Dr. McMunn’s Elixir of Opium was first formulated in the mid-1830s by Dr. John B. McMunn. The product became a big hit in the United States once the A. B. & D. Sands drug company bought the recipe in 1841. Soon after, advertisements for the product flooded newspapers and medical journals, many guaranteeing that McMunn’s was not habit-forming. Yet, bottles of the narcotic-laced formula were labeled as the “Pure and Essential Extract of the Native Drug”, and the preparation was said to be “Greatly Superior to Morphine.”
Touted as a cure for a host of ailments, including the relief of “convulsions and spasmodic action,” as well as “pain and irritation, nervous excitement and morbid irritability of body and mind,” McMunn’s potent remedy was among the countless pharmaceutical preparations containing opiates and widely available to the 19th-century consumer.
The excavation of the SS Republic a Civil War-era sidewheel steamship that sank during a hurricane in October 1865 while enroute from New York to New Orleans with a cargo meant to help rebuild the city after the Civil War. produced three bottles of Dr. McMunn’s Elixir of Opium, all of which were recovered empty of their original formula—perhaps the remaining samples of a much larger cargo bound for a New Orleans drugstore or wholesale patent medicine agent.
Inventory Number: MED 177 / SOLD