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Topics in Chronicling America - Patent Medicines

Called “nothing but compounds of poisons and opiates” by some doctors, patent medicines were a controversial fixture of life in the early 1900s. However, as the Progressive Era trudged on, the war on patent medicines and the potentially dangerous or ineffective ingredients, established itself in the newspaper and the public conscious, culminating in the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

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Important Dates:

  • 1905 and 1906: The Collier magazine ran a series of influential articles by Samuel Hopkins Adams entitled, "The Great American Fraud," which exposed many of the deceitful and unsafe methods practiced by patent medicine manufacturers.
  • On June 30, 1906: The first federal Food and Drug Act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt .
  • 1912: The Act was amended.

Suggested Search Terms:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Patent Medicines, Drugs, Cures, Medicines, Tinctures, Concoctions and Patent Medicines, Bitters, Elixirs, Tonics, Extracts, Remedies, Pain Killers, Family Medicines, Salves and Patent Medicines, Balsams, Liniments, The Great American Fraud, Samuel Hopkins Adams and Patent Medicines

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  August 9, 2016
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