Dr. Miles Restorative Nervine, Elkhart, IN

Dr. Miles Restorative Nervine was marketed as a treatment for numerous “nervous” or stress disorders and anxiety related ailments, because of its strong sedative effects.  It was also advertised as solving such common problems as heart trouble, negative side effects from smoking, signs of aging and the frustrations of annoying children.

bottle 013

Bottle embossed: “Dr Miles Restorative Nervine”

According to Indiana Historical Society, “In the early 1880s Dr. Franklin L. Miles began bottling and selling “Restorative Nervine,” which he prescribed for a variety of illnesses including nervous exhaustion, headaches, insomnia, backaches, epilepsy, and miscellaneous pains and spasms. The bromide sedative syrup was a precursor to modern tranquilizers. Miles had reason enough for nervous disorders in his own life. His mother and sister died in an epidemic when he was young, leaving him to be raised by relatives in Elkhart; his father, a fortune-seeker in California and Hawaii, was absent much of his youth; and his first wife died eight years after their marriage, leaving him with three young children. But the young Miles took the $5,000 he inherited upon his father’s death and financed an extended program of academic study, moving fitfully through assorted eastern and Midwestern schools and studying widely in law and medicine. Miles had a broad-ranging mind, writing prolifically on popular medical topics as well as expounding views on scientific child rearing and the dangers of monopoly. In addition to caring for patients and writing, he became interested in the relation of the brain and the nervous system to general health; his medications were an outgrowth of this concern.

In 1884 Miles founded the Dr. Miles Medical Company to market his medications (ranging from his Restorative Nervine to tonics, blood purifiers, and liver pills). The Dr. Miles Medical Company invested heavily in advertising; the advertising budget was $100,000 as early as 1893. The company printed a huge amount of advertising material on its own presses, including a wide variety of colorful almanacs sent to rural customers, calendars distributed by retail druggists, and a Little Book series on health and housekeeping topics. The material combined useful information with product promotion. Alka-Seltzer, a compound of aspirin, citric acid, and sodium bicarbonate that was an effective and fast-working remedy for colds, aches, and upset stomachs, is testament to the firm’s marketing prowess. In 1932 the company became Dr. Miles Laboratories, shortened to Miles Laboratories three years later. The company expanded and diversified over the years, opening plants overseas and purchasing subsidiaries that produced everything from S.O.S. soap pads for the kitchen to citric acid, enzymes, and medical supplies. In 1978 Bayer AG, an international chemical and health care company based in Leverkusen, Germany, acquired Miles Laboratories for $253 million.”

Early Restorative Nervine Ad, date unknown

Early Restorative Nervine Ad, date unknown

Ad from the Ann Arbor Argus, July 8, 1898

Ad from the Ann Arbor Argus, July 8, 1898

Dr. Miles' Restorative Nervine and Heart Cure Calendar 1907

Dr. Miles’ Restorative Nervine and Heart Cure Calendar 1907, courtesy of Inferno55 on flickr.

1930s Dr. Miles’ Nervine Tablets Ad for women

1930s Dr. Miles’ Nervine Tablets Ad for women

1930s Ad for Miles' Nervine

1930s Ad for Miles’ Nervine

This is a 1930s Advertising Promotional Giveaway entitled

This is a 1930s Advertising Promotional Giveaway entitled “Dr. Miles New Joke Book.”

Dr. Miles New Weather Almanac and Hand Book, 1938

Dr. Miles New Weather Almanac and Hand Book, 1938


About Jessica

I am the supervisor of the analysis of the archaeological collection recovered from the Old Main excavation.
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9 Responses to Dr. Miles Restorative Nervine, Elkhart, IN

  1. inferno55 says:

    All I ask is if you use my material you leave me a mention at the bottom. The Miles Calendar is mine.I’m inferno55 on flickr. Thank you.


    • Jessica says:

      Hello! Thanks for letting me use your material. I have added a note to the caption with your flickr name. The photo also links back to your site. Thanks again.

      • Nelson Anderson flickr: inferno55 says:

        You’re welcome. I just found 2 of my Hood’s calendars blank and left a message!

  2. Ray Martinez says:

    Miles was an innovator with advertising, I specifically like his cardboard doll counter signs from 1899, in which the dolls clothing can be changed to suit the climate/weather which is happening during that time. His attention to customers has been lost by today’s advertisers. The doll could also be ordered for children to play with.

  3. Nelson Anderson flickr: inferno55 says:

    Thank you for the mention on my Miles Calendar posted here. That’s all you need!

  4. Joey says:

    I found one of those bottles the same one

    • Jake says:

      is it worth anything

      • Jessica says:

        The artifacts featured here were excavated and not purchased. I cannot make any claims to offer accurate appraisals, but for my own knowledge I look at sold listings on ebay to ascertain what others have paid for the item.

  5. Betsy Stone says:

    Interesting enough Isaac Emerson. Of Bromo Seltzer fame and Dr Miles join forces and form a company. Both used duplicate advertising tactics and printed their own advertising and were very innovating in reaching the public

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