We ran across this rather strange advertisement the other day in an March, 1898 edition of a Chicago newspaper.
In a narrative ad, what online media types might today call a “sponsored post,” the purveyors of “Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People” shared the story of a 17 year old Delaware girl.
Identifying her as Miss Bertha Reed, the daughter of Mr. J. R. Reed of 335 Lake Street, the advertisement begins by noting that “The healthfulness of bicycle riding for women is still a disputed question between eminent physicians and health reformers.”
Apparently “Miss Bertha” began to fall off of her bike on a regular basis. She then grew pale and lost weight. Rest and quiet did not change her condition, and her pulse raced.
Dr. Williams’ pills came to the rescue, of course. “More grateful people than her parents cannot be found in the whole State of Ohio.”
A small “after” drawing highlights the change in young Bertha’s health. Showing a girl riding without hands while parents are watching, the caption reads, “She rides well.”
Young Bertha apparently made a complete recovery. Census records show that she had three children, died in October, 1962 at the age of 82, and is buried in Columbus.
According to the kansapedia website, “Containing a combination of iron oxide and epsom salts, Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills were touted to Civil War veterans with digestive problems, malaria, wounds, and emotional disturbances. Later advertisements claimed that the pink pills were a remedy for many female ailments and could restore the blood and nerves. In 1899, the pills were said to be a restorative for locomotor ataxia, partial paralysis, St. Vitus’ dance, sciatica, neuralgia, rheumatism, nervous headache, the after effects of la grippe, palpitation of the heart, pale and sallow complexions, all forms of weakness either in male or female, and all diseases resulting from the vitiated humors in the blood.”