Monday, January 26, 2009

Lincoln's Renowned Rebel Exterminator!

Readers of this blog will recall that I have posted several times regarding my interest in 19th- and early 20th-century patent medicines. Indeed, my most recent Civil War News "Medical Department" column was on the subject; it being the first part of a 3-part series (I'll be posting "Part II" early next week!).

I'll also be talking about the important and interesting role that patent medicines played in the American Civil War at the 16th Annual Conference of the Society of Civil War Surgeons, March 27-29, 2009, in Chattanooga, TN.

Part III of the series - which I am working on now - will consider Abraham Lincoln's association with patent medicines, starting with his days in Springfield to his inauguration to his days in office to the use of his name well after his assassination.

In fact, I've already posted previously on how the marketers of a whisker-restorer used Lincoln's name in advertising just before he took office in 1861. Likewise I've posted here and here on how Lincoln's name and image was used to market products well after his death. What's more, The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress have some interesting wartime correspondence between "snake oil" salesmen and the President.

Another fabulous combination of patent medicines and Abraham Lincoln can be found on a Civil War-era "patriotic envelope" (c. 1861) I have recently added to my collection, the detail of which is shown in the graphic above.

The design shows a beardless Abraham Lincoln as an alchemist/pharmacist and dressed in red-white-and-blue in his laboratory. The artist made clever use of the patent medicine craze with names such as "Lincoln's Renowned Rebel Exterminator" and "Preserved Grape in Canisters." You'll also notice the use of familiar names such as Scott, Butler, and Schenkl. Notice also the rather grim "specimens" of Jeff Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard in the top left corner!

The envelope is a great piece of Lincolnia and period medical history.

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