Pink Pills for Pale People, 1917
“Dr Williams’ pink pills for pale people” – a gloriously named pharmaceutical that sounds to me equally likely to have come from the past or some kind of Philip K Dick-style future.
The pink pills were, however, quite a big deal around the late 19th and early 20th century. George Taylor Fulford bought the rights to the pills in 1890 and launched a huge marketing campaign for them, covering 87 countries and spending a dazzling £200,000 a year on advertising in 1900 – in Britain alone.
As the “pale people” description indicates, these were iron supplements for anaemic people. And unlike the wild claims of various cure-alls, these were genuinely medically helpful to many people, as anaemia was a common condition of the time.
A strange little postscript to the story is that George Fulford died from a car accident in 1905 – he, his chauffeur and his business partner Willis Hanson were ejected from their car as it collided with a streetcar in New York. This was not a common cause of death at this point in time, and indeed Fulford is reported by Wikipedia to be the first Canadian on record to die by automobile accident.