Health & Medicine

Most of the trade cards in the museum's collection advertise "patent medicines" or "proprietary medicines". These medicines were not prescribed by doctors, but were chosen directly by consumers from the selection available at drugstores, general stores, by mail order, or from vendors at fairs and markets.

The market niche occupied by patent medicines in the late 1800s and early 1900s is filled today by a combination of over-the-counter medicines, natural and health food products, and products advertised on the internet.

Because trade cards advertised products directly to individual consumers, we can "read the cards" to understand more about how the public regarded illnesses, health, and medications - and how their views corresponded with or differed from those of the medical profession .

Pick a card to see what trade cards can reveal about health and medicine in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

What illnesses and conditions required medicine?
What did the manufacturers claim that their medications could do?
What ingredients did the advertisements feature?