Sunday, August 8, 2010

Civil War Patent Medicine Almanacs from the "Schmidt Collection" - #1 - A.L. Scovill - 1864

Almanacs have been a part of American history almost since its colonization. Officially, they appeared in New England as early as 1639. Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's almanac was introduced in 1733.

Patent medicine vendors began to take out advertising space in almanacs in the 1820s and began producing their own in the 1840s.

By the time of the Civil War all of the major patent medicines were publishing their own almanacs and the numbers are staggering; for example, the Ayers company was printing 15,000,000 almanacs annuay and in 21 languages!

Below are scans from one of the wartime almanacs in my collection, produced by A.L. Scovill & Co. for 1864. More wartime almanacs from my collection are forthcoming. Enjoy!

1) The front cover - notice that this almanac was produced exclusively for New York and New England. See the hole punched in the top right-hand corner? It served a very important purpose: a small piece of string or hook could be attached and the almanac could be hung in the home, or more likely: the outhouse!

2) The back cover - note the variety number of medicines produced by the Scoville company! No less than nine different cures! Apparently this almanac also carried the imprint of a Stamford, CT general store.

3) A staple of the almanac from the earliest days was the inclusion of astronomical charts.

4) A new addition for many almanacs in the Civil War years was a chronology of the war up to that time.

5) The raison d'etre of the patent medicine almanac - advertisments and testimonials for their medicines! This 48-page almanc included 27 pages of advertising and testimonials...more than half the almanac!


Dick Stanley said...

Given the state of medicine, with its bleeding and cupping and "heroic" therapeutics, it's no wonder patent medicines were popular.

Jim Schmidt said...

Dick - Thanks for the recent comments on patent medicines and medical patents (two very different things)! There are a lot of reasons for the growing popularity of patent medicines in the mid-19th century, but you *definitely* hit on one of them! All My Best, Jim Schmidt

Richard said...

Very interesting stuff. I've had the chance to look through a couple war-era almanacs. They certainly did not lack success in selling ad space.