30 | Dr William’s Pink Pills for Pale People

“Dr Williams” was a brand name, and the pills were manufactured by George T. Fulford of Brockville, Ontario. Born in 1852, Fulford went into the patent medicine business in 1886 and four years later bought the rights to the Pink Pills recipe from Dr William Jackson for $53.01.


•Fulford was appointed to the Senate in 1900

•He became the first Canadian ever to die in a car crash in 1905

The key to Fulford’s success was MASSIVE advertising. He specialized in paid “testimonials” which would always end up saying in the end the cure was Pink Pills!

The pink in pink pills came from Carmine (which was from crushed beetles!)
*This list is an actual copy from inside of the advertisement booklet they printed and distributed. (they called it The Queen’s gift)

•Consumption is the old term for Tuberculosis, or TB. TB is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) and it most often affects the lungs. TB is spread through the air when people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit. A person needs to inhale only a few germs to become infected.

Coated in pink colored sugar, an analysis of the pills conducted in 1909 for the British Medical Association revealed them to contain sulfate of iron, potassium carbonate, magnesia, powdered licorice, and sugar. Approximately one third of the iron sulfate in the pills had oxidized in the sampling analyzed, leading to the statement that the pills had been “very carelessly prepared”.

•Dr William’s Pink Pills for Pale People were sold in Canada for fifty cents per box, or $2.50 for six boxes.

•Due to the prevalence of anemia at this time, the iron-based pills worked as a blood booster for many, thus perpetuating the pill’s reputation as a cure-all.

•Ended up being sold in 87 countries worldwide

•Made George T Fulmer a multi-millionaire

•It was estimated he was spending over 200,000 pounds in Britain alone per year at the turn of the century!

Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People : vintageads

•In 1905, Senator Fulford became the first Canadian to be killed in an automobile accident.

•Pure Food and Drug Act – 1906

•Fulmer death – 1905

•1909 British Medical Association analysis

•Formula/ claims changed constantly (even including aloe vera as a laxative) all the way up until it was taken off the market in 1970!

Please check out The Quack Doctor’s post on Pink Pills below. Special thanks to the Quack Doctor for her contributions to this episode!

Dr Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People

Opening theme: “Rattlesnake Railroad”  – Written and Performed by Brett Van Donsel  2015 brettvandonselmusic.com

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