liver oil. An emulsion is merely a mix - not a mixture, but a combination of oil and water put together in a certain routine so it came out creamy. If you didn’t do that you just had a mess of oil and water in the bottle and that was pretty rough, but this was a thing that we used to make.


Woman: We had Scott’s Emulsion every winter. It was the only way we ever got cod liver oil.


Harold Fenlason: Sure, sure. Oh, yes. It was a great thing. So, as I say, this young fellow said oh yes he had a few fluid extracts. He had some tinctures. He had a lot of syrups and I think he was exaggerating a little.


Millie Winckler: Harold, common drugs in the home were Syrup of Ipecac.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, that’s right.


Woman: Sweet spirits of niter, paregoric, and those three that we were never without. You used niter if you had a fever. You used paregoric if you had a belly ache, and you used ipecac if somebody had swallowed something they shouldn’t, or if they were coughing a lot. They used it as an expectorant, as well as an emetic. (Interspersed with “yes” from Harold Fenlason.)


Harold Fenlason: That’s right. That was a very famous syrup. Let me dwell just for a minute on paregoric, because this has a nice little story with it. Paregoric’s technical name is camphorated tincture of opium.


Woman: That’s what it is.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, and it, of course, is a narcotic but it was sold under the classification of exempt narcotics. What the druggist had to do every time he sold paregoric, say if he sold 72 ounces - he would take their name and write it in a book and say that on such and such a date John Jones got two ounces of paregoric and that was open for inspection to the narcotics fellow who came around.


Woman: Still does. (Indistinct talking in the background)


Harold Fenlason: There were certain families, or certain people, who really were what we called paregoric fiends, and their practice was to go from drug store to drug store and if they could con some unsuspecting clerk into selling them four ounces or eight ounces, they’d love it. But, anybody who had been in the drug store any length of time would say “Oh, no. I’ll give you two ounces. That’s it.” Then you could only get two ounces every so often. You’d come in the next day and they’d say “No, sorry, can’t do it.” But, this paregoric among other things was used to put on baby’s or small children’s gums.


Woman: When they were cutting their teeth.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, when they were cutting their teeth, that’s right. Of course, it was a narcotic. It worked very well, and I guess some rather unscrupulous parents were not above giving these little kids a slug of paregoric when they wouldn’t go to sleep. I’m sure that was done. Not the best thing to do but they did it.


Woman: What about laudanum?


Harold Fenlason: Laudanum, that is tincture of opium. And, of course, that in my memory was never an exempt narcotic. That was a real narcotic. A long time before this laudanum was something you could go out and buy and it’s use created drug addicts because it was just - - a tincture is an alcoholic solution and it was an alcoholic solution of opium. That’s all it was.


Woman: What was it used for?


Harold Fenlason: Well, people used it just like now we - -


Woman: For pain.


Second woman: Oh, for pain, oh.


Woman: It’s a stronger opium derivative than paregoric.


Harold Fenlason: Oh yes, much.


Woman: They used it kind of like an anesthetic, too.


Harold Fenlason: Yes. It was quite a thing. And then, afterwards - this was in my memory - that went into real narcotics and every drug store carried narcotics. They had to be in a special cabinet with glass doors on it and a lock. These things were always locked up. Doctors prescribed - you had to have special prescriptions and they were kept in a red file. Talking about that, I might as well tell you what the methods of keeping prescriptions. Now, of course, you have a prescription that’s - oh, I don’t know - not quite this size, but a little bigger or a little different size. I know what we did. We had these files and, we’d just punch holes in them and put them in a file and put them in a cabinet. It was a good way to keep them, but the narcotics file was always red. And, it had to be separate. Every narcotic had to be filed. Every narcotic had to have - the doctor had to put the patient’s name and address and a lot of other information like that. So, but way back before that they used to have prescription books and they were enormous things. And, the boy who worked in the drug store - one of his duties was to paste the prescriptions into this book and on one page you’d have maybe - oh, about 15 or 16 prescriptions. It was a laborious job. I just missed that.


Woman: Everyone had a number and the numbers were (indistinct words).

Harold Fenlason: Oh, yes.


Millie Winckler: I remember the one at the drug store. I remember that. Harold, do you remember Lomie Laughlin. She used to - she was addicted, I’m sure, to headache powders, and I used to get two cents every time I took a prescription down at least once a week and probably twice a week they made up - I can see him now with his little spatula taking out on the papers so much powder for each one, and I think a dozen powders were ten cents.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, let me amplify that a little now. Headache powders. Now, you don’t get powders anymore in a drug store. There are no prescriptions for powders. We used to have prescriptions and we also had remedies that - well the big one was Percy L. Lord’s headache powders.


Woman: I’m sure that’s what these were probably.


Harold Fenlason: Now these headache powders were made of aspirin, acetanilid and caffeine. And, I think in entirety maybe seven and a half grains or something like that. But, in any event this was Percy L. Lord’s private formula, and he had little envelopes all printed up with his name on it, Percy L. Lord’s Headache Powders, and we made quantities of them. And, here’s a piece of equipment that I asked the young fellow about and he never saw it. When you have a headache powder, when you have a powder of any kind - I’ll have to show you. There’s a very particular way to handle a powder. This is nothing to trifle with. It had to be done exactly so. We had powder papers and they were cut to a certain size, and I’m going to say roughly this. Now, when that was done, you put the powder on there. You brought the two edges like that. You covered it - you had to fold twice. You had to fold like that, and then you had to fold it again. Not all the way. Leaving a seam like that. Then you had a thing we called a horse and it was just a little horse. You know, about like this. It looked like a little saw horse, but it wasn’t for sawing, but you pressed this over the horse and that gave you the exact length every time for the powder. And, that’s how powders were made and - -


Woman: Many the time I watched those being measured out and folded and made up because I waited for them every time.


Harold Fenlason: Sure. Now, P. L. Lord had a - I suppose he devised this method and it was pretty good. We made so many of them that we had to have some quick way of arriving at the proper amount to put in the paper, and what we did, we took a broom handle and shaved it down until it was - oh, about that big around and tapered a little and then chopped off on the end and then we took a counter-sink. You know what - are you familiar with what a counter-sink is? Probably - I know Jack is.


Women together: Yes, yes.


Harold Fenlason: We’d drill into this little broom stick piece - about that long. And, we’d drill in until we thought that was about the size we wanted. Then we would press that into the powder, level it off and dump it on the paper and weigh it. Then we’d keep adjusting, either countersink more or sandpaper some off until that little blob of powder would weigh exactly what we wanted. That’s how we made powders. You just slap it into that, dump it out here. That was it. You didn’t have to weigh anything. You could make ‘em fast.


Woman: Well, Tibbets used to take it with a spatula and dip it up actually and put the paper on the scale and - -


Harold Fenlason: Oh, yes, if you made individual powders, that’s the way you did it. There was another method of dividing powders. You’d put them in a - - If the powder would stick together at all, you put it in a block, you know, about maybe this size. Then you’d take your spatula and make little marks and then you’d move those out and take each one, and you’d have to check that on the balance and make sure they were pretty close. But, that’s how it was done. That’s how powders were made. Oh, goodness. I want to say one thing - a little about prescriptions and you may or may not remember that prescriptions were very mysteriously written in Latin.


Woman: Yes, you couldn’t read them.


Harold Fenlason: No, you couldn’t read them. That was Latin and nobody could. Nobody could understand that except a real professional. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I was a kid in high school - I don’t know - some people - I, I, - according to me, I was very smart, but I lied. I know that.


Woman: (Inidistinct words) know it.


Harold Fenlason: But I learned all the Latin - I had taken Latin in high school, but it had nothing to do with Latin in a drug store, I can tell you. Nothing whatsoever except maybe the endings. But, in a matter of oh-h a few months, I learned all the pharmaceutical Latin that anybody would ever need. Because a good many times it was just a matter of putting “um” or “ii” or “ae” on the end of an English word. Then there were a few trick words that you had to learn. On the bottom of a prescription you have something like M with a line through it - a flourish; “e-t,” “s-i-g,” two dots and then you’d have a thing that looked like - - there was one dram sideways. O. C. S.


Woman: Oh, yes.


Harold Fenlason: A dram is a teaspoon.


Woman: A dram has one thing and an ounce has two.


Harold Fenlason: An ounce has two, that’s right. So, you’d have that. Then you’d have “t-i-d-a-c” or yes, “t-i-d-a-c-d-i-h-s”


Woman: (Indistinct words)


Harold Fenlason: Yes, something. Now what this meant was you’d have one teaspoon-full three times a day. A-c would be ante cibum which is before meals. P-c would be post cibum which would be after meals. Then you would have an h-s which stood for horum septum or some such thing which meant bed time, anyway. (My dictionary says hor. decub. stands for hora decubitus and means at bedtime.) So you had all this mumbo jumbo stuff and all it meant was take a teaspoon-full three times a day and at bed time.


Woman: Harold, they still use them.

Harold Fenlason: They do?


Woman: They still use t-i-d and b-i-d, yes. They do. And, they use the symbol for ounce and they use the symbol for dram. (My dictionary shows the symbol for dram as a number 3 with the top half shaped like the top of a 7. The symbol for ounce is the same as the one for dram but with a line through the top part like a European 7.)


Harold Fenlason: Well, as far as I’m concerned, this was a lot of mumbo jumbo. And, I still think it was. The idea - and of course doctors have notoriously poor writing. Oh, they’re terrible. I think they practice poor writing. They must have a course in college in poor writing because they all do it.


Woman: That’s inexcusable, really.


Harold Fenlason: And, they still do it, I know.


Woman: You would think it would be neater - preciseness. And, the orders that they write in the hospital are just the same. You can hardly interpret sometimes what they are.


Harold Fenlason: I know. I know. I’ve seen the same thing. I finally got around to - in fact I have to go to the doctor every now and then - I didn’t go for forty some years, but I have to go now.


Woman: Percy Lord made his own prescriptions anyway.


Harold Fenlason: Oh, yes. Yes. Shall I tell you the story about Percy L. Lord? Yes, priceless guy. Now Jack probably remembers. Maybe some of the rest of you remember. Percy L. Lord had an open prescription room. You know. There were glass show cases in front, but you would look out into the prescription room. Percy L. Lord was a real act. He was tremendous. And, we made things with liquids a lot, and you’d have a bottle, see, and one of these graduates and Percy L. Lord - I’ll take a sip of this - and Percy L. Lord - this would be the bottle and let’s say this is the graduate. He’d dump it out of the bottle in there and there would be lines on it and he’d go - -


Woman: Well, Harold, you have to because the meniscus is to go by.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, must be on the bottom of the meniscus, that’s right. And, so he’d go like this and he’d go - oh, very serious. And, you know what, he would do that and he’d always over fill it and he’d pour it back in the bottle which nobody ever should do. And, then he’d go back and forth like this and finally - with great gravity - oh, very serious - he would carefully pour that into the four ounce bottle and everybody would say, “Oh that Mr. Lord, he’s so careful.” So careful, my eye. Any good pharmacist, including Percy L. Lord, would never put it back, and could hit that bottom of the meniscus just right on the button. No problem, you could do it. But, Percy pulled all this nonsense. And, he was a great old humbug, too, I’m going to tell you. This may bother some people. So anyone used to go in and say, “Mr. Lord, I don’t feel very good. I got chills. I got fever. I got this and that.” And, he’d say, “Yes, well I think I could have a remedy for you.” And, he’d go out back and he’d get a four ounce bottle or a six ounce - four ounce usually - thirty five cents - and he’d go and take off this - go through this same routine - oh very carefully - and put it all and he usually have to put a “shake” label on it. Put a little powder in there to make it look good. Now, I - “If you take this,”- and he would give them directions and put them on the label - “I’m sure you will be helped.” And so they’d go away. They’d take the stuff. They would be helped and they would be very happy.


Woman: Well, the witch doctor and the shamen, you know they’d - -


Harold Fenlason: Sure. So, the punch line of the story is this. A year later, they’d come back with this bottle and say, “Mr. Lord, I need some more of that medicine.” And, it didn’t faze Percy L. Lord a bit. He’d say, “Hum-m, yes, well,” and so he’d - -


Woman: It wouldn’t even be the same bottle, would it?


Harold Fenlason: No, and so he’d go out in the back room and concoct something else, and come back and he’d say “Now, I must explain to you, we have recently had some new shipments of drugs and they are somewhat different, and you may notice that this is a slightly different color or it might be a definitely different color. Don’t let that worry you, and you may notice that it doesn’t smell exactly the same or it doesn’t taste exactly the same, but this is the fault of the new material. This is your prescription.” And, they believed him absolutely. P. L. Lord could do no wrong and they were cured. They were always cured.


Woman: Beautiful.


Harold Fenlason: And, a wonderful guy. I have nothing but great admiration for P. L. Lord. And, he was a big man of Calais, isn’t that right, Jack?


Woman: Oh, yes, he was. Yes.


Harold Fenlason: Sure.


Woman: Harold, what about a shelf of patent medicine, Lydia Pinkham’s and Fellow’s Compound and - -


Harold Fenlason: Ok, let me get into this. This is what I got out of that thing in Augusta on these things. Now, I’ll just run through. Here’s a nice one. Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People.


Jane Dudley: For pale people?


Harold Fenlason: Pale people, yes. This is worth reading. It’s not too long.


Pliney Frost: (Indistinct words.)


Harold Fenlason: It says, “Our son, Willard, was absolutely helpless. His lower limbs were paralyzed and when we used electricity he could not feel it below his hips. Finally, my mother who lives in Canada wrote advising the use of Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People and I bought some. This was when our boy had been on the stretcher for an entire year.


(Tape turned over - some discussion lost)

Harold Fenlason: Here’s another nice one. Here was a thing called “piscol” or “paescol.” I’m not sure which pronunciation. But, in any event, it’s a cough remedy and it says - No wait, Piso, now I remember, Piso, P-i-s-o. “I believe Piso’s Cure for Consumption saved my life. The best cough medicine is Piso’s Cure for Consumption. Children take it without objection - by all druggists - 25 cents.” That’s all there was to it. We had Indian remedies. Kickapoo. Did you ever hear of Kickapoo Indian Remedies? Oh, yeah, they had a lot of them.


Woman: Kickapoo.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, and, somewhere I have a listing of the different ones and I’ll run across that in a minute. Here was a nice old one, Perula. (Peruna?)


Woman: Oh yes, yes.


Second Woman: Oh, what a beautiful label!


Harold Fenlason: Yes, nice label. And, on here you have all kinds of testimonials.


Woman: Wasn’t that a tonic?


Harold Fenlason: Yes. It says “Perula (Peruna?) is a most desirable medicine for weaknesses peculiar to women.” Yes.


First Woman: Did you ever taste it?


Harold Fenlason: No, I never - -


Second Woman: He wouldn’t dare.


First Woman: I sent and got a sample one time that was advertized on the radio and I think it was pure alcohol.


Woman: Lydia Pinkham’s was mostly alcohol.



Harold Fenlason: Yes.


Woman: (Indistinct words) were addicted to Lydia Pinkham’s.


(Several women talking at once - can’t be transcribed.)


Woman: What about Atlas Bitters?


Harold Fenlason: Atlas Bitters was an old - -


Woman: Oh, yes, Atlas Bitters

Woman: That was about all alcohol, too.


Harold Fenlason: I must note this that there were many of these patent medicines and they were a high alcoholic percentage and people who took these things a lot were running around half drunk most of the time. Maybe, they didn’t know they were drunk, but they felt pretty good.


Woman: They got their lift.


Harold Fenlason: Yes. Oh, yes. (Several people talking at the same time.)


Woman: They got their lift every time they took it and that’s why they thought it was so good.


Harold Fenlason: Yes.


Woman: Every spring everybody had to get a hold of some Bitters.


Second Woman: The worse a thing tasted, the better it was supposed to be.


Harold Fenlason: Oh, yes. Yes, it’s about like putting iodine on a cut - no hurt, no cure.


Woman: That’s right. If it doesn’t smart , it - -


Harold Fenlason: It doesn’t smart, it’s no good. Here is the Indian thing and this was - they had Kickapoo Indian Sagwa, the same Indian Oil, Indian Salve, Indian Cough Cure, and Indian Worm Killer. The old people were bothered with worms.


Woman: Cascara Sagrada


Harold Fenlason: Cascara Sagrada. That was good for that, and I must tell you the Latin name for - -


Woman: Casafruit, that was it - for children.


Harold Fenlason: Casafruit. Cascara sagrada was a laxative and a lovely Latin name was Romulus Persiana. Fluid Extract of Romulus Persiana. Oh, I thought that was wonderful when I learned that.


Woman: What was that - for worms?


Harold Fenlason: Well, no, cascara sagrada usually -


Woman: No, no I mean the - your - the one you were just talking about.


Harold Fenlason: Oh, these Indian things?


Woman: No, no, the one you just - the name you just gave, Romulus something.


Harold Fenlason: No, no, that was fluid extract of cascara sagrada, and that usually was a laxative.

Woman: Yes, it is, but you just named something else that was rather complicated sounding.


Harold Fenlason: No, this was the Kickapoo stuff. They had four or five things and they guaranteed that it would, you know, cure anything. Now, you might be interested to know that prior to 1906, you could advertize anything as a cure and then, I don’t - maybe Jack remembers when this was changed - that was outlawed. You couldn’t guarantee that anything would cure


Woman: He was born in 1909, so he only remembers - -


Harold Fenlason: Well, I don’t remember this, but I just read it and I know that it happened. Now, you asked about - well, I’ve got it right here. It says “Congress by passing the Pure Food and Drug Act put an end forever to some of the nation’s more bizarre nostrums. It was a time of Indian snake root oil, electric belts, tonics and phosphates, pills, powders, elixirs, herb teas and aphrodisiacs.


First Woman: Did you say electric belts?


Harold Fenlason: Oh, yes.


Second Woman: Oh, yes.


Harold Fenlason: Oh, yes.


First Woman: What did they do?


Harold Fenlason: Well, they fixed you. I don’t know how, but you bought these electric - -


Second Woman: (Indistinct words) were electric contraptions


First Woman: They felt so good when they - when they stopped.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, and this is not too different from the fairly modern practice of wearing a copper bracelet for rheumatism.


Women Together: Oh, yes.


Harold Fenlason: It’s the same type of thing. I have here - it’s very difficult to read but it’s the story on Lydia E. Pinkham’s - one of them. It says, “This applies to women regardless of taste, caste or color. The ambitious girl striving for school honors; the shop girl, anxious, eager, worried, for she must keep her place; the society woman, all climbing too high. What follows? Nervous prostration, excitability, fainting spells, most likely organic diseases of the uterus or womb and many - many other distressing female troubles. Oh, women, if you must bring upon yourselves these troubles, remember that Lydia E. Pinkham’s is a vegetable compound that has done much to relieve such suffering,” or “more to relieve such suffering than any other remedy known.” And, the story was that if you had all kinds of troubles - -


Woman: They made a fortune on that, Harold.


Harold Fenlason: Oh, absolutely.


Woman: My sister took care of - the daughter-in-law’s name was Lydia, too, and my sister took care of her in the Pinkham house in Lynn, Massachusetts.


Harold Fenlason: Is that so? That’s interesting.


Man: Have you got that one there, Harold, that used to say Lydia Pinkham how she saved the human race?


Harold Fenlason: No, I haven’t got that. I remember one statement that the wise kids always said “Lydia Pinkham guaranteed a baby in every bottle.”


Woman: It was a cure-all for all female ills


Harold Fenlason: Every, yes. All kinds of troubles.


Woman: People swore by it.


Harold Fenlason: It was not, the only other one - here’s one - Dr. Kilmer’s Female Remedy. Same thing, just made by somebody else.


Woman: The poor souls needed a little stimulant, and so - -


Harold Fenlason: Yes, sure, and, you know actually a good slug of booze would have done them just as much good, but of course many of them were ardent prohibitionists. They wouldn’t take a drink if they died, but a good slug of Lydia Pinkham’s or Dr. Atwood’s Bitters, or whatever, why - perfectly all right. I - -


Woman: It made them feel better to think they bought something from the store.


Harold Fenlason: Sure. Now, I don’t know but what I’ll wind up with telling you a - how, you know, you can get along pretty good - -


Woman: Harold, do you remember Quasher Chips?


Harold Fenlason: Yes, I do.


Woman: That was another remedy for bugs.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, Quasher Chips, you steeped ‘em.


Woman: Of course. When in school we had a - at one time - went through the whole school - Helen Mahaney, do you remember?


Harold Fenlason: Oh, yes.

Woman: She had hair way down - she could sit on, and she got a bug and she told everybody in our class, and I think it in the eighth grade - seventh or eighth grade when we got ‘em and she told everybody in there not to come back to school if they had them. Foster Higgens and I were the only two that came back to school in the - -


Harold Fenlason: Yes, I well remember Helen Mahaney, a wonderful woman, a great teacher, and she had a good husky Irish hand, and she’d whack me right across the side of the face and boy you better not look this way or that way.


Woman: I had her for a teacher. She was principal, too.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, principal, and smart and a good teacher. Wonderful woman.


Woman: Well, the mercury ointment, many people didn’t want to use. It was a blue ointment, but the Quasher Chips, they steeped them in water and then the water they made a - they soaked your hair with it and they put a cap on and then you wore it for three days and then you used vinegar to get rid of the nits.


Harold Fenlason: Yes, lot of things. Seems to me, I remember I acquired a dose of lice one time in a woods camp where I went out where my father was foreman or something. My mother soaked my head in kerosene.


Woman: You washed it in kerosene.


Other Woman: Kerosene. That was to clean out the nits.


Harold Fenlason: And, this was a very distasteful operation. So, I will wind up with something that is of course, the best thing for - Ellen has rheumatism, very bad, so I want to give you something for some of you that may have rheumatism. So, worry no more, just listen to what I tell you and it will be gone. Here are quite a few little things you can do. Wear the eye tooth of a pig. Carry three potatoes in your pants pocket. Carry in your pocket the triangular bone from a ham. Put a copper cent in your shoe. Carry a piece of burn out carbon from the arc light as a prevention or cure for rheumatism. Of course you have to find an arc light in the old cars - might be a little difficult. A ring made of a horse shoe nail is good for rheumatism. Wear a brass ring to cure rheumatism. To prevent rheumatism put glass knobs under the bed posts. Say, that’s pretty good. That’s easy too. A dried eel skin tied above a joint kills and prevents rheumatism. So all you have to get is a dried eel skin. That’d be pretty good. Do not throw out the water in which you wash your feet in the evening until the next day for fear of rheumatism. That’s pretty good.


Woman: That’s the best one.


Harold Fenlason: Carry a coffin nail to prevent rheumatism. A salted mackerel tied on the feet cured rheumatism. A raw salt herring with the bone taken out applied to the neck, tie a handkerchief over it and keeping it on all night cures rheumatism. Rheumatism can be cured by sleeping on a sock that contains powdered alum. That would be pretty easy, a little alum. A bee sting will cure rheumatism. Render a buzzard into grease and use this for rheumatism.


Woman: That’s enough. Let’s go home. I know the buzzard.


Harold Fenlason: So, this goes on. I’ll maybe pick out one more. It says a red flannel worn about the wrist will cure rheumatism, and it says sleep with a dog to cure rheumatism. The dog will absorb the disease and become crippled.


Woman: That don’t work because Miriam (several people speaking at the same time.)


Harold Fenlason: So, I think that’s enough. It’s probably too much.


Woman: Oh, I thought that was great, Harold. I thought that was great. (Applause and several people talking.)


Pliney Frost: Do you remember Percy smoking that pipe about all the time he was making those concoctions?


Harold Fenlason: Oh yes. Yes, yes, and he - if he dropped a few ashes, it really didn’t make any difference. It went right in the (indistinct word - may be prescription.)


Woman: That really was great. You did a good job.


Man: Did you know - of course you knew Dr. Miner, too, didn’t you?


Harold Fenlason: Yes.


Man: You know, Dr. Miner, late in life said the only difference between him and Percy Lord was that he had more hair than Percy did.


Woman: May I borrow this.


Harold Fenlason: Sure, sure. Here’s a whole mess of them.


Woman: I’ll return them (indistinct words and other people talking at the same time.)


Other Woman: I’ve got a lot of (indistinct word) at home, but not for rheumatism.


Third Woman: My husband’s grandfather was a chemist in Sweden. They called them chemists over there. (Several people talking at once - can’t be transcribed.) The mortar is solid brass. I have it on my mantel. It belonged to his grandfather.


Harold Fenlason: That’s a great thing to have.


Third Woman: I treasure it.


Harold Fenlason: They made them out of (indistinct words) this soapstone.


Third Woman: (Several people speaking - her words indistinct) his mother or someone i the family had one made of alabaster, and it - and the pestle, too. And, I had one that was made of some kind of white marble, and I think my daughter has (too many people speaking at once to transcribe)


Woman: Put that in your pocket and when you get home, read it. You’ll love it.


Man: Ok.


Harold Fenlason: They also were made of glass, clear glass. I had one (indistinct words - everyone talking at the same time.)


Woman: The other thing that Tibbets had was powdered - powdered candy - penny candy - we’d go in there and buy penny candy. They had penny candy and they had - but they didn’t have any cosmetics.


Harold Fenlason: No, they never had because (too many people talking at the same time and too much background noise to transcribe.)

(End of tape.)