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M930.50.1.893
© McCord Museum
Engraving
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
M930.50.1.893
© McCord Museum

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.

References
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.

© Musée McCord Museum