The Fall River Historical Society has a big new idea to celebrate the small things in life that once helped keep us healthy.

The society has started a new hashtag, #tinytuesday, on its Facebook page that for the next few weeks will “showcase vintage medicinal aides” that “you might find in an early 20th century medicine cabinet.”

So what was first on the list? A bottle of Coca-Cola syrup.

As pointed out by the historical society, Coca-Cola was invented by a pharmacist, John Stith, in 1886 and was “marketed as a cure-all for various ailments.” In its early days, Coca-Cola did, in fact, contain cocaine, although the drug was no longer being added to the cola syrup by the time this particular bottle was manufactured. They stopped adding it in 1929.

This particular bottle, the historical society pointed out, “dates to the 1940s and was sold by Touhey’s Pharmacy, which was in Fall River for nearly 100 years.”

Fall River Historical Society via Facebook
Fall River Historical Society via Facebook

Could you imagine going to the pharmacy in the 1940s and asking for a bottle of Coca-Cola syrup to help with your stomach ache? When you think about it, it’s not that different from the homespun medical advice of today, when drinking some flat ginger ale or a similar soft drink helps calm the stomach.

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Thankfully, pharmacists eventually stopped using cola syrup as a cure-all and instead started mixing it with seltzer water and creating the drug store soda fountains that eventually gave rise to the soft drink industry.

My father’s Uncle Bob ran Clark’s Pharmacy in Norwood, Massachusetts after World War II, and I loved hearing his tales of mixing up the various sodas and ice cream sundaes at the pharmacy’s soda fountain. I myself worked in a diner for a number of years that still had the original Coca-Cola soda fountain, although it was long past the time when it could be used and was more of a decoration than anything else.

An actual bottle of 80-year-old Coca-Cola syrup, though, is a really cool bit of history. I can’t wait to see what else the Fall River Historical Society has in store for future editions of #tinytuesday.

While the historical society said it wouldn’t suggest taking a spoonful of the Coca-Cola syrup from the bottle, I’m awfully tempted – but what then would I do if the supposed cure for the upset stomach is what gave me an upset stomach?

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