THIS POST HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH METAL DETECTING
A long, long time ago when I was a lad growing up in a County Durham mining village, I was conscious of the fact that my parents – and it seemed everybody else’s mam and dad – were very concerned about something called ‘inner cleanliness’.
As well as taking their Carter’s Little Liver Pills and Andrew’s Liver Salts, they were also ardent supporters of Mr Beecham’s renowned pills. We weren’t as reverent and used to sing the parody shown below-based on the Christmas Carol, ‘Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing’.
Hark! The jelly babies sing Beecham’s pills are just the thing, They are gentle, meek and mild, Two for a man and one for a child. If you want to go to heaven You must take a dose of seven; If you want to go to hell, Take the blinking box as well.
Can you remember them in the cute round box? Perhaps not. It declared that the pills cured constipation, headaches, dizziness or swimming in the head, wind, pain, spasms in the stomach, pains in the back, restlessness, insomnia, indigestion, want of appetite, maladies of indiscretion, urinary disorders, menstrual derangements etcetera. And I haven’t included everything!
The advertising slogan, ‘Worth a Guinea a Box,’ was taken from an unsolicited testimonial and in 1912 they were sold for just over a shilling per box. The success of the product was greatly assisted by the sheer magnitude of the marketing and the fact that advertising at the time was uncontrolled.
The British Medical Association analysed the pills and found them to consist of aloes, ginger and soap; the ingredients cost rather less than an old penny. After over 150 years, production finally stopped in 1998. Many other proprietary medicines went the same way.
The term ‘Snake Oil’ refers to worthless medicine substances and should
be familiar to you if, like me, you watched so many Gene Autry, Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy films at the Saturday matinee. There always seemed to be a travelling medicine man rolling into town and putting on a show. But it couldn’t happen today, could it? Yes. Only in a different format.
Tesco is encouraging its customers to buy snake oil. Well no, not exactly – just ‘snake liquid’. I was looking at the ‘Healthy Living’ section on their website and was directed to a US company called ‘Wild Earth Animal Essences’. And guess what? They are selling not only snake liquid, but also bear, beaver, bison, butterfly and every other animal ‘liquid’.
I was so worried about the wanton slaughter of so many animals, but was reassured to read that no animal parts were used, not even the reproductive ones that Chinese men seem to prefer. And what do the liquids do? Err … they ‘help people around the world deepen their connection with themselves’. Yup,that’s what I thought too!
The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Iona and Peter Opie, Oxford 1959 – The ldler Magazine, 1759 – Wild Earth Animal Essences – eBay – Etsy – A Date With History Blog – British Library – Wikipedia – Onlinelabels.com