Miraculous Medical Marvels – Potion or Poison?

During April 2023 Kings Landing held an exhibit at Government House in Fredericton showing how some marketed “medicines” turned out to detrimental and how mourning took place in the 1800s. This exhibit featured artefacts held by Kings Landing such as “cure all” remedies – which were often fortified with alcohol, morphine, opium, or cocaine – and memorabilia from the dead – such a hair wreath in memory of Alfretta Emerson, who supposedly washed her hair in a rain barrel in the chill of winter and caught pneumonia and died.



Patent medicines were marketed as “sure remedies” and sold without prescription. They were often fortified with alcohol, morphine, opium, or cocaine. Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup (1888) contained enough morphine to quiet teething infants and fussing children—and sometimes kill them.


Physicians and medical societies said the remedies did not cure illnesses and caused alcohol and drug dependency, prompting the Canadian Parliament in 1908 to pass the Proprietary or Patent Medicine Act. This act regulated the use of cocaine and required pharmaceutical companies to list all ingredients on the label.


In the theme of mourning, we also had our “Celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II” exhibit from 2022 in the adjacent room. In honour of Her Late Majesty and His Late Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, it featured their visit to Kings Landing in 1976.


Join us at Kings Landing for our “Miraculous Medical Marvels!” weekend on August 19 & 20, 2023 to hear from the villagers about these medicines!

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