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page 177 -- Morse Yellow Dock Root Syrup Company

updated 12 August 2018
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Do your kids behave like this?

Well then,
Is it any wonder you have:

  1. Dyspepsia
  2. Indigestion
  3. Headache
  4. Constipation
  5. Malaria
  6. Liver Disease
  7. Kidney Disease
  8. Biliousness
  9. General Debility

...and other "Humors?!"

Now you know why you need Dr. Morse's.

... and while you're under the influence of  your syrup, perhaps you'd like a quick game of Whist:
from Google news
WebMD presents a thorough discussion of the effects and supposed effects of Yellow Dock. According to, "Overdose of the root may cause diarrhea, nausea, and polyuria (excessive urination)," which would, indeed, make for a quick game of Whist.

The universal cure?!
Competitors in the "cures all humors" department:
Hood's Sarsaparilla
"The Golden Medical Discovery," Dr. Pierce, World's Dispensary Medical Assn., Invalid's Hotel, Buffalo NY
Hall's Vegetable Sicilian Hair Renewer, R.P. Hall & Co., Nashua NH
S.S.S., Swift Specific Co., Atlanta GA
Now, a word from a competitor:


Let me see now...seems I have some of this brew around here in my office somewhere.... Ah, yes! Here it is in its original bottle:

Active ingredients listed:
Gentian Root (Gentiana Lutea)
Oregon Grape Root (Berberis Acquifolium)
Blood Root (Sanguinaria Canadensis)
Other ingredients included:
Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus Virginiana)
Stone Root (Collinsonia Canadensis)
Cascara Bark (Rhammus Purshiana)
Queen's Root (Stillingia Sylvatica)

According to the box, these ingredients were designed to "promote more normal stomach activity, so helping to digest food better and more thoroughly and over a period of time make gas pains and discomforts of indigestion less likely." I have followed the links to the ingredients above. After reading of their medicinal effects, I have decided not to open the bottle. A hundred years of sitting around unopened have probably not improved the original formula!
Dr. Pierce operated a very well-regarded hospital in Buffalo NY. It had a reputation for innovation and used the latest technology. The adjacent "Worlds Dispensary Laboratory" manufactured medical potions and pills for various fairly common ailments.

Dr. Pierce's Invalids' Hotel and Surgical Institute, Buffalo NY 
"Dear Brother & Sister, I've undertook this great trip at last, which I've planned so long for, and have not by any means made a mistake, for I've already had a better exam so far than ever before and will last two days longer. Started at six last morning and got here 8:30 this morn. 7.10 Aug"
Postcard published by Adv. Litho Display Co., 799 Broadway, NYC
Old Main Artifacts of Illinois State University has an excellent page of information on Dr. Pierce for those interested in further detail. Meanwhile....

Physicians in the late 1800s were often talented merchants, too, and Dr. Pierce was one of the best. Patients or visitors to his facilities might be treated to little booklets full of advertising for his products. Below are two samples:

So just what are "humors?"

In 2016, we no longer use "humor" or "humour" to explain the origins of a medical condition. The Oxford Dictionaries site discusses the evolution of the term:
"Middle English: via Old French from Latin humor 'moisture', from humere (see humid). The original sense was 'bodily fluid' (surviving in aqueous humour and vitreous humour); it was used specifically for any of the cardinal humours (sense 3 of the noun)['Each of the four chief fluids of the body (blood, phlegm, yellow bile (choler), and black bile (melancholy)) that were thought to determine a person’s physical and mental qualities by the relative proportions in which they were present.'], whence 'mental disposition' (thought to be caused by the relative proportions of the humours). This led, in the 16th century, to the senses 'mood' (sense 2 of the noun) and 'whim', hence to humour someone 'to indulge a person's whim'. sense 1 of the noun dates from the late 16th century."
When the phrase "cures all humors" is used in the advertising for 19th century medications it most likely meant the drug was supposed to return the various proportions of "humors" in the body to a normal, healthy balance.

Pixshark shows a number of images of Yellow Dock on its website:

Of which this is my favorite:
Just let your yard go to weeds, and if you live in the USA, chances are Rumex crispus will move right in.
Tracing the history of Dr. Morse's products and their manufacture is another activity that might motivate you to try some of his product--or maybe something intoxicating. The Little Rhody Bottle Club gives us a window into this complexity:
"Dr. Charles Morse, Jr. started manufacturing his Compound of Yellow Dock Root in 1850 in Providence at 102 and 66 Fountain Street. In 1852 the company became Morse & Co. with Charles H. Morse (son? brother?) as partner. By 1860 Charles H. had left and was on his own at the rear of 11 Broadway manufacturing his own syrups. In the interim, Charles Morse Jr. became associated with the Rhode Island Medicine Company at 348 Westminister Street where he remained until about 1883. He may have started a new company because a Morse Yellow Dock Root Syrup Company is listed as a laboratory at 153-157 Dyer Street in Providence from 1883-1887."

66 Fountain St., Google Street View Oct. 2015

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