Good Health In A Jar

I've just been on the most wonderful few days away at the lighthouse on Bruny Island, Tasmania, with fellow LoveCats, Rachel Bailey and Nikki Logan, and our friend, Alison.

The quarters were cosy and fun and graciously old-fashioned - a delightful cross between staying at my nana's place and visiting a working museum. And there were treasures that, as a medical romance writer, I couldn't resist!


The first was a small ceramic pot that had once been filled with Holloway's Ointment. This excellent multipurpose salve boasted that it was for The Cure of Gout and Rheumatism, Inveterate Ulcers, Sore Breasts, Sore Heads and Bad Legs.

Surely a must for every household medicine chest - and indeed it was in the 1800s.

The man behind the jar was Thomas Holloway. Born in 1800, he was apprenticed to a chemist at age sixteen. But his true genius was in marketing. Thomas began selling his ointment in 1837 and became an extremely successful "patent medicine merchant" . A born entrepreneur, his ointment and pills were advertised in newspapers around the world and offered full printed any language, even in Turkish, Arabic, Armenian, Persian or Chinese.

The products were offered for sale by nearly every respectable Vendor of Medicine through the Civilized World.

In the wonderfully flowery prose of the nineteenth century, one advertisement assures us that the invaluable unguent acts by stimulating the absorbants to increased activity by preventing congestion and promoting a free and copious circulation in the parts affected, thence speedily and effectually it ensures a cure.


So what did this wonder lotion contain? One reference I found suggests one of the ingredients was opium, another reference, that it was mostly beeswax and lanolin.

Whatever it contained, Thomas's ointment and his pills made him a very, very wealthy man and he went on to become a philanthropist endowing the Holloway Sanatorium and the Royal Holloway College (now part of the University of London)....

But that's a subject for a whole other blog!



Published on LoveCats DownUnder, 6 April, 2011