The Perils of Constipation – Part 2

'The Golden Age of Purgation' display at the Central Auckland Research Centre has produced many comments from our customers, who remember how the fear of constipation ruled their childhoods. As New Zealand author Ruth Park has said of her depression-era upbringing: “children suffered most.”

An article in the Otago Witness (Ref: Otago Witness, 21/10/1908) professed that constipation aggravated psychopathic states. “This is true in epilepsy, hysteria, alcoholism, melancholia, and even in organic mental diseases it is the rule.”

Ref: 1-W1774A, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Customers happily put their names to testimonial advertisements - such as Mrs Agnes Parker of Dunedin, who said constipation left “me in a complete state of nervous prostration and almost a wreck.” Until she took Laxo-Tonic Pills (Ref: Northern Advocate, 12/05/1914).

Clergyman’s wife Mrs J.C. Brown of Parnell, Auckland, said she was “a great sufferer of constipation,” until she took the contents of two bottles of Dr Ensor’s Tamer Juice – which the ad said cured “thousands of sickly, rundown, nervous, full-of-pain and suffering men and women” (Ref: Grey River Argus, 27/02/1909).

Ref: 34-S502, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Mrs Jane Spriggs of Dunedin said she “suffered considerably with constipation and pains in the head. The agony I experienced at times was almost unendurable.” Until she used Bile Beans – and her constipation was conquered.

“Bad Bowels cause 90 per cent of disease and death” an Ensor’s Tamer Juice ad announced (Ref: Poverty Bay Herald, 06/08/1910). Fortunately, “Half to one teaspoonful with a little water after meals braces up every organ to vigorous action, and imparts strength to the whole system.”.
Ref: 34-N116B, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Kruschen salts, paraffin oil, senna pods, enemas and castor oil were common remedies found in many homes along with teas, tablets and....Sunlight soap.

“There is no pleasanter remedy for Boils, Carbuncles, Ulcerated and Running Sores, Pimples, Skin Diseases, and all scrofulous affections arising from an impure state of the blood”  (i.e. constipation) than Hamburg Tea, according to an ad in the Otago Witness (Ref: Otago Witness, 26/09/1885).

“The Road to Ruin begins when constipation and biliousness fasten themselves on you, and drag down your health,” stated an ad for Chamberlain’s Stomach and Liver Tablets (Ref: Poverty Bay Herald, 21/08/1906). The “Finest Remedy on the Market for Constipation...always produces a pleasant movement of the bowels without any disagreeable effect.”

Ref: 534-9462, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Ruth Park said bowels were “honoured, observed, and hideously hassled above all others, just as the heart and circulatory system are today” (Ref: From Ruth Park's autobiography “A Fence Around the Cuckoo”).

Author: Leanne, Central Auckland Research Centre