Vintage Medical Posters and Devices

Vintage Medical Displays, Devices, and Advertising Posters

The world has always abounded with dubious medical advice. Even in our own, “scientific” times, people line up to take our money in exchange for crystals or copper bracelets or magnets that are promised to cure what ails us. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration evaluates claims of efficacy; and while it’s overworked and highly problematic, at least the most blatant medical frauds do not receive FDA approval. Modern consumers are lucky to have something to go on, at least.

The same was not true a century ago. Phrenology, snake oil, and dubious cures abounded, and it was left up to the consumer to figure out which ones were for real — or, in many cases, which ones even contained the ingredients they claimed. It can be fun to look back and see what passed for medical science back in the day.

Many vintage advertisements for patent medicines are now being reproduced as posters, and, for those who collect such things, antique medical devices can be found all over the internet. These items make great gifts for history teachers, medical students, or medical professionals who want to remind themselves how far they’ve come.

Brain Salt

You know. For your brain.

Brain Salt Headaches Humour Medicine, UK, 1890

This is one of my favorite vintage medical images: brain salt. For brain troubles. Such as Over-Brainwork, whatever that is.

Also, for indigestion.

Come to think of it, “Brain Salt” would make a pretty cool name for a band.

New Symbological Head and Phrenological Chart

Symbological AND phrenological? Now that’s what I call a bargain!

Phrenological Head

Phrenological Head

This phrenological head includes a visual guide to the various “organs” of the brain, to assist those phrenologists who are tragic victims of illiteracy.

Phrenology Chart

How’s your domestic lobe?

Phrenology Chart of Head

Phrenology Chart of Head

You know I’d love to stick around, baby, but it’s time to move on. Can’t help it. It’s tragic, really … when I was a small child I was dropped on my head, damaging my Organ of Domesticity, and I’ve been a rolling stone ever since.

Craniometers on eBay

Hey Kids! Measure Your Organ of Veneration!

Phrenologists used craniometers to measure the skulls of their subjects. By analyzing every bump, they would then deduce the moral character of the person they measured.

Phrenology Heads on eBay

Phrenologists used craniometers to measure the skulls of their subjects. By analyzing every bump, they would then deduce the character of the person they measured. It’s pretty easy to laugh at today — the idea that your sense of morality can be determined by measuring your skull.

However, phrenology was an important forerunner of modern neuroscience. The assumptions about the skull were incorrect, but the theory was based on the idea that different parts of the brain manage different human qualities and activities. Scientists would later go on to discover that everything from speech to emotional mood is determined by localized areas of the brain.

What The Brain Does, c. 1927

Thanks to the little men inside it.

What the Brain Does

What the Brain Does

Little did we know, our brains function because of two little men inside, wearing suits (that part is important!) one of whom plays the pipe organ and one of whom runs a film projector. Thanks to them, little arrows trickle down the back of your throat and then back up again. This is why, whenever you see a key, you sing Bach’s Greatest Hits for Pipe Organ.

You can’t help it, really.

Vintage Medical Models on eBay

A great gift for the collector, or for that med student in your life!

Pink Pills For Pale People

It’s British.

Dr Williams Pin Pills Medical Medicine, UK, 1890

Dr Williams Pin Pills Medical Medicine, UK, 1890

Given that this advertisement is from the UK, “pale people” seems kind of redundant. Not to pick on the British — thanks to my Irish ancestry it takes me five minutes to start burning in the sun. I myself am, indisputably, a “pale person”.

But I love the way these are just “pink pills for pale people” … with no word, anywhere, about what they’re actually supposed to do for pale people. Turn us pink? Allow us to get a healthy tan? Let us leap tall buildings in a single bound? What?

 Beecham’s Pills

Maybe to treat The Vapours?

Beecham's Pills

Beecham’s Pills

I have often walked by the ocean, wondering what the wild waves were saying. “Look out for that shark?”, maybe. Or perhaps “Here’s a hot stock tip!”. Or more likely, “Stop dumping poison into us already!”.

Turns out it was “Try Beecham’s Pills” all along. Who knew?

Vintage Pills and Medical Advertisements on eBay

For Pure Blood Take Hood’s Sarsparilla

When Your Blood Has That “Not So Pure” Feeling?

Dr. Kilmer's Standard Herbal Remedies

Dr. Kilmer’s Standard Herbal Remedies

This seems to be an ad for Dr. Kilmer’s line of herbal remedies. It conveniently shows “The Vital Organs Located, and the Remedies For Their Cure”; and indeed, this is followed by a label over the heart saying “Ocean Weed Heart Remedy”, and another one showing the liver and kidneys saying “Swamp Root Liver, Kidney, and Bladder Cure”.

But my personal favorite is the big label that hides the lower abdomen. It reads “Complete Female Remedy. Ladies Home Treatment. 3-in-1 Package. Female Remedy (Internal). Autumn Leaf Extract (Local). U&O Anointment (External)”.

Yeah, about that last one. “Autumn Leaf Extract, Local?”

Do I even want to know?

Quack Medical Devices on eBay

Phospherine for Extra Vitality!

What’s phospherine?

Phosferine, Magazine Advertisement, UK, 1950

Phosferine, Magazine Advertisement, UK, 1950

I don’t know what phospherine is, but it apparently improves “vitality”. You know … vitality? Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more?

Railroad Liniment

For your aching railroad.

Railroad Liniment

Railroad Liniment

San Francisco has these cute antique streetcars that they run down Market street. Hard wooden seats. No shock absorption to speak of. In a word, “ouch”. And I’ve only ever ridden them for a few blocks.

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Dr. Thomas' Electric Oil

Dr. Thomas’ Electric Oil

Shahid Maqsood


Shahid Maqsood is an experienced writer and journalist with 10+ years in the industry. He is the CEO and founder of TheWisy, where he writes daily articles covering topics like books, business, news, sports, and more. Shahid holds an MBA from Virtual University of Pakistan and a Master's in Mass Communications. He is based in Faisalabad, Pakistan. His work spans multiple platforms like and, , airriflehunting, and showcasing his versatility and depth. Shahid's insightful articles reflect his expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, making him a respected and reliable voice in digital content creation. His contributions engage and inform readers, embodying professionalism and passion in every piece.