Nutritive Derangements

“Beef, Iron, and Wine”—it’s not the archly enigmatic name of an emo singer-songwriter act, but a “nutritive tonic and stimulant.” This label and more are arranged in a great collection of labels curated at the graphic design blog codex99. There it is explained that the labels—all for the products of William S. Merrill Co.—feature copywriting designed to conform to the 1906 Food and Drug Act, which required drug makers to list their ingredients, spelling the end of the patent-medicine scammery of the nineteenth century, and paving the way for those breathless, rushed lists of side effects we sit through at the end of Viagra advertisements. Click through for the whole collection, including elixirs of strychnine and bismuth, pepsin and wafer-ash, and “Formalyptol,” whose major selling point was that it was “non-poisonous.” The labels are clinically precise with respect to the percentage amounts of even the most dubious ingredients; in the footnotes, codex99 offers conversions for standard early twentieth-century apothecary weights and measures, if you want to mix one of these concoctions up at home. We make no promise of health, and offer no guarantees against illness or injury, should you decide to do so.

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