A  Very Suspect Soothing Syrup for Babies

A Very Suspect Soothing Syrup for Babies
Callington Heritage Centre

By: Callington Heritage Centre
Added: 14 October 2017

A member brought some bottles into the Heritage Centre. These dug locally, some years past. One in particular, embossed Mrs Winslow's syrup, proved to have a rather sinister history, as a little research revealed.

Mrs Charlotte Winslow, an American,  devised a concoction which was bottled by Curtis & Perkins (thought to be her sons-in-law). The original formula contained morphine, which although it kept teething babies quiet, those babies which were overdosed on the product died, while others became addicted to it. In an era of high infant mortality, many parents would not have realised the problem. Patent medicines such as this that used a narcotic ingredient led to the formation of agencies that would police the patent medicine industry. Eventually this "baby soother" could no longer incorporate morphine, losing it's ability to sooth babies and eventually disappeared from the market. 

The bottle brought to the Heritage Centre reveals that Curtis and Perkins was taken over by the Anglo American Drug Company. As this happened around 1900 the bottle dates from after that time. It is still well over a hundred years old and in pristine condition. 

Another thing to note is that this bottle was produced in a two part mould which means it could be reproduced in large quantities cheaply.