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Digital Highlights: Swaim’s Panacea

Frontispiece of “A Collection of Cases…”

Among the titles mentioned in our post on Wednesday was A Collection of Cases Illustrating the Restorative and Sanative Properties of Swaim’s Panacea, an early nineteenth century production of William Swaim.

Swaim felt he had produced a medicine which could be used “…as a remedy for Scrofula or King’s Evil, Ulcerated Sore Throat, long standing Rheumatic Affections, Diseases of the Skin, White Swelling, Diseases of the Bones, and all cases of an ulcerous character.” It could also be used for chronic, nervous, and syphilitic complaints, making it truly stand up to the definition of “Panacea.” (5)

As with most patent medicines, Swaim backs up his claims with lengthy tributes from doctors (19) from the United States and beyond; of course, at a time when medical “diploma mills” were in business all across the States, the dependability of these statements may be questioned.

Swaim also adduces cases of those patients who have been cured — some of them nearly miraculously — by his medicine, including that of Nancy Linton, whose picture, used as a frontispiece to Swaim’s book, illustrates this post. Linton “was attacked with scrofulous swellings of the glands of the neck” when she was twelve. Over the years, her condition worsened to the point of permanent debility even after the application of Swaim’s medicine. He mourns the fact that the dose was not more timely “when she might have been restored a useful member to society, and a prop to her aged and destitute mother.” (43)

As always, for more from the Medical Heritage Library, please visit our full collection!