Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pierce's Memorandum

Pierce's Memorandum
 Account Book
...a present from the
World's Dispensary Medical Association

Dr. V. Mott Pierce (Harvard, 1888 and MD University of Buffalo 1891) followed his father, Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce, into the family proprietary medical business (1914), the World's Dispensary Medical Association, where he served as president until his death in 1942. According to his obituaries, he was the first person in Buffalo NY to own a car (6 October 1897)! In addition to the Dispensary, he was founder and president of the Pierce Glass Company, Point Allegany PA.

(click to enlarge)

"...consult the Faculty of the Invalids' Hotel...by letter!" You can't do this today, if we're talking about a licensed physician, that is. Laws have changed, and though you can consult WebMD and other internet resources online, licensed physicians are not going to respond to a letter or email from you except with an invitation to make an appointment to be seen in person.

Unless constipated, I'm not so sure I'd take medication that promised that blood would be "enriched and purified" by "arousing the stomach, liver and bowels into vigorous action." That sounds like an unpleasant round of diarrhea to me! 

Before the existence of terrorists and nuclear weapons people had problems with "nervousness." It is remarkable this ailment has disappeared from the population! Evidently, we're too dumb to be "nervous" these days!

"Worn-out, run-down, weak and diseased women" apparently were also a problem in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Though it was likely they were equally "run-down" and nervous, men were seldom described this way. Remedies suggested depended upon what the merchant was selling. Drugs supposedly helped, but so did sewing machines and good washboards.

Above is a sample memorandum page. They were scattered among the pages of ads for Pierce products.

Well this is unusual! Above we hear from a nervous man! The importance of testimonials was enhanced by the publication of the testifiers' likenesses adjacent to the testimony. Mr. Jas. D. Lively of Washburn, TN., presumably with no medical credentials whatsoever, recommends Golden Medical Discovery as a "spring tonic." Mr. Lively lived somewhere in the vicinity seen in the Google Earth view below:

Since patriarchy was strong in the late 19th century, it was common for male doctors to have "answers" for women's symptoms. Knowledge flowed from men who presumably had some of it to women, who supposedly had none--and were not encouraged to acquire any. All women had to do was listen to men.

Port Dover, Ontario, Canada is on the north shore of Lake Erie just about at its midpoint. Google Earth provides a satellite perspective below. Though Mrs. Benj. Blake was not listed as one of Port Dover's notable people in Wikipedia, she was probably a prominent individual (or married to one) in her time, perhaps a captain of a fishing boat.

Memorial to Port Dover fishermen (Google Street View)
A booklet entitled Dr. Pierce's Favorite Prescription is available here, but it actually is devoted mostly to ads for other products and services.

In general, doctors did not invent diseases so that cures could be sold. On the other hand, even today, despite its best efforts, the profession as a whole does not do a very efficient job of dispelling foolish notions if a profit is being made selling products or worthless procedures to "cure" them. Drug company sales representatives are often seen in the vicinity of doctor's offices.

"Curing" aspects of normal human sexual experience by acquiescing to the fiction that  certain widespread behaviors are "abnormal" or undesirable with supposedly horrific side effects is a very common method of generating sales and cash flow. (Worldwide, politicians also use sexual taboos to their personal advantage--while remaining free to fill their personal lives with such experiences, of course.) From Ray Vaughn Pierce's "People's Common Sense Medical Adviser..." comes this example:

From the same source, here's another example (as with above, click to enlarge):

While not completely disavowing the foolish cause and effect itself, R.V. Pierce offers this advice (p.801):

Dr. Pierce was not above raising "false hopes" in order to "secure your money." He was one of several very financially successful Victorian physicians to combine medical practice with drug manufacture and sales. His many booklets spun tall tales primarily to sell product, and only incidentally to inform, educate or heal.

This deluge of advertising was slowly countered by standards of conduct promoted by the American Medical Association, U.S. Federal government regulations for drug advertising and by other sources of unbiased information as they became available to the general public. The AMA's campaign was vigorously prosecuted. Here's a quote from the Journal of the American Medical Association (as with all images on this post, click to enlarge):

In the present time, such deceptions and "inferential falsehoods" persist. Companies interested in "securing" your money peddle drug cures directly to you as well as to your doctors, hoping to duplicate the success of those who sell faith cures using similar advertising techniques.

Inferential falsehood is standard advertising practice. How often do you see wellness products hawked by spokespeople who appear old, stupid, weak or sickly and thus obviously in need of the products advertised? The inferential falsehood portrayed is that you can, merely by purchasing product, achieve the remarkable transformation from sickly middle-aged whiner to robust teenage socializer (or whatever your personal ideal might be).

Beware! Our individual mortality is a common end played by all those attempting to sell us stuff, whether it be drugs or ideas. Or, as Dr. Pierce put it:
"No matter how plausible the web of arguments woven to entrap you, be assured they are the utterance of knaves who care not what false hopes they encourage so they secure your money."
Did Dr. Pierce see a "knave" when he looked at himself?

There is no substitute for doing the hard work of educating yourself by reading and listening widely to a variety of "facts" and points of view from multiple sources. Thinking for yourself is the best use of your time here--and will no doubt benefit your financial situation, too.

If you wanted to contact the World's Dispensary in the early 20th century, you could use this handy form.

Backache is not limited to women, of course. For all humans, arthritis first appears in early adulthood. Most all adults over 30 have it to varying degrees. None of us lift heavy objects properly all the time, either. So the market for backache medication is wide. Women are targeted, however, perhaps because of their assumed tendency to be more honest with themselves about their conditions. Men, fearing a perception of weakness, are more likely to "work through the pain" if they ever admit to its existence at all. Drugs of willful deception, accordingly, are marketed to males, though not generally by physicians, who are frustrated by patients who do not honestly reveal symptoms. Among drugs of deception, alcohol is most commonly used.

The advice to "overworked women" is not as logic might suggest, to rest more or work less or cease doing for others what they could just as well do for themselves. Just take this stuff in multiple doses and all will be well. And keep working, women! The patriarch speaks. From his chair.

What do males know of the "Miracle of Motherhood?" Well, here goes:

According to NY Heritage: "Pierce [Ray Vaughn] was a strong proponent of free enterprise, and took a lead in the fight against the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906." The Food & Drug Administration states the 1906 Act "prohibited interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs."

In other words, Pierce was a enthusiastic supporter of Capitalism unregulated by any government, which in the American Victorian era gave free reign for merchants to fleece the general public, preying upon pervasive ignorance, fear and superstition. Was Pierce engaged in commerce with adulterated or misbranded drugs? Perhaps he thought he was.

Wikipedia has an article on Ray Vaughn Pierce, but none on his son V. Mott Pierce, who carried on in the business after his father's death in 1914.

The World's Dispensary gave out coupons for urine analysis to be redeemed as directed on the back of the coupon. Both the coupon and the Dispensary have expired.

A video of the 60th anniversary pamphlet published by the World's Dispensary Medical Association is available here. (Use arrow to start video, pause to read.)

Pierce's advertising was all over the U.S., even on Oregon barns:

(Google Street View)

Want to hear still more from Dr. Pierce? Here are some links to PDF files of his other advertising booklets:

Dr. Pierce's First Aid Book - Michigan State University's copy is not exactly the same as the paper copy in my possession. It may be a different edition. In any case this will give you a good idea of the advice handed out.

Treatise on the Most Prevalent Chronic Diseases With Suggestions as to Their Successful Treatment - Michigan State University scanned this booklet.

The People's Common Sense Medical Advisor was R.V. Pierce's central work. (Project Gutenberg)

Weather Proverbs and Probabilities for the Home (Internet Archive)

Dr. Pierce's Irontic Tablets

A slideshow version of "Happiness in the Home" is on YouTube.

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