Frequently advertised and widely available, Dr. King’s New Discovery products became well known enough to attract the attention of the medical profession, and was used as a symbol of the dangers of patent medicines.
According to Rick’s Bottle Room,“H.E. Bucklen & Company of Chicago were highly successful sellers of a number of well-known brands. Herbert E. Bucklen had purchased the rights to his medicines from one Dr. Z.L. King of Elkhart, Indiana, about 1878 and moved the business from Elkhart to Chicago about 1878-1879. Bucklen spent lavish sums on advertising in all types of media, and created the brand name of “New Discovery”, which had national recognition by 1885. He also had several other top selling medicines including the Electric Bitters, and The New Life Pills, introduced in 1880 as a cure for stomach ailments.
Bucklen’s “New Discovery” was a medicine for consumption (tuberculosis) a disease which at the time was killing millions of people. Many companies offered cures and remedies for consumption — all were frauds, including the “New Discovery.”
By 1893, the business was well enough established to be a major retailer through sites at the World’s Fair in Chicago. This retailing accomplishment was achieved in part by offering for 50 cents a 31 page book, half filled with color lithographs of the world fair buildings, and the other half descriptive text. The advertising contained therein, of the “New Discovery,” made sure that most people who went to the World’s Fair to see the marvels available to them at the end of the 19th century thought of the “New Discovery” as one of those marvels.”
But the success of Dr. King’s New Discovery caused physicians to go on the attack, drawing attention to the false claims, harmful ingredients, and tragic consequences of this and other patent medicines. According to Rick’s Bottle Room,
“Bucklen’s “New Discovery” was targeted by Samuel Hopkins Adams in his attack on the patent medicine industry in a series of articles in Colliers Magazine in 1905. Of the ‘New Discovery,” Adams said:
“It is proclaimed to be the ‘only sure cure for consumption.’ Further announcement is made that ‘it strikes terror to the doctors.’ As it is a morphine and chloroform mixture, ‘Dr. King’s New discovery for Consumption’ is well calculated to strike terror to the doctors or to any other class or profession, except, perhaps, the undertakers. It is a pretty diabolical concoction to give to anyone, and particularly to a consumptive. The chloroform temporarily allays the cough, thereby checking Nature’s effort to throw off the dead matter from the lungs. the opium drugs the patient into a deceived cheerfulness. The combination is admirably designed to shorten the life of any consumptive who takes it steadily.””