Vapo-Cresolene Vaporizer 5, Vapo, Medicine.jpeg

A glass and metal vaporizer in a yellow cardboard box, c. 1900.

This device, a Vapo-Cresolene Vaporizer, appeared on countless druggists’ shelves beginning in the 1880s. Its makers claimed it could cure a range of ailments from whooping cough to diphtheria. It utilized a proprietary coal-tar byproduct in sticky liquid form that was vaporized over a small lamp lit with kerosene. As early as 1908, the American Medical Association concluded the product was a sham and if used in an improperly ventilated room could lead to poisoning.

Vapo-Cresolene Vaporizer