In the early 20th century, flu epidemics were a regular problem for the theatre industry, with The Stage regularly reporting on performances having to be called off when cast and crew fell sick. Indeed, it was such a common occurrence that The Stage also featured regular advertisements from companies trying to sell so-called ‘restoratives’ to theatre workers. Some of the adverts made some rather over-optimistic claims about their efficacy.
One such – Wincarnis – claimed (January 9, 1908): “Influenza is an acute, specific, infective febrile affection, characterised by its remarkable sudden onset. After an incubation of two or three days it comes on with lightning speed and quickly becomes serious.
“The only way to avoid cold chills and influenza is by keeping the blood warm, rich and pure with Wincarnis, the finest wine tonic procurable in this or any other age. Have you ever noticed that in spite of thick furs, warm woollen underclothing, thick boots and all useful outward protective clothing you have still caught a chill?
“It is a fact beyond dispute that it is only when the blood is chilled that we take cold. If you keep the blood hot, healthy and vigorous with Wincarnis you can defy the damp and cold and fog. You are far safer with Wincarnis and minus overcoat, rather than with your overcoat and minus Wincarnis.”
If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive