Front and back covers for the catalog from Murray Hill Publishers in New York, dated 1887-1888.
Front and back covers for the catalog from Murray Hill Publishers in New York, dated 1887-1888.
New Year's Resolutions, for sure - almost all newsstand magazines are touting ways to be healthy. Times have not changed, as even 1887 almanacs and freebies were flush with the same promotions.

Dr. E.B. Foote was a prominent doctor/author who offered "Health Hints & Ready Recipes," 128 pages for only 25 cents. Known as the "Common Sense Doctor," he had greatly enlarged his "Medical Common Sense" tome with a new title, "Plain Home Talk," selling 250,000 copies. Other titles available for a few cents each included Sensual Physiology for the Young (50 pages, illustrated); Sterility and Barrenness; Dr. Foote's Health Monthly (devoted to Hygiene, Sexual and Social Science and Allied Subjects); Home-Cure Series (Croup, Old Eyes Made New, Cold Feet, Spermatorrhea); Borning Better Babies; Heredity; and many more.

Paging through the 96 page joke book printed by Murray Hill Publishing Co., every other page showed cartoon characters in funny situations and silly jokes; all other pages were devoted to hard sells by Dr. Foote for countless booklets or volumes hyping good health and treatments for various conditions and diseases.

We are told Dr. Foote's office and residence was located in New York City near the Grand Central Depot, the 3rd Avenue elevated railroad, and the largest and best hotels, yet aside from the business thoroughfare. It was the most complete medical establishment in the country and he was assisted by his two competent sons, both physicians.

They had records on file to prove this celebrated physician had treated more than 60,000 patients in his short (54 year) life. "He invites consultation by mail, free of charge, and has the satisfaction of knowing there are today in the United States, England and Australia, thousands of grateful friends who have by free advice or by treatment, been restored to health, relieved of some destroying habit, or actually snatched from the jaws of death."

Dr. Foote had been given a Histological Microscope and Chemical Analysis apparatus to settle questions as to diseases affecting the general nervous system, blood, digestive organs, kidney, bladder, and genital organs. He had answers for affectation of the lungs; Bright's disease of the kidneys; throat troubles; skin eruptions. His treatise on Diseases of Women deplored the surgeons who inflicted the "Slaughter of Innocents" with unnecessary caustics, cutting, and insertion of instruments of torture on suffering women. Women often doomed to chronic invalidism would benefit greatly with Dr. Foote's diagnosis and could rejoice in the restoration of healthy usefulness.

Men concerned about sterility could also be helped. Dr. Foote spent little time on conditions that required obvious surgery, instead endeavoring to devise some means to relieve common afflictions that could be cured other than by surgery such as phimosis, rupture, varicocele, and piles.

The best Method of Treatment was "constitutional treatment by special means - inhalations, cleansing washes, healing ointments, and anodyne liniments." As to those who relied on devices such as certain belts, garments, pads, plasters, insoles, etc. - his response was "they are unreliable." He was not supportive of those with an electrical nature as the "chemical action wears out or rusts out soon."

However, Dr. Foote offered an incredible array of items for the family medicine chest and most were one dollar by mail. The Magnetic Ointment #1 was a positive cure for every sore spot on the human frame, even used on children. Magnetic Catarrh Balm #2 relieved soreness on nose, eyes, ears and lips. Magnetic (must be a captivating word?!) Anti-bilious Pills #3 were an entirely vegetable substitute for mercury and essential to liver function. Magic Eye Lotion #4 - the best known remedy for chronic sore eyes. But if I used #2, why would I need #4?

An entire "Family Medicine Chest" in a sturdy wooden box contained popular remedies including the aforementioned plus Nervine, Fever Drops, Styptic Drops (for nosebleeds), Toothache Drops, Cough Syrup, Sanitary Wash, Stomach Cordial, Hot Drops (for diarrhea), Stimulant (for faints), and Anti-malarial Pills - all for only $5, by express. Ladies could be healed of a multitude of female ailments with the Self-Cure Soluble Sanitary Tampons, and gentlemen would want to check out the Surgical Supporters and the Pile Compressors. Rubber goods included Fountain, Sanitary and Post-Nasal Syringes for healing douches, plus the Vienna Water-Bottle, ice bags, air cushions and air bedpans.

A complicated gadget of metal and screws was a "sure self-cure for phimosis" (usually corrected by circumcision) and only cost $10. A Magnetic Croup Tippet, when tied around the neck of a sleeping baby, was a "valuable nursery article, proved perfectly satisfactory in thousands of families" to cure croup.

The hype for cures of all kinds was just as prevalent 125 years ago as it is today. Many of the 1887 "ailments" aren't even found in the modern dictionaries, but in any case, they could be cured by Dr. Foote's remedies. He must have become a wealthy man, what do you think?

Samples of jokes found in the pages:

• Patient: "How is it, Doctor, that I always take a cold in my head?"

Doctor: "It is a well-known principle, sir, that a cold is most likely to settle in the weakest part."

• "Whether buttermilk be good for babies or not, we may be sure that if a baby has the right kind of mother, it will not want any but-her-milk."

Happy New Year, and may your resolutions be good ones!