A Parisian Patent Medicine

February 18, 2015

Recently acquired for my collection of paranormal and pseudoscience artifacts is a rather curious bottle.

It is a pretty ordinary, 8 14 ’’ aqua-colored glass bottle, hand blown in a two-piece mold, except that its embossed wording is in French: “PULMOSERUM BAILLY/1 5 RUE DE ROME/PARIS.” Adhered to the top of the neck are pieces of a non-ferrous metal, indicating remains of a cap, probably used in combination with a cork.

The name—combining pulmo (from the Latin for “lung”) and serum (a watery fluid)—suggests what it was indeed sold as: a self-prescribed remedy for “bronchial” and other chest conditions—according to the paper label remaining on some of the product’s bottles. (Sometimes the bottles were of bright green glass, as may be seen on eBay.)

The curative was sold by the Bailly brothers who entered the health care field in 1902 and founded a massive drugstore at the “15 rue de Rome” address in 1908. It “is still one of the greatest drugstores in the capital city.” (See https://www.baillycreat.com/presentation_bailly_creat_gb.php; accessed Jan. 23, 2015.) By 1910 the business began to ship Bailly’s Pulmoserum to coastal Africa and to Asia. (In 1928 the brothers created the A. Bailly-Speab Laboratory, which was among the first of its kind in France. In 1972 the company’s Creat Laboratory began to produce generic drugs, solely for export.)

I assume the bottle I acquired (from a southwestern New York antique emporium) was not imported recently as an antique but rather as an early-twentieth century product. It would thus join the ranks of such other foreign patent medicines as Mrs. Dinsmore’s Cough and Croup Balsam (an English product distributed by L.M. Brock, Lynn, Massachusetts), Buchan’s Hungarian Balsam of Life (from London), Girolamo Pagliano Curative Syrup (Florence, Italy), and Ricord’s Injection Brou (from Paris, a supposed “cure for genital diseases”). (See Richard E. Fike, The Bottle Book, Caldwell, NJ: The Blackburn Press, 2006, pp. 23, 24, 168, 175.)