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Proprietary Medicines as Victorian Era Popular Culture: Results from 45CL582, the Vancouver Conference Center Site
Thursday, February 2, 2006 - 4:00pm
Speaker: Julie J. Wilt (Applied Archaeological Research)

Location: Cramer Hall, Room 41 

Event is Free and Open to the Public

Families that formerly occupied what is now site 45CL582 in downtown Vancouver consumed remarkable amounts of proprietary and other medicines as indicated by the nearly 700 bottles that were recovered during Applied Archaeological Research's excavations at the site in 2003-2004. Proprietary medicines were mass-produced and mass-marketed in the American Victorian era. They contained undisclosed and often dangerous ingredients and were sold directly to the public without a prescription. At site 45CL582, as elsewhere in the country during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, these "cures" and "remedies" were purchased and consumed by people of all incomes, status, and levels of education. The enormous popularity of proprietary medicines is attributed in part to the budding advertising industry the ineffectiveness of conventional medicine. This paper examines patent medicines and their associated ephemera as objects of American popular culture that were an inescapable part of everyday life.

Julie J. Wilt has been a consulting archaeologist in the Pacific Northwest for over 15 years, working on prehistoric and historic and era sites throughout the area.

For questions, contact Virginia Butler, 5-3303 or Michael Schurke, mcschurk@pdx.edu.