Sunday, May 11, 2014

Septicide - Part I - "An Impudent Fraud"

"Milwaukee is destined to get considerable notoriety out of a new medicine called Septicide, which, from all accounts, is a wonderful discovery." - Mower County (MN) Transcript - June 15, 1892

Septicide - Jim Schmidt Collection
In this two-part blog post I share two companion pieces in my patent medicine collection: a bottle and an 1899 letter, both having to do with "Septicide," a product of the Septicide Manufacturing Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Septicide product appears to date at least to 1890, according to the 1892 Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, which includes the entry under "Trademarks":

20,713 - Antiseptic and Disinfecting Compounds - Septicide Manufacturing Co. - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Application filed January 19, 1892; used since May 12, 1890; The word "Septicide."

A search using and the Library of Congress "Chronicling America" newspaper collection indicate advertisements began appearing the spring of 1892:

Waukesha (WI) Freeman - May 19, 1892

Mower County (MN) Transcript - June 15, 1892

Given the claims of cures - it later claimed cures of cancer - it is not surprising that the product attracted the attention of detractors of patent medicines, and it does get an entry in the American Medical Association's famous Nostrums and Quackery: 

Septicide was an impudent fraud made in Milwaukee and sold as
Septicide - Jim Schmidt Collection
a cure for practically everything from "cancer" to "chapped hands," and from "suppressed menstruation" to "sweaty feet." It was a nostrum of the typical "cure all" type. When analyzed by the government chemists it was found to consist of water with small quantities of sulphur dioxid and sulphuric acid and a trace of nitrates. As Dr. Wiley's assistants got after this vicious fraud before the Supreme Court decision crippled the pure food law, it was possible to convict the Septicide Company of misbranding. Orange Williams, secretary and treasurer of the concern, pleaded guilty to the falsehood and the court imposed a fine of $10.—[Notice of Judgment, No. 907.]

In Part II of this article on Septicide I'll feature this 1899 letter as well as the story of its place in the Septicide "testimonial racket":

1899 Septicide Letter - Jim Schmidt Collection

No comments: