M930.50.1.900 | Commercial label of Devins' Vegetable Pain Killer

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Commercial label of Devins' Vegetable Pain Killer
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
5.5 x 3.7 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Miscellaneous (671) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Analgesics, or painkillers, were one of the most popular remedies of the 19th century. They were usually made of an opium or morphine tincture and camphorated spirits, plus plant extracts for flavour and texture.

Compounds of this sort were often touted as ideal for keeping youngsters healthy. So-called children's remedies abounded, many of them strongly laced with alcohol and powerful sedatives.

Soothing syrups were very popular with mothers during the latter half of the 19th century, for a variety of uses. Because of their opiate content, they became a family favourite for calming children or putting them to sleep. This may seem shocking today, but is it really so different from, say, the current excessive use of Ritalin?

D. Goulet and G. Rousseau,"L'émergence de l'électrothérapie au Québec, 1890-1910," Bulletin d'histoire de l'électricité (Paris), June 1987, pp. 155-158.

D. Goulet, "La promesse des ceintures électriques : la vigueur retrouvée," Cap-aux-Diamants, Aux pays des hommes forts, spring 2002, pp. 33-37.

  • What

    Commercial label for a box of pills; engraving by John Henry Walker. In addition to vegetable extracts, these analgesics, or painkillers, contained narcotics.

  • Where

    Although the manufacturer was located in Montreal, his painkillers were popular not only in Quebec but with Canadians throughout the country.

  • When

    Analgesics were developed early in the 19th century and remain a favourite remedy today.

  • Who

    Founded in 1861 by druggist R. Devins, joined by R. Bolton two years later, the Devins & Bolton company produced numerous secret remedies, including Worm Pastilles. The two associates became founding members of the Montreal Chemist Association in 1867.