Cannabis Time Capsule, 1875: Dr. H. James and his magical mystery (hemp) tonic
Here's a follow up to a Cannabis Time Capsule post from December 2013 about a wily Philly amateur pharmacist selling a hemp "cure" for tuberculosis.
Actually, it's more of the prequel, as it seems that we found one of the actual advertisements for Dr. H. James's "Accidental Cure," or at least one related to it. Bonus: The one we tracked down is below an ad for "cocoaine" shampoo.
Our last report came out of Boulder's Colorado Banner circa 1877. It described how a Philly snake oil salesman was bilking chumps out of $60 for the ingredient list to a mystery cure for "consumption" (TB) that he was giving away for free. The thing is, the swindlers were actually sending people bottles of cannabis tincture -- and the ingredient list apparently didn't hide that fact, either. The report compared this practice to supplying opium addicts with junk and said the office was littered with letters. The man had apparently seen so many that he had to hire a secretary to help reply.
Well, after some digging we located this ad from 1875 -- two years before the bust -- that we're 99 percent sure is related. As before, it's from the Colorado Banner, amusingly enough.
Though this approach seems to be slightly different, the idea is the same: someone promising a free cure that isn't really free. The ad claims that a Dr. H. James experimented with marijuana tincture on his "only child" and saved the kid from dying. Because of that, he just wants to share his recipe for free -- you'll just have to send the Craddock Company in Philly postage to get it.
Of note: The ad makes it pretty clear Dr. James used "Indian hemp," though not many people probably made the connection between that somewhat innocuous term and the much more scary "hasheesh" used in the 1877 followup.
Either way, this was a scam. If the guy really wanted to give away his recipe for free, he would have done so in the ad.
We subsequently found out a little bit more about Dr. H James and Craddock and Co. They seem to have operated in several parts of the country, with varying stories running as early as 1858. Here's an expert from an early ad thanks to BottleBooks.com:
DR. H. JAMES discovered, while in the East Indies, a certain cure for Consumption, Asthma, Bronchitis, Coughs, Colds, and general Debility. The remedy was discovered by him when his only child, a daughter, was given up to die. He had heard much of the wonderful restorative and healing qualities of preparations made from East India Hemp, and the thought occurred to him that he might make a remedy for his child. He studied hard, and succeeded in realizing his wishes. His child was cured, and is now alive and well. He has since administered the wonderful remedy to thousands of sufferers in all parts of the world, and there is not a single symptom of consumption that it does not at once take hold of and dissipate. Night- sweats, peevishness, irritation of the nerves, failure of memory, difficult expectoration, sharp pains in the lungs, sore throat, chilly sensations, nausea at the stomach, in- action of the bowels, wasting away of the muscles. It purifies all the fluids and secretions in the shortest reasonable period; it nourishes the patient who is too much reduced to partake of ordinary food; it strengthens, braces, and vitalizes the brain; it heals, as if by magic, all internal sores, tubercles, ulcers, and inflammations; it stimulates, but is not followed by a reaction; it at once obviates emaciation, building up waste flesh and muscle, as the rain vivifies and enhances the growth of the grass. It is without a rival as a tonic, and it immediately supplies electricity, or magnetic force (as if it were a battery), to every part of the enfeebled and pros- trate body. the undersigned has never failed in making those who have tried it completely healthy and happy. Price $2 per bottle. Those who have a particle of doubt as regards the above statement, or do not feel able to purchase the medicine, will have a recipe containing full instructions for making and successfully using, and a history of the discovery, sent free of postage, on receipt of their address. Address Dr. H. JAMES, No. 19 Grand Street, Jersey City, N. J.
As early as 1858, James and company were called out for being frauds. Here's an excerpt from an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune (by way of AntiqueCannabisBook.com):
About two years and a half ago a comparatively young journeyman printer, born in Vermont, but reared and instructed principally in Connecticut, having failed in various newspaper enterprises (among them the Empire city, the golden [De???] and the Cheerful visitor, which was anything but a cheerful visitor to many of the subscribers, who paid their money but did not get their paper;) conceived the brilliant idea of going into a new style of business. He selected the patent medicine trade, as that offering the greatest inducements, and employed a literary man connected with the Sunday press to write him a scheme. The scheme was written. It was that of the "Retired Physician, whose sands of life have nearly run out." The basis of this medical scheme was Cannabis Indica, or, in other words, East Indian Hemp, a powerful drug, which can only be procured in small quantities, and then merely at intervals, and at great expense. A skillful story, which our readers have often perused, was contrived to make the medicine "go down." There is no old or young Dr. H. James who was in the East, or even the West Indies; there is no Cannabis Indica in the medicine sold, it being merely a compound of cough simples, (liquorice, slippery elm decoction, and honey prominent, costing, the bottle included, sixteen cents. The real Dr. H. James is the printer afore-said--Oliver P. Brown. He hires an old man Euided Kuyper to represent to represent Dr. H. James, and pays him a mere stipend for the personation....
And, finally, as promised, the ad for Burnett's Cocoaine shampoo that ran above the ad for Dr. H. James's tonic:
Okay, so it's not cocaine. It's coconut oil, which is in just about every woman's hair and skin product on the market these days. But whoever branded this harmless shampoo knew what he was doing when he linked it with cocaine, which was all the rage in tonics and potions of the era. So while women weren't getting zooted while simply washing their hair, a few probably thought that would happen.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.
- Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana for Veterans
- Reader: Denver Is Full of Smokers and Beta Males Who Refuse to Grow Up
- Denver Health To Limit Patients Passively Enrolled In Its Medicaid Plan