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Branding, Packaging and Trade Marks in the Medical Marketplace c.1870-c.1920

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posted on 2019-08-01, 11:18 authored by Laura Robson-Mainwaring
Popular narrative has equated branded medicines with quacks selling patent medicines to a gullible public. This thesis provides an alternative picture of branded medicines in light of the 1875 Trade Marks Registration Act, which enabled proprietors to frame their medicines as respectable brands within a system of ‘intelligent’ market participants that included retail chemists, wholesalers, professional medical practitioners, and the lay consumer. In contrast to historians of medicines, like Young (1969), who dismiss consumers as gullible fools duped by patent medicine vendors, this thesis presents the sophisticated marketing efforts deployed by wholesale and manufacturing firms as evidence of a more informed consumer. Building on scholarship from business historians, this thesis shows that branding was redefined in the period as a result of trade mark legislation. In consequence, the materiality of pharmaceutical products was transformed and thereafter they formed new meanings within wider economic, regulatory, and medical contexts. Concentrating particularly on pharmaceutical product packaging and advertisements from the trade periodical The Chemist and Druggist, and supplemented with material from the trade and professional press between c.1870 and c.1920, this thesis also broadens our understanding of ‘branding’ to include all paratext found on products. Paratexts such as ‘registered’ and ‘without which none are genuine’ indicate how authority, ownership, and credibility were communicated throughout a supply chain that had become increasingly depersonalized with the onset of mass production separating the producer and the end-consumer. This thesis demonstrates that messages encoded in the branding of a commodity affected not only how it was understood by lay, trade, and medical communities at the time, but also subsequently by medical historians reflecting on the period.

History

Supervisor(s)

King, Steven; Hurren, Elizabeth

Date of award

2019-06-24

Author affiliation

School of Historical Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

Language

en

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