Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Cure for Everything

It's one part magnificent bit of Americana, one part letterpress printing artifact, and two parts utter B.S.: the "Doan's Directory of the United States," printed in 1922.

Featuring an illustration of the Lincoln Memorial on the cover in two colors, and inside a list of every town or city in the country with a thousand or more residents in the United States. (Click any image to enlarge.)

Oh, yes, and even more pages of ads and advertorials for Doan's various placebos and patent medicines.

It sounds like the basic Doan's Pills are actually classified as an NSAID by the FDA these days, along with aspirin, ibuprophen, and naproxen; the active ingredient is magnesium salicylate, which is similar to aspirin, although possibly even harder on the stomach.

So they may have an effect on back pain or headache. Seems like bloating, dropsy, and the many other ailments mentioned in the booklet are dubious, however.

"Happy mother tells of remarkable recovery: First four births brought serious kidney sickness. Fifth child died in infancy; last birth normal. Child and mother well and strong."

"Clergyman thought death was near; now enjoys vigorous health." The subheads throughout the text include "Dropped to his knees," "Helplessly crippled," "Death was expected," and "Now well and strong." Well, thank goodness. No — thank Doans, I'm sure.

"Is constipation spoiling your appetite, health and happiness? You can't feel well and be well without a regular, daily bowel movement." Well, no worries, "Doan's Regulets soften the clogging masses and tone and regulate the bowels and liver." The clogging masses... I wonder if they yearn to breathe free?

In case you were wondering, that 30 cent price tag for Regulets would be a bit over $4.00 in 2013 dollars. Actual size!

What a magnificent center spread, done as a "double truck" layout. I'm not sure what the chain border is supposed to symbolize. "Do urinary disorders bother you?" "Do colds settle into your kidneys?"

The back cover illustration is clearly meant to refer to menstrual cramps, without saying so. Inside, one section is titled "Sound kidneys lighten women's trials." The text tells us: "The monthly sickness... is [often] due to weakened kidneys and would be avoided if the kidneys were kept well and active." The copy goes on to recommend Doan's just as strongly for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and menopausal women. Why, if you take Doan's, you won't know you're a woman at all!

All in all, a big stinking pile of nicely printed B.S. with lovely graphics. These days, Doan's is owned by the pharma giant Novartis, which has been brought up before the Federal Trade Commission multiple times for its claims that Doan's are more effective on back pain than other NSAIDs. The tradition continues, it seems.


Unemployed Dragon said...

I remember ads for Doans' pills, but had no idea of the existence of this Doans' Directory...fascinating.

Ms Sparrow said...

I remember years ago, my mom would complain of having "a cold in her kidneys". I wonder if she got that from Doans propaganda. I'm shocked that they're still around after all the negative publicity!