What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The case and cure of Thomas Hewitt, sent to the Proprietor.”
An advertisement for Maredant’s Drops, a patent medicine, in the March 12, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazetteconsisted almost entirely of testimonials from patients who claimed that it cured impurities of the blood, scurvy, ulcers, “long continued inflammations of the eyes,” and a variety of other maladies. Nicholas Brooks sold Maredant’s Drops at his shop on Market Street in Philadelphia. In his advertisement, he directed prospective customers to visit in order to examine “the cases of the following persons, and many others, cured by Maredant’s drops.” He listed several individuals, including “Joseph Feyrac, Esq; lately Lieutenant-Colonel in the 18th regiment of foot,” “Mr. Stoddard, brewer, Mr. Thomas Forrest, Attorney,” and “John Good, late surgeon to his Majesty’s sloop Ferrit.” Brooks anticipated that the volume of testimonials would convince colonizers to take a chance on the patent medicines to see if they would benefit from similar results.
The shopkeeper noted that the patent medicine “may be taken in any season, without the least inconvenience or hindrance from business.” In addition, this nostrum would “perfect digestion, and amazingly create an appetite.” He did not say much else about Maredant’s Drops, but instead relied on two testimonials inserted in the advertisement. In the first, dated “Kilkenny, June 25, 1771,” Thomas Hewitt explained that twenty years earlier he “was afflicted with a most violent scurvy” in his arms that eventually led to “large ulcers and blotches” on his face. He consulted “several eminent physicians, and tried various medicines, prescribed by them, to little or no effect.” Other residents of Kilkenny, where Hewitt lived for more than thirty years, could confirm that was the case. Eventually, Hewitt saw Maredant’s Drops advertised by a printer in Kilkenny. He purchased four bottles. The medicine “quite restored” his appetite and the scurvy “gradually left [his] face, and all parts of [his] body.” Hewitt declared himself “perfectly cured.” The mayor of Kilkenny co-signed Hewitt’s testimonial to “certify the above case to be a fact.”
In another testimonial, Charles Ashley, an innkeeper, described the misfortunes of his son, afflicted with “the King’s evil” (scrofula, a form of tuberculosis) after surviving smallpox. His son “was in so much misery, and without hopes of recovery” that Ashley “despaired of his life.” When Ashley’s son recovered upon taking the “most excellent drops,” the innkeeper felt such “gratitude for so extraordinary a cure” that he “desired this to be made public.” Furthermore, he invited readers to call at his house, “the Talbot inn, in the Strand,” to learn more and “see the child” for themselves. Brooks apparently believed that he did not need to say more about Maredant’s Drops. He depended on the testimonials to do all the necessary marketing.