Notarized Testimonial, Medicine Advertising, 1898
The California gold rush miners of 1849, known as 49ers, faced exposure and a faulty diet, which killed large numbers. Many survivors were afflicted with disease, including rheumatism.
One was Adam Van Gundy, justice of the peace and first president of the board of trustees in Bluffs, Illinois.
In an interview, he made a product testimonial in the form of a sworn statement before a notary, for the medicine he took to treat his condition, Dr. Williams Pink Pills for Pale People.
Customer Sworn Testimonial for Medicine
“I had been a sufferer of rheumatism for a number of years and the pain at times was very intense. I tried all the proprietary medicines I could think or hear of, but received no relief.
I finally placed my case with several physicians and doctored with them for some time, but they failed to do me any good.
Finally, with my hopes of relief nearly exhausted, I read an article regarding Dr. Williams Pink Pills for Pale People, which induced me to try them. I was anxious to get rid of the terrible disease, and bought two boxes of the pills.
I began using them about March, 1897. After I had taken two boxes, I was completely cured, and the pain never returned.
I think it is the best medicine I have ever taken, and am willing at any time to sign my name to any testimony setting forth the good merits.”
Signed, Adam Van Gundy
Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 29th day of September, 1897.
Franklin C. Funk, Notary Public
[Scott County, IL]
Mr. Van Gundy’s statement ought to be regarded as a criterion of the good merits of these pills, and what better proof could a person want than the above facts. These pills stand unrivaled as a tonic for the blood.
Published in the Julesburg Grit, Julesburg, Colorado, September 22, 1898, and many other newspapers.
Dr. Williams Medicine Company
Dr. Williams Pink Pills for Pale People was a late 19th to early 20th-century patent medicine containing iron oxide and magnesium sulfate. It was produced by Dr. Williams Medicine Company and advertised in 82 countries as a miracle cure for many ailments. The Pink Pills were widely used across the British Empire. A box of 40 pills cost 50 cents.
It was essentially an iron supplement and helped people with pale skin, a symptom of iron-deficiency anemia, which boosted its reputation and some customers made a testimonial.
The product name used 4 words starting with the letter P, using alliteration as a device to gain consumer attention.
In America, few patent medicines actually received a patent, but instead the name was trademarked. The medicines were self-prescribed, not a prescription from a doctor.
The company used an “advertorial” style to promote the product. The ads appeared to be news stories reporting a miracle in a distant town. The miracle cure was always the result of someone taking Dr. Williams Pink Pills, making a testimonial.
Canadian Senator George Fulford, of Brockville, Ontario, formed G. T. Fulford & Company in 1887 to manufacture patent medicines. In 1890, his company acquired the rights to Dr. Williams Pink Pills and Fulford became a millionaire. In 1905, he was the first Canadian to die in an automobile accident.
Notary Authority to take Sworn Statements
Notaries are authorized to take sworn statements, or affidavits, from a witness. The sworn statements were used as customer testimonials in advertising by some medicine companies.
Modern Consumer Protection Advertising Regulations
The passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 required more accurate and honest labeling of patent medicines. Despite the law, proprietors did not have to prove their medicine was effective.
Today, advertising and testimonials are regulated by state and federal consumer protection laws and agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Special FTC rules apply to the use of customer testimonials.