Unregulated “patent medicines” were big business before the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 forced manufacturers to list ingredients. Limited birth control and illegal abortion drove women to buy pills and powders that promised to “restore and regulate menstrual function.” Meanwhile syrups secretly loaded with alcohol and morphine were sold to mothers, who were persuaded that happy babies were quiet. This small installation shows how these products were shrewdly marketed to women desperate to conform to social rules.
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.