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Boxes of Fennings' Little Healers, England, 1940-1970

Fennings’ Celebrated Little Healers were advertised as “the remedy for coughs, colds, bronchitis and influenza”. Each box of twelve cost 1 shilling and 6 pence. Alfred Fennings (d. 1900) opened his first shop in 1840 in London. Highly adept at advertising and marketing, he went on to create a very successful business. He produced a range of products which became popular ‘over the counter’ medicines bought by generations of shoppers. Although Fennings’ little healers are still sold today, some of his earlier claims – including a cure for cholera – were highly dubious. On his death, trustees took over the running of the business and the profits went to a children’s charity.

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Glossary: cholera

A severe infection of the small intestine commonly contracted through eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea, leading to dehydration, which can be fatal.

Glossary: bronchitis

Inflammation of one or more bronchi (one of the larger air passages in the lungs), usually a result of infection. It is characterized by intense coughing.

Glossary: influenza

A highly contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory system. Common symptoms of the disease are chills and fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort. In more serious cases, influenza may cause pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Glossary: Fennings' product

Alfred Fennings opened a pharmacy in London in 1840 which sold treatments for serious illnesses. A ‘Fennings product’ is from this company, which distributed its wares across Britain.