Monday, 12 April 2010

X-Zalia, Islington

No, this is not some kind of 1970s soft porn movie in which frisky people frolic in the middle of the countryside (in that case it would certainly have been called X-Tasia) but a medicine that appeared in 1893 and remained available during the first decades of the twentieth century.

Manufactured by the X-Zalia Corporation of Boston, Mass., it could cure (and here I'm quoting a promotional article published in both the Lewiston Evening Journal on November 14, 1904, and in the Boston Evening Transcipt two days later)
cuts, wounds, bruises, abrasions, scratches, burns or scalds or any break or wound in the skin which may lead to blood poisoning; eczema, rash, hives, shingles, erysilepas, ulcers or any form of skin disease; hay fever, rose cold, cold in the head, catarrh, sore throat, tonsilitis, diphteria or any form of germ disease of the mucous membrano; stings and bites of poisonous insects, poison ivy, poison oak and dogwood poisoning; piles, fistulas, leucorrhœa, and is especially effective as an injection, lotion, spray or douche for treatment in all diseases of the ear, nose, mouth, throat, rectum, vagina, uterus, urethra and bladder.
Wow! With such a miracle product around it makes you wonder how people could still die. It really sounds like the forerunner of Paracetamoxyfrusebendroneomycin !

The same article tells us about the key components of X-Zalia:
Five hundred barrels of sap from birch trees! One thousands bushels of the leaves and blossoms of a certain shrub which grows in every woodland, picked after the first October frost has ripened its medicinal juices!
Two hundred and fifty bushels of a certain herb that is usually grown on every New England farm.
Further down, we learn that, timing is essential:
During a certain limited time in the spring over 500 barrels of pure sap are gathered from birch trees. This sap is scientifically treated within 48 hours of its flowing from the trees. During the months of October and November a corps of 25 men gather the leaves and blossoms of a certain shrub. To be of value these can only be gathered after the first frost has touched the leaves and blossoms.
What they didn't mention but must have been of the utmost importance were the naked women dancing around a white-bearded man while the latter recited some incomprehensible incantations under a full-moon!

As efficient as X-Zalia was, it still needed to be used in conjunction with an absolutely pure soap, and in case you didn't know which one to go for, the makers of X-Zalia had the perfect solution: the X-Zalia soap.
It is a beautifullly pure soap, absolutely free from coloring matter and from animal fats or other injurious substances. The wholesome odor comes from a necessary ingredient. X-Zalia soap alone will relieve and cure most skin troubles, will remove dandruff and invigorate the scalp, and finally is an exquisite toilet luxury which will appeal to people of the most refined tastes. Large (six ounce) cake 25 cents.
As for X-Zalia itself, in 1904, it cost 50 cents per bottle.

Having conquered the US by storm (I suppose; but how could it be otherwise with such a wonderful cure?) X-Zalia crossed the Atlantic and became available in Britain.

X-Zalia
The Night Cure For
Catarrh
Colds in the Head
Ailments Influenza
..., Simple & Inexpensive

However X-Zalia seems to have vanished from the druggists' shelves in the early 1920s. Whether the company that manufactured it went broke or it was superseded by more efficient antiseptics I don't know.

Location: Essex Road / Picture taken on: 10/04/2008

4 comments:

Jane said...

brilliant research as ever!
but I am hurt that you didn't get in touch and say you were headed this way... I could have met you for a drink!

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Thanks. Acutally I got the date wrong. I took the picture two years ago. I'll let you know next time I'm around!

Mick Conway said...

Came across this site when searching for what the full ..ALIA sign in Popham St Islington might have said. I'm also obsessed with photographing things like this - great to come across another "looker-upper"

Mick Conway said...

Love this blog. I've been "looking up" for a while now and taking photos of what I see in a project I call Upper Street. Pleased to see the Xalia and Hovis ghost signs here and thanks for elucidating the wording