M930.50.5.41 | Liebig's liquid extract of beef and tonic invigorator

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Liebig's liquid extract of beef and tonic invigorator
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
4.1 x 7.2 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Miscellaneous (671) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Tonics of all sorts, many made from beef extract, were extremely popular and widely advertised. Unlike fast-acting stimulants, which quickly wore off, tonics worked slowly and had a lasting effect. They were believed to invigorate all parts of the body. Beef concentrate, in particular, served to "regenerate" and "enrich" the blood.

In traditional societies like that of 19th-century Canada, the most common signs of illness were a feeling of weakness and impeded physical activity. And since a diminished capacity for work and physical exertion was a constant threat to the well-being and livelihood of day labourers, workers and housewives, advertisers focused on these obvious symptoms. As a result, the potential customer base was very large.

The proposed cures were based on increasing the patient's energy and restoring strength. This accounts for the profusion of nostrums that produced only vague effects, while claiming to cure a wide range of ailments and diseases.

Traité élémentaire de matière médicale et guide pratique des soeurs de charité de l'Asile de la Providence <\I>(Montreal: Imprimerie de la Providence, 1890), p. 156.

J. K. Crellin, Home Medicine <\I>(Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994), pp. 149, 206-207.

  • What

    Engraved print by John Henry Walker advertising a beef extract tonic fortified with cocaine and a high concentration of alcohol, about 23°.

  • Where

    This tonic was very popular in Canada. Some religious communities marketed competitive products. The "iron-rich beef extract" made by the Sisters of Charity in Montreal was said to be one of the best preparations of the sort.

  • When

    Widely advertised from the 1850s through the 1930s, this product was especially recommended for use during the winter.

  • Who

    The Liebig Company of New York marketed this product as Coca Beef Tonic. The advertising was targeted to all sufferers of general fatigue.