Anodyne (adj.) – That which has the power of mitigating pain (from Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1770).
Anodyne – a painkilling drug or medicine; a soothing application.
Before the 1900s, an anodyne was, simply, a drug that people used to soothe pain by lessening the sensitivity of the brain or nervous system.
In 1810, Abner Johnson (1786-1847), an enterprising physician from Waterford, Maine, formulated, bottled and sold Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment to his patients.
And, lo! it worked! (Of course it worked: the two main ingredients of the liniment were morphine and alcohol, and they both certainly make the brain less sensitive!)
Word spread, and soon Johnson moved to Bangor, where he established his business. His son Isaac Samuel Johnson took up the reins, and by 1881, had packed up and headed for
, where he opened his liniment business – I.S. Johnson & Company – on Boston Custom House Street.
In the late 1800s, newsprint was the best medium for display advertising, and
was a hub of shipping – both by sea and railroad. Johnson made use of both, and soon advertisements for Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment popped up in newspapers from coast to coast. Boston
The Gardiner (Maine) area newspaper advertised Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment in the Reporter-Journal, listing an amazing array of alphabetically listed ailments, including asthmatic distress, bites, bronchitis, bruises, burns, chafing, cholera, colds, colic, coughs, cramps, diarrhea, frost bites, grippy cold, lameness, nasal catarrh, scalds, and pain and inflammation in any part of the body, “used both eternally and internally.”
In the Los Angeles Herald, May 3, 1878: “...Persons who have become thoroughly chilled from any cause, may have their circulation at once restored by taking into the stomach a teaspoonful of Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment, mixed in a little cold water, well sweetened.”
From The Newfoundlander, February 11, 1873: “...Used internally and externally, will relieve the worst cases of....Cramp or Pain in the Limbs, Stomach or Bowels, Lame Stomach, Spitting of Blood...for all Diseases of the Throat, Lungs and Heads...the Bite of Mosquitoes...
In 1893, The Cambridge Tribune declared “Generation After Generation Have Used It. Dropped on Sugar, Children Love to Take It!”
Advertisements appeared in the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier (
Bangor, Maine), The Carolina Watchman ( Salisbury, North Carolina), Weekly Journal ( Fairfield, Iowa), Willamette Farmer ( Salem, Oregon), and The Clarendon News ( ). Clarendon, Texas
“Every Mother Should Have It In The House!” proclaimed the advertisements...and apparently every mother did, at least into the early 1900s...
...and if it didn’t cure what ailed you, I.S. Johnson & Company also produced Dr. Parson’s Purgative Pills (yikes!) and
’s Cavalry Condition Powders for your horse... Sheridan