Spencer Medicine a Good Example of 1890's Healthcare

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - by Harmon Jolley
Spencer Medicine was a newcomer to Chattanooga when the 1892 Chamber of Commerce booklet was published.
Spencer Medicine was a newcomer to Chattanooga when the 1892 Chamber of Commerce booklet was published.

A friend and fellow student of Chattanooga history recently shared a copy of an 1892 Chamber of Commerce advertisement booklet.   Many of the images feature artwork representative of the era.   One ad that beckoned for research was for the Spencer Medicine Company.

Dr. Joseph P. Spencer headed the patent medicine company.  According to the May 6, 1892 Chattanooga News, he had recently announced plans to locate in the Scenic City.  Dr. Spencer was listed as being from Greeneville, TN where he served as mayor.   Other Greenevillians were mentioned as also being connected with the business.

The News article stated that Spencer Medicine had acquired property on Carter Street for a 55,000 square foot manufacturing and shipment center.  The bottles for the medicine were supplied by a St. Louis company, and the Chattanooga Steamboat Company shipped them at a cost of $1.75 per hundred.

The health benefits touted in Spencer’s advertisement are typical of the numerous patent medicines sold in the 1890’s.  Many remedies claimed to boost the patient’s blood or liver in order to increase energy and to cure diseases.  

A Chattanooga Star article of January 30, 1908 provided an update on Spencer Medicine’s progress.  The company’s market was primarily in the Southeast.   Products mentioned were Nubian Tea, Cuban Relief and Cuban Oil.   The names were typical of the era, when marketing often used names from distant lands in order to bring credibility and a sense of mystery to the products.   Chattanooga’s own Double Cola promoted its soft drinks as having “costly flavors from foreign lands.”

The Star article also reported the great success of a new liver and kidney medicine.  Mail orders had poured into the company after the 1905 introduction of the new tonic.  The demand had occurred chiefly through efforts of salesmen, without advertisements.

Despite apparent success, the name of Spencer Medicine disappeared by the 1920 edition of the city directory.  However, one can still find their artifacts, such as photographs of empty Nubian Tea medicine bottles, around the Internet. 

If you have additional information on the Spencer Medicine company, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

 


Lookout Jr. High Reunion May 2

The annual Lookout Jr. High School reunion will be held Saturday, May 2, 2015 from 10am to 3pm.  The event will again be held inside the former gymnasium of the old school on West 40th Street in St. Elmo.    You may enter the building from the front steps or from the back of the school which leads to an elevator.   All alumni and their guests ... (click for more)

Doug Carson Speaks At Catoosa County Historical Society Monday

The Catoosa County Historical Society will meet on Monday at 7 p,m. in the Old Stone Church Museum in Ringgold.  The speaker will be Doug Carson who resides in High Point. The topic will be the mining and manufacturing of saltpeter during the Civil War. ?  The public is invited to join the meeting with social hour and refreshments following.   For more ... (click for more)

Mayor Berke To Give State Of The City Address Monday Night

Citizens across the community are invited to attend Mayor Andy Berke’s second annual State of the City address, which will be held Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the ballroom of the Chattanoogan Hotel. The event is free and open to the public. “The State of the City is an important time to celebrate our accomplishments, discuss our challenges and chart a new course together,” said Mayor ... (click for more)

Anonymous Facebook Posters Pose Possibility Of Signal Schools Separating From Hamilton County School System

"Should Signal Mountain Schools separate from the Hamilton County School System?"   That’s the question posted on a Facebook page titled, simply, Signal Mountain Independent School District.   The creators of the page do not identify themselves. “(W)e certainly don’t want our kids dragged into the issue or targeted for special treatment by any ... (click for more)

The Heart Of A Teacher Makes A Difference - And Response (2)

In less than four weeks, I expect to be one of 216 graduating seniors from East Hamilton School. One could say all possible variables help a student rise to the highest levels in school; but a student is more than his environment or genetic code. He is a mixture of his own propensity and dedication to academics, coupled with a systemic team of mentors who give their all as a student’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The P.S. To A Sad Story

Back in the days when we were determined that the Chattanooga News-Free Press would have the best sports section in the country, I was traveling a whole lot. For example, back then I would be leaving today or tomorrow for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, this after hardly recovering from a week spent at The Masters. And, as it happens with those who are constantly in search for tomorrow’s ... (click for more)