Originally published on Torontoist on May 31, 2011.
With his pince-nez, authoritative finger, and giant pill bottle, wouldn’t you trust your health to the noble Dr. Cassell? Never mind that his powerful tablets claim to remedy the same afflictions as other period quack medicines. He looks trustworthy and by Jove, he’s British! We suspect the pills were most effective on the financial ledger of Toronto food and drug distributor Harold F. Ritchie.
While the “well-known” Dr. Botwood happily lent his name to promote the curative power of Dr. Cassell’s remedy, British doctor R. Murray Leslie didn’t. Less than two weeks after today’s ad was published, Dr. Leslie filed an injunction against the manufacturer for falsely using his name in other ads. The sordid details were published in the December 25, 1915, edition of the British Medical Journal:
On October 20th last Dr. Leslie delivered a public lecture at the Institute of Hygiene in London on the subject of war strain and its prevention, and a summarized report appeared in the public press. The Dr. Cassell’s Medicine Company Limited, who were the vendors of “Dr. Cassell’s tablets,” thereupon inserted in the advertisements which they published in the press a reference to Dr. Leslie and to the lecture lie [sic] had given in terms which gave the impression that Dr. Leslie recommended or approved of the “tablets” which the company purveyed.
With no resistance from the defence lawyers, the injunction was granted.
The Daily Province, January 26, 1915.
If advertising is anything to go by, it appears Dr. Cassell’s Tablets were introduced to the Canadian market in early 1915. Initially, Vancouver received a more colourful campaign, as the first batch of ads printed in Toronto’s papers lacked illustrations.
The Globe, January 30, 1915.
That was quickly remedied. Do you know any little martyrs to nerves?
While ads for Dr. Cassell’s faded out by the end of 1918, the Tamblyn drug store chain carried them through the early 1930s, touting the pills as “The Supreme Nerve Tonic and Body Builder.”
Sydney Morning Herald, November 8, 1926.
By the mid-1920s, Dr. Cassell’s Tablets were available in Australia. Meanwhile, Dr. Cassell’s British parent, Veno Drug Company, was swallowed up in 1925 by Beecham’s Pills, a forerunner of today’s pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline.