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.

 


James County Historical Society Meeting is November 7

The next James County Historical Society meeting will be Sunday, November 7 at 2:30pm at the Ooltewah United Methodist Church. The program will be about the history of Ooltewah Methodist Church and be presented by a long time member, Steve Wolfe.  If you have any thing that you would like to contribute about this church or another church, please feel free to do so. ... (click for more)

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)

Additions And Improvements At Camp Jordan Arena Coming Soon

Additions and improvements are coming to Camp Jordan Arena in the near future. At the Thursday night meeting of the East Ridge city council, approval was given for buying new playground equipment. It will come from Gametime, a locally-based company. The VP of Marketing lives in East Ridge and made a proposal to set up the playground at Camp Jordan so his company could use it for ... (click for more)

Tribute Service For Luther Masingill Held At Historic Engel Stadium

It took a place as big as historic Engel Stadium for Chattanooga to say goodbye to their beloved Luther. Hundreds came Thursday afternoon to pay tribute to Luther Masingill who died early Monday morning after a radio career that spanned an amazing 74 years. It was clear from all who spoke that he was considered not only a radio personality, but also a role model. One after ... (click for more)

Not Everything Has Been Done To Save Hutcheson

I am a resident of Walker County and I have a personal belief that a hospital ranks equal to other basic services a community should offer (like police, fire, emergency services, school systems, government, etc.). I am not privy to all the management and financial conundrums concerning the feasibility of maintaining and growing Hutcheson, and as a private citizen I don’t believe ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Veterinarian’s Horse Sense

I suspect you’ve heard by now that a doctor in New York City, who volunteers with “Doctors Without Borders,” just got back from the African nation of Guinea on October 17 – last Friday – and on Thursday tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus. Luckily, he came in actual contact with only a few people but he reportedly rode a subway, took a taxi, went on a three-mile run and ... (click for more)