M930.50.1.893 | Commercial label of Bowman's Indian Vegetable Pills

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Create a new pairCommercialization and Oppression
Commercial label of Bowman's Indian Vegetable Pills
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
3.7 x 3.7 cm
Gift of David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Miscellaneous (671) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

The myth of the Noble Savage, symbol of physical strength and fitness, was often exploited in naming patent remedies. Other selling points included allusions to ancient Native medicinal plant lore and the aura of mystery and magic surrounding the preparation of natural medicines.

The Indian medicine man (shaman) and his myriad healing powers - part skill, part magic - became part of the sales pitch. The exotic primitivism portrayed on this label suggests that the remedy holds the key to nature, power, primal well-being.

J. Collin and D. Béliveau, Histoire de la pharmacie au Québec (Montreal: Musée de la pharmacie du Québec, 1994), pp. 138-141.

J. K. Crellin, Home Medicine (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994), pp. 68-69.

  • What

    Commercial label for a box of pills containing plant extracts; engraving by John Henry Walker.

  • Where

    The manufacturer, one M. Bowman, was located in Montreal and likely sold on the Canadian market.

  • When

    This label dates from the latter half of the 19th century. Ads for such products, with their typical imagery, appeared in Canadian newspapers and magazines until the turn of the century.

  • Who

    Advertising like this was aimed at the general public. The image of the Noble Savage in the wilderness was used to promote the medicinal properties of natural products.