The term “patent medicines” came to describe all pre-packaged medicines sold “over-the-counter” without a doctor’s prescription. In the United States very few preparations were ever actually patented, but they were wildly popular.
Patent medicines, which typically did not disclose their contents, were profitable and plentiful after the Civil War through the early twentieth century, when the first Pure Food and Drug Laws were passed.
The manufacturers and promoters made millions from a public eager for cures for a variety of ailments, and from many who were unable to afford the regular care of a doctor.
On March 21, 2024 at 7 pm, the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site will host a talk a free virtual talk by Kayla Whitehouse of the National Bottle Museum in Ballston Spa, NY on the era of patent medicines, with a focus on women proprietors.
“Queens of Quackery! Female Proprietors of Patent Medicines” will cover the history of patent medicines, typical patent medicine bottles, and some of the more infamous women who made history selling medicines and tonics during that time.