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.

 


Chattanooga History Center Announces Staff Changes

The Chattanooga History Center announces changes in its executive staff, following the resignation of Dr. Daryl Black. Marlene Payne has been promoted to the newly created position of Museum director.  Ms. Payne, with the Center for eight years, most recently has been its deputy director.  Other staff members are remaining in their positions: Caroline Sunderland as ... (click for more)

Civil Rights Program at UTC on March 26

The Departments of History and Political Science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are pleased to announce that on Thursday, March 26, 2015, at 6:00 pm in the University Center's Raccoon Mountain Room, Dr. Renee Romano of Oberlin College will deliver a lecture entitled "What Kind of Reckoning?: Making Sense of the Contemporary Prosecutions of Civil Rights-Era ... (click for more)

Tennessee Broadband Expansion Bill Sought By EPB Put On Hold For Now

Advocates for broadband expansion in Tennessee, including Chattanooga's EPB, announced Tuesday that efforts to extend community-based fiber optic networks are being placed on hold for now "because there is not enough support among state lawmakers to change a state regulation that prevents the expansion of municipal fiber optic systems." EPB earlier won a ruling from the Federal ... (click for more)

Haslam Adds K-12 Funds In Budget Amendment

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Tuesday unveiled additions to the FY 2015-2016 budget that will be considered by the General Assembly in the coming weeks, including added funding for K-12. The governor last week met with school superintendents from the largest systems in the state over the issue of state funding for K-12. The next day, the Hamilton County Schools joined ... (click for more)

Physicians Thank Their Patients On Doctor’s Day

March 30 has been set aside as National Doctors’ Day since 1933 as a time to recognize the contributions made by our physicians. While the recognition is appreciated, our greatest satisfaction comes from caring for our patients.  For 132 years, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society has been the physicians’ voice as we worked together to improve health of our community. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Look At My April Garden

On this April Fool’s Day, as I take my monthly stroll through my virtual garden, there are gorgeous flowers and there are weeds, which appear to be trying harder than the flowers. So let’s see what we find before searching for “The Prize Egg” on Sunday. A FLOWER to the New York cab driver who told a young writer, “Always remember that everyone you meet knows something that you ... (click for more)