Imagine life before cough drops, when the only relief from a persistent cough was a swift shot of whiskey, brandy, schnapps or other liquor. There were even harder drugs to take, of course.
While cough drops don’t offer much in the way of relief, but they do help some. Cough drops are also handy to have in pocket or purse, and unlike stronger remedies they don’t interfere with our ability to drive or work, or stay awake.
The U.S. Census Bureau tells us that before the middle of the 19th century, a restaurant owner in Poughkeepsie, New York, concocted a remedy to help soothe the cold sufferers’ coughs.
His name was James Smith, and he cooked up the first batch of candy cough drops in 1847.
By 1872, the popular “Smith Brothers” remedy was packed in boxes for distribution and sale, becoming one of America’s first factory-packaged candies.
The nearly 44,000 drug stores in the country sell some $11.7 billion worth of cough drops, and other nonprescription medicines annually.
Sadly, the original Smith Brothers brand – with the serious-looking Victorian gentlemen pictured on the package – fell into disuse in recent years.
It was passed around by various owners, and has now mostly disappeared from stores.