It’s not unusual that the visual content of advertising trade cards from the nineteenth century has nothing to do with the product being sold. This is certainly the case with this large (5 1/2 by 7 inch) card for Mrs. Temple’s Blood Purifier. The image is a halftone print of what seems to be a studio photograph. The bulldog and cat are posed on either a tabletop or a lounge. This is a halftone print, one of the photographic reproductive techniques that tolled the death knell for the lithographs and wood engravings that sold products for most of the nineteenth century.
The back of the card is an advertisement for Mrs. Temple’s Celebrated Blood Purifier, “Prepared by Mrs. J.E. Temple, No. 16 Moraine St.” of Brockton, Massachusetts. In my research to date the card, I learned a lot about “blood purifiers,” which were one of the most common proprietary, or patent, medicines. I also learned a tiny bit about Mrs. Elizabeth Temple, the originator of this product, and what I learned was worth sharing here even though it has nothing to do with pet keeping! So here goes.
In 1865, Mrs. Elizabeth Temple was a widow in Boston, living at 12 Acton Street. By 1864, she was the creator of Mrs. Taylor’s Renovating Remedy, which she promoted with a 24-page booklet. (I can find the catalog entry for this on Google Books, but I cannot access the text.) Mrs. Temple’s Renovating Remedy was a wonder “prescribed for Neuralgia, Scroffula, Jaundice, Costiveness, Catarrh, Nausea, Dropsy, Etc., with Great Success.” The nostrum also turns up in a few classified newspaper ads from 1868, where it was commended for “all diseases of the blood.”
Many patent medicines marketed themselves as “blood purifiers,” with perhaps the the most famous being Hood’s Sarsparilla, which was advertised and available pretty much everywhere in the late 19th century. Sarsparilla, made from the roots of Smilax ornata, was regarded as a good tonic. In fact, it is still used in herbal medicine. Even early over-the-counter medicines for dogs, including medicines sold by Dr. S. K. Johnson (who was the subject of a post on 7 July 2015) sometimes advertised themselves as “blood purifiers.” At a time when disease mechanisms were still poorly understood, the idea of cleaning the blood as a way of treating chronic disease was powerful.
By 1869, Mrs. Elizabeth Temple was listed in the Boston city directory as a “physician!” She shared her house, 41 Shawmut Street, with Lyman W. and Israel Temple. The next year, the 1870 federal census tells the story of some modest but real financial success. 62-year-old Elizabeth Temple was listed as the head of her household, although she was only described as “keeping house.” Her dwelling was worth $12,000 and she possessed $1,600 of personal property. She shared the house with 23-year-old Israel, a postal clerk, and 32-year-old “Damen” (Lyman?) W., who was listed as having no occupation, along with two live-in servants. In the 1872 Boston City directory, she was again listed as physician, at 253 Shawmut Avenue. Then she disappears, turning up in the 1880 census in Newton, Massachusetts, still living with her son Lyman.
What happened to her “blood purifier”? It seems to have lived on, or was revived, in the 1880s by John E. Temple of Brockton, MA, who is listed in city directories as a “traveling salesman” by 1887. Was he another of Elizabeth Temple’s sons? or even a grandson? In 1898, John E. Temple lived at 16 Moraine Street in Brockton, which is the address on the back on the trade card. And the new iteration, Mrs. Temple’s Celebrated Blood Purifier, was prepared by “Mrs. J. E. Temple,” presumably his wife.
I’d like to these these these lovely animals were the pets of Mr. and Mrs. John E. Temple, but there is no way of knowing, of course. In any event, I believe that the advertisers thought the image of the cat and dog would encourage people to take and keep this large trade card. And I hope that you enjoy this digression into the weird world of American proprietary, or “patent,” medicines.