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antiquebottle THEMEDICINE CHEST --- BY DR. RICHARD CANNON

antique DR. RUSHbottles

Benjamin Rush is remembered asearly America's most distinguished physician, and was a signer ofthe Declaration of Independence. Several proprietary medicinevendors cashed in on Dr. Rush's good name. Abraham HillardFlanders, M.D., appears to have been the last and mostsuccessful.

Three Rush's Sarsaparilla bottles.Misspelled variant is on the left.

Dr. Flanders practiced medicine ILowell, Mass. in the 1850's. He moved to Boston in 1866 andintroduced a line of bottled medicines presumably from formulashanded down by Dr. Rush. The medicines experienced some success.Dr. Flanders moved his operation to New York City about 1872 andlocated at No. 3 Rutherford Place, Stuyvesant Square. His commentabout Rush's Lung Balm indicates that he was truly a student ofmedicine: “It has the power of radically curing consumption(T.B.), which it does by dissolving the tubercles in the lungs,and ripening and healing the ulcers”.

Flanders put out Rush's Bitters, New York, in alight amber, square bottle, 8 7/8 inches tall, Rush'sSarsaparilla and Iron, New York, in an aqua, rectangular bottle,8 3/4 inches tall, with an earlier variant from Boston, amisspelled (Sarsaparila) variant, and a rare amber variant.Rush's Vegetable Pain Cure, New York, a scarce cure, in an aqua,rectangular bottle, 5 1/8 inches tall, Rush's Bachu and Iron, NewYork, in an aqua, rectangular bottle, 8 3/4 inches tall, and theRush's Lung Balm in an aqua, rectangular bottle, 7 1/8 inchestall. He also manufactured Rush's Pills, Rush's Restorer, Rush'sFemale Remedy, and later, Rush's Catarrh Remedy and Rush's Feverand Ague Compound. Advertisements can be found as late as 1907.

Benjamin Rush (1745-1813)

Others used Rush's name for their benefit.Rush's Acoustic Oil was advertised in the Plattsburgh (N.Y.)Republican in 1864 and Rush's Cream Liniment was advertised inthe New York Daily Times in 1853. Also there is an aqua, openpontiled bottle embossed Rush's Syrup / White Mustard / R.McDonald / & Sons, that is 4 1/2 inches tall and 3/4 by 3/4inches square, and an aqua, open pontiled bottle embossed Dr.Rush's / Sarsaparilla / Mobile, Ala., that is 7 1/2inches tall and rectangular. Wouldn't I like to have this one!

Now for a closer look at Benjamin Rush. He wasof English Quaker stock and born in 1745, at Byberry, Pa. Hegraduated from Princeton University at the age of 15, and eightyears later (1768), received his medical degree from theUniversity of Edinburgh in Scotland. He practiced medicine inPhiladelphia and served as professor of chemistry and medicine atthe College of Philadelphia (which in 1791 merged into theUniversity of Pennsylvania). He was also physician to thePennsylvania Hospital from 1783 to 1813, where he introducedclinical instruction. His work there aroused social reform, andin 1786, he established the first free clinic in the UnitedStates, the Philadelphia Dispensary.

Rush's Lung Balsam (left)and a Rush's Buchu and Iron. Both are in aqua glass.

Rush was prominent in fighting the yellow feverepidemic of Philadelphia in 1793. He was a handsome man of highlyoriginal mind, well read, well trained in his profession, astraight forward teacher, had wide human interests, and wassometimes wrong-headed as well as strong headed. He helped foundthe first American antislavery society, and Dickinson College. Hewas against war, the death penalty, alcoholism, and was forbetter education of women. He was easily the ablest Americanphysician of his time, and his reputation and writings won himgolden opinions abroad. He was referred to as the“Hippocrates of Pennsylvania”. Rush described cholerainfantum in 1773, and wrote on insanity, yellow fever, dengue,diseases of North American Indians, troop hygiene, the effect ofarsenic on cancer, and other topics.

He served as a member of the ConstitutionalCongress, signed the Declaration of Independence, and wasTreasurer of the United States Mint from 1799 to 1813.

Dr. Rush was a staunch advocate of“bleeding” and “leeching”, so much so that hebled himself to death while sick in his bed in 1813. Theprevailing vogue in therapy, owing much to the influence of Rush,stressed extreme bleeding and purging. It was medicine's“heroic age”. However, not every patient felt likebeing a hero, and eventually many nostrum makers boasted thattheir product was, in the words of A.H. Flanders, “entirelyvegetable in its nature, and contains no morphine or otherinjurious ingredient”. In other words, it won't hurt youeven if it doesn't help you. I'm with you Dr. Flanders,particularly when I'm the one needing a cure!


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