May 13, 2020 | History

Medication in 1883


It is not easy to get away from medical topics these days! I have already talked about the most common causes of death for our ancestors in Galicia and the level of medicine in one of the previous posts. This time I suggest going back in time to Austro Hungary, Galicia, Lemberg (Lviv, Lwow), Mar 29 (April 10 by Gregorian Calendar), 1883. Let us learn what kind of medications were trendy and what kind of health issues people had at that time.

Below you can see an advertisement by the Lviv pharmacy “Under the Star”, in the Ukrainian daily newspaper titled Dilo. “Under the Star”, owned by Peter Mikoliash, was a famous pharmacy, so famous that the pharmacy did not even put any contact details in the ad, probably supposing that all Lviv citizens would know where to find it! Let us analyze what was advertised. I would say that most of the items I see on the list are quite unexpected!

Advertisement for Lviv pharmacy

I will also provide information on prices and you can check another post to get a better idea about the money and salaries of that time.

So, the 1st item on the list is “Burbot fish oil”, “clean, unfiltered, unflavored, best for children with scrofula and with problems with the chest”. 80 krauzer per bottle. Burbot is a cod-like freshwater fish and it is extinct today. Scrofula was a common disease among children of that time, lymphadenitis (an inflammation of the lymph nodes) caused by tuberculous and non-tuberculous mycobacteria.

We also see:

– “Homeopathic coffee by Dr. Lutze”, 60 kr. per pound

– “Coffee made of acorns – best substitute for real coffee” for only 10 kr. per package

– “Homeopathic chocolate without spices”, full package for only 1 gulden, 58 kr., half a pack for 75 kr.

– “Cacao powder”, 70 kr. per box, half box for 40 kr.

– “Swiss condensed milk, famous nutritious product for children”, 55 kr. per can

– “Nestle powder for children, substitute for breastfeeding”, 90 kr. per can

– “Liebig meat extract, indispensable for making a very strong broth”, cans for 85 kr., 1.55, 2,75, 5.30 guldens

– “Tapioca P. Groult, very good for nutritious soups”, 70 kr. per pack

Liebig meat extract advertising in Ukraine

Liebig meat extract advertising 

Leibig Comapny Extract of Meat advertisement

There is a set of different medicinal wines from Dr. Karol Mikulash (Karol was the son of Peter Milulash for whom the pharmacy was named). This offer is located right in the middle, the best place in the ad, which means that this product was on special demand and generated a good income. We can also see the list of “famous doctors and professors” who highly recommended the “chemically tested” and “certified” wines to cure different problems. So, one can buy:

“Spanish wine with cinchona to treat diarrhea”

Spanish wine with iron sucrose and cinchona to treat anemia and diseases of the nervous system

“Spanish Pepsin wine to cure digestion problems”

“Peptone wine to recover weight in case of chronic diseases, an agent that goes right into your blood” – I am sure it does!

“Rhubarb Spanish wine for catarrhal and intestine gastritis”

The cost of a 0.25-liter bottle is 1.50 guldens

Of course, there is a selection of alcohol also “highly recommended by professors and doctors” for the “unhealthy and convalescent patients” including:

– “Brandy Grande Champagne” for 1.80 guldens per 0.25-liter bottle

–  just regular “Aged Malaga wine” for 1.20 guldens per 0.25-liter bottle

The next item is more than surprising! It is “Fresh blood, 1.20 guldens per a glass jar”…Okay, this looks like the version of the present Hematogenic nutrition bar with albumin taken from processed (defibrinated) cow’s blood. We have also:

– “moth and licorice sweets to treat cough, rattling and sore throat”

– “authentic Pagliano Syrup” produced by Italian healer Pagliano who assured that this was the remedy to treat any possible disease. All doctors were to lose their jobs since there will be no need to use them, he said. The syrup consisted of spirits, mixed with water and powder of licorice and some special root imported from Mexico. It cost 1 gulden only. Quite cheap for a product of this level!

Authentic Pagliano Syrup produced by Italian healer

– miracle-working “Morrison Pills”, Hygeia Vegetable Universal Medicine, a would-be cure-all by James Morrison, a British quack-physician. Morrison believed that bad blood was the cause of all disease, and that purgation from vegetable laxatives was the only cure. He advertised his pills as curing all disease. After “thirty-five years’ of inexpressible suffering”, and experimenting with every imaginable course of medical treatment, he accomplished “his own extraordinary cure” about 1822, by the simple expedient of swallowing a few vegetable pills of his own compounding at bed-time and a glass of lemonade in the morning. These pills are somewhat more expensive than the previous items: 1.50 or 3.50 guldens.

Grant's oddities No 8, the Singular Effects of the Universal Vegetable Pills on a Green Grocer

– French Horilka (Vodka) from Bordo. “Imported from France and bottled here” – sounds trustworthy! And it did not cost much, just 60 kr. per half a bottle, 1 gulden per bottle.

– “Zajdlicki powder, local product, compares well with all other powders in terms of curative properties”

– “Alkaloid axle-grease, best pomade for hair to improve growth and prevent hair loss”

– “French Perfume of our own making” and “French Powder of our own making” 

– “Disinfectant vinegar by Godzebin Maliszewski to cure rheumatism and Polish Plate”.  Polish Plate was a medical condition in which the hair shaft became entangled irreversibly, forming a mass which was matted and sometimes could be sticky and moist. It’s amazing how the same agent can cure both rheumatism and this rare condition. Read more about the Polish Plate here.

– “Fluid of our own making for frostbite” Note that this ad was placed in the paper on Mar 29!

The ad also says that in addition to the products specified above, there are plenty of other medications, as well as surgical instruments and materials.  It emphasizes the fact that their “medicinal wines and drinks for the unhealthy and convalescent patients” are available in stock and in all company pharmacies across Galicia and Krakow, as well as in the other provinces of the empire.

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour back in time as much as I did. I invite you to follow Andriy Dorosh on FB so you won’t miss our further publications. Feel free to contact me if you would like to uncover your family story or have a real heritage tour to Ukraine or Poland. I know it is not the time to travel, but it is a perfect time to design your custom itinerary, build a great plan of a trip that will connect you to authentic culture, rich history, real experiences, and life-long memories.

Literature: Dilo – Ruthenian Political Magazine – Lviv, 1883.