Not long ago, we acquired this publication. At 49 pages, it’s not really a pamphlet anymore. While it is primarily at advertisement for a patent medicine/cure-all, we also learn some interest facts about production and the creator of Com-Cel-Sar, Charlie White-Moon. (Although on at least one page, his name is also spelled “Charley.”)
The majority of the publication is testimonials–and LOTS of them. From individual users and family members, young and old, male and female. Everyone seems to benefit from this product! We’ve looked at patent medicines before on the blog, but there is something that stands out about “Com-Cel-Sar” (well, one of many things, really). There’s a full list of ingredients and why they are included on the second page. Even more interesting, we’re given this explanation: “The components of COM-CEL-SAR, as published on every package, do not only more than comply with the PURE FOOD LAW, but are for self-protection, all being Copy-Righted, hence protected by the United State Government.” The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, among other things, required that active ingredients be placed on the label of a drug’s packaging. But you don’t often see patent medicine creators and suppliers complying so eagerly and/or pointing out their compliance.
Our publication dates from 1912. Based on newspaper advertisements, however, Com-Cel-Sar was produced at least as early as 1903 and at least as late as 1916. The market was very localized in specific areas of Kentucky and Indiana (Charlie White-Moon’s headquarters were in Louisville). Nearly all the testimonials come from Louisville, Kentucky, and New Albany, Indiana (just across the Kentucky River), where it was heavily advertised and promoted.
On a side note, some of our department did have a conversation about the cover page when this item first arrived. What caught our attention wasn’t the picture or the title, but the small phrase in the bottom right: “Written for Human Beings Only.” We couldn’t come to a consensus about why one might label a publication that way, but it’s a good reminder of what makes working in Special Collections so much fun. Every day there’s a new surprise!
And, of course, I get to share some of those discoveries with you!