The Lay of the Lonesome Lung, 1881

Circulating Now from the NLM Historical Collections

By Krista Stracka

Since the end December, the aisles of most drug stores have been awash in red and pink products in anticipation of today, Valentine’s Day, a holiday often expressed through gift-giving—a retailer’s favorite tradition. The flood of love-themed commercials, advertisements, circulars, billboards, and clickbait pour in on every side through today hopeful to tempt the procrastinators among us as we rush to find last-minute presents for our friends and loved ones.

Patent medicine proprietors of the nineteenth century are often credited as the pioneers of the use of large-scale advertisement campaigns to connect with consumers in any location. Seth W. Fowle & Sons was just one proprietor among many challenged with promoting the name of their own products above those of the competition. One such product—Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry—was first created around 1840 by a Dr. Henry Wistar of Virginia. A concoction of cherry extract…

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