Swamp Root Bottle & Box

Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root Cure was introduced as a brand to the general public in 1881, and supposedly cured a gauntlet of ailments ranging from skin disease, blood impurities, kidneys, bladder, liver, and skin. By today’s standards, cure-all claims such as these are typically dismissed, but were in high demand in their day. They were easily available without a prescription, and the knowledge of drugs and their use was not widely dispersed as it is today. The popularity touted by this type of ‘miracle drug’ was made possible by the Technological Revolution that took place from 1543 to 1800, most importantly the printing press which made advertising accessible, allowing such recognizable brands as Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root Cure to proliferate. They became known as “patent medicines”, a phenomenon that still persists in today’s commercial culture, and Swamp Root’s famous Dr. S. Andral Kilmer would have been as recognized a face as today’s Dr. Oz.

The object was reconstructed to reflect its original structure, a 12-inch long by 2 and ½-inch wide by 1 and ¼-inch tall wooden box, covered in what pieces remained of the label. The front label features a portrait of Dr. Kilmer himself and the words Swamp Root in a bold sans serif font with each letter occupying its own block, almost like the words on a Scrabble board game. Between the words is a description of the medicine itself, which reads “Cures Acute and Chronic Kidney,/ Liver, Bladder and Urinary Disorders,/ Bright’s Disease,/ Swelling of the feet, Dropsy, Pain in/ Back, Joints, Bones or Rheumatism. Bright’s Disease is bolded, suggesting that a customer might be looking that cure in particular and was advertised as a main selling point. Read more.