By Jim Harmon/Missoula Current

Achoo! Achoo!

Don’t stand too close to me. I have the curse, the scourge of human existence – the common cold!

Relief eludes me, despite modern medical advances. Since no contemporary elixir is helping, perhaps I should look to the past. One hundred years ago, panaceas abounded.

Oh, if I could just find a bottle of Aspironal, “used and endorsed by European and American army surgeons to cut short a cold, and prevent complications.”

It was praised as “The sensation of the drug trade ... a quick-acting cold and cough reliever, authoritatively guaranteed by the laboratories; tested, approved and most enthusiastically endorsed by the highest authorities!”

It was “proclaimed by the common people as ten times as quick and effective as whiskey, rock and rye or any other cold and cough remedy they have ever tried.” And it only cost half a dollar.

Fallon County Times, February 07, 1929
Fallon County Times, February 07, 1929

But can I find Aspironal on any drugstore shelves today? No!

“Do not lose hope,” I tell myself. After all, there are alternatives available – like “Dr. King’s New Discovery.”

I’m in. If it was invented by a doctor, it has to be good, right? Plus, it’s guaranteed to bring me “satisfactory results” or they’ll give back the purchase price!

The newspaper ad says it’s available at J.E. Fert & Company’s drugstore in Livingston. I have to go to Livingston? But I have a cold – a bad cold – and that’s a long trip. Whine. Whine.

OK, I can always depend on mail-order items.

The Dillon Tribune, March 5, 1920
The Dillon Tribune, March 5, 1920

Just clip the ad and send 10 cents. Foley & Company of Chicago will send me a bottle of their famous Honey & Tar remedy for coughs, colds and the croup.

They’ll even send a free sample package of Foley Kidney Pills for everything else I’m going through, like backache, rheumatic pains, kidney and bladder problems.

Then I noticed another article, this one about a doctor in Berlin who had developed a “life-giving virus” that allegedly was helping combat consumption (TB), known as the “white death.” Maybe that will work on a cold, too.

As I read on, I find there are many, many more options. “What in the world is the reason you will cough and keep coughing and still keep trying inferior medicines, when "Beggs Cherry Cough Syrup will positively relieve your cough at once?”

The Daily Independent, Helena 8-25-1889
The Daily Independent, Helena 8-25-1889

Well, they seem to be positively sure, and no – I guess I don’t have a good reason why I would continue down this lonely path, so I may try that. I actually like cherry-flavored items.

Still, Musterole has been around for a while (and it has "all the advantages of grandmother’s mustard plaster without the blister!").

And there’s Syrup of Figs. The ads say it dispels “colds, headaches and fevers” and will “permanently cure” my “habitual constipation.”

How do they know I have habitual constipation? Who’s been sharing my private, personal medical information? It’s 1923, so it’s not on the Internet.

Fine, then. If I can’t find Dr. King’s cough medicine or Dr. Koch’s life-giving virus or Foley’s honey and tar cure, I guess I’m doomed to stay in my room and sip chicken noodle soup.

That still works, right?

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at His best-selling book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is available at