Monday, November 8, 2021

MAC - a "cure" for Train Sickness and Sea Sickness~



I’d never heard of Smith Bros. of Fresno until I bought a huge collection from that area several years ago. In it, was a bottle that I found intriguing. Embossed on the obverse “M.A.C. / For Dyspepsia / And Constipation / Smith Bros. / Fresno Cal. “and “For Sea Sickness” on one side panel with “Train Sickness” on the other. I’m not a cure collector per se, but this just had too much going for it to sell it.

Oddly enough, I could locate a “Smith Bros.” doing business as a pharmacist / druggist in Fresno around the turn of the century, but could only find one Smith; a George H.. Was the brother a silent partner, or was this an attempt by George to piggyback onto the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame of the same era?...

Smith Bros first started appearing in advertisements dating to 1898. They were puffing their miracle cure for dandruff.  San Jose must have been a hotbed for this disease because they advertised incessantly in the Mercury News. Actually the ads were in the form of news articles, which I found odd. This campaign continued into late 1899.

By 1901 they were marketing a Catarrh Cure and a Deafness Cure  as well; (if one reads between the lines, it appears that they were one in the same - just appealing to different maladies). Ads appeared in San Jose for the deafness cure. They expanded their territory to Hanford, Eureka and Santa Rosa, as well as San Jose, for the Catarrh Cure. The price? A buck a bottle or six for a five spot. 





They must have done well in Santa Rosa because ads started appearing in Healdsburg not long after the initial foray into Santa Rosa. By mid 1902, they were offering a free book describing the maladies of Catarrh and extolling the virtues of their miracle cure. Madera was next in their ad parade starting in 1903. The ads for all locations were carbon copies of one another. By 1903 the price had dropped to four bits a bottle. They must have been making the profit margin up in volume by then. But by late 1903 advertising had dwindled to a shadow of its former self. The year 1904 saw promotion of the products slow down drastically from the fever pitch of the previous two years and advertising is all but non-existent. This despite their attempt to broaden the need for the cure by claiming that catarrh infected the lungs plus, now, the stomach and bladder too (might as well cover all the bases…) Ohh, and the price had risen back up to a buck a bottle since it cured so much more than originally claimed.

A single advertisement in January of 1904 seems to signal the end for “Smith Bros.”, SB Catarrh Cure, and their Dandruff Pomade. Try as I did, I was never able to find a stitch of advertising for the train / sea sickness cure.

And so, yet another here today - gone tomorrow participant in the cesspool of turn of the century quack medicines.