History 390 Blogs

by Jonna V. Hauck

Dr. Sibly’s Re-Animating Solar Tincture

If you lived in the eighteenth century and you wanted to come back from being newly dead,  all you needed was Dr. Sibly and his Re-Animating Solar Tincture.

Dr. Ebenezer Sibly did, in fact, have his medical degree which he received in 1792 from University and King’s College, Aberdeen MVD-MDCCCLX. His Re-Animating Solar Tincture claimed to bring the newly deceased back to life, provided it was immediately administered to the person who was newly dead and their body was receptive to the Re-Animating Solar Tincture.

Also, according to one of the ads in the September 4, 1819, Issue 3479 of the Leicester Journal and Midland Counties General Advertiser, Dr Sibly’s tincture was not only pleasant tasting but it could cure you even if other medicines could not.

The Leicestershire Historian Vol.2, No.1 quotes the following advertisement, “GUN-SHOTS STABS & WOUNDS Persons who have the Misfortune to meet with any of the above Accidents may obtain an expeditious and certain Cure by the immediate application of DR. SIBLY’S SOLAR TINCTURE” and makes fun of the bravado with which the eighteenth century weeklies portrayed the various patent medicines noting that, by modern day standards, such medicines would never make it past the present day consumer protections.

In reading The Quack Doctor, Historical Remedies for all Your Ills, it seems that this tincture came about at a time when it was sometimes difficult to determine death and society was afraid of the possibility of being buried alive. So, in this way, the tincture definitely applied to the eighteenth century society’s fear of not mistakenly burying someone alive.  In terms of the social and cultural values of the time, it reveals how doctors were held in high regard and also shows a belief or assumption that the medicines advertised were a cure for the ailments described, unlike today where it is not uncommon for people to seek multiple medical opinions with regard to what ails them.  This shows that, in today’s society, doctors may not be held in as high of a regard as they were in the past.  In addition, unlike Dr. Sibly’s cure-all Re-Animating Solar Tincture, some medicines may work on certain people but not others.  For example, some people are allergic to penicillin but are able to take erythromycin instead.

I find the advertisement for Dr. Sibly’s Re-Animating Solar Tincture to be both strange and funny.  Initially, I had to look up the word “tincture” because I had no idea what it meant. According to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, “tincture” is “a medicine that is made of a drug mixed with alcohol.”  Upon further research, I found that even today the word “tincture” is used in the advertising of various medicines.  Unfortunately, nothing in the advertisement or any articles I read indicated what Dr. Sibly’s Re-Animating Solar Tincture was made of.

While it would be nice to be able to come back from the dead or be “Re-Animated”, it’s clearly not possible.  It’s funny to think that people of the eighteenth century bought into remedies such as this.  But even today, I bet there are people out there who would believe in the claimed benefits of this medicine.

Dr. Sibly's Re-Animating Solar Tincture

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Strange Inventions of the Future – Drexel University’s Microscale Transformer Robots

Mechanical engineers at Drexel University are developing magnetic microbeads which can “swim” through the human bloodstream to deliver medicine as well as perform non-invasive surgery.  The beads are comprised of iron oxide and are linked together by chemical bonds and magnetic force.  They are remote controlled via magnetic fields which cause them to rotate, or twist like a corkscrew, and propel the chain of microbeads forward.  Though as of the live science article, the scientists at Drexel have only begun the task of making this innovation a reality by demonstrating that they can assemble (which is the most difficult aspect) and disassemble (much easier to do) the microbead chains.  The ultimate goal is to assemble more complex configurations and combinations which can have different uses.

A chain of three microbeads is 10 microns long, or about one tenth the size of an average sized human hair.  Researchers have found that longer chains of microbeads swim faster than shorter ones when rotated at the same frequency.  The live science article does point out that there are still some hurdles to overcome like being able to see the microbeads without the use of a microscope, as well as, get feedback from the beads.  “Researchers observe the chains under a microscope, and remotely manipulate the “microswimmers” by adjusting an array of three solenoids, electromagnets that produce a controlled magnetic field.  When rotated, the chains swim through fluid.” (livescience, 2016)  Currently, the microbeads are being used as part of a research initiative to assist in creating a minimally invasive procedure for handling blocked arteries.  (, 2016)

These microbeads would be a significant advancement in the field of medicine by allowing doctors and surgeons to deliver medicine and perform non-invasive surgeries in targeted areas of the body.  For hard to get to locations along with confined openings to the desired location, the microbeads could travel in a thin chain and disassemble and reconfigure themselves into whatever shape is needed once they arrive to the target area.  Of course, per the live science article, they don’t yet know what final shape or combination of microbeads they will need or want.

With today’s social and cultural values, which seek to use innovation to prolong our lives and make them better, one can really see the appeal of this invention as there is a need for more precise methods for delivering medicines as opposed to a “shotgunning” approach, such as chemotherapy radiation, which can have a damaging effect on the body as a whole.  The microbeads would allow medicine to be delivered to a specific area of the body, which would hopefully provide instant relief to the affected area, while preventing damage to any other areas of the body.  But even greater than that, the potential of the microbeads to perform non-invasive surgery on the human body, which should lower the risks associated with surgery and leave no external scarring, is tremendous.

These microbeads remind me of the animated movie, Big Hero 6, where the young brother invents tiny microbots that link together to create one larger robot or multiple smaller robots and can form into any shape desired through a neuro transmitter headband.  Like the tiny robots in Big Hero 6, these microbeads could potentially be misused by nefarious persons for evil purposes, such as the delivery of poison or an overdose of medicine into a person’s bloodstream to kill them.  But, instead of dwelling on the potential downside of innovation, I prefer to look on the bright side of things and believe that these microbeads could be more beneficial than harmful.  Still, it is strange to see real-life mimic the movies.  Or perhaps this invention was the muse for Big Hero 6?  In any case, it is crazy to me to see how technology evolves.  I sometimes feel like it is moving past me, leaving me behind as a relic of the past.  I suppose, in a way, a form of the “cyborgs” of television and movies are already living and breathing among us via modern technology advancements, with these tiny microbeads being simply a part of natural progression of technology.  I am left a little scared, if not even terrified, but also in awe and wonder of where society will take modern technology next.  Or perhaps, it is taking us!

Audio-Technica Sound Burger

Can you imagine the freedom you’d feel from being able to play your favorite record anywhere you go?  Well although that was probably the thought and intent of this invention, what an impractical invention it actually was!  Introduced in 1983, the Sound Burger by Audio Technica probably seemed great for a fleeting time, but just try to play it while jogging in the great outdoors.  No way!

Imagine having to carry around a bunch of vinyl albums with you whenever you want to take your favorite music on the go.  This invention looks sure to lead to the destruction of those favorite albums in a hurry.  It’s no wonder that when the Walkman was introduced just two months later this invention quickly disappeared.

In researching the Sound Burger I learned that there have been many bizarre ideas in regard to how to make the vinyl record player portable.  For example, in 1956, Chrysler introduced a vinyl record player that was built into the dashboard.  However, this appears to have only lasted for one year as the record players were unreliable and required constant upkeep.  Other car companies also attempted to integrate playing vinyl records into their vehicles but were unsuccessful and by the 1960’s any further attempts ceased.

Also, in the 1980’s, Sharp created the V2 which was essentially a huge boombox that played vinyl records.  Similar to the Sound Burger, it seems the advent of cassette tapes also led to the demise of the V2 system.  Recall the days when teenagers walked around carrying boomboxes on their shoulders blaring their favorite tape.  You can see why cassette tapes won out over vinyl records given their compact and durable nature.  It was too easy to scratch your favorite record even when it was “safe and secure” in your own home.  With all of the potential jostling that could happen walking around with the V2, I’m surprised the invention even made it to fruition.

The invention of the Sound Burger and other portable music devices feed people’s wants and desires to be able to listen to their music at any time and in any place.  Music is an integral part of our culture and society.  People listen to music for various reasons – to psych themselves up before competitions, or conversely, to soothe and relax them or take their mind off of things.  Technological advancements now allow people to listen to music in the shower, in the pool, at work, and even in space.

I think the Sound Burger was a crazy invention given the inconvenience of having to carry around a bunch of your favorite records that were prone to being easily scratched if not broken.  You’d be downright dumb to try to horse around or run or do anything that could risk destroying one of your vinyl records.  While some people would say the sound quality of vinyl records is superior to cassette tapes and even today’s music streaming, the Sound Burger “on-the-go” is way too impractical!  Give me a cassette player any day or, better yet, I’ll take the immediate satisfaction of buying and playing my favorite song via iTunes on my solid state hard drive iPhone, iPad, or MacBook Pro.  Yes, I too am part of the culture that wants to have it all and wants it now, for better or for worse!

Fantastic Failures: 10 Wacky Failed Inventions From the Past

Road Tunes: Weird Vintage 1950s In-Car Record Players

Cocaine Toothache Drops for Children

Cocaine Toothache Drops for Children

As you can see from the advertisement, this product was touted as an “Instantaneous Cure!” for toothaches in children.  Charles E. Lloyd and S. Dexter Pilsbury applied for a patent for this product from the U.S. Patent Office in March of 1885.

Knowing what we know now in the 21st century about the addictive nature of this drug, we would never allow this drop to be given to adults, much less children!  In fact, we might call this quackery medicine.  But in the late 1800’s, cocaine was widely used in the medical field given its numbing or painkilling properties.  It was even an ingredient in the soda, Coca-Cola.  Additionally, the url: shows ads for cocaine in Metcalf’s Coca Wine, Vin Mariani, Maltine, and throat lozenges.  It even shows a paperweight advertisement for the chemical manufacturer, C.F. Boehringer & Soehne, boasting that they were the “largest makers in the world of quinine and cocaine.”  It is easy to see how mainstream cocaine was back then.

In the 1800’s, people were fully ensconced in an era of scientific revolution where ideals of progress, higher standard of living, chemistry, etc. were at the forefront of social and cultural values.  So as the article implies, the use of this drug may have been considered “modern.”  Cocaine Toothache Drops were used as a local anesthetic which was much preferred to using a general anesthesia.  In this way, you can appreciate how parents would be open to giving it to their children.  Unfortunately, doctors and the general public had not yet realized just how addictive cocaine is and, unfortunately, that did not occur until the early 1900’s according to the article.  On an interesting note, one of the founders of the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital, William Stewart Halsted, who was a proponent for the use of cocaine in medicine became addicted to cocaine.  Although cocaine is no longer used as an anesthetic, it is also interesting to note that novocaine, which dentists currently use as an anesthetic, is derived from cocaine.

I find it incredibly weird and bizarre to learn that cocaine was so prevalent and widely accepted as an ingredient in everyday products of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  In fact when I think of cocaine today, the word “illegal” is the first thing I think of followed by images of 1970’s cocaine users going crazy, challenging police officers, and jumping off of buildings to their death (although I could be confusing the effects of cocaine with those of PCP).  I also think of Eric Clapton’s 1977 cover version of the song, “Cocaine” by J. J. Cale, released in 1976, which glamorizes the use of cocaine and implies that taking cocaine will help you chill and hang out or “kick them blues”.  This is in stark contrast to the song “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” by Grandmaster Melle Mel, which was released in 1983 and warns about the dangers of using cocaine.  Unlike the 1800’s, using cocaine today will land  you in jail or prison serving hard time.

These 18 Vintage Medical Photos Are Both Creepy And Fascinating

1931 Cigarette Umbrella Holder

In the world of cigarettes, innovation abounds.  Can you imagine being so addicted to cigarettes that you would create an umbrella just for your cigarette?  Never mind that your whole body is going to get soaking wet as long as you can continue to “enjoy” your cigarette without the rain unnecessarily dousing it.  Well that is exactly what this 1931 invention was for.

Tobacco has been viewed both positively and negatively in America.  It was a staple crop of Virginia and other southern colonies in the 1600’s and was used not only for recreational purposes but medicinal purposes as well.  As discussed by Amarilla Blondia in her article titled, Cigarettes and their impact in World War II, cigarettes were viewed by the military as providing relief to the soldiers from physical and mental stresses and a pack of cigarettes was even included in military personnel’s daily rations during World War II.  In addition, numerous ads in the 1900’s glamorized smoking such that Cartier even made cases, holders, etc.  This Antiques Roadshow link shows a 1910 Cartier cigarette case.–200404A50.

In the early twentieth century smoking was so ensconced in the social and cultural values that it was even referenced in cartoons.  For example, Bugs Bunny played off of the cigarette packaging method of putting two cents inside the cellophane package.  In the episode of Bugs Bunny titled “Hare Do” (as shown on youtube at, which came out in 1948, Bugs Bunny buys a carrot out of a vending machine.  Bugs puts his money in the machine and out comes the carrot wrapped in cellophane with two pennies “change” inside.  This was a reference to the two pennies found inside a pack of cigarettes when purchased from a vending machine.  The pack cost 23 cents at the time, but the vending machine did not take pennies.  Individuals purchasing a pack of cigarettes would put a quarter in the vending machine and get their two cents change wrapped within the pack of cigarettes’ cellophane.  Additionally, I found a Looney Tunes Smoking Montage at  The youtube clip plays a country western song called “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette” by Tex Williams from 1948 and shows various cartoon characters smoking in a myriad of cartoon clips between 1938 and 1990.

I find it extremely odd to see that someone would create an umbrella specifically for a cigarette and not include the person smoking it.  But more than that, it seems weird to me in context with today’s societal and cultural values.  In today’s society, you do not see weird inventions like that pictured above to enable people to be able to smoke easier.  The health hazards of smoking are well-established and documented so much so that we now have bans on smoking in restaurants, bars, airplanes, office buildings, and nearly any public area.  If you did see an invention like the one above, it would probably be as a joke and have an implied message for people not to smoke.

Weird Wonders of the Past: 7 Crazy Concepts From History

A Brief History of Tobacco in America

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