Drugs such as cocaine and heroin aren't just glamorous because they're illegal. Even when you could buy them at any pharmacy or grocery store, they still had a certain cool factor. Just look at these fantastic vintage advertisements for opium, coca-laced wine and "medicinal tonics."

Mrs Winslow's soothing syrup

This stuff was compounded by Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow and first marketed by her son-in-law Jeremiah Curtis and Benjamin A. Perkins in Bangor, Maine in 1849. It contained 65 mg morphine sulphate per fluid ounce (0.03 l), sodium carbonate, spritis foeniculi and aqua ammonia.

It was "likely to soothe any human or animal", and often used on restless or teething small children.

(via Hullubullu, Peachridge Glass, A little bit of Dickens)

Cocaine Toothache Drops (1885)

(via inesacipa)

Bayer's Heroin

Two decades after heroin's invention in 1874 by C. R. Alder Wright, a chemist (Felix Hoffman) of the German pharmaceutical company Bayer re-synthesized heroin while he was trying to produce codeine.

The company decided to market the drug as a morphine substitute and cough suppressant between 1898 and 1910. It turned out that heroin was highly addictive, and four times stronger than morphine. The number of addicts grew out of control, and Bayer ceased production of the "medicine" in 1913.

(via Medfriendly, Catbull, Wikimedia Commons/Mpv_51 and Weedist)


Originally intended as a patent medicine when it was invented in 1886 by John Pemberton. He used five ounces of coca leaf (141.7 g) per gallon of syrup in the first five years, but the company was bought by businessman Asa Griggs Candler in 1891, who claimed his formula contained only 0.5 ounces. (14.2 g)

Over the next twelve years, Coca-Cola contained an estimated 9 milligrams of cocaine per glass. After 1904, the company started using leftovers of the cocaine-extraction process, instead of fresh leaves.

(via Toptenz and Metropolitan News-Enterprise)

Allen's Cocaine Tablets

(via Pete Veilleux, East Bay Wilds)

Forced March cocaine tablets (1897-1924)

Ernest Shackleton took this stuff to Antarctica in 1909, as did Captain Scott in 1910, but it was used in World War I, too.

(via We Make Money Not Art)

Heroin hydroclor

(via Chaseuserver and Opioids)

Indian and American Cannabis by Parke, Davis & Co.

(via Rylkov-Fond and Herb Museum)

Heroin hydrochloride by Eli Lilly & Co., Indianapolis

(via Herb Museum)

Allenbury's Throat Pastilles

"Containing menthol, cocaine, red gum, eucalyptus, guaiacum, rhatany, potash, borax, formaldehyde and cinnamon oil" – according to the Herb Museum, Vancouver.

(via eBay, Herb Museum and Riffle)

Ferratin and Lactophenin, by C. F. Boehringer & Soehne

One of the best sedatives around the turn of the century was a special mix of cocaine and quinine laced with iron.

(via Herb Museum)

Vin Mariani, the Bordeaux wine with coca leaves

Litography by Jules Chéret, 1894

This patent medicine was created by a French chemist, Angelo Mariani in 1863.

The ethanol in the wine extracted the cocaine from the coca leave, altering the drink's effect. The Vin Mariani contained 6 mg of cocaine per fluid ounce, (0.028 l) but the exported drink contained 7.2 mg per ounce to compete with the similar drinks in the United States.

Some famous people and royalties liked the Mariani wine, Queen Victoria, Pope Leo XIII, Pope Saint Pius X, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Emile Zola, Thomas Edison and Ulysses S. Grant, among others.

(via Allposters, Supplementi al Dizionario di Chimica e Chimica Industriale, Freedom of Medicine and Diet and The Nonist)

Theodore Metcalf's Coca Wine

(via Southborough History)

Vin Des Incas poster by Alphonse Mucha

Glyckeron Glyco-Heroin (-Smith)

For the treatment of coughs, bronchitis, phthisis, asthma, laryngitis, pneumonia and whooping cough.

(via Buffalo.edu and Collectors Weekly)

Cocaine and chlorate pills to cure sore mouth, throats and lungs by Diego Gibson

(via Vintage Ad Browser)

Stickney and Poor's paregoric

A mixture of opium and alcohol helped infants and little children to fall asleep.

(via wings.buffalo.edu)


"Treatment for asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, rose fever and other diseases of the respiratory organs." The Ascatco contains 13% alcohol, opium and arsenious acid.

(via eBay)