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Patent Medicine

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Every once in a while, I wonder Whatever happened to Paine's Celery Compound, and those other pills and medicines advertised in newspapers around Rock Island 100 years ago. In our modern age, when a simple cold demands that we choose from at least a dozen lozenges and syrups, depending on what symptoms we want relieved, and whether the cold is in head, throat or chest, Paine's Celery Compound seems almost miraculous.

A cold was the least thing the compound could cure. It worked wonders for chronic rheumatism, kidney disease and nervous exhaustion. In addition, taking the compound permanently cured dyspepsia, neuralgia, sleeplessness, melancholy, headaches, constipation, diseases of the blood and liver, as well as eczema and other skin diseases. All cures were permanent.

Those who might doubt these claims were referred to testimonials by a long list of lawyers, ministers and "all similar classes of thoughtful intelligent people," including the Reverend Hugh Johnson, President McKinley's personal minister.

If Paine's Celery Compound is not enough to make you long for the good old days, an adjacent advertisement by Dr. J. E. Walsh certainly will. Dr. Walsh operated the Chicago Medical Institute in the McCullough Building in downtown Davenport. In this office was an electrical machine for the treatment of all nervous diseases and rheumatism. On the side it could do x-rays. Unlike today's HMO specialists in toes, noses, ears and eyes, Dr. Walsh could in seven days cure cases of memory loss, mental delusions, kidney and liver diseases, asthma, scrofula, facial blemishes, and all diseases peculiar to women.

His specialty, however, was abdominal and brain surgery. Those of you who have endured long waits in doctors’ offices will find Dr. Walsh's final notice appealing. If you desire, the good doctor will perform these surgeries in the convenience of your own home. Where in our modern advanced medical profession, can you find someone willing to do that today?

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Humanities Council and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, with additional funding from Humanities Iowa, the Iowa Arts Council, and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.