This post has been updated to include new information about Artstor’s public collections, formerly made available on Shared Shelf Commons.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the prevailing medical belief that “the more dangerous the disease, the more painful the remedy” meant that bloodletting, purging, and blistering were often prescribed. Not surprisingly, this led to the development of a market in patent medicines promising painless cure-alls. Manufacturers used advertising cards to promote a world of pleasant medical fixes with friendly graphics and reassuring claims and testimonials. The ingredients in these patent medicines might have been as harmful as the illness, but they were more tempting than the agonizing solutions offered by doctors.