Medical Items Recovered

Prescription bottles
Warner’s Safe Kidney & Liver Cure
Renne’s Pain Killing Magic Oil

An active infirmary would be expected to create illness related refuse that would in-turn find its way into the outhouse.  The most obvious illness related materials recovered were medicine bottles.  Prescription bottles outnumbered all other types of medical bottles.  These were followed in numbers by patent medicine bottles and finally by general medicine bottles.

When separated into these three categories (prescription, medical, patent medicine) and graphed based on where they were found within the privy deposit, several trends were discovered.  Patent medicines were found predominantly in Unit C (#3 on the graph, closest to the infirmary). Prescription bottles were found predominantly in Unit B (#2 on the graph).  General medicine bottles were found predominantly in Unit A (#1 on the graph, closest to the kitchen).   Assuming nobstructed access to the privy, and using the “Least Cost” theory (Earle 1980, Green 1980), items should be disposed of closest to their place of use.

The location of bottles in the privy suggests that most patent medicines were consumed in the infirmary and most general medicines were consumed in the kitchen/dining area.

Types of medicine bottles and their location.


Many prescription bottles are embossed with the name and location of the pharmacy that issued the prescription.  A pie chart of prescription bottles based on their place of origin provided interesting information about where the patients in the infirmary may have recently been living before moving to San Luis Obispo.  As was expected, most prescription bottles were from local San Luis Obispo pharmacies.  The out-of-area prescription bottles suggest that some patients in the infirmary had recently arrived from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Bernardino, and Petaluma.  It is possible that some came from as far away as Minneapolis and Philadelphia.  

Well-represented San Luis Obispo Pharmacies included Booth and Latimer’s Drug Store (23 bottles), Norton & Norton Druggists & Chemists (16), T.A. Greenleaf’s Palace Drug Store (5), Booth’s (3), Latimer’s (3), Dr. Krill (1), and Dawson Drug Co. 794 Higuera St. (1).

Prescription ware, place of origin.

Patent Medicines

An analysis was conducted of patent medicines in an attempt to determine the types of illnesses treated.  Using the “Comprehensive Guide to Historic, Embossed Medicine Bottles” (Fike 1987), a list of bottles and the ailments they treated was developed.

The graph lists the number of bottles recovered relating to each of the ailments listed.  Also listed are the numbers of different remedies tried for each ailment.

Although it is possible that there is a correlation between the number of bottles used and the prevalence of a particular ailment at the school, there is no way of knowing how many bottles used at the school ended up at some other (unexcavated) refuse location.  There is also no way of knowing if one person required several bottles of a particular medicine, while several other people may have shared only one bottle of another medication.  It is safe to say that constipation was a common occurrence at the school.  All but two of the constipation remedy bottles were for children (Fig Syrup), suggesting that the food served in the dining hall may have been a problem.

Although a host of ailments are suggested by the medicine bottles recovered, it is safe to say that tuberculosis, the common cold, and dandruff were problems that plagued the residents.  In the table that follows, each patent medicine recovered is listed in the category of ailment it treated along with how many bottles were found and a brief description.

(# of bottles)
Consumption (TB)Psychine (3)T.A. Slocum Co, New York. (alc.16% consumption and lung troubles) (1887-1923) (Fike 1987:178)
 Dr. Wister’s Balsam of Wild
Cherry (1)
Isaac Butts, Philadelphia. (“The Great Remedy for Consumption of the Lungs”) (1843-1883)
(Fike 1987:29)
 Piso’s Cure (2)Hazeltine & Co (for consumption, contained cannabis) (1864-1906) (Fike 1987:104)
 Ozomulsion (7)T.A. Slocum Co, New York. Cod liver oil (lung troubles, increases appetite for thin
women) (1880-1902) (Fike 1987:175)
 Shilo’s Cure (1)S.C. Wells & Co. New York  (for consumption, contained heroin) (1873-1906)
(Fike 1987:105)
ConstipationSyrup of Figs (9)(child constipation cure) (1884) (Fike 1987:230)
 California Fig Syrup (19)California Fig Syrup Co., San Francisco (alc. 6%, senna, cassia, peppermint, clove combined in fig syrup for relief of temporary constipation) (1880-1970) (Fike 1987:225)
 Dr. S. Pitcher’s Castoria (1)S. Pitcher & Co. (aid to constipation) (1860’s-890’s) (Fike 1987:177)
 Paine’s Celery Compound (1)Wells, Richardson & C0, Vermont (reliable laxative and diuretic) (1882+) (Fike 1987:85)
 The Great Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root Kidney, Liver and Bladder
Cure Specific (1)
Kilmer & Co. New York (Diuretic to kidneys and mild laxative) (Fike 1987:170)
Blood PurifierHoods Sarsaparilla (1)C.I. Hood & Co. Mass (alc. 16%, sarsaparilla, mandrake, gentian, dock, and dandelion tonic) (1876+) (Fike 1987:217)
 Pepto-Mangan Gude (1)Dr. A. Cudy & Co. (Alc. 16%, Peptonates of iron and manganese) (Fike 1987:176)
 Warner’s Safe Kidney and Liver Cure (8)H.H. Warner & Co., New York (1879-1906)
(Fike 1987:107)
PainRenne’s Pain Killing Magic Oil/ Sample/ Try it (2)Herrick Medicine Co., New York (1888)
(Fike 1987:195)
 Davis Vegetable Pain Killer (1)(1862+) (Fike 1987:130)
 St. Jakob’s Oel (1)Charles A. Vogeler Co., Md. (1878-1919) (Fike 1987:195)
 Sanford’s Jamaica Ginger (1)For cramps, pains, colds, and ills (Fike 1987:113) (Boston Post 1908)
Cuts and scrapesMexican Mustang Liniment (1)Lyon Mfg. Co., New York (for scalds, burns, colds, cuts, bruises, sprains, strains, sore throat, inflammation, galls, scratches, sweeny, spavins, ringbone, lameness, shoe boils, and harness sores) (1871+) (Fike 1987:135)
 Pond’s Extract (1)Pond’s Extract Co, New York (Witch hazel formulation for burns, bruises, lameness, soreness, sore throat, sprains, toothache, and bleeding of the lungs) (1846-1985) (Fike 1987:120)
Stomach acidHusband’s Calcined Magnesia (2)Thomas J. Husband Chemists, Philadelphia (1844+) (Fike 1987:141)
 Bromo Seltzer (3)Emerson Drug Co., MD. (1889-1907)
(Fike 1987:111)
Coughs, ColdsAyer’s Cherry Pectoral (4)Ayer Co., Lowell Mass (alc. 16%, cure for colds, cough, sore throat, asthma, bronchitis, hoarseness and other breathing disorders) (1847+) (Fike 1987:199)
Hair CureAyer’s Pills (1)Ayer Co., Lowell Mass (Cathartic pills) (1841+)
(Fike 1987:201)
Skin RashFarrar’s Sarsaparilla (1)Wood Drug Co. Bristol Tenn. (most sarsaparillas were billed as cures for pimples, boils,
blotches, ring worm, cancers, tumors, eruptions, ulcers, and venereal disease)

(Fike 1987:216)
Lidia Pinkhams Vegetable Compound (1)Lidia E. Pinkham’s Sons & Co. (1873+) (alc. 18+%, compound for “lady’s complaints”) (Fike 1987:85)
 Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery (1)R.V. Pierce, MD (1895) (Cures profuse menstruation, menopause, vaginal infection, sterility, ovary disease, etc.) (Fike 1987:110)
ExpectorantThe Maltine Mfg Co. (1)Maltine Mfg. Co, (alc. 88%, extract of malted barley, wheat and oats) (1878+) (Fike 1987:69)
DandruffB & F Anti Dandruff Tonic (8)No information
EyesDr. Thompson’s Eye Water (1)(1850+) (Fike 1987:245)
Kidney, BladderDr. S.B.H. & Co. (1)Peruna Medicine Co., OH (alc. 28%, water 70%, cubebs for flavor 1%, burnt sugar for color 1%, cures catarrh of the head, lungs, stomach, liver and kidneys, pelvis, and dyspepsia and constipation) (1879+)
(Fike 1987:62)
Genital, UrinaryO.D. Chem (1)(Sanmeto, made of sandalwood and palmetto berries, healing agent for genito/urinary disorders) (1891+) (Fike 1987:47)  
Head DiseaseDr. Marshall’s Snuff (15)(cure for all diseases of the head) (1830+)
(Fike 1987:172)
EverythingHamlin’s Wizard Oil (1)Hamlin Wizard Oil Co., Chicago (alc. 65%, cures rheumatism, lame back, headache, toothache, earache, sore throat, diphtheria, catarrh, kidney inflammation and all painful afflictions) (1859+) (Fike 1987:193)

Patent medicines can be used as time markers to assist in establishing the age of the outhouse.  The date of introduction and time span of a medicine is useful.  Also important is the passage of the “Pure Food and Drug Act” in 1906.  The Act prohibited the use of the term “Cure” on any medicine.   Following the passage of the Act, medicines that once listed “Cure” in their name either dropped the word or replaced it with “Remedy”.

This below lists those patent medicines that could be tied to particular time periods and indicates the best guess time span of privy use based on patent medicines.  You will notice that those medicines with “Cure” in their name ceased production or changed their names shortly after passage of the 1906 Act.  It is important to note that no bottles were recovered with the word “Remedy” as part of the name.  This suggests that use of this privy stopped sometime before those manufacturers had
changed their names (i.e. not long after the passage of the 1906 Act).