ADVICE TO MOTHERS!—Are you broken in your rest by a sick
child suffering with the pain of cutting teeth? Go at once to a
chemist and get a bottle of MRS. WINSLOW’S SOOTHING SYRUP.
It will relieve the poor sufferer immediately. It is perfectly
harmless and pleasant to taste, it produces natural quiet sleep,
by relieving the child from pain, and the little cherub awakes “as
bright as a button.” It soothes the child, it softens the
gums, allays all pain, relieves wind, regulates the bowels,
and is the best known remedy for dysentery and diarrhoea,
whether arising from teething or other causes. Mrs. Winslow’s
Soothing Syrup is sold by Medicine dealers everywhere at 1s. 1½d.
per bottle. Manufactured in New York and at 498, Oxford-street, London.
Source: The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, Saturday 9th January 1875
I imagine that every mother has moments when a miracle potion claiming to 'soothe' her child seems like a welcome idea. Luckily, we're far more health conscious and less blindly trusting these days than we were back in the 19th century when a series of "soothing syrups," lozenges and powders were created. A far cry from safe, these formulas contained everything from heroin and marijuana to morphine and opium...a shocking and disturbing combination when marketed to adults, let alone for use with babies and young children.
One of the most infamous of these formulas, Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup, contained one grain (65 mg) of morphine per fluid ounce! Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow was a physician and nurse for 30 years, primarily among children. She compounded her soothing syrup with sulfate or morphia, sodium carbonate, spirits foeniculi, and aqua ammonia, purported to sooth any human or animal regardless of age. First marketed in 1849 as "Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup
", the popularity of this medicine climbed to incredible heights among men and mothers alike. The company used various media to promote their product, including recipe books, calendars, and trading cards. Some Civil War soldiers returning home from the war wounded, and often addicted to morphine, would buy Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup when they could not readily obtain morphine.
Although not required to list ingredients until the Pure Food and Drug Act was introduced in 1906, products containing opium and other narcotics were required to pay a special tax on each bottle of "medicine" and to signify that the tax was paid by sealing the unopened bottle with a tax stamp. Finally in 1910, following the overdue introduction of the Pure Food and Drug Act, the New York Times ran an article exposing the ingredients of Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup and others, and identifying the dangers associated with these harmful concoctions. One year later, the American Medical Association put out a publication called Nostrums And Quackery. One section was called “Baby Killers” and incriminated Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, Monell’s Teething Syrup, and others - effectively ending the reign of these dangerous and misrepresented formulas.