What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“KEYSER’s, Lockyer’s, Hooper’s, and Anderson’s PILLS … all warranted GENUINE, from their original Warehouses.”
Of the several entrepreneurs who advertised “DRUGS & MEDICINES” for sale at their shops in Charleston in September 1772, Edward Gunter provided the most complete catalog of his “large and complete ASSORTMENT.” He listed several patent medicines “all warranted GENUINE, from their original Warehouses” as well as “Double distilled Rose, Lavender, Honey, and Hungary Waters” and “Cinamon, Citron, and Orange Cordial Waters.” He also carried an array of supplies and equipment, including “labelled Ointment Pots,” “Glass, Marble, and Bell-Metal Mortars and Pestles,” “best London and common Lancets,” and “Pewter Glyster and Ivory Syringes.”
Gunter commenced his list with “KEYSER’s, Lockyer’s, Hooper’s, and Anderson’s PILLS,” leading with a cure for venereal disease that had recently been at the center of a public dispute between the printers of the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Throughout the month of July, Charles Crouch and Powell, Hughes, and Company engaged in a feud that started over how best to market “Dr. KEYSER’S famous PILLS” and eventually descended into insinuations that the other printer sold counterfeit medicines. Following the death of Edward Hughes at the end of July, Thomas Powell and Company asserted that they “received a Quantity of Dr. KEYSER’S GENUINE PILLS, from Mr. James Rivington, Bookseller, in New-York, who is the ONLY Person that is appointed (by the Proprietor) for vending them in America.”
Gunter did not address that altercation directly when he ran advertisements in both the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in September. Apothecaries and others who sold patent medicines often stated that they obtained their wares “from their original Warehouses,” as Gunter did in his advertisement, but in this instance the advertiser may have intended for that message to resonate with both readers and the printers who published his notice. Given that Gunter specialized in “DRUGS & MEDICINES” of all sorts, compared to local printers who sold only a few kinds of patent medicines to supplement other revenue streams, he likely did not consider it necessary to make more pointed comments about the authenticity of Keyser’s Pills he imported. Instead, he allowed his reputation and experience running an apothecary shop justify why prospective customers should acquire that particular remedy from him rather than either of the squabbling printers.