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Whatever ails you just keep taking the pills

By Ron Green
Pink pills
Pink pills

Watch television. Read a magazine, comic or newspaper. Catch a bus or train. Go on the internet. Walk along a street. Big or small, garish or gorgeous, they cannot be avoided.


Lots of businesses want you to buy what they are selling, so they pay for eye-catching advertisements.

They tell us a lot about the way people live: The every-day things they spend money on and the luxury items they yearn to have; how they spend their leisure time; the kind of jobs that are available; how much it costs to buy a house or rent a flat.

These days there are rules to make sure adverts tell the truth so people know exactly what to expect.

It wasn't always like that in Victorian times and some advertisers got away with impossible claims.

Here are two adverts for medicines which promised to cure just about every complaint you can think of.

1. Dr Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People were said to enrich the blood, cure skin troubles, blood disorders, paralysis, neuralgia, rheumatism, St Vitus Dance, nervous headache, indigestion, diseases of the blood, sallow complexions and problems arising from worry and overwork.

An advert, written to read like a story, on November 5, 1895, was headlined Shunned the Cemetery.

It tells how a woman became so ill she thought she was going to die. None of the medicine given to her by doctors did any good.

Then she saw an advert for Dr Williams' Pink Pills and almost immediately began to recover.

There were other, similar, stories of remarkable recoveries from misery, if not the brink of death.

2. Du Barry's Delicious Revalenta Arabica was described as a foodstuff four times more nourishing than meat.

It was said to cure all disorders of the stomach and bowels, the blood, nerves, lungs, liver, bladder, brain, voice and breath.

An advert on October 15, 1895, said there was no longer any need to buy medicine because Du Barry's product would cure 40 ailments, which it listed.

It said the product had enjoyed 15 years of success with old and young - even in the most hopeless cases.

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