A Necklace and Sugar Plums

20th December 2015 — 20 Comments

The Anodyne Necklace

Anodyne Token

© Vic Thornley

The copper token above, found by detectorist Vic Thornley, advertised another quack remedy, the Anodyne Necklace.

The necklace (usually made with henbane roots) that is advertised, reminds me of the copper magnetic bangles for the relief of rheumatism sold today. The reverse is much clearer than the obverse and reads: Basil Burchell Sole Proprietor of the Anodyne Necklace for Children Cutting Teeth.

The necklace would have been purchased in the early 1700’s for children to wear around the neck as a charm or amulet to protect the health, especially for teething infants. Although quite expensive – about five shillings, a week’s wage at that time – this quack remedy was very popular. ‘Anodyne’ was, I understand, the name of the firm, but the word can also be used as an adjective, meaning ‘to relieve pain’. That’s not a coincidence.

One must remember that the popular conception at the time was that infant mortality was caused by stress resulting from the growth of the first set of teeth. The advertisements played on this fact and purported, among other things, to reduce the probability of infant mortality by helping children to ‘cut their teeth’. New and expecting parents in the middle and lower-middle class who could read and afford to respond to the advertisement would try anything to give them that extra chance of survival.


Wikipedia Commons Licence. Notice how the necklace is recommended by ’eminent practitioners’

Dr Samuel Johnson was critical of the growth in advertising and of the methods which were beginning to be used to appeal to the public. He accused the Anodyne advertisement, which warned every mother that she would never forgive herself if her infant should perish without a necklace, of trying to scare mothers into buying the product (a tactic not unknown today).

The text on the obverse (unclear on Vic’s token) reads: Basil Burchell Sole proprietor of the Famous Sugar Plumbs (sic) for Worms No 79 Long Acre. Burchell reckoned that children would eat his ‘Worm-destroying Cake’ just as they would a common sugar plum. Yes, they were supposed to purge worms!


As sold on eBay

For a detailed study of Burchell and his publicity, you can consult A Study of Eighteenth-Century Advertising Methods by Francis Doherty, a preview of which is available on Google Book Search HERE. 


Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence




Happy Christmas to all my Readers


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20 responses to A Necklace and Sugar Plums

  1. I love all the aspects of social history John and I always enjoy reading your blog posts, I’m pleased things have changed for the better this past 250 years, goodness knows what I would have to take back then ! A great article, many thanks.

  2. Thanks John for a great post.
    Cheap enough if you have worms or cutting teeth.

  3. 5 shillings for a childs life very clever of these cons just enough to make them rich and enough to get a lot of people buying them ….thanks for the read john and merry xmas to the my friend

  4. My wife bought me a Necklace , it was a Rope lol

  5. Hopefully the slurred speech will not show John… And it is, as has been said, very courageous of you to put it out there.

    All the best


    Poem now removed by JW

  6. Thank you John! Very interesting, and close to home. You can buy, right now, amber necklaces for teething children. Someone gave us one for our firstborn…… quack-quack! and perhaps choke-choke! You can still buy a henbane pendant too, I see.
    That’s a quietly gritty ditty defying such a SoB thing! All the best, John!

  7. Good to read about Burchell and his opposition. ( Mrs Hill ? )

    • Thank you Ray.
      I’ve removed your rather long URL because it was rather cumbersome and the same source can be seen by clicking the link in my last paragraph.

  8. Hi John:

    Just a tad off topic; I hope you and yours have a great Christmas and my best wishes for 2016.


    John Howland

  9. A henbane necklace would certainly have sent a grizzling infant to sleep if it had chewed on it. Scary! Especially when you think of what other drugs and soothing syrups the anxious parent might have been pouring down him as well. Great post, John. Thank you.

  10. Oh so interesting John, thanks for your posts and your social history delving and rummaging. Have a merry Christmas and a healthy New Year

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