Writing Advice: The Top 10

When you’re a writer, everybody you know seems to have some bit of wisdom for you – most of it wrong. Here are 10 of the best tips I’ve ever gotten:


  1. Give yourself permission to write a piece of crap. The number one reason for “writer’s block” is fear – fear of writing poorly or fear of having “nothing to say.” Just allow yourself to write something – anything! – and tell yourself it’s OK if the thing stinks. You can always cut it out later. Just keep writing. Many an author has gotten to the end of their first draft and said “Crap, now I see how to tell this story!” Don’t waste time getting to that point. Just get it written.
  2. Write what you know. It’s overused, yes, and many people misinterpret this, but it’s great advice nonetheless. “What you know” means several things: what you’ve directly experienced, what you’ve learned from watching another’s experiences, and what you’ve researched and learned. Trust me – if you’ve done enough research, you definitely know that subject.
  3. Write like you speak. Don’t try to make your words sound like “real writing.” Your readers will be turned off by your stilted and stuffy sentences! Instead, allow your unique voice to come through. Imagine that your biggest fan is sitting next to you, and just type what you’d say to them as you tell your story.
  4. Keep it short. It’s tempting to go on and on about a subject, or to try too hard to give the reader the perfect mental image of a scene. Get to your point quickly, and use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  5. Cut the cliches. A cliche is something that has been said or written so often that your brain skims right past it without noticing it. That’s not what you want from your readers. Try to consciously discover new ways to describe familiar things or events. If anything you’ve written sounds familiar, change it.
  6. Write less, not more. As you grow as a writer, you’ll learn that your biggest chore is not writing that draft – it’s editing the damn thing! One of the points to keep in mind as you write, and as you edit, is “less is more.” You want to pare your writing down to the bare minimum needed to tell your story. Cut the elaborate descriptions and unnecessary scenes. If it’s not absolutely essential, it doesn’t need to be there.
  7. Keep reading. Not only will you see what’s working in your genre, but you’ll learn almost without your realizing it from the professionals – how a good sentence sounds, how to capture an audience, and how to keep a good story going.
  8. Keep something on the back burner. Always have something you can work on cooking away in the background. If you get stuck on a plot point in your novel, switch to a short story, an article, a blog, or even another novel. Don’t stop working.
  9. Remember the trick. Writing is a magic show – you’re showing the reader only what you want to show, trying to trick them into thinking you’re going one way, then surprise them by heading in the opposite direction. Keep this in mind as you write, and it’ll be easier. This isn’t lying – the reader expects a good show! – it’s a necessary part of storytelling. In order to accomplish this trick, you’ll need your bag of tools: grammar, spelling, storytelling technique, and everything that makes you a writer instead of someone who just sits down in front of a keyboard every now and then. Get up on that stage and wow ’em!
  10. How do you get to Carnagie Hall? As with everything else, the answer is practice, practice, practice! If you don’t write every day, you’re not going to grow as a writer. Unplug the internet, switch off the cellphone, shut your office door – whatever you need to do in order to get the job done. Set a daily word count and keep it, even if it’s only a few pages or a thousand words. So long as you’re writing, you’re improving.


Characters: Public vs. Private

Everyone has a public side that they show to everyone, and a private side that is only shown to their most intimate friends (and sometimes, not even to them!). So what about your characters?

Writing (3 of 29)

There is a difference between a character trait and a character persona. Your characters, just like real people, will have certain traits that they wish to keep hidden. They have certain facets of their personality that they will strive to disguise. And that can give you a great source of conflict and tension.

Think about people you know: the beefy muscle-man who’s petrified of needles, the soccer mom who runs marathons, and the bespectacled professor-type who’s a secret underwear model. Don’t we all have our hidden sides? Shouldn’t your characters have one as well?

Give your characters some secrets, preferably ones that they either don’t want known, or that aren’t immediately obvious. Perhaps they’re battling their own dislikes when they serve at that soup kitchen line, or perhaps that jock would really rather be reading a good book instead of making that basket.

The fun of a good story is finding characters who seem to leap off the page, and they can’t do that if they’re just cardboard cut-outs.

For You: 1800’s Parties

This is another interesting tidbit from Light and Shadows of New York Life, 1875 – all about how to throw a good party.


New York has long been celebrated for its magnificent social entertainments.  Its balls, dinner parties, receptions, private theatricals, picnics, croquet parties, and similar gatherings are unsurpassed in respect to show in any city in the world.  Every year some new species of entertainment is devised by some leader in society, and repeated throughout the season by every one who can raise the money to pay for it.  The variety, however, is chiefly in the name, for all parties, breakfasts, dinners, suppers, or receptions are alike.

Of late years it is becoming common not to give entertainments at one’s residence, but to hire public rooms set apart for that purpose.  There is a large house in the upper part of Fifth avenue, which is fitted up exclusively for the use of persons giving balls, suppers, or receptions. It is so large that several entertainments can be held at the same time on its different floors, without either annoying or inconveniencing the others.  The proprietor of the establishment provides everything down to the minutest detail, the wishes and tastes of the giver of the entertainment being scrupulously respected in everything.  The host and hostess, in consequence, have no trouble, but have simply to be on hand at the proper time to receive their guests.  This is a very expensive mode of entertaining, and costs from 5000 to 15,000 dollars, for the caterer expects a liberal profit on everything he provides; but to those who can afford it, it is a very sensible plan.  It saves an immense amount of trouble at home, and preserves one’s carpets and furniture from the damage invariably done to them on such occasions, and averts all possibility of robbery by the strange servants one is forced to employ. Still, many who possess large and elegant mansions of their own prefer to entertain at their own homes.

Upon the evening appointed a carpet is spread from the curbstone to the front door, and over this is placed a temporary awning.  A policeman is engaged to keep off the crowd and regulate the movements of the carriages.  About nine o’clock magnificent equipages, with drivers and footmen in livery, commence to arrive, and from these gorgeous vehicles richly dressed ladies and gentlemen alight, and pass up the carpeted steps to the entrance door.  On such occasions gentlemen are excluded from the carriage if possible, as all the space within the vehicle is needed for the lady’s skirts.  The lady is accompanied by a maid whose business it is to adjust her toilette in the dressing room, and see that everything is in its proper place.

At the door stands some one to receive the cards of invitation.  Once admitted, the ladies and gentlemen pass into the dressing rooms set apart for them.  Here they put the last touches to their dress and hair, and, the ladies having joined their escorts, enter the drawing room and pay their respects to the host and hostess.  When from one to two thousand guests are to be received, the reader may imagine that the labors of the host and hostess are not slight.

Every arrangement is made for dancing.  A fine orchestra is provided, and is placed so that it may consume as little space as possible.  A row of chairs placed around the room, and tied in couples with pocket-handkerchiefs, denotes that “The German” is to be danced during the course of the evening.  There is very little dancing, however, of any kind, before midnight, the intervening time being taken up with the arrivals of guests and promenading.

About midnight the supper room is thrown open, and there is a rush for the tables, which are loaded with every delicacy that money can buy.  The New York physicians ought to be devoutly thankful for these suppers. They bring them many a fee.  The servants are all French, and are clad in black swallow-tail coats and pants, with immaculate white vests, cravats and gloves.  They are as active as a set of monkeys, and are capital hands at anticipating your wants.  Sometimes the refreshments are served in the parlors, and are handed to the guests by the servants.

The richest and costliest of wines flow freely.  At a certain entertainment given not long since, 500 bottles of champagne, worth over four dollars each, were drunk.  Some young men make a habit of abstaining carefully during the day, in order to be the better prepared to drink at night.  The ladies drink almost as heavily as the men, and some of them could easily drink their partners under the table.

After supper the dancing begins in earnest.  If The German is danced it generally consumes the greater part of the evening.  I shall not undertake to describe it here.  It is a great mystery, and those who understand it appear to have exhausted in mastering it their capacity for understanding anything else.  It is a dance in which the greatest freedom is permitted, and in which liberties are taken and encouraged, which would be resented under other circumstances.  The figures really depend upon the leader of the dance, who can set such as he chooses, or devise them, if he has wit enough.  All the rest are compelled to follow his example.  The dance is thoroughly suited to the society we are considering, and owes its popularity to the liberties, to use no stronger term, it permits.

The toilettes of the persons present are magnificent.  The ladies are very queens in their gorgeousness.  They make their trails so long that half the men are in mortal dread of breaking their necks over them; and having gone to such expense for dry goods in this quarter, they display the greatest economy about the neck and bust.  They may be in “full dress” as to the lower parts of their bodies, but they are fearfully undressed from the head to the waist.

Towards morning the ball breaks up.  The guests, worn out with fatigue, and not unfrequently confused with liquor, take leave of their hosts and go home.  Many of them repeat the same performance almost nightly during the season.  No wonder that when the summer comes they are so much in need of recuperation.

Make A Writer Happy

People are always happy to talk about their favorite books and authors, but did you know you can help them out?

Writing (17 of 30)

The best thing a reader can do for their favorite author is to take two minutes to write a review!

Most people would rather go to the dentist, though – there’s just something about that blank page on the website that intimidates people.

Here’s a painless way to write a review that will help increase your favorite author’s book sales and make them happier:

  • Stick to the big reading websites for your reviews: Amazon and Goodreads – and write a review on each one, not just one of them! Some people only look on one of the sites and never see the review you may have written on the other site
  • Just make a simple title like “I loved this book” or “You’ll want to read this” instead of wasting time trying to think up a catchy phrase
  • Start by giving a short summary of the main points of the book in 1-2 sentences. “A lonely girl is whisked away to a magical land and must try to return home.” “Three children travel to a magical land where nobody ever grows up.” “A simple hobbit must travel across the world to destroy an evil object that can enslave everyone in Middle Earth.” You don’t have to give a lot of information, just enough to get other readers interested.
  • Tell what you liked – this is the meat of your review so be honest. Let other people know what it is about this particular book that struck such a chord in your heart. Explain why it’s so good and why you keep reading it over and over. This is the part your author will most likely quote, so feel free to be as flowery as you want.
  • Tell why the other readers will like it – this is where you can say “if you like _____, you’ll like this book, too” and mention some of your other favorites!
  • End with a short endorsement like “I would definitely read any book this author writes” or “This author is one of my favorites.”

Writing (5 of 30)

Not so very hard, now, is it? Why not try it out – click on one of the links above and go praise your favorite writer!


For You: The Lads Travel

In the latest book, the lads (and friends) must travel across the country by train. Here’s an excerpt from that chapter for your enjoyment:


Half the car had been arranged almost like a pair of parlor sitting rooms, with large cushioned chairs facing one another and a small table between. I spotted the curtains that would be pulled around to form our “bedrooms.” We even had a sofa large enough for Kye to nearly stretch out on, in the back of the “parlor.” There was a coal-burning stove at one end of the car, which did wonders toward dissipating the damp chill in the air. I left Kye examining the chairs, which would fold out into our beds for the night. The table folded away into the wall as well. Our trunks and dressing cases were settled neatly in the back corner of the car, where we could easily get at whatever outfit we desired. One side of the car was to be mine and my “wife’s,” while Kye would take the other side. 

The forward end of the car contained a dining table and chairs. Kye set the picnic basket on the table, with a longing backward glance. We had our own kitchen at this end, with a cook and two waiters. 

“Once we cross the Rocky Mountains,” I told the ladies, “we will have a dining car on the train, like a moving restaurant.”

Emily clapped her hands. “I cannot imagine why I have not traveled more, if it is this comfortable.”

“Hardly as comfortable for the masses,” I replied. “Second class consists of hard benches arranged in rows. Even the ordinary first class passenger must share a compartment with others.”

“I remember the train to San Diego. It was not so bad, sharing a car, and I did not think that there were so many other people.”

More than I like on a journey, and I’m a man who enjoys company. “We weren’t on that train for 10 days, my dear.”

I also enjoy my privacy when it’s time to retire for the evening, and I like a bit more than just a curtain between me and my fellow passengers. I rang for a porter, gratified at the speed with which the man appeared. We might even have our own porter on this journey.

The porter — they all answered to “George,” after George Pullman, who invented the cars in which we rode — was a tall, thin, black fellow in a spotless white uniform. He flashed a grin at the coin I slipped into his palm, and brought a nice bottle of brandy and a box of cigars. The smoking car, he informed me, was only two cars in front of us, just past the first class compartments. Kye and I would be spending a good bit of time there, or on the platform at the rear of our car.

Barbara had been busy unpacking all the things that a lady needs to entertain herself: a selection of magazines, a basket of sewing, a writing kit, and even a sketching book. The car looked practically like a real parlor. I poured a brandy and took a seat opposite Emily’s. Kye and Barbara would have the chairs beside ours, at the opposite windows, until it was time to retire. Then, Barbara would remove herself to the servant’s area beside the kitchen, where she had a small but comfortable-looking compartment.

“We shall all have excellent views,” Barbara said now, watching out her window as the baggage handlers hurried about, loading the baggage car. She had set a canvas bag at her side, most likely containing an assortment of the lurid dime novels she read. If Barbara Myers had been born a man, she would likely have been an even more flamboyant outlaw than yours truly.

Emily prowled the car with Kye, poking her nose into all of the ingenious contraptions that made a railroad car into a living space. She and Kye exclaimed over the lamps, set in such fashion that they swayed with the motion of the rail and remained upright, rather than pitching from side to side. I busied myself watching the passengers now boarding.

There were the usual assortment of Traveling Salesmen, of course, weary-looking men clutching their sample cases. They spent much of their lives on the road, and thought of the hours ahead as something to be endured rather than enjoyed. They’d probably be good for a card game when the ride grew too boring. I spotted a couple of Young Families, the wives herding their offspring onto the car, or sending an older child scampering after a straying younger brother or sister.  An Elderly Widow ascended to first class, followed by her sour-looking maid. I felt sorry for whoever sat next to that pair.

A few last-minute arrivals bustled over, and were hurried on board. With a whoosh of steam and a series of great jerks, the double engines pulled us away from the station. A cloud of cinders flew past the windows, sparkling in the gloom, and the scent of wood smoke stung my nose. That ash would get everywhere if we opened the windows or left the car. Our clothing would require a good cleaning once we reached our destination. I had to remember that it was small price to pay for such a speedy journey. After all, it had taken our grandparents months to travel across the country. Just because I’d prefer to be relaxing within my own drawing room was no reason to disparage the wonders of modern technology.

The Price of Fashion in 1870

I’ve found a great little book for my research: Light and Shadows in New York Life, published in 1872. There’s a chapter that gives some idea of how much a wealthy woman of the time would have spent on her wardrobe. Of course, Miss Emily wouldn’t have been quite as ostentatious, but you can imagine that her gowns would have been pretty close to these prices, due to the quality of the material and the talents of her dress-maker.


Here’s a quote from that chapter – I’ve highlighted what I found most interesting.

Oh, and remember that $1.00 in 1870 would translate out to between $28 and $38 today!

Says a recent writer:

“It is almost impossible to estimate the number of dresses a very fashionable woman will have.  Most women in society can afford to dress as it pleases them, since they have unlimited amounts of money at their disposal.  Among females dress is the principal part of society.  What would Madam Mountain be without her laces and diamonds, or Madam Blanche without her silks and satins?  Simply commonplace old women, past their prime, destined to be wall-flowers.  A fashionable woman has just as many new dresses as the different times she goes into society.  The elite do not wear the same dresses twice.  If you can tell us how many receptions she has in a year, how many weddings she attends, how many balls she participates in, how many dinners she gives, how many parties she goes to, how many operas and theatres she patronizes, we can approximate somewhat to the size and cost of her wardrobe.  It is not unreasonable to suppose that she has two new dresses of some sort for every day in the year, or 720.  Now to purchase all these, to order them made, and to put them on afterward, consumes a vast amount of time.  Indeed, the woman of society does little but don and doff dry-goods.  For a few brief hours she flutters the latest tint and mode in the glare of the gas-light, and then repeats the same operation the next night. 


She must have one or two velvet dresses which cannot cost less than $500 each; she must possess thousands of dollars’ worth of laces, in the shape of flounces, to loop up over the skirts of dresses, as occasion shall require. Walking-dresses cost from $50 to $300; ball-dresses are frequently imported from Paris at a cost of from $500 to a $1000; while wedding-dresses may cost from $1000 to $5000.  Nice white Llama jackets can be had for $60;  robes princesse, or overskirts of lace, are worth from $60 to $200.  Then there are travelling-dresses in black silk, in pongee, velour, in pique, which range in price from $75 to $175.  Then there are evening robes in Swiss muslin, robes in linen for the garden and croquet-playing, dresses for horse-races and for yacht-races, robes de nuit and robes de chambre, dresses for breakfast and for dinner, dresses for receptions and for parties, dresses for watering-places, and dresses for all possible occasions.  A lady going to the Springs takes from twenty to sixty dresses, and fills an enormous number of Saratoga trunks.  They are of every possible fabric–from Hindoo muslin, ‘gaze de soie,’ crape maretz, to the heavy silks of Lyons.

“We know the wife of the editor of one of the great morning newspapers of New York, now travelling in Europe, whose dress-making bill in one year was $10,000!  What her dry-goods bill amounted to heaven and her husband only know.  She was once stopping at a summer hotel, and such was her anxiety to always appear in a new dress that she would frequently come down to dinner with a dress basted together just strong enough to last while she disposed of a little turtle-soup, a little Charlotte de Russe, and a little ice cream.

“Mrs. Judge —, of New York, is considered one of the ‘queens of fashion.’  She is a goodly-sized lady–not quite so tall as Miss Anna Swan, of Nova Scotia–and she has the happy faculty of piling more dry-goods upon her person than any other lady in the city; and what is more, she keeps on doing it.  To give the reader a taste of her quality, it is only necessary to describe a dress she wore at the Dramatic Fund Ball, not many years ago.  There was a rich blue satin skirt, en train. Over this there was looped up a magnificent brocade silk, white, with bouquets of flowers woven in all the natural colors.  This overskirt was deeply flounced with costly white lace, caught up with bunches of feathers of bright colors.  About her shoulders was thrown a fifteen-hundred dollar shawl.  She had a head-dress of white ostrich feathers, white lace, gold pendants, and purple velvet.  Add to all this a fan, a bouquet of rare flowers, a lace handkerchief, and jewelry almost beyond estimate, and you see Mrs. Judge — as she appears when full blown.

“Mrs. General — is a lady who goes into society a great deal.  She has a new dress for every occasion.  The following costume appeared at the Charity Ball, which is the great ball of the year in New York.  It was imported from Paris for the occasion, and was made of white satin, point lace, and a profusion of flowers.  The skirt had heavy flutings of satin around the bottom, and the lace flounces were looped up at the sides with bands of the most beautiful pinks, roses, lilies, forget-me-nots, and other flowers.

“It is nothing uncommon to meet in New York society ladies who have on dry-goods and jewelry to the value of from thirty to fifty thousand dollars.  Dress patterns of twilled satin, the ground pale green, pearl, melon color, or white, scattered with sprays of flowers in raised velvet, sell for $300 dollars each; violet poult de soie will sell for $12 dollars a yard; a figured moire will sell for $200 the pattern; a pearl-colored silk, trimmed with point applique lace, sells for $1000; and so we might go on to an almost indefinite length.”

Those who think this an exaggerated picture have only to apply to the proprietor of any first-class city dry-goods store, and he will confirm its truthfulness.  These gentlemen will tell you that while their sales of staple goods are heavy, they are proportionately lighter than the sales of articles of pure luxury.  At Stewart’s the average sales of silks, laces, velvets, shawls, gloves, furs, and embroideries is about $24,500 per diem.  The sales of silks alone average about $15,000 per diem.


1800s Medication, Part 4

God forbid the lads might need a laxative!


  • Dr. Lorraine’s Vegetable Pill “Mild, certain, safe, efficient. It is far the best cathartic remedy yet discovered” (25 cents a box)
  • Polk Miller’s Liver Pills: “For constipation, headache, biliousness” (10 cents per box)
  • Dr. Wengert’s Hepatica Pills: For derangement of the liver and secretions. An alternative and cathartic”
  • Dr. C. McLane’s Celebrated Liver Pills: “For sick headache and in all bilious complaints” MED_McLane
  • Dr. T. Reynolds’ Celebrated Virginia Hepatic Pills
  • Holloway’s Pills: ( aloe, myrrh, saffron) “sick headache with loss of appetite … dropsical swellings and turn of life … nervous disorders …” MED_Holloway
  • Tamara Larix Bon Bon: “For the cure of constipation and liver diseases and thereby for the prevention of headache, dyspepsia, cerebral congestion, biliousness, piles, etc. Etc. Cures constipation and thus prevents congestion of the brain, apoplexy, insanity, convulsions. It is almost a cure for seasickness”
  • Dr. H.D. Whitlock’s Cathartic Granules
  • Brandreth’s Pills: “Excellent purgative and anti-bilious pills, warranted purely vegetable”
  • Ayer’s Pills: “Purely vegetable cathartic” MED_Ayers
  • Beecham’s Pills:“The great English remedy, cures bilious and nervous ills” (25 cents a box)
  • Schenck’s Mandrake Pills: (“For biliousness and associated conditions due to constipation” “For all bilious complaints. These pills are composed exclusively of vegetable ingredients and, although they entirely supersede the use of mercury, do not have any of its injurious effects. They act directly upon the liver, and are a valuable remedy in all cases of derangement of that organ. Sick headache, indigestion, and all bilious disorders succumb to the free use of them” MED_Mandrake_Pills
  • Hall Family Pills: “For sick headache, vertigo or dizziness, constipation”
  • Rush’s Pills: “Purgative”

1800s Medication, Part 3

Come Spring, Carmela would probably encourage the lads to take a tonic!


  • Old Dr. Townsend’s Sarsaparilla (sarsaparilla, molasses, senna and 18-25 proof alcohol) “the most extraordinary medicine in the world”-  claimed to purify the blood and cure rheumatism, pimples, spinal issues, eye sores, ringworm and dyspepsia MED_Townsend_Bottle
  • Turlington’s Balsam of Life (27 ingredients) “good for “kidney and bladder stones, cholic, and inward weakness” MED_Turlington
  • Dr. Walker’s California Vinegar Bitters: (various herbs, fermented, possibly sour beer and aloes)
  • Mrs. N. Bailey’s Cascarilla Compound “The best Spring medicine of the age” “has cured thousands within the last fifteen years of coughs, colds, dyspepsia, salt rheum, dropsy, canker, piles, and many other diseases resulting from a vitiated state of the blood.”( $1.00 a bottle)
  • Ellis’s Iron Bitters: “will enrich the blood and prevent it from becoming watery and weak, give a healthy complexion, restore the appetite, invigorate the system and are very palatable. These bitters are recommended to all persons requiring a safe and valuable tonic, to impart tone and strength to the system, not given by Bitters merely stimulant in their effects; which, although they may possess tonic vegetable properties, cannot give the strength to the blood which the Iron Bitters will give”
  • Peruvian Syrup: “strikes at the root of disease by supplying the blood with its vital principle of life element – iron. For all diseases originating in dyspepsia, or a bad state of the blood, it is a specific” MED_Peruvian
  • Dr. J.W. Poland’s Humor-Doctor ”A positive remedy for all kinds of humors, scrofula, scurvy, salt rheum, erysipelas, nettle rash, boils, carbuncles, ulcers and all obstinate affections of the skin; mercurial diseases and every taint of the system; dyspepsia and those diseases originating in the derangement of the digestive organs; viz. Billious complaints, neuralgia, nervous affections, headache, languor, loss of appetite, depression of spirits and costiveness” “An invaluable medicine for purifying the blood” MED_Humor-Doctor
  • Dr. E.C. West’s Nerve and Brain Treatment: “For hysteria, dizziness, convulsions, fits, nervous neuralgia, headache, nervous prostration caused by the use of alcohol or tobacco, wakefulness, mental depression, loss of memory, softening of the brain resulting in insanity, premature old age, barrenness, loss of power in either sex, involuntary emissions and spermatorrhoea caused by over exertion of the brain, self abuse or over indulgence” (Each box contains 1 month’s treatment. $1.00 a box or 6 boxes for 3.00) MED_Nerve_Brain_Treatment
  • Dr. J Walker’s Vinegar Bitters: “Dyspepsia, indigestion, rheumatism, diarrhea, consumption, catarrh, bronchitis, neuralgia, headache, boils, ulcers, sore eyes, dropsy, scald head, paralysis, erysipelas, scrofula, tetter, skin diseases, bilious, remittant and intermittant fevers, pains in the back, shoulders, heart and chest, liver and kidney troubles, stomach ache, jaundice, gout and fits, colds and coughs, croup, palpitation of the heart, lead colic, nausea, biliousness, constipation, piles, worms” “A purely vegetable preparation manufactured from the Native Herbs of California. The great blood purifier and life-giving principle. Their alternative, solvent, diuretic and tonic properties exceed any medicine in the world.” Directions: Take of the Bitters on going to bed at night from a half to one an one-half wineglassful. Eat good nourishing food such as beef-steak, mutton chop, venison, roast beef and vegetables, and take outdoor exercise. They are composed of purely vegetable ingredients and contain no spirit.
  • Greeley’s Bourbon Bitters: “These biters prepared of pure old Bourbon Whiskey and possess all of its stimulating tonic and medicinal power. Modified and improved in its action on the system by the addition of many simple alternative and bitter tonics making them invaluable. A remedy in the treatment of lung complaints, bronchitis, dyspepsia, liver complaints and general debility and weakness of the system” Directions: A wine glassful should be taken before each meal. Ladies and children should begin with less quantity and increase. As an agreeable stomachic these bitters are unsurpassed.MED_Greeley_Bottle
  • Hollis Jaundice Bitters: “Are good in all bilious affectations, jaundice, dyspepsia, fever and ague, hypochondria, hysterics, flatulence, costitiveness, diarrhea, indigestion, asthma, worms, catarrh, sick headache and the liver complaint” MED_Jaundice_Bitters
  • Dr. Sawen’s Life Invigorating Bitters: “Dyspeptic remedy and blood purifyer. A great tonic acting upon the stomach and liver correcting the secretions and providing a certain remedy for dyspepsia, liver complaints, biliousness, nervous debility, loss of appetite and all other diseases requiring a tonic” MED_Sawen_Bottle
  • Moses Dame’s Wine of the Woods: “Remedy for dyspepsia, biliousness, costiveness, headache, worms, jaundice, liver complaint, debility, loss of energy, feebleness and all other diseases arising from derangement of the stomach, liver or blood”
  • Renne’s Magic Oil: “Colic, cholera mores, cramps and pain in the stomach, cholera, coughs, colds, croups, sore throat, dyspepsia, diarrhea, fever and ague, kidney difficulty, pleurisy, acid stomach, indigestion, headache, sea-sickness, rheumatism, neuralgia, sprains, lameness, sciatica, toothache, earache, catarrh, frost bites” MED_Renne_Bottle
  • Metcalf’s Coca Wine “A pleasant tonic and invigorator” “For fatigue of mind or body” “From fresh coca leaves and the purest wine” “Recommended for neuralgia, sleeplessness, despondency, etc.” MED_Metcalf_Ad
  • Vin Mariani ( coca leaves in red bordeaux wine) “Popular French tonic wine” “Diffusible stimulant and tonic in anaemia, nervous depression, sequelae of childbirth, lymphatism, tardy convalescence, general malaise, and after wasting fevers; special reference to the nervous system, in all morbid states, melancholia etc.; tonic in laryngeal and gastric complications, stomach troubles; all cases where a general toning or strengthening of the system is needed; the only tonic stimulant without any unpleasant reaction, and may be given indefinitely, never causing constipation” a proper dose was two the three glassfuls per day, taken before or after meals (halved for children). Even the Pope endorsed it!MED_Mariani_Pope

1800s Medication, Part 2

Here are some more of the over-the-counter remedies the lads might have used:

For Pain:

  • Dover’s Powder (opium and ipecac) MED_Dovers
  • Pain Killer: (opium?) “adapted for both internal and external application, and reaches a great many complaints, such as sudden colds, chills, congestion or stoppage of circulation, cramps, pains in the stomach, summer and bowel complaints, sore throat, etc. Applied externally, it has been found very useful for sprains, bruises, rheumatic pains, swelled face, etc. Arising from toothache” “Is just what its name implies – a killer of pain. It is not a cure-all but is just the thing needed in case of the slight ailments and accidents which occasionally afflict us all. For cholera morbus, cramps, and all bowel troubles, it has no equal. It removes all pain and soreness from cuts, bruises and burns, etc. (It smarts upon application, but only for a moment) MED_Painkiller
  • Miller’s Anodyne Cordial: (morphine and chloral hydrate) MED_Anodyne
  • Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup (65 mg morphine per ounce) for children but adults sometimes indulged
  • Wolcott’s Instant Pain Annihilator (possibly opium and alcohol) “A speedy and permanent cure for headache, toothache, neuralgia, catarrh and weak nerves.” MED_Wolcotts
  • McMunn’s Elixir of OpiumMED_McMunns
  • The Forest Liniment “cures rheumatism, headache, spinal complaints, swollen limbs, neuralgia and sprains, relieving pain almost instantly” (50 cents)
  • The Golden Ointment “as an external application for piles, salt rheums, poison of insects, cuts, burns or wounds of any kind, cannot be surpassed. It’s effects are truly wonderful.” (35 cents a box) MED_Golden_Ointment
  • Redding’s Russia Salve “unequalled for flesh wounds, sold all around the world”) MED_Russia_Salve
  • Holloway’s Ointment: will cure any wound, sore or ulcer, however long standing, if properly used according to the printed directions” MED_Holloway_Ointment
  • Hunt’s Liniment: “Rheumatism, sore throat, affections of the spine, nervous disorders, weakness, salt rheum, ring bone, spavin”
  • Alcock’s Porous Plasters “Seem to possess the power of accumulating electricity and imparting it to the body, whereby the circulation of the blood becomes equalized upon the parts where applied, causing pain and morbid action to cease” “For lumbago and all pains”); these were worn on the breast or between the shoulders or over the kidneys; other adverts suggested using them for such varied disorders as quinsy (you had to put a strip of plaster under your chin, stretching from ear to ear), diabetes, St Vitus’s Dance, epilepsy, dyspepsia, diarrhoea, coughs and colds, asthma, pleurisy, whooping cough, consumption, ruptures, sciatica, paralysis, rheumatism, tic douloureux and kidney problems. (The ads boasted that it only took 2 seconds to apply the plaster. Getting it off, however, was another matter. Dick’s Encyclopaedia noted in 1872 that:These plasters adhere very firmly, frequently requiring the application of heat (by means of a hot towel or warm flat-iron), for their removal.)

1800’s Medication, Part 1

I’m currently researching what medicines the lads would have had access to, if they had a cold or headache or something even worse. I’m having so much fun with it that I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned!


For Cough and Cold:

  • White Pine and Tar Cough Syrup (chloroform) “For coughs, colds, hoarseness, sore throat, bronchitis, and all diseases of the throat and lungs”MED_Pine_Tar
  • Tuckers V. Vegetable Extract: “warranted to cure asthma, bronchitis, canker, croup, coughs and colds, hoarseness, indigestion and sore throat”
  • Shiloh’s Catarrh Remedy: “A speedy and positive cure for catarrh, cold in the head, sore throat, canker mouth, and nervous headache”MED_Shiloh
  • Seabury’s Cough Balsam: “For coughs, colds, influenza, croup, whooping cough, asthma, other afflictions of the lungs and throat lading to consumption” “A marvelous cure for catarrh, diphtheria, canker mouth, and headache. With each bottle there is an ingenious Nasal Injector for the more successful treatment of these complaints” (50 cents)
  • Dr. Lawrence’s Cough Balsam: (alcohol, cannabis, chloroform, antimony) “For coughs, colds, hoarseness, sore throat, tightness or soreness of the chest, whooping cough, bronchitis, croup, and all inflammations of the chest and lungs” Trial size 25 cents, family size $1 bottle MED_Cough_Balsam
  • Durno’s Catarrh Snuff: “For sore eyes, deafness, headache, and the worst forms of catarrh in the head and throat” (34 cents)
  • Mann’s Wonderful Catarrh Remedy: “For catarrh, colds, headaches, sore throat”MED_Manns
  • Z.C. Alden’s Catarrh Cure: “For catarrh, cold in the head, headache”
  • Magic Cure for Chills and All Fevers: “Cures malarial fevers, headaches, dyspepsia, neuralgia, rheumatism, piles, costiveness”
  • The “Allenburys” Throat Pastilles (diamorphine and cocaine or eucalyptus and cocaine, some also have menthol) by Allen and Hanbury, London MED_Allenbury
  • Quaker’s Black Drops (opium-based lozenge)
  • Dr. Barton’s “Brown Mixture” (opium/paregoric and licorice)
  • Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral (cherry extract and morphine) “Cures colds, coughs and all diseases of the throat and lungs” MED_Cherry_Pectoral
  • Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry: (cherry bark, alcohol and opiate) “Of all the remedies ever discovered for the diseases of the Pulmonary Organs, it is universally admitted that nothing has ever proved as successful as that unrivaled medicine – Dr. Winstar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry, which has effected some of the most astonishing cures every recorded in the history of Medicine”MED_Wistars