I was browsing through a 1909 edition of the Belleville News-Democrat when I came upon a mention of my hometown, Wellsville, Mo.
Rarely do I see Wellsville in print, or even in the news. I had to look closer.
What I saw was a large advertisement for Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People.
It quoted the honorable Mayor C.H. Weltner of Wellsville as having used the pink pills and having been miraculously brought back to perfect health. This even though doctors had pronounced him incurable 10 years before and he suffered for eight years with what doctors called pharyngeal catarrh.
"When I had taken half a box of them, I began to feel that they were bringing me the relief for which I had been seeking," the mayor was quoted as saying. "I spent three hundred dollars for medical aid which was the same as thrown away, as no benefit was derived."
Instead he had been healed by a 50-cent box of pills.
The story was supposedly taken from the Wellsville Optic-News, which still is the weekly paper in town.
But it was all a large dose of hogwash.
These pills were one of the more famous of the patent medicines of the time. They were made of a solution that included some iron which might have helped some anemic people, although sources indicate that regular iron pills were much more powerful.
But these ads ran in newspapers all across the country, nearly always with first-person accounts of great healing. Mothers claimed their paralyzed children had been restored to movement. Young ladies who had been diagnosed as prematurely aged were restored to vigor. They purify the blood, many people proclaimed.
I could find little information about Mayor Weltner, although his first name apparently was Christian and he was a retail merchant in town. He did die in 1910 so even if the pills did make him feel better, they didn't extend his life very much.
I'm not sure things have changed that much since then. A lot of people still tend to believe these types of claims, which are shaky at best.
You only have to go on the Internet where you will find tempting messages like this: "Penny stocks might be the secret to becoming rich overnight."
Or they might not.
Then there are the endless ads for herbal remedies such as echinacea, an herb proclaimed to have many medicinal properties.
Medical studies show that these sorts of things probably aren't of much use, but to be fair, the studies also include lines like "Other experts dispute how effective they may be."
Even with government safeguards and guarantees, it still remains buyer beware out there.
After all, if you can't trust a historic mayor of my hometown, Wellsville, Mo., who can you trust?