Over Easy: What we need is a miracle cure

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 5/1/2020 9:35:57 PM
Modified: 5/1/2020 9:35:48 PM

The president may be losing faith in his COVID-19 briefings, which had great ratings until they ran off the rails.

Although I couldn’t bring myself to actually watch them, I caught the highlights later. His low point came after he seemed to suggest that disinfectant injections and mighty bursts of healing light might be coronavirus cures. This after touting the dubious chloroquine for weeks, making his own health experts grimace as if they were being administered tiny electric shocks.

He later said he was being sarcastic, but it didn’t seem so when I reviewed the video. Maybe it’s totally my fault. If I can’t see the lighter side of a pandemic, perhaps I need to get out more. Liberate me!

Regardless, I will grant the president this: If he is toiling in a secret White House lab to develop a Coronacleanse, he will be resuscitating a great American tradition — the miracle cure. A presidential potion would follow a long line of would-be remedies that have been squelched by heavy-handed government regulations and the medical deep state.

That history, it just so happens, runs through the Upper Valley.

I just recently was tipped off about the U.S. Newspaper Directory, an online project of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has digitized editions of many American newspapers from 1789 to 1963. I could spend the rest of my days happily reading what is called “the first draft of history” in papers with intriguing names like The Liberty Bell and Workingman’s Advocate of Norwich, Conn. Sadly, there are no New Hampshire papers in the digital collection, so I could not examine the remarkably named Hornet and Sheep’s Foot (!) published in Exeter, N.H., for a time in the 19th century.

I turned to Vermont publications of 1875, a year chosen at random, and happened upon the Spirit of the Age, a long-gone weekly I’d never heard of just down the road in Woodstock.

The Spirit was an eclectic publication, typical of the time, when newspapers included poetry, fiction, brief dispatches from all over and smidgens of local news.

Advertisements inside the Dec. 15, 1875 issue were mostly modest and to the point, such as a notice that “Windsor Eating Rooms’’ were open to the public, courtesy of E.L. Woodward, who offered “warm meals at all hours.” Franklin N. Billings in Woodstock proclaimed himself a purveyor of “Beautiful and Sensible Goods.”

If much of the content was restrained, the medicinal claims in out-of-town ads were not. Dr. Garratt’s Electric Floating Disks brought “medical electricity’’ to bear, wondrously, for “pain, weakness, rheumatism, neuralgia and more.” Medical electricity? Paging the Coronavirus Task Force.

Something called “The French Pill” promised “an infallible cure for most of the ailments of the human system.” It was also an “unfailing specific for female irregularities.”

A product named Castoria was “as pleasant to taste as honey.” Not only that, it “regulates the stomach and bowels, and does not gripe.”

But nothing beat Centaur Liniment, from New York City, which would “alleviate any pain arising from flesh, bone or muscle derangements.” My personal flesh, bone and muscle derangements have been minor, but I was intrigued. I read on.

Its wide-ranging applications would put chloroquine to shame. Centaur claimed its liniment was “particularly suited to all cases of rheumatism, lumbago, neuralgia, erysipelas, itch, sprains, chilblains, cuts, bruises, stings, poisons, scalds …

(Readers are advised to take a breath here if reading aloud.)

… sciatica, weak back, pains in the side, wounds, weeping sinews, burns, frosted feet, palsy, earache, toothache, headache, ulcers, old sores, broken breasts, sore nipples, sore throat, croup, diphtheria, etc.”

But wait, as they say in infomercials, there’s more. The liniment could also treat horses, and was recommended by teamsters who attested to its wondrous effects against “Wind-Gall, Big Head and Poll Evil.”

I had to read up about them to confirm they are real, but after researching symptoms I of course started to suspect I may have had them. So it goes if you don’t harness the power of positive thinking like our president, who has said that coronavirus tests are “beautiful” and anyone can have them if they wish. Did he mean wish upon a star? He didn’t say.

Centaur said its product would “do more good than any amount of money paid for medical attendance. When physicians are called, they frequently use this Liniment, and of course charge several prices for it.” And this was before modern medical billing.

Centaur Liniment was made by the Centaur Co. Its products carried on into the 20th century, and were promoted by celebrity endorsers such as boxing champ Joe Louis and even Phineas T. Barnum, to whom Donald J. Trump has sometimes been compared.

I can’t say if there is a Trump’s Miracle Elixir in his future, but based on all I have seen and heard and taken in, I cannot not say it is out of the question. If he is not a leader for our times, he certainly would have been a dandy fit in 1875.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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