M21681.21 | DWIGHT'S REMEDY FOR CHOLERA Diarrhea, etc.

1850-1900, 19th century
11.8 x 3.9 x 2.8 cm
Gift from Mrs. William R. Bentham
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Bottle (16)
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Keys to History

Cholera struck hard and long in 19th-century Canada. The first epidemic occurred in 1832 and rapidly swept through Upper and Lower Canada, claiming more than 12,000 lives. Other major cholera outbreaks occurred later in the century.

This devastating disease gripped people's minds, creating a climate of terror. The corpses it left behind were blue-black, which gave rise to the French expression avoir une peur bleue, meaning to be badly frightened (scared blue).

Up to the end of the 19th century, people associated sickness with miasma (noxious vapours from putrefying matter), believed to poison the body. This explains why cannon salvos were fired in Quebec City during the 1832 epidemic, in an effort to alter the pernicious properties of the air. The results were hardly conclusive.

Doctors were at a loss to cure the dreadful infection and its attendant diarrhea and vomiting. Inevitably, there were opportunists who claimed to have found miracle cures. The product seen here professes to prevent cholera.

Traité élémentaire de matière médicale et guide pratique des soeurs de charité de l'Asile de la Providence (Montreal: Imprimerie de la Providence, 1890), pp. 26-27, 680.

Source : Cures and Quackery: The Rise of Patent Medicines [Web tour], by Denis Goulet, Université de Sherbrooke (see Links)

  • What

    As the label indicates, the solution in this bottle was used to treat cholera and diarrhea.

  • Where

    This type of remedy was probably distributed in all Canadian regions.

  • When

    As violent epidemics of cholera swept Canada in the 19th century, many medications appeared on the market.

  • Who

    This remedy was developed by a Dr. Dwight. The ravages caused by cholera prompted numerous people - some well intentioned, some less so - to offer therapeutic concoctions for sale.