Let’s Go Shopping!

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Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by Currie » Wed Sep 23, 2020 8:38 am

Let’s Go Shopping!

This week begins a short series of posts about shopping, or at least, where there has been shopping done. I expect that there will be fewer horrors in this than in the previous graveyard series.

We’ll start with an article from the Dundee Courier, Thursday, December 24, 1896. I found it months ago and have been wondering what to do with it.


My Dear Aunt,—Truly it is an ill wind that blows nobody good, for if you had not sprained your foot I should never have had the delightful occupation of doing your Christmas shopping for you. The shops are just lovely, and I have spent several afternoons in wandering about looking at them and making selections. I think it will be only right and fair to begin with yourself, and, as I happened to have a good inkling of what you would like, I had no difficulty. The business was considerably simplified because Uncle sent me a sum to spend specially on you. When you get the case from Messrs Frain in Castle Street, you are sure to wonder what it contains. The contents will charm you! The scheme of colour, those rich blues and dull reds of the china, which is Copeland, will go beautifully with the rest of the furniture in your dressing-room. The trinket set is a remarkably complete one, as it has all the things which are handy, and a pair of nice candlesticks in addition.

Apropos of these, I have sent you a box of pretty coloured candles specially for your trinket set. I had to go to Peebles’, you know, and order the crackers, so I thought it well to add the candles. The crackers at Peebles’ were truly in bewildering variety. I do hope I have chosen well.

Mrs Easson makes such a specialty of dresses without fitting that I have no hesitation in recommending her. The bright red cloth will suit Kate to perfection, and the hat of felt to match with coque’s plumes will charm her. The girls are surely to be very gay this season judging by the
order you ask me to give for silk blouses! I happened to remark very nice ones in the window at Melville House, so they will be despatched to you from there. There are eight blouses in all, of the most lovely colours. The pale yellow one with a gold stripe will suit Marjory, and the light green should set off Edith’s golden hair. Of course, you will need a work basket on a stand if you have to lie on a sofa for six weeks with your sprain. One can get these things better at the Blind Institution than anywhere else, and, as they are very punctual in executing orders, I have no doubt you have got yours by now. It is quite the newest design set on a stand of three slim basket rods. The red silk lining is pleasing to the eye, and the lid keeps all tidy. The tea table is nice too, isn’t it? It is quite the latest thing, and caught my eye in the window of Messrs Donald & Duncan, Nethergate. I suppose the silver effect is got by electroplating. Those lines of gilding and the open scrollwork are highly effective. It think, too, it is a very good idea to have several trays on the table, and the little ones at the side will be invaluable.

Oh, you inveterate tea-drinker! The teapot I send you is bought at Messrs Thomson’s, Wellgate. It is in imitation of a Worcester pattern, and I just wonder how, after seeing them, anyone could ever use a brown teapot again. I saw one in a friend’s house, and went for some right away.

Aren’t the calendars lovely? I am sure they are very nice to send away—far better than Christmas cards. I like the grey of the engravings; it is in better taste than coloured pictures. I got them at Mrs Lundie’s, Reform Street. Of course I went to Mrs Macgregor’s, at the Book Mart, for the Sunday school children’s books. The stories are all nice, and the books pretty.

Six pairs of boots will arrive from Messrs Wills, Murraygate, and if they do not fit exactly they are willing to change them. The boys in your class should be pleased. While I am speaking of boots I may as well mention that I got the evening shoes for the girls all right at Miss Scotland’s in Nethergate. She had any amount to choose from, and the colours I send should please them. The black velvet ones with large gilt buckles, are charming for Nellie, whose feet are so small. The newest bedroom slippers are in coloured felts, lined with fleecy. I just remind you of this, and mention that I noticed very nice ones at Messrs Patterson’s, High Street.

By the way, while I was up in Wellgate buying your teapot I noticed such a very uncommon case of fruit knives and forks in the window of Mr Johnston, jeweller. The silver blades were carved, and the ivory handles had the same rustic appearance as those you regretted so much when they were worn out. You remember, I suppose, the ones I refer to, they were among your own wedding presents. If any of your cheque remains after my purchases are made, shall I buy them for you?

The dolls for the Christmas tree I shall buy from Mrs Morris in Gilfillan Memorial Buildings. She has them of every possible size and kind. Some of the best will be dressed, and nicely dressed, too, as that will save you trouble. I went to Messrs Valentine, Reform Street, for the boxful of little novelties for the tree. The handsome dressing-bag you wanted for uncle is sure to please you. The green and brown shot crocodile is the very latest leather. Aren’t the gold mounts too lovely for anything, and aren’t the monograms in good taste? The gold mounts, with that bronze brocaded lining, make the bag a thing of beauty. For the umbrella for Bob I went to Meldrum’s, of course. I hope he likes the gold knob, it was the most stylish I could get. Ned’s silver cigarette case will be sent on from Messrs Robertson & Watt, jewellers, High Street. They have a very good selection of these things.

I got the tea cosy for you from Mr J. Craig, High Street. The shop has been improved and enlarged, and they have a splendid selection of cosies. I thought the blue flowers on a bronze ground very fetching. The six cushions are from Messrs Justice, Whitehall Street. Their windows are perfectly dazzling. I could not begin to try to tell you what they have in them. All parts of the world seem to have contributed to the sum total.

Messrs Smith Brothers, The Globe, are to make the suit according to the measurements you sent, and despatch it in time for New Year. Do you know that they are building magnificent new premises in Murraygate? The blankets for your old women I have ordered from Messrs Macgregor & Bald. I chose good warm Scotch blankets, as I know you consider them better than any other. The tea cloths are bought from Mr Sprunt, Commercial Street. I am sure the open work borders are quite as nice as one could do by hand, and the price is amazingly moderate, is it not?

I hope Mary will like the dress for her little girl. I went to Mr Adam Smail, Reform Street, for it. These accordian silks are the very latest for children’s party dresses. The small coat for Jack caught my eye in ‘‘Our Sons,” you remember, at the top of Whitehall Street? The crimson cloth is warm looking, and the astrachan collar is a nice finish. Messrs Rowbottom are famous for their boys’ suits, so I sent your order there. They will send you a few on approbation. I said good, useful school suits, and you can have them tried on.

A copper tea kettle on a stand is the very thing to send to Mrs Smith. I saw the very nice one I chose in Messrs Sinclair’s window in Nethergate. The copper kettle on the polished brass stand looks remarkably well. Their window had rows of pudding steamers in it. They are something quite new. I have spent nearly half your cheque, but your commissions are about half executed by your devoted niece,


After reading all that I suspect it could be just a paid advertisement in disguise rather than a genuine letter.

For reference 1896 Dundee Directory https://archive.org/details/dundeedirec ... 5/mode/2up

Plenty more shopping to do,

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Re: Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by SarahND » Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:04 am

:shock: That certainly was too much shopping to be true! And only half the cheque so far!! Doesn't fit the stereotype of a penny pinching Scot, does it? :lol:

Best wishes,

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Re: Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by Anne H » Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:20 am

That's more like it, Alan but I must be gullible because I believed it.

I thoroughly enjoyed that shopping trip and could imagine a few of my families it could have been attributed to, although now that you have both brought me back down to earth, I doubt if any of my well to do families would have sent the letter to the newspapers.

''Penny pinching'' Scots, Sarah!! Just thrifty Scots. :-


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Re: Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by WilmaM » Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:05 am

A Dundee Gift Guide!

Cutting it a little tight mind you - published on Christmas Eve.
Though my dad used to do all his shopping on the 24th [ presumably he was paid then]
then go to the Barras in the evening.

Oh, if only half of those shops still existed - Anywhere...

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Re: Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by Currie » Wed Sep 30, 2020 8:57 am

Thanks All,

Be warned that the mere mention of shopping will earn a place in this thread. In this article from the Dundee Courier, Tuesday, June 25, 1844, the Lady of the House went out shopping with Susan and the baby.

But, what was the Man of the House doing looking in his wife’s diary, and even worse sending it to the newspaper? Perhaps it was pay-back time.


SUNDAY.—Charles out late last night; not up this morning till twelve; breakfast not over till one. Wished particularly to go to church; my new lilac bonnet with pink trimmings came home yesterday. Couldn't go, of course. The Walkers and the Hutchinses there, and all! Very angry with Charles; wouldn’t talk to him at dinner; went up afterwards into the dressing-room, and sat there by myself. When I came down again, found him smoking and reading the paper. That Edwards called this evening. Knew Charles would ask him to stay to supper. Slipped out directly after tea; locked the larder, took the key of the cellar, and went to bed—hoped they were comfortable.

MONDAY.—Charles very cross this morning about last night, but coaxed him over and made him promise me that dear shawl; paid for week's housekeep. Mem.—to get those open-work stockings. Charles out at half-past ten. Mrs Saunders called. How well she manages Saunders. Mem.—not to forget her hint about the save in sugar. Charles home again, for a wonder, at four—and he had been for a week with Bradshaw. Steaks for dinner. Charles never asked me what cut I would like; contradicted me about the horse-radish, when I knew I was right, and would eat spring onions with his cream cheese, when I told him not.

TUESDAY.—Charles up in his little room, writing, all day. Went out shopping with Susan and the baby. Ordered the brown sugar instead of the lump, and put by the difference for sundries, Got the dear shawl. Met the Wellses, and heard that Mr Charles was seen yesterday at the Pantheon—what did he want there, I should like to know? (Mem.—to find out.) After dinner (shoulder of mutton) Charles reading. Baby cried. Charles wanted it sent up stairs; how very unreasonable!—the poor dear was teething—wouldn’t hear of such a thing. Charles went out in a tiff, and never came home again till two in the morning. Said he had been kept up talking over business. Business, indeed! His eyes were so red, and he smelt so dreadfully of cigars! The cold shoulder of mutton for you, sir, tomorrow.

WEDNESDAY.—My lord wanted soda water this morning. In his tantrums at breakfast, because there were no bloaters.— Went out directly after. Asked him if he was going to the Pantheon?—took no notice;—oh, I am afraid he is very sly! Ordered the cold shoulder and no rice-pudding today; bought the stockings. Home came Charles to dinner with a friend; so vexed about the bill of fare; serve him right!

THURSDAY.—Charles away again early; told me not to wait for him. Nice lamb chops, all alone, at two. Charles back at half-past twelve; saw a playbill hanging out of his pocket, and taxed him, when he admitted he had been at Drury Lane. Why couldn't he have taken me?

FRIDAY.—He wanted half-a-dozen pocket handkerchiefs, and gave me the money for them. Got him four—quite enough for him. Bought a nice cardinal. Saw such a love of a work box in a shop in Regent Street—five guineas!—oh, how my fingers itched. Charles this afternoon in a good humour; gave him a broad hint about the work-box. I shall get it.

SATURDAY.—Charles scolding this morning about his wrist bands, which had no buttons. Sewed them on myself, and pacified him. Asked him if he would like to dine out to-day; said, No; how provoking! for I wanted to spend the day at Mrs Hopkins’. Had a few words about the mutton, whether it should be boiled or roast, but thought it best to give way. Surprised him at dinner with college dumplings—my own making. Mixed him a nice glass of brandy and water afterwards. Got the work-box,

Well, I got through almost all of that before I realised it was English shopping, and not Scottish shopping. It’s too late now to do anything about it, so it’ll have to stay. To make up for it here’s a short, romantic, Scottish story, from the Edinburgh Evening News, Thursday, January 10, 1895.


Some sensation has been created in Dumfries by the simultaneous disappearance of a female cornet player and the man who beats the drum in the local Salvation Army band. Eight months ago the youth, who was then an apprentice tuner, was married, to a young woman, a weaver in the same mill, and who was also a member of the Army. His apprenticeship was completed last week, and he received from the firm, according to a custom of theirs, a considerable amount of lying money. His wife went out a-shopping and on her return was surprised to find him gone. Surprise was succeeded by anxiety when she discovered that his Sunday clothes had been taken with him; and when the cornet player was also ascertained to have left mysteriously, she naturally concluded that the pair had gone off together.

It just goes to show that you can’t trust anyone in uniform. I hope they didn’t make too much noise wherever it was they went off to.

More next week, maybe something a bit depressing. Maybe the shop window will tell how the poor live.


LATER. It seems the diary story came from “Punch” and there’s a bit more to it here.
https://books.google.com.au/books?id=G0 ... 22&f=false

Anne H
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Re: Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by Anne H » Wed Sep 30, 2020 1:03 pm

Ahh, Punch! Used to love having a read through those articles. Great humour!


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Re: Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by garibaldired » Wed Sep 30, 2020 1:37 pm

Another good one, Alan! =D>

Many thanks,


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Re: Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by nelmit » Thu Oct 01, 2020 12:56 pm

These are great Alan. :D =D>

Kind regards,

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Re: Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by Currie » Wed Oct 07, 2020 12:14 pm

Thanks everyone,

This week’s story is from the Evening Telegraph, Dundee, Friday, November 22, 1878, and is about how the poor did their shopping. There’s nothing specific to Scotland, but there was no shortage of really poor people there, especially in places like Glasgow.


One half of the world does not know how the other half lives—and why? Because they do not look into shop windows. Come with me into a poor district, and I will show you in the course of half an hour's walk through the shop windows how the inhabitants live. Leaving the highly respectable high road, let us turn into this narrow street; it is of considerable length, and forms the leading passage through a district peopled with workers of the poorer sort. Father out at work, and mother working at home, there is no time for going shopping. All the little wants of the family must be procurable in a few minutes. Thus when a paper of tea or a bit of soap are required, the mother runs out without shawl or bonnet, or sends little Betsy with its exact price in her baby hand.

It is the same with all the other wants of the poor; precious time must not be lost in looking after them, or making them up, so as the customers cannot go to the shop the shops must come to them. Therefore shops providing for all the wants of the poor—from a cradle to a coffin — are to be found in groups in this and like districts. Little Betsy knows nothing about yards or pounds or pints, or of any minor divisions in the weights and measures table. She is sent for a “penn’orth” of this or a “fartensworth” of that; and the desired quantity, ready for her on the shelf, has only to be handed down. Look in the windows of these shops, and you will see what the necessities of the poor really are. They form a gallery of domestic economy from which you will learn more in a few moments than all the social science associations can teach you in secula seculorum. You will see with your own eyes how the poor live, how they fare under the green tree, and to what expedients they are put in the dry. You will see joints of meat cooked and uncooked, fit for the table of an alderman, and scraps, and curious compounds, from which you might imagine a hungry dog would turn away in disgust.

Side by side with some plain and serviceable articles of dress and furniture you will find such curiosities in the same lines as you would look for in vain in universal exhibitions, anywhere you will see worn and tattered clothing for old and young, male and female; and you will wonder how a sale can be found for such rubbish. But look at the passers by, and you will see customers to match the merchandise—folks who have probably never worn a new garment in their lives. Broken-down bedsteads, rickety tables, dismembered chairs, mutilated washstands, cracked crockery ware, and other household utilities in the last state of decay find their market in such places as this. Do people about to marry buy their furniture in such shops as these? But there are the goods, and you may be sure that they would not be there unless some one had reason to know that they were wanted. When you are made aware of the fact that among the poor of the working classes it is by no means unusual for boys and girls in their teens to marry on a fortune of a few shillings, you will cease to wonder how those rags and that lumber find purchasers.

Shops providing tools and materials for the various trades carried on in the vicinity speak of its industries; others dealing in luxuries, such as sweeties and toys for the little ones, cheap trinkets and ornaments for the mothers, and fancy pipes, tobacco-pouches, and the like for the fathers, tell their tale of the little luxuries enjoyed by these humble people when trade is good. The bird-shops show their delight in pets. The pawn-broker’s window is eloquent about hard times; watches, trinkets, musical instruments, and such like superfluities are the first to appear under the sign of the golden balls. Then comes the Sunday clothes, then more necessary things, till at last the idle tools, the blankets, and, alas! the wedding rings, join the procession. In the pawnbroker's window you can thus read of the decline and fall of the poor man’s home, and obtain an insight into the manners and customs of a people as strange to you as the inhabitants of the interior of Africa.

I do not say that your tastes will be gratified, but your charity may be enlarged. One great difficulty in dealing with the poor is their jealousy of intrusion into their homes. Look into the shop windows and you will gain a pretty fair idea of what these must be, without the fear of being indiscreet.—Temple Bar.

Not too many years later there’s another “little Betsy’ doing the shopping, although this one appears to be much better off than the previous one. A pound, at the time, probably represented the greater part of a week’s wages for many people. From the Evening Telegraph, Dundee, Tuesday, February 2, 1892.


Millarstone is one of the most peaceful localities in Paisley, where the tramp of the policeman would not be heard but for the possible depredations of the thieving fraternity. Even in such a case the inhabitants are apparently quite able to look after their interests and maintain law and order.

On Saturday a little girl who was doing some shopping dropped her purse containing a pound note, and when she afterwards saw a man pick it up she went and claimed it. He handed back the purse minus the money, and walked away, but the little one, bursting into tears, called after him for the pound. A buxom matron hearing what was wrong went after the man, and without waiting to question him seized him by the neck, and bolstered him against the wall of a house. “Come on wi’ the pound,” she said, and when he attempted to resist and act the bully, the old lady bumped his head against the wall.

She was joined by a neighbour woman, who like herself was up in years but withal sturdy and determined. The fellow was evidently impressed with the seriousness of his position, the more so when matron No. 2 applied her fists in kettledrum style to his back, and insisted on the money being handed over.

Two men appeared on the scene at this stage, and though they took no active part in the affair there is no doubt their presence had a wholesome effect on the would-be thief, who was reluctantly compelled to hand over his plunder. “There, take it,” he said, and quick as thought his words were echoed by No. 2 as she closed his right eye by a well directed shoulder blow. Having got it he beat a hasty retreat.

More shopping next week, maybe for something that cures everything.

All the best,

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Re: Let’s Go Shopping!

Post by Currie » Wed Oct 14, 2020 8:30 am

Last week, while looking for articles about shopping, I stumbled upon an interesting series of testimonials by Scots, in the 1890s, in support of that remarkable cure, Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People.

That’s the one that was effective in the treatment of paralysis, influenza, rheumatism, anaemia, poor and watery blood, pale and sallow complexion, general debility, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, pains in the back, nervous headache, locomotor ataxy, sciatica, palpitations, spinal disease, loss of memory, neuralgia, dizziness, chlorosis, sick headache, chronic liver complaint, consumption and decline, indigestion, chronic erysipelas, scrofula, kidney disease, sleeplessness, rickets, disorders of women, hysteria, loss of vital forces, and too many others to mention.

Dundee Courier, Thursday, January 21, 1897


John Robertson, one of the leading players in a Glasgow Football Club, said:—

“Engaged in a match, I sustained a nasty twist. I felt a stinging pain in my back, but thought I would be all right in a few days. I got worse, so bad indeed that I had to cease going to my work and see the doctors—I had four of them. They had to admit, however, that my case baffled them. I had a lump on my back like a large marble. The doctor said—‘You have spinal disease and I would advise you to go into the infirmary.’ Well I was sent to the Glasgow Infirmary. The pain I suffered was beyond description! I lay for eighteen weeks in the infirmary, and after that they despatched me home as incurable; they sent me home to die! The doctors, asked plainly if they could do no more, said—‘Well, no; your case is quite incurable.’

‘‘My limbs were powerless, but I had my faculties, and when lying in bed there was always leaping into my mind an article I had once read in a newspaper about Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People curing a paralysed man. I said—‘ I'll give them a trial.’ I sent for several boxes, and began with two pills after every meal. I soon felt a sensation of life returning to my limbs, and I got to be able to stand between two chairs; and then I was able to raise myself up. Then one day I managed to walk half a yard with my hands resting on the tops of the chairs. In a day or two l was able to walk the length of the room. After a while I was able to walk on crutches; but even them I was soon able to abandon. And, sir, it was Dr Williams’ Pink Pills, and them alone, which wrought the marvellous change in my case. On Saturday last I tramped seven miles, and I could have gone twice the distance.”

Aberdeen Journal, Saturday, April 11, 1896


To a reporter of the “Orkney Herald,” who visited him, Mr John Clouston, mason, late bellman and town crier, of Alfred Street, Stromness, narrated an extraordinary affair. He said:—-”During the spring of 1895 I had a severe attack of sickness, which incapacitated me from all work. My symptoms are not easily described. For many years I have been troubled with severe bilious attacks, and while suffering from one of these turns I had a stroke, followed by utter prostration, which rendered me unable to work, or even walk any distance. Severe pains in the limbs and arms, and indeed all over my body, would make me start like a person awakened from a nightmare; at other times my limbs became powerless, like a person suffering from paralysis, and when the pain abated for a little I was almost helpless, While sitting by my own fire I used to feel a cold shiver that no amount of clothing would dispel. The pain and suffering continued and increased in severity for three months.

About this time I saw in the newspaper reports of similar cases that had been cured by Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People, and I resolved to give them a trial. After taking the first box the pains gradually got easier. I commenced with one Pill after each meal, and after a time increased the dose to two. The alarming symptoms above described gradually wore away, and when I had finished the last box I felt hale and well, and in my usual state of health—in fact, better than I have been for many years, I have never been troubled with my health since; even my old trouble, biliousness, has gone. I cannot but believe that Dr Williams’ Pink Pills were the means of saving my life. I have recommended them to my friends. A near neighbour of mine who has been in delicate health for a year is now using them, and although she has only used them for a short time she is deriving good benefit. They are unlike other medicine, are easy to take, and quickly build up the system.

Dundee Courier, Saturday, January 30, 1897


Mrs Murray, of 17 Market Street, Glasgow, looks at her daughter Agnes with tears of gratitude. “Aggie,” she said to a reporter, “will tell you the story of her escape from the grave, and what she forgets I’ll try and give.”

“Well, sir,” said Miss Murray, “two years ago my breath almost left me, and, what with that affliction and an indescribable pain in my head, I thought I was going to die. I became as pale as the tablecloth, while my lips turned blue. My face was like the face of a corpse. I would go out
at nine in the morning, but, becoming weak and faintish, had to be sent home before mid-day. So weak, so sick, so low-spirited, so emaciated did I become that I was a ghastly sight, and all I was fit for was to lie back in a chair or go to bed. The doctor was summoned. ‘Poor thing! Poor thing! I'm afraid, I'm afraid!’ was all that he whispered to my mother, who began to cry. I was taken to the coast, and, instead of improving, I grew worse and worse. I was helped out to one of the public seats on the beach, and the people as they passed by audibly remarked—'In a decline, poor girl!’ I had given up all hope, when one day my mother said—'I've heard of wonderful cures by Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People.’ She got them, and I was a different girl before I had got half through the first box. I consumed the contents of four boxes, and now I have never felt stronger in my life. I had not taken half a box till the pain left my head, and now I’m so cheery, so well, that I'm able to go to my work at nine in the morning, and work till eight o'clock at night. I have a sister in Portsmouth, whose husband is in the Navy.


my sister’s husband was there in one of the British man-o’-war vessels, and he came to see me. On beholding me his eyes opened wide; he grasped my hand, and exclaimed— ‘Oh, won’t Jeanie, your sister, be the happy woman when I tell her of how well you are looking!”

“Two years ago,” Mrs Murray added, “ my girl was as robust as could be, but she drooped and drooped, and I thought she was going to die. Her cheeks fell in so that you would have imagined they were touching each other inside. At the infirmary, when the doctor saw her, he shook his
head and said, ‘Poor thing, you are in a bad way!’ I thought


had come.” The poor woman’s eyes filled, and she covered them with her apron. “Then I read of the wonderful cures that had been effected by Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People. This was in July. The first box brought the colour to her face; the second filled up her cheeks; the third improved her appetite; and the fourth enabled her to go back to work. Now, she never was in better health. She is remarkably strong.”

There were many more Scottish stories of miraculous Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People cures.

I have a small Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People bottle. I’m not really sure where it came from, perhaps a family heirloom. More than likely it would have come from the ancestor who lived the longest, so I’ll settle for that. Unfortunately it is empty, and has always been empty, so I’ll just have to put up with all my health problems until something else comes along. https://imgur.com/XpbenWq

Maybe it would be a sure cure for something else currently going around.

I’ll see what I can dig up for next week.


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