antiquebottles THEMEDICINE CHEST --- BY DR. RICHARD CANNON old bottles


In the attic we found a framed 16 by 20inch portrait of a beautiful little girl that now hangsprominently in my office. This child, Hertha Zunker, was born in1901, the older sister to my wife's mother. She died in 1902, of summer complaint,which means she became severely dehydrated from vomiting anddiarrhea. This was an all too common occurrence in those days,and the condition which eventually led to the development ofpediatrics as a specialty.

J. Lewis Smith,M.D., in A Treatise On The Disease Of Infancy And Childhood, 1886,wrote these words: "The prevalence and severity of infantilediarrhea in cities correspond closely with the degree ofatmospheric heat--. In New York this disease begins in the monthof May-earlier in some years than in others-in a few scatteredcases, commonly of the mild type. Cases become more and morenumerous and severe as the weather grows warmer until July andAugust when the diarrhea attains its maximum prevalence andseverity. In the middle of September new patients begin to beless common.

Gilbert'sCure For Cholera Infantum.

"Cholerainfantum is the most severe form of infantile diarrhea---. In afew hours the parents scarcely recognize in the changed andmelancholy aspect of the infant any resemblance to the featureswhich it exhibited a day or two before. The eyes are sunken, theeyelids and lips are permanently open from the feeble contractilepower of the muscles which close them, while the loss of thefluids from the tissues and the emaciation are such that the bony angles become more prominentand the skin in places lies in folds.

"As thedisease approaches a fatal termination, which occurs in two orthree days, the infant remains quiet, not disturbed even by theflies which alight upon its face.

"Cholerainfantum is one of those diseases in regard to which physiciansoften injure their reputation by not giving sufficient notice ofthe danger, or even by expressing a favorable opinion when thecase soon after ends fatally."

HerthaZunker (1901-1902)

I own a bottleembossed on the front panel Gilbert's Cure / For / CholeraInfantum. It's bimal with a smooth base, aqua, rectangular and 61/8inches tall. Neither Bill Agee or John Wolf know of a labeledone, and have been unable to come up with any backgroundinformation on this cure. They believe that the bottle is rare.

Who might have putout this product? Eric McGuire in Bottled Products And TheU.S. Patent Office, 19th CenturyTrade Mark And Label Registrations, 1991, lists 5 Gilbertswho registered medicinal preparations: Gilbert Brothers and Co.,Baltimore, Md., 1895; Benjamin S. Gilbert York, Pa., 1896;Gilbert J.N. and G. McArthur, Columbus, Ga., 1885; Gilbert, JabezC., Brooklyn, N.Y., 1886; and Gilbert, John P., N.Y., N.Y., 1893.

Nathan A. Gilbertof Enosburgh Falls, Vermont, should also be added to the list.N.A. Gilbert and Company was established in 1886 by Gilbert andJ.W. Beatty as an outgrowth of a drug and medicine business runby Benjamin J. Kendall in 1876, and Henry D. Kendall in 1881.They were the producers of Kendall's Spavin Cure. In 1891,Gilbert and Co. was manufacturing Gilbert's Sarsaparilla Bitters,Wild Indian Lung Balsam, and Scotch Oil, a family and horseliniment to compete with Kendall's Spavin Cure. Maybe they trieda cure for cholera infantum as well.

Another possibleproducer was Gilbert Brothers and Company of Baltimore, bestremembered for their widely advertised Yager's Sarsaparilla. Inthe city directory they were given as Druggists, Wholesale, at 9No. Howard from 1896 through 1900, and at 9-13 Howard through1912. The address changed to 308-310 Lombard St. in 1913, andremained the same through 1930. John T. Gilbert was president in1909, William E. Gilbert was sec.-treas., and Alfred E. Mealy waspresident, a William Mealy was vice-president, and Wm. E. Gilbertwas sec.-treas. The company was sued in 1903 for dameges foralleged blindness or death caused by drinking their essence ofginger concocted with wood alcohol instead of grain alcohol. Theoutcome is not known to me. Their 1906 ad included Yager'sSarsaparilla, Yager's Liniment, Yager's Headache Tablets, HoneyTolu, Oleo Vino, and "Many Other Specialties". I haveno information on who Yager was. Both Yager's Cream ChloroformLiniment and Anti-Fag, Certain Cure For Headache were patented in1895. There was also a Gilbert's Laxatol which probably came fromthem.

Benjamin S.Gilbert registered only Manoline (for medicine), Gilbert andMcArthur, only McArthur's Magical Mixture, Jabez Gelbert, onlyAvadink Tonic (for a tonic beverage), and John T. Gilbert, onlyDr. Gilbert's Vital Vim Compromise Stimulant. This cholerainfantum cure could have come from any of these, but I think theVermont or Baltimore Gilberts are more likely.

I wish I couldhave been around to treat little Hertha with intravenous fluidsand electrolytes. They do wonders for dehydrated infants andchildren. Then maybe she would have made it........

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