Friday, August 26, 2016

Who The heck is Dr. Van Dyke?

One of my favorite western medicines is the "Star Remedy # 1, Dr. Van Dyke's Anti- Billious Cure". This crude western med is extremely rare with maybe three known in collections. To my knowledge most if not all were found in Nevada. I have posted on this bottle before but at the recent Sacramento National Show, a good friend provided me with another piece of the puzzle in regards to this medicine. The trade card goes in to more detail on the Anti-Billious Cure as well as the "Trout Oil Liniment" which is "Remedy #2". Unfortunately there is no actual address for the brand...California or Nevada? Being that the Remedy #2 is made from Lake Tahoe trout, one could assume the brand was from the Tahoe area but until more information is found, this is a mystery and one of the rarest western cures. By the way, the reverse of the trade card has flowers and "H.H. Judson Apothecary, Butte and Kentucky Sts". I think this is Vallejo but I am not certain. Of course the druggist selling a brand has little to do with the actual manufacturer in most cases but I would like to know more. DM


  1. These two bottles have remained a big mystery for many years. As you probably know, small ads were placed in the Virginia City newspaper in 1877 but with no information as to the proprietor or anything else that would give a clue about who made the products.

    Herbert Hartwell Judson was born in Mishawaka, Indiana in 1842. He arrived in California in 1871 and worked in the drug field. He located in San Francisco and operated on the corner of Kentucky and Butte from 1877. He is listed at this address until 1882 even though he had removed to Greenwood, in El Dorado County, by 1879 where he was a miner. Judson was still in Greenwood in 1881 when he was appointed postmaster. Soon thereafter he moved to Leadville, Colorado, where he worked at the Leadville Marble Works. He focused on making tombstones for the Evergreen Cemetery during his tenure in Leadville and died there on January 14, 1887. He is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery.
    While there is absolutely no proof that Judson had anything to do with the manufacture of the Star Remedies, he is currently the only name that can be associated with these medicines.

  2. Thanks Eric...I appreciate the research and feedback. I hope the actual manufacturer will be discovered someday. Do you have any thoughts or "feelings" of the proprietor? Thanks again,

  3. I have no idea who the proprietor might be. I am guessing that Dr. Van Dyke may be fictitious and is probably irrelevant in determining who made the products. That fact that, so far at least, the advertisements have only been found in Virginia City newspapers could mean the product was originated from western Nevada or eastern California, but this is pure speculation.
    It is really odd that the proprietor was not forthcoming in his advertisement. It is almost as if he was attempting to evade the California and Nevada anti-quackery laws. Perhaps he sold his medicines only to other merchants and with no name or address on his labels or advertising could not be traced back to the source. Whatever the situation it was not a healthy marketing design and was likely a short lived disaster. Perhaps the only record may be locked within the papers of the San Francisco & Pacific Glass Works. Now that's a wishful thought - that those records may still exist - but who knows?
    It is also interesting that Judson decided to pay for the expense of creating a trade card for the product. As cryptic as that card is, Judson may be the mysterious source of the products. I seriously doubt that he was a legitimate druggist with any sort of credentials.