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Painkiller is a patented medicine, manufactured by the American company Davis & Lawrence Co Ltd. It was invented around 1839 and was designed to treat a wide range of ailments such as sprains, bruises, frostbites, stings, muscular rheumatisms, cuts, colds, cramps, colics, coughs, and diarrheas. It is formulated with alcohol and opium, among other ingredients. This product, manufactured in New York and Montreal, is marketed in several countries.

Despite numerous discoveries in medicine, research in the pharmacological field is slowly catching up with the practice of physicians. Faced with the powerlessness of the medical profession to treat many diseases, the population turns to supposedly miraculous remedies, whose recipes remain secret. These patented remedies, of dubious efficacy, were recommended by merchants.

Generally used to treat chronic ailments, these products can lead to addiction, if used on a daily basis, due to the large amount of alcohol and narcotics they contain. Gradually, the government begins to regulate the sale of drugs. The quality of the components used in their manufacture is ensured and the sale is reserved exclusively to pharmacists.

It is said that Painkiller was administered to both soldiers and horses during the American Civil War (1861–1865).


Date: 1850–1925

Origin: North America

Owner: Magasin général historique authentique 1928. Percé.


Collin, J. & Belliveau, D. (1994). Histoire de la pharmacie au Québec [The history of pharmacies in Quebec]. Musée de la pharmacie du Québec.

Museum of Healthcare at Kingston. (n.d.). Perry Davis Vegetable Pain Killer. Retrieved July 28, 2022, from https://mhc.andornot.com/en/permalink/artifact14226

Petty, R. D. (2019). Pain-Killer: A 19th Century Global Patent Medicine and the Beginnings of Modern Brand Marketing. Journal of Macromarketing, 39(3), 287–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/0276146719865770

Illustration: Painkiller