Early Patent Medicines: Topics in Chronicling America
In the 1900s, people began investigating the ingredients of OTC "medicines" which led to regulatory drug laws. This guide provides access to materials related to "Early Patent Medicines" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1789-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of US Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
Called “nothing but compounds of poisons and opiates” by some doctors, patent medicines were a controversial fixture of life in the early 1900s. However, as the Progressive Era trudged on, the war on patent medicines and the potentially dangerous or ineffective ingredients, established itself in the newspaper and the public conscious, culminating in the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
1905 and 1906
The Collier magazine ran a series of influential articles by Samuel Hopkins Adams entitled, "The Great American Fraud," which exposed many of the deceitful and unsafe methods practiced by patent medicine manufacturers.
June 30, 1906
The first federal Food and Drug Act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt.