Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dr. Thacher's Liver and Blood Syrup - Part I

Thought it was a good time to feature another item from my modest (but growing!) patent/quack/proprietary medicine collection. This post features:

Dr. Thacher's Liver & Blood Syrup
her Medicine Co,
Chattanooga, TN

I'm not sure of the exact age of the bottle (with syrup (!), box, and insert), but it is certainly post-1916 but pre-acquisition by "Allied Products"...probably c. 1925-30.

In Part I below, I feature photos of the bottle, biographical information on Thacher, and some additional information from the classic Nostrums and Quackery. In Part II, I will feature scans of the product insert.

Here is some biographical information on fo
under Henry Savage Thacher from The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volume 47 (1916):

Henry Savage Thacher [was] born December 11th, 1826, at Biddeford, Me.; he resided successively at East Concord, N. H., and at Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn. He was a chemist and apothecary and was the founder of Dr. Thacher's Medicine Company of Chattanooga, Tenn., and the inventor and proprietor of the medicines there manufactured; he died at Chattanooga, November 16th, 1898, and was there buried in the Catholic Cemetery. He married at East Concord, N. H., September 30th, 1852, to Sarah Drown Eastman, born East Concord, N. H., June 5th, 1828; died at Chattanooga, July 21st, 1899, and was there buried. She was a daughter of Ebenezer and Mary Drown (Underwood) Eastman, of East Concord, N. H. Children (5; 4 sons, 1 daughter, all born at East Concord, N.H.).

It would be interesting to know what brought this New Englander down to Chattanooga!

The advertisement below from 1905 is typical in touting its many "cures: all liver disorders, all kidney diseases, biliousness, constipation, skin diseases, dyspepsia, rheumatism, and headaches (at least!).

Although this post features his "Liver and Blood Syrup," the company produced several different medicines,including a worm syrup (for children), a "cholera mixture, Stella Vitae (for female complaints), and others.

What's in That Stuff Anyway?

In an article in a 1903 issue of the American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, the Thacher Medicine Co. insisted that their Liver and Blood Syrup was not a "patent" medicine or nostrum (that is, with secret ingredients) but rather a proprietary medicine (carrying the Thacher name), that always listed the ingredients:

Thacher's Liver and Blood Syrup, as well as all other preparations made by the Thacher Medicine Company, of Chattanooga, Tenn., is not a " patent" but a proprietary medicine, the formula for which includes the following: Buchu, hydrangea, mandrake, yellow dock, dandelion, sarsaparilla, gentian, senna and potassium iodide. Their laboratory affords every facility for compounding these ingredients in a superior, scientific manner. Only the best and purest drugs are used : these are bought direct from the importers in large quantities, every one of which is tested and guaranteed absolutely pure.

Evidently, the American Medical Association and the "feds" saw it differently; in the classic Nostrums and Quackery is the following description of false claims:

Thacher's Liver and Blood Syrup.—This preparation, which admittedly contained 12% per cent, alcohol, was sold by the Thacher Medicine Company, Chattanooga, Tenn. The claims made by the company that the stuff contained no aloes but contained potassium iodid and sarsaparilla combined with May apple, gentian, juniper berries, buchu leaves, dandelion root and yellow dock root were declared by the government to be false and misleading. It was further claimed by the company that Thacher's Liver and Blood Syrup would "cure All Liver Complaints, Biliousness, Costiveness, Drowsiness, Yellow Jaundice, and All Liver Complaints, Impure or Bad Blood including Scrofula, Salt Rheum, Erysipelas, Pimples, and All Diseases of a Syphilitic Character, Also Loss of Appetite, Dyspepsia, Sour Stomach, Sleeplessness, Pains in Back and Sides, Sick Headache . . ." Naturally, the government declared these claims misleading, false and fraudulent. As no claimant appeared for the property, the court ordered that it should be destroyed by the United States marshal.

I was not able to find any fatalities attributed to Thacher's Liver and Blood Syrup, but there was a 1911 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association describing a tragic poisoning of two young children by Thacher's "worm syrup."

In Part II, I'll post scans of the package insert.


Steve said...

I actually have a bottle (empty) of Dr. Thacher's liver and blood syrup. I was working for a construction company in Ohio when I unearthed it. I was curious about the origin of the bottle and its worth. Its been in a box for almost 20 years. Any more info for me contact me at steve.bucy@gmail.com

GREG PFLUG said...

I unearthed an empty bottle (clear glass) on the Coldwater Creek near Pensacola, Florida a month ago. Thanks for the info.

Jack Ytzak said...

Thanks for the post!! I'm a student doing a project on a bottle of Dr. Thatchers syrup and this was really helpful info.

Unknown said...

I have the worm syrup bottle. We found it in one of the sheds on the property we just bought. Love old bottles! Thank u for the info.