A window display for 'Dr Morse's Indian Root Pills'
Colour lithographs, 19th century
For centuries, one of the favourite techniques for marketing
medicines has been to emphasise the rarity of their ingredients,
the exotic places from which they, with difficulty, had been
acquired, and the esoteric skills used to turn them into medicines.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, vendors claimed to have gathered
their raw materials from Araby or Turkey. In the 19th century they
often claimed that their medicines drew on secret traditional
folklore of the Native Americans, as shown in this set of colour
The prints from a pharmacist's window display advertising the
medicine supposed to be made by Dr Morse using native American
roots vegetables. In fact the medicines were made in a factory in
Morristown in the Adirondacks by the Comstock company established
in about 1867 by William Henry Comstock. It flourished up to the
time of World War I, but declined thereafter. The Morristown
factory was closed in 1959 and the firm was dissolved in 1960.