What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Doctor GEORGE WEED … was a regular bred Physician, in New-England.”
George Weed, an apothecary, served patients in Philadelphia for decades in the middle of the eighteenth century. In his advertisements, he styled himself as “Doctor GEORGE WEED.” On occasion, he provided credentials to justify using that title.
For instance, in an advertisement hawking a variety of medicines in the December 26, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Weed provided an overview of his training before describing his “SYRUP of BALSAM” for coughs and colds, his “ROYAL BALSAM” for wounds, bruises, and sores, his “BITTER TINCTURE” for dizziness and upset stomach, and other medicines that he compounded at his apothecary shop. Weed asserted that he “was a regular bred Physician, in New-England, and served his time with Ephraim Warner, a licenced Doctor.” In other words, he received training from “one of the greatest and most successful Practitioners of Physic, in New England, in his day.” Rather than ask the public to take his word for it, Weed concluded his advertisement with an affirmation from a minister. Thomas Lewis declared, “That Doctor GEORGE WEED, living in Newtown Township, was under the Instructions and Directions of a judicious Practitioner of Physic, in New-England, for some Years, is certified by me.” Careful readers may have noted that the affirmation was nearly two decades old, dated October 6, 1753. Weed apparently believed that it served his purpose in helping to convince prospective patients to purchase his medicines.
To strengthen his pitch, Weed noted that he had “above 34 years successful practice,” including serving as “Apothecary to the Pennsylvania Hospital.” He no longer held that position, instead operating his own shop on Market Street. Through his long experience, he proclaimed, Weed “brought to perfection, some medicines, which have proved extraordinary in curing many diseases.” Although the apothecary mentioned that he carried a “general assortment of Medicines,” he emphasized those that he made himself. Other apothecaries, retailers, and even printers imported, advertised, and sold a variety of patent medicines produced in England. Weed suggested to consumers in Philadelphia that the combination of his training and long experience serving patients in the colonies resulted in creating better products to cure common maladies. They did not need remedies produced elsewhere when they could consult directly with a skilled apothecary who compounded medicines to order.