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Q: 1930 sleeping remedy ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: 1930 sleeping remedy
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: elizabethdeveer-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 17 Mar 2005 05:28 PST
Expires: 16 Apr 2005 06:28 PDT
Question ID: 496049
Hi there, 
Imagine this scenario: it's 1930. You have insomnia. Your doctor
perscribes a sleeping remedy. What is the remedy? What kind of a
bottle does it come in? What does it taste like?
Thank you for your help!!
Subject: Re: 1930 sleeping remedy
Answered By: thx1138-ga on 17 Mar 2005 07:37 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello elizabethdeveer and thank you for your question.

This was a very tricky question, but an interesting one to research.

The drug Veronal would seem to fit your requirements.  Invented in
1903 it was in use up until at least 1936.  It was taken in "Cachets"
(explained below) and was tasteless in this form.  In powder form it
was a white crystalline powder that was odourless, and had a slightly
bitter taste.  It had the effect of helping "dyed-in-the-wool
insomniacs sleep like babies"  The cachets came in a small glass


Master Builders (1936)
"Otherwise only books and manuscripts, and on a tray innumerable
bottles and jars and potions: against the migraines, which often
render him all but senseless for hours, against his stomach cramps,
against spasmodic vomiting, against the slothful intestines, and above
all the dreadful sedatives against his insomnia, chloral hydrate and


"That's when Barbital (barbitone) was synthesized and introduced, in
1903 under the brand name Veronal, as a sedative. Barbiturates were an
effective sedative for the terminally nervous.

They helped dyed-in-the-wool insomniacs sleep like babies."


"VERONAL, in medicine, diethylmalonyl urea or diethylbarbituric acid
(C2H5)2C~CO NH]ICO, extensively used as a hypnotic. It is prepared by
condensing diethylmalonic ester with urea in the presence of sodium
ethylate, or by acting with ethyl iodide on the silver salt of malonyl
urea; it forms a white crystalline powder, which is odourless, and has
a slightly bitter taste."
"It is best given in cachets (10 to 15 grains)."


From "Dope" (1919) by Sax Rohmer
"Automatically, as a result of habit, she unlocked her
jewel-case and took out a tiny phial containing minute cachets. She
shook several out on to the palm of her hand, and then paused, staring
at her reflection in the mirror.

For fully half a minute she hesitated, then:

"I shall never close my eyes all night if I don't!" she whispered, as
if in reply to a spoken protest, "and I should be a wreck in the

Thus, in the very apogee of her resolve to reform, did she drive one
more rivet into the manacles which held her captive to Kazmah and

Upon a little spirit-stove stood a covered vessel containing milk,
which was placed there nightly by Rita's maid. She lighted the burner
and warmed the milk. Then, swallowing three of the cachets from the
phial, she drank the milk. Each cachet contained three decigrams of
malourea, the insidious drug notorious under its trade name of


"Cachets are containers prepared from a mixture of flour and water,
consisting of two circular discs adhering by their edges. The discs
may be filled and closed by means of any suitable machine, and form
one of the most useful methods of administering a powdered medicament
in tasteless form."


Thank you for your question, and if you need any clarification of my
answer do not hesitate to ask before rating my answer.

Very best regards


Search strategy included:
"sleep disorders" "1930" medication

Clarification of Answer by thx1138-ga on 17 Mar 2005 10:34 PST
Hello again elizabethdeveer,

Thank you for the five stars and tip! 

With regard to the cachet if you look at this search strategy

cachet powder filetype:pdf

The first website seems to be ideal for you, but I can't seem to open
it properly (maybe you can?)

The "View as HTML" works but I can't see the pictures.  The title is:


"Unpleasant tasting powders weres ometimes taken wrapped in a
rice-paper wafer, softened by dipping in water, then swallowing with a
draught of water. This idea was furtherd eveloped in France by
Limousin of Paris in the 1870's when they produced the cachet, two
rice-paper cups which were joined together with powder inside"

"CACHETSThere were two types of cachet - wet-seal and dry-seal. The
filling process was similar. Wet-sealwere closed by wetting the
flanges of each half and joining, with dry-seal the two halves
werepushed together.The standard cachet machine consisted of three
metal plates drilled with holes of varying diameterfor the size of
cachet used. A half cachet fitted loosely in the base-plate. The
centre plate maskedthe rims of the cachets to prevent powder being
deposited. Funnels were used to guide theweighed dose of powder into
the lower half-cachet. Tampers were supplied if the powder neededto be
compressed. The other half of the cachet fitted snugly into the third
plate and was held there.When the cachets were filled, moisture was
applied to the rims of the cachet halves in the thirdplate, the centre
plate removed and the two halves brought together. After a few minutes
thecachets were dry and could be removed.The dry-seal cachet machine
was used in a similar manner but the upper plate was sprung to pushthe
two halves together and to allow room to release the cachets. Cachets
were taken by holding one between the thumb and first finger, dipping
in water to soften, then placing on the tongue and swallowing with a
draught of water."

(that last sentence might be interesting for you to describe how the
character took the cachet)

Judging by the text:
"Filling cachets" there is an illustration (how frustrating!)

Let me know if it worked for you.

Very best regards

elizabethdeveer-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
This has been SO helpful!! Thank you so much. The only other thing -
if you have any thoughts - I'd love to see what a cachet looks like. I
can't quite imagine it. THANK YOU!!

Subject: Re: 1930 sleeping remedy
From: probonopublico-ga on 17 Mar 2005 08:05 PST
Barbiturates were often prescribed in the 1930's to relieve pain. 

This was standard practice in those days but such drugs are now
considered highly dangerous because there is only a small difference
between the normal dose and an overdose.

Death from an accidental overdose was not uncommon.
Subject: Re: 1930 sleeping remedy
From: voila-ga on 17 Mar 2005 11:03 PST

Some apothecary bottles if you're interested:
Subject: Re: 1930 sleeping remedy
From: elizabethdeveer-ga on 17 Mar 2005 11:53 PST
Hi THX-1138, 
that's great. Thank you so much for your diligent work! 
All the best, 

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