100 Years Ago: Cures for the Spanish Flu

A public health advertisement found in the 11 Oct 1918 edition of the Nashua Telegraph newspaper.

A great deal has been written about the Spanish flu or influenza.  The National Library of Health at the U.S. Library of Medicine web site has a detailed article about this pandemic.

[EDITOR’S NOTE in 2020.  Obviously this story was written in 2017, before we had the slightest hint of the current flu pandemic.  The information on the “cures” listed below were NEVER proven that they helped at all.   Do not rely on this page for medical help.  Instead rely on official U.S. Government information FOUND HERE.

This article states in part: “The 1918–1919 influenza pandemic killed more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history. The lowest estimate of the death toll is 21 million, while recent scholarship estimates from 50 to 100 million dead. World population was then only 28% what is today, and most deaths occurred in a sixteen week period, from mid-September to mid-December of 1918.”

New Hampshire fared better and worse than some other states in the U.S., but had the least deaths in New England. This article is not really to discuss the flu itself, but rather to highlight how it affected New Hampshire, and to highlight various ‘cures’ of the day that were used in New Hampshire.

It is well known now that the Spanish flu wasn’t Spanish and that it originated in the United States, spreading like wildfire through the military training camps that were prepping men for war.   This story in the Nashua Telegraph of September 19. 1918 was probably right on target.  WAITING ORDERS FROM WASHINGTON. Health Dept. Plans to Stop Influenza Spread. “The rumor has it that there are several hundred cases in the city and that boys home from Camp Devens are bringing it into Nashua and the surrounding towns…”

Although it was a serious and frightening issue, some people were not above poking a bit of fun at the flu.  A story in the Nashua Telegraph newspaper on Thursday, September 10, 1918, page 7 stated that “at least a third of the Milford population is down with influenza which is hitting the town like a slight attack of the grip. ”  Then the article goes on as follows.

Even the boiler at the town house is suffering from influenza. Wednesday night it gave a big sneeze, that tore open the doors and blew out the pipe leading into the chimney. The boiler room was filled with smoke and soot and those in the neighborhood were covered. Dr. Wetherbee was standing in the boiler-room doorway and he made a quick get-away. Janitor Reidle was soon on the scene and proceeds to doctor Mr. Boiler. He stated this morning that Spanish influenza was caused by the amount of gas in the soft coal.


Hales Honey of Horehound and TAR only cost 25 cents a bottle in 1917, and was promoted as a cure for “wheezing and sneezing, coughing and hacking.”  Sold as early as March 1870, Hales Honey of Horehound and Tar was a Patent Medicine of Charles N. Crittenton, No. 7 Sixth Avenue NY.

Promoted as a cure for consumption,”trochial affections of every type.” Reportedly it had a “balmy and balsamic influence.”



11 Oct 1918 Nashua Telegraph PERUNA advertisement

PERUNA and Manaline Cure

An advertisement in the Nashua Telegraph on 11 October 1918 in the midst of New Hampshire’s ‘Spanish flu” epidemic promoted the use of PERUNA and MANALINE Cure which eased the “catarrh of the nose, throat and stomach.”  It was sold in both liquid and tablet form

The Peruna Drug Manufacturing Company of Columbus Ohio was famous for its Peruna, Manaline and Lacupea. By 1905 a Collier’s Magazine editor was calling these cures ” a quack.”

Kolynos Dental Cream,
This tooth paste was manufactured and distributed by the Kolynos Company of New Haven CT.  On 29 October 1918 the company ran a fairly large advertisement on page 2 stating that the “fully ninety percent of of infection is taken into the system through the mouth and nose.”  They were spot on when it came to influenza.

Created by Dr. N.S. Jenkins, eventually Kolynos Dental Cream was sold to the Colgate company in 1997.

1 March 1904 Evening Star Washington DC Munyons Paw Paw advertisement

Munyon’s Paw Paw Laxative Pills and Munyon’s Cold Remedy and Munyon’s Grippe Remedy

This product was manufactured and distributed by Munyon’s Laboratories, 54th and Columbia Avenue, Philadelphia PA.  On 9 November 1918, page 3 of the Boston Post (Boston MA) : “Thousands of lives have been saved from the prevailing epidemic of influenza by the prompt use, upon the first indications of watery eyes or nose, sneezing, coughing, headache, aching bones, tired feeling and sore throat, of MUNYON’S Paw Paw Laxative Pills, taken each evening as directed on the label of the botte, and taking alternately every hour MUNYON’S Cold Remedy and MUNYON’S Grippe Remedy as directed on the label of the bottle. Also securing and following carefully the diet and care chart sent out free of charge by addressing MUNYON’S LABORATORIES, 54th and Columbia Ave., Philadealphia, Penn.”

Vaseline Eucalyptol Ad from the Nashua Telegraph.

Vaseline Eucalyptol

The Nashua Telegraph of 7 November 1918, page 6, included the following advertisement. “Guard in Advance against SPANISH INFLUENZA. “Vaseline” Eucalyptol is one of the famously reliable “Vaseline” Preparations compounded in accordance with the best medical authorities. VASELINE Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. Eucalpytol Petroleum Jelly. Snuff a little Vaseline Eucalptol up the nostrils night and morning. It keeps the delicate membranes clean and healthy and is a protection against the influenza germ. At all drug stores. Cheesebrough Manufacturing Company, 17 State Street, New York. ”




New Hampshire apples


The Boston Post (Boston Massachusetts) of 6 October 1918 Sunday, on page 28 printed the following. GOSSIP OFTHE HOTEL LOBBITES. “A guest from the Quincy House, who registered from New Hampshire, suggested a new cure for influenza yesterday. “Eat plenty of apples,” he said. “Up in the country I come from the simple home remedies seem the most effectual. Apples may seem like an old woman’s whim, but just try them as a preventative, anyway.”

A 1923 advertisement for Father John’s Cough Medicine.


Father John’s Cough Syrup

I remember receiving Father John’s concoction when I was very young.  It has a cod liver oil base , and contained (back then) glycerin, sugar, gum arabic, licorice, and flavoring oils. It was considered a “nutritive tonic” and was manufactured in Lowell, Massachusetts.

In 1923 it already had “67 Years of Success,” and “Thousands Take It For Colds,” as touted in a newspaper advertisement (shown at left).



If my readers know of other patent medicine or home remedy cures that they would like to share, please leave comments!

[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].

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5 Responses to 100 Years Ago: Cures for the Spanish Flu

  1. Ginny White says:

    Hi Janice…my mother, born 1910, was subject to the flu epidemic of 1918/19. I don’t know exactly when she had it, but do know it was her father’s love and diligence that kept her alive. The thing I remember her telling me was how he would heat bricks in the fireplace or wood stove (which back in the day was how farm houses in Laconia were heated in the winter) and place them at her feet in the bed to keep her warm. He watched over her day and night. She was the eldest of two daughters. My aunt Mildred, as far as I know, did not contract the flu. But thank God, grampa was there to save mom’s life. Sadly, he died before I was born, so I never got to meet him.

  2. Amy says:

    What? No chicken soup? 🙂 I thought it cured everything. Did that dental cream ad really say germs come through the mouse and nose? Their typo or yours?? Pretty funny either way.

  3. Pingback: New Hampshire World War I Military: Heroes of The Great War | Cow Hampshire

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