Box of Fennings' whooping cough, Isle of Wight, England, 1940-1970
Whooping cough, named after the sound of the cough, is a bacterial disease that was formerly common in young children. The powders were given three times a day in a little moistened sugar, jam or treacle or placed dry into the child’s mouth, followed by a teaspoonful of lemon juice. A box could be purchased for 1 shilling and 3 pence. Alfred Fennings (d. 1900) opened his first shop – the Golden Key pharmacy – in London in 1840. Highly adept at advertising and marketing, he went on to create a very successful business producing a range of products which became popular ‘over the counter’ medicines bought by generations of shoppers. Although several Fennings’ products are still sold today, some of his earlier claims – including ‘cures’ for cholera and whooping cough – were highly dubious. On his death, trustees took over the running of the business and the profits went to a children’s charity. (Pictured here with other Fennings’ products).
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Glossary: whooping cough
An acute highly infectious disease, primarily affecting infants. Whooping cough gets its name from the severe hacking cough followed by intake of breath that sounds like a ‘whoop’. A highly effective vaccine was introduced in the 1940s.
Glossary: Fennings' product
Alfred Fennings opened a pharmacy in London in 1840 which sold treatments for serious illnesses. A ‘Fennings product’ is from this company, which distributed its wares across Britain.