active ingredients: morphine, treacle, spices
I obtained this bottle in a lot of apothecary items in April 2014 from Dr. Frank, a retired dentist from the dakotas, who has an extensive collection of medical items. He has sold me many items at a discount, and this bottle with a worn paper label of "Godfrey's Cordial" is one of my favorites. it is about 10" tall and has a 3.5" diameter base. It has a very rough pontil mark on the bottom so I estimate this bottle to be early to mid 19th century. I bought the lot of 19 bottles for $200 so I paid about $11 for this one.
Godfreys' Cordial (aka "mother's friend") is one of many morphine-based solutions used in the 1800s on children and adolescents to "quiet" them. A side effect of any opiate, besides pain relief, is sedation. In this solution, there was 1 grain of opium (~65 mg) in two ounces of medicine. The other ingredient, treacle, is just a fancy term for molasses. The spices helped to make the medicine go down easier and maybe to mask a foul odor and/or flavor.
This medicine was sold without prescription and since it worked (and why wouldn't it?! it would work on an elephant!), it sold in large quantities to overburdened mothers during a time where fussy children just got in the way of daily chores and necessary work. As a consequence, not only were many children addicted to the product, and could buy it without their parents and down whatever amount they chose without physician supervision, many also died as a result of an overdose. Many babies even starved to death since they were too doped up to have a proper appetite. In fact, in a book in 1856 called Daisy Chain, a baby is killed by an overdose of this exact product- Godfrey's Cordial! (see quote below). It may even have been used purposefully to murder unwanted children for those already impoverished families of early 19th century Britain. Moreover, it may have been used to harass and molest those sedated by its effects (see the ballad of Godfrey's Cordial below).
Also, since morphine is denser than the other ingredients, it sunk to the bottom. So whoever got the last few doses of the cordial really got their money's worth with a whopper of a dose.
Other morphine-based children's medicines were: Atkinson's Royal Infants Preservative, Steedman's Powders, Dably's Carminitive, Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup, Stickney and Poor's Paregoric