"Did Mercury in "Little Blue Pills" Make Abraham Lincoln Erratic?
for National Geographic News
July 17, 2001
Tales of the melancholia that dogged U.S. President Abraham Lincoln at various times during his life have been documented by historians and biographers and in Lincoln's own correspondence.
Whether he suffered from a full-blown case of what today is called clinical depression is unknown. What is known, however, is that for a while, Lincoln took little blue pills to treat his condition.
Known as "blue mass," the little blue pills were a 19th-century staple. They were prescribed for a host of ailments, including apoplexy, worms, child-bearing, tuberculosis, toothaches, and constipation.
The key ingredient was mercury.