Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brother Can You Spare a Quarter? - Civil War Almanac #3 - Disabled Veterans

It was no easy task for veterans to find gainful employment when they returned home after the Civil War, and it was doubly-hard for disabled soldiers, some of whom did menial work, peddled wares, or simply begged.

According to Patrick J. Kelly's Creating a National Home: Building the Veterans' Welfare State, 1860-1900 (Harvard University Press, 1997):

"Some private businesses attempted to assist war-disabled veterans and turn a profit at the same time. The Soldiers and Sailors Publishing Company printed a number of histories of the war and hired ex-servicemen with missing limbs to peddle these books. Ex-soldiers eager to play on public sympathy and profit from their wartime experience, wrote and published pamphlets entitled The Empty Sleeve and The Great War Relic."

Based on my (quick) searchof the Library of Congress catalog and WorldCat, other titles included The Soldiers' and Sailors' Half-Dime Magazine, The Soldiers' and Sailors' Tales of the War, Williamsburgh, and (at least) two interesting almanacs:

Soldiers & Sailors Almanac for 1869 and History of the Late Rebellion from 1860 to 1865 and a similar volume entitled Veterans of the War, Whom all Should Assist, Offer their Almanac and History of the Late Rebellion from 1860 to 1865.

Both of these volumes appear to have been underwritten by the H. T. Helmbold patent medicine empire. Henry T. Helmbold began his career in the patent medicine business in 1846 with "Helmbold's Extract Buchu" - a medicine that claimed to cure a multitude of ills, including diabetes, gravel, brick-dust deposits, irritations of the bladder, diseases arising from exposure or imprudence, and many more. Other of his medicines were "Helmbold's Highly Concentrated Compound Fluid Extract of Sarsaparilla" and "Helmbold's Catawba Grape Pills," and "Helmbold's Tolu." You can read more about him here.

I've been fortunate enough to add Veterans of the War... to my Civil War-era patent medicine almanac collection, and I happily offer some images above and below. Enjoy!

You can see other wartime patent medicine almanacs in my collection here and here.

1) Inside Back Cover - tells the story of "Buchu" - like many patent medicine vendors, Helmbold trumpeted the effects of exotic ingredients.

2) Inside Front Cover - Note Helmbold's declaration: "To every honorably discharged Soldier and Sailor seeking a pleasant and profitable employment, it will be furnished by Mr. Helmbold for simply the cost of paper, without reference to printing." It wa likely sold by disabled veterans for five to twenty-five cents.

3) Testimonials were a staple of all patent medicine advertising, but one from this almanac is of special note. It is written by "Col. Young - General Sup't and Director" of "The N.Y.S. Vol. Institute - A Home and School for the Sons of Deceased Soldiers" and describes the helpful effects of Helmbold's Buchu for their "little Lieutenant A.J." for the child's bedwetting.

4) The bulk of the almanac is devoted to its titular purpose: a chronology of the Civil War.

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