Pink Pills for Pale People

Dr Williams’ ‘Pink Pills’, London, England, 1850-1920. Credit: Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images

In the age of clickbait, tabloid papers, and fake news, it’s still nice to see that we haven’t changed a bit. This is a classic example of a snake oil salesmen at work. Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills are said to cure Anaemia, Indigestion, Eczema, Rheumatism, Sciatica, St. Vitus’ Dance, Neuralgia, Nervous Disorders, Paralysis, and Locomotor Ataxy. Since the pills did have ferrous sulphate or just Iron sulphate, it would have an effect on the anemic. This however, is still a scam because the amount that was in his pink pills was much less than actual medicine and because of this, the pills were much weaker and were more expensive than just the regular iron pills doctors would usually prescribe. This is probably one of the only pills that are in song, while the song is a critique of commercialism in society, it was sung by Benny Bell. Also something that intrigued me was that you can still buy these pills online to cure basically anything!

A more elaborate backstory of the company and pills, as well as how they fared in Asian markets. [Pink Pills](1907-05-20-p5 selection)

This trend of snake oil pills being sold in The Egyptian Gazette is not a new one. Looking through other blog posts I saw a listing about “Doan’s Backache Kidney Pills”. The man who used it was told he only had 3 months to live but after some pills, he made a miraculous recovery! Another post follows the same vein of a miraculous medicine.

Thomas Wallace
Thomas Wallace

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in spring 2018.