Ayer's Sasaparilla Worth $5 a Bottle

Artist/maker unknown, American. Commissioned by Dr. A. C. Ayer & Co., Lowell, Massachusetts.

Geography:
Made in United States, North and Central America

Date:
c. 1895

Medium:
Color lithograph (poster)

Dimensions:
Sheet: 40 5/16 x 29 3/8 inches (102.4 x 74.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1988-102-9

Credit Line:
The William H. Helfand Collection, 1988

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPicture of Health: Images of Medicine and Pharmacy from the William H. Helfand Collection

    Dr. James Cook Ayer introduced his Sarsaparilla in 1848. While its principal advertised ingredient was the root of Smilax officinalis, the American sarsaparilla, this probably had no therapeutic value whatsoever; other vegetable drugs, such as queen's-root, yellow dock, and mayapple, produced the tonic effect for which the product was best known. Neither its plentiful quantity of glycerin, more than 50 percent of the volume, nor potassium iodide, an expectorant normally used to treat bronchitis and asthma, is known to produce the promised benefit "for the blood." The Ayer company advertised its products as widely as any nineteenth-century patent medicine firm, but this Sarsaparilla poster is unusual in showing an elderly man as a contented user. William H. Helfand, from The Picture of Health: Images of Medicine and Pharmacy from the William H. Helfand Collection (1991), p. 26.