Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield


Fahnstock’s vermifuge bottle

c. 1830-1850
Recovered from Edwards Place privy
Collection of the Illinois State Museum

B. L. Fahnstock of Pittsburgh sold this vermifuge, a formula for the expulsion of parasites and intestinal worms.

Most citizens of antebellum Springfield regularly turned to “patent” medicines to relieve their occasional maladies. These were proprietary formulas manufactured on the East Coast and marketed nationally through newspaper and magazine ads. Although they made grandiose claims about their restorative properties, these “medicines” were largely ineffectual and occasionally dangerous. Ingredients could include anything from alcohol to opium to cocaine to mercury.