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 Lancashire Daily Post, 16th November, 1917

The Lancashire Daily Post, 16th November, 1917

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.

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  1. June 29, 2015

    […] pot, and which leaches out small amounts of iron into the food. In 1922, you could either have your Pink Pills for Pale People or you could cut to the chase and add iron filings directly into your wine, like the kind of […]

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