A Sydney Housewife’s Dreadful Bilious Bouts

‘Could not keep food on her stomach – Tortured by back pains –
Heart affected – Laid up for days together, and life was a burden.’

Poor Mrs. Charlotte Moore – suffering an affliction of those two evils, biliousness and indigestion, she overcame her burdensome existence and was restored to complete health and strength through a course of Bile Beans.
Advertisements featuring Mrs. Charlotte Moore appeared in about June 1913 and continued through until October 1913. The two advertisements featured here from June and October 1913 are as elaborate as those featuring Mrs. Moore ever became, typically appearing only in text (perhaps to give it more gravitas when talking about matters of indigestion and flatulence).

Charlotte Moore 1913i.png

Sunday Times (Sydney) Sunday, 29 June 1913

Charlotte Moore 1913ii.png

Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, 15 October 1913

‘Flatulence caused my heart’s action to become very weak…’ Good grief.

Surely not only was Mrs. Moore burdened with these afflictions, the rest of the household was probably suffering as well.

A check of the Sands Directories for Prospect Street around the time of these advertisements shows Mr. William H. Moore residing at 63 Prospect Street Erskineville in 1911 and 1912. This extract of a map of Erskineville published in 1894 indicates the position of 63 Prospect Street remains the same, being one of a row of four:

Prospect Street Map 1894.png

Sheet 9 – City of Sydney Section Map 1894

63 Prospect Street Erskineville.png

63 Prospect Street Erskineville

Bile Beans.png

In 1910 the journal of the Melbourne Medical Students’ Society Speculum  issue 77, May 1910 p13-19 described the various modern patent medicines available at the time and provided the following assessment of Bile Beans:

How often as we have gazed at the lilting allurements of Bile Beans for Biliousness have we wondered what was in them. The ad says that the Bean is a kind of back-to-nature treatment, claiming as it does that Charles Forde, a distinguished scientist, had while in Australia noted that the aborigines were markedly free from bodily ailments, and had, by much patient research, ascertained that this immunity from the ills that beset the civilised man was obtained by the use of a vegetable substance which was now presented to the world dirt cheap in convenient form. When we read that the Bean for Biliousness contains Cascara, Rhubarb, Liquorice, Oil of Peppermint, and a gelatine coating, can we wonder that four judges in London should call the ad “a deliberate fraud.”

The University of Melbourne Archives featured an article on Bile Beans in their January 2010 newsletter. The following extract comes from ‘Bile Beans for Better Health!’ page 7:

Bile Beans were first manufactured and sold in Australia in the 1890s, early advertisements had it that they were an ‘Ancient Australian medicine’ invented by an Australian scientist, Charles Forde, who had allegedly researched the therapeutic attributes of native roots and herbs and had discovered ‘the finest remedy yet discovered for all liver and digestive disorders.’ This was all hokum of course, Charles Forde didn’t exist and the real ‘inventor’ was a Canadian living in Sydney named Charles E. Fulford, who had once worked as a shop assistant in a Canadian pharmacy. Fulford had appropriated the idea from a remedy already on the American market named Smith’s Bile Beans, while his marketing ploy was borrowed from the popular Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills, whose manufacturers claimed their source as native herbs and roots used by American Indians.

Additional background to the story of Bile Beans and some good examples of later advertising imagery is available at the Quack Doctor (with a follow-up here) including that a leaflet enclosed with the Bile Beans stated the Beans did not include mercury, bismuth, or aloes, however they did contain aloin – an aloe extract with laxative properties that is no longer considered safe because of its potential side effects.

Bile Beans are the Best Family Medicine.png

This entry was posted in 1910-1919, Advertising, Good for what ails you, Prospect Street and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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