Spencer Medicine a Good Example of 1890's Healthcare

Tuesday, May 07, 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.

 


History Center's Walking Tour of Fort Wood is October 28

As a part of the Chattanooga History Center’s Director’s Series , Dr. Daryl Black will lead a walking tour of the historic Ford Wood neighborhood.   The tour will be Tuesday, October 28 starting at 5:30pm.   Registered participants will meet at the corner of Oak and Palmetto streets.   The fee is $10 for the general public or $5 for Chattanooga History Center ... (click for more)

Catoosa County Historical Society Meeting is October 13

The Catoosa County Historical Society meeting will be Monday, October 13, 2014 at 7 pm in the Old Stone Church Museum in Ringgold, GA. Our speaker will Chris McKeener, she will be speaking about the 6th Calvary Museum in Fort Oglethorpe, where she has served  as the executive director since 2005.     Also, we will have a short presentation ... (click for more)

Jo Ann Cronan Charged With Bribing Voters In Polk County; Similar Probe Underway In Monroe County

A Polk County woman has been charged with bribing voters. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation began an investigation on July 24 into allegations of illegal activities related to the August general election in Polk County. The investigation was commenced at the request of District Attorney General Stephen Crump. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, along with Calvin Rockholt, ... (click for more)

Shooting At Woodlawn Apartments Claims Life Of 20-Year-Old Male; Victim Shot Multiple Times

A shooting late Monday night at the Woodlawn Apartments has claimed the life of a 20-year-old male. At approximately 10:57 p.m.. the Chattanooga Police Department responded to a gunshot wound call at 2300 Wilson St. Hamilton County EMS transported the victim to a local hospital, where he later succumbed to multiple life-threatening gunshot wounds. The victim has been transported ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Has Lost Its Most Popular Citizen - Luther Masingill

Chattanooga has lost its most popular citizen – Luther Masingill. Although we are saddened we cherish the memories.  All of us have a Luther story.  Mine is the first time I met Luther.  This was before TV and all of Chattanooga listened to Luther on the radio.  I was 12-years-old.  Some of my buddies and I had gone to the State Theater in downtown ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: An Election Day Fable

Every day I am peppered with emails that friends send to me from across the country so I am unsure of where the fable you are about to read originated. But with early voting for the November general election now in full swing, I think everyone who will -- or will not -- take part in freedom’s greatest privilege should read this story because I believe there is a great lesson contained ... (click for more)