Bad Breasts, 1872

I do love an advert for a Victorian “cure-all”. Here we have Holloway’s Ointment in an advert from 1872.

It claims to cure (deep breath) – coughs, colds, bronchitis, asthma, irregular action of the heart, bad legs, bad breasts, ulcers, abscesses, wounds, sores of all kinds, “the depraved humours of the body will be quickly removed”, gout, rheumatism, neuralgic pains, “skin diseases, however desperate, radically cured”, scald heads, itch, blotches on the skin, scrofulous sores or king’s evil, dropsical swellings, paralysis, burns, bunions, chilblains, chapped hands, corns, contracted and stiff joints, fistula, gout, glandular swellings, lumbago, piles, sore nipples, sore throats, scurvy, sore heads, tumours and ulcers.

Bedfordshire Mercury, 2nd November 1872

Bedfordshire Mercury, 2nd November 1872

It came in a lovely pot.

Holloway's Ointment

Holloway’s Ointment

Thomas Holloway, the founder of Holloway’s Ointment, died in 1883 as one of the richest men in England. At that point Holloway’s were spending an incredible £50,000 a year on advertising the products, but unsurprisingly, contemporary analysis of the ointment showed that it contained little of medicinal value.

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2 Responses

  1. But what was actually in it? It might not have cured the whole list but for some things …? We bought some stuff like this in Whitby a few years ago called ‘Healing Gel’. Dab it on a midge bite (free with every visit to our compost bin) and it stops the itching and swelling within 10 minutes. I can’t recommend it enough. We made a special trip for more but they said they weren’t allowed to call it ‘Healing Gel’ any more, it’s ‘Alloe, Arnica, Lavender and Ti Tree Gel with Witch Hazel’. Not as catchy but thankfully it still works.

  2. Estelle says:

    Sadly I couldn’t find out. It seems to have left circulation before the British Medical Journal wrote their brilliant analysis of pharmaceutical contents in 1909.

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