Proprietary Kings and How They Acquired Power–Patent Medicine Secrets Given Away–Where Perry Davis Found His Recipe–The Parent of the “Killers”–Men Who Made Their “Pile” in Pills–Fortunes in “Bitters”–Electricity, or “Mustard Plasters”–The Story of a “Discovery”–How a Man Gained ProsperityWith an Indian Cure–“What’s in a Name?” The Mighty Lubec–Tons of Drugs Taken Every Day–Triumph of “Soothing Syrup”–A New Patent Medicine for Every Day of the Year–The Man Who Took Everything.


Owners of proprietary compounds have built up great fortunes in the sale of their concoctions. Our drug stores are filled with patent medicines, and millions of “cures” are sold annually. The names of some of these, such as Hostetter, Brandreth, and Mother Winslow, have become household words, proving how largely and universally their medicines have sold. The story is told of one credulous hypochondriac, who, on the theory that of many shot some one is likely to hit, actually took every kind of patent medicine in the world, or at least of every sort he had heard about. As there are more than three hundred and sixty diverse concoctions, this genius must have taken a different kind for every day of the year, or else have extended his experiments through a long period, which seems impossible under the circumstances. It is said that Perry Davis obtained his famous “Discovery” in the form of a recipe in an old newspaper which he found in an outhouse. This was the foundation of one of the largest fortunes in patent medicines, and it was the parent of all the “Killers.” The men who have made their piles in “pills” may be counted by the hundred. Perhaps the “Soothing Syrup” success is the most signal example of “_multum in parvo_.” It is sold by the million bottles, and yet it is nothing but a little paregoric dropped in some sweet mixture. “Lubec” is a mighty name, but anybody can be a Lubec so far as the question of perfumery goes. Among the anecdotes of medicine venders we have only space for one or two. A man was crying up the virtues of an electric belt, and it was found that he had adroitly attached a strip of mustard plaster to the magic band, and this when heated by contact with the warm skin produced redness and an itching, which were supposed by the too trusting patient to be the effects of the healing electricity. Another man has gained prosperitywith an “Indian Plant.” He travels about the country with what he advertises to be a “troop of Indians,” giving performances and hawking his “cures.” The “Indians” are New York toughs, and the “medicine plant” is a common pasture weed. We give no sort of countenance to these frauds, but, dismissing them all, there are still both profit to the patient and profit to the maker in the taking of proprietary medicines. To succeed in this line one should first have an article of genuine merit, and then advertise lavishly. Below are given some recipes quite as good as those that have made fortunes for their possessors, and in some cases the exact formulas of these widely renowned medicines are given.

298. HEALING OINTMENTOne of the most celebrated of ointments is composed of these simple ingredients: Butter, lard, Venice turpentine, white wax and yellow wax. Here is a rule for another ointment: Fresh butter, three-quarters pound; beeswax, four ounces; yellow resin, three ounces; melt together; add vinegar of cantharides, one fluid ounce; and simmer the whole with constant agitation for ten or twelve minutes, or until the moisture is nearly evaporated; then add of Canada balsam one ounce; express oil of mace, one drachm; balsam of Peru, ten or twelve drops; again stir well, allow mixture to settle; and when about half cold pour into pots previously slightly warmed, and allow it to cool very slightly. There is nothing else but to put on your label and expose for sale.

299. SPASM KILLERAcetate of morphia, one grain; spirit of sal volatile and sulphuric ether, one fluid ounce each; camphor julep, four ounces. Keep closely corked in a cool place and shake well before use. Dose, one teaspoonful in a glass of cold water as required.


Here is another: Spirits of camphor, two ounces; tincture of capsicum, one ounce; tincture of guaiac, one-half ounce; tincture of myrrh, one-half ounce; alcohol, four ounces. This is Perry Davis’ famous medicine.

300. ANTI-MALARIAOne ounce each of Peruvian bark and cream of tartar, cloves one-half drachm reduced to fine powder. Dose, one and one-half drachm every three hours.

301. HOSTETTER’S BITTERSHere is the recipe for the famous bitters: Calamus root, two pounds; orange peel, two pounds; Peruvian bark, two pounds; gentian root, two pounds; colombo root, two pounds; rhubarb, eight ounces; cloves, two ounces; cinnamon, four ounces; diluted alcohol, four gallons; water, two gallons; sugar, two pounds.

302. TOOTHACHE EASELiquor of ammonia, two parts; laudanum, one part; apply on lint.

303. CANDY DIGESTLump sugar, one pound; water, three ounces; dissolve by heat; add cardamom seeds, ginger, and rhubarb, of each one ounce; when the mixture is complete pour it out on an oiled slab or into moulds.

304. COUGH LOZENGESLactucarium, two drachms; ipecacuanha, one drachm; squills, three-fourth drachm; extract of licorice, two ounces; sugar, six ounces; make into a mash with mucilage of tragacinth, and divide into twenty grain lozenges.

305. LOVERS’ HAIR OIL (Makes the hair glossy)Castor oil, one pound; white wax, four ounces; melt together; add when nearly cold, of essence of bergamot, three drachms; oil of lavender, one-half drachm; essence of ambergris, ten drops.

306. PURGATIVE POWDEREqual parts of julep and cream of tartar, colored with a little red bole; dose, a teaspoonful in broth or warm water two or three times daily.

307. CONSUMPTION WAFERSTwo parts each lump sugar and starch in powdered form; powdered gum, one part; made into a lozenge mass with vinegar of squills, oxymel of squills, and ipecacuanha wine, equal parts, gently evaporated to one-sixth their weight with the addition of lactucarium in proportion of twenty to thirty grains to every ounce of the powders, the mass being divided into half-inch squares weighing about seven and one-half grains.

308. BEEF, IRON AND WINEHere is a recipe for Liebig’s famous extract: Beef juice, one-half ounce; ammonia citrate of iron, 256 grains; spirit of orange, one-half fluid ounce; distilled water, one-half ounce; sherry wine sufficient to make sixteen fluid ounces. Dissolve the ammonia citrate of iron in the water; dissolve the extract of beef in the sherry wine; add the spirit of orange and mix the solution.

309. SPRING TONICCalamus root, two pounds; orange peel, two pounds; Peruvian bark, two pounds; gentian root, two pounds; colombo root, two pounds; rhubarb, eight ounces; cinnamon, four ounces; cloves, two ounces; diluted alcohol, four gallons; water, two gallons; sugar, two pounds.

310. DR. PIERCE’S GOLDEN MEDICAL DISCOVERYHere is all there is of Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery. It is no doubt a good thing, but you can make it yourself. A one-dollar bottle holds 220 grains of a brownish-colored, clear liquid, consisting of fifteen grains of pure honey, one grain of extract of acrid lettuce, two grains of laudanum, 100 grains of diluted alcohol, with 105 grains of water.


311. BED-BUG EXTERMINATORCorrosive sublimate, one ounce; muriatic acid, two ounces; water, four ounces; dissolve, then add turpentine, one pint; decoction of tobacco, one pint. Mix. For the decoction of tobacco, boil two ounces of tobacco in one pint of water. The mixture must be applied with a paint-brush. If well applied, this is a sure destroyer of bed-bugs. It is a deadly poison.

312. CATARRH CUREOne-half gram of carbolic acid; one-half gram of camphor; and ten grams of common salt; which are to be dissolved in four-sevenths of a liter of water and injected into the nostrils. You can call it the “Excelsior,” for it is excelled by none.

313. LIP POMATUMFor chapped lips, lard, sixteen parts; cacao oil, twenty-four parts; spermaceti, eight parts; yellow wax, three parts; alcana root, one part. The substances are fused for a quarter of an hour at a gentle heat, then strain through a cloth, and mix with oil of lemon and oil of bergamot, each one-sixth part, oil of bitter almonds, one-fifteenth part; then the mass is poured into suitable vessels to cool.

314. OINTMENT FOR CHAPPED HANDSCamphor, sixty grs.; boric acid, thirty grs.; lanolin and white vaseline of each one-half ounce.

315. COD-LIVER OIL EMULSIONYolks of two eggs; powdered sugar, four ounces; essence of oil of almonds, two drops; orange flower water, two ounces. Mix carefully with an equal bulk of cod-liver oil. This is a delicious emulsion. Of course, the dose is double that of the clear cod-liver oil.

316. BEAUTY WATER(To remove freckles). Sulpho-carbonate of zinc, two parts; glycerine, twenty-five parts; rose water, twenty-five parts; spirits, five parts. Dissolve and mix. Anoint twice daily, keeping the ointment on the skin from one-half to one hour, then wash off with cold water. Wear a dark veil when exposed to the sun.

317. COUGH MIXTURESyrup of poppies, syrup of squills, and paregoric, each one-half ounce. Mix. Dose, a teaspoonful in a little warm water night and morning, or when the cough is troublesome.

318. DR. SAGE’S CATARRH REMEDYHere is the famous secret: One-half grm. of carbolic acid; one-half grm. of camphor and ten grms. of common salt; which are to be dissolved in four-sevenths of a liter of water and injected into the nostrils. Its reputation is believed to be well deserved.

319. DIARRHEA MIXTUREWine of opium, one fluid ounce; tincture of valerian, one and one-half fluid ounces; ether, one-half fluid ounce; oil of peppermint, sixty minims; fluid extract of ipecac, fifteen minims; alcohol enough to make four fluid ounces. This is the formula for a most celebrated patent medicine. The dose is a teaspoonful in a little water every two or three hours until relieved.

320. BLOOD PURIFIEREqual to the best selling compounds. For a bottle holding 220 grms., take fifteen grms. of pure honey; one grm. extract of poisonous or acrid lettuce; two grms. laudanum; 100 grms. of diluted alcohol; with 105 grms. of water. Make large quantities in like proportion.


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