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Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup Bottle

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Artifact Description

The 19th-century children’s market was especially profitable for patent-medicine purveyors. With limited health care and high infant mortality, hope for an ill child was often purchased in the form of a small bottle—which frequently contained some form of narcotic. One of the most famous was Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, a morphine-based formula bottled as a remedy for infant’s "teething sickness." The excavation of the SS Republic wreck site produced 10 bottles of the popular bottle, all of which were recovered empty.

The teething formula was first concocted in 1835 by Mrs. Charlotte Winslow, a nurse who had been treating children for thirty years. Her son-in-law, Jeremiah Curtis, and a partner, Benjamin A. Perkins began marketing her recipe in 1849. Mrs. Winslow’s preparation enjoyed enormous success promoted by advertisements that encouraged concerned mothers to use the syrup for their teething infants. “It Soothes the Child, Softens the Gums, Allays all Pain, Cures Wind and Colic, and is the Best Remedy for Diarrhea.”  The maker’s bragged that their product relieves little suffers at once, produces natural, quiet sleep, by freeing the child from pain, and the little cherub awakes bright as a button.”

Tragically the popularity of this product and other morphine-laced products resulted in widespread drug addiction among children. Numerous infant deaths from overdoses were reported in newspapers. It was not until the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 that more stringent steps were taken to prevent the manufacture and sale of harmful children’s narcotics such as Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup.

Other Details

H: 12.3 cm

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