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Commercial History of Concentrated Remedies.

Dr. Isaac Jacobs, of Bangor, Maine, was, so far as I can determine, the first to attempt the obtaining of vegetable remedies in concentrated form, becoming widely celebrated for his peculiar methods as early as 1835, the year King discovered resin of podophyllum. He expended many hundred dollars in perfecting processes, and in making machinery for expressing and concentrating juices from plants. He contended that many medicinal plants lose their remedial virtue by the application of artificial heat, whereas sun evaporation afforded a superior product. He accepted that his success as a practitioner was due largely to these concentrated medicine.—Condensed from a letter of Dr. Alex. Wilder Dec. 1, 1902.

These "Concentrations" of Dr. Jacobs, which antedated the commercial lists by sixteen years, were not the remedies sold in powdered form after Dr. King's discovery of the resin podophyllum, but compressed sun-dried extracts, or pillular extracts. They, however, directly anticipated the trade alkaloids and concentrations, of which the true resins were legitimate forerunners.

In 1847, (twelve years after its discovery by King), Mr. Wm. S. Merrell (see pages 24-30) made the first resin of podophyllum for commerce, and to him is due the credit of its first preparation on a manufacturing scale and its commercial introduction. This is irrevocably established, not alone from the fact that Dr. King gave to us, personally, the detailed circumstances, 22 but because a record was made of the incident by King, in the first edition (1852), of the American Dispensatory, as follows:

The credit of first preparing podophyllin, and other concentrated preparations, for the use of the profession generally, it being part of his vocation, belongs to Mr. Wm. S. Merrell, druggist and chemist, of Cincinnati, who first manufactured it, in June, 1847; since which time it has become an indispensable and highly important Eclectic remedy; and is likewise used by Allopaths and Homeopaths, and by the former, in all instances where they have employed it, it is preferable to mercurials.—Dr. King, in Eclectic Dispensatory, 1852, P. 314.

22 Dr. King related to me the incident as follows: "I went into the pharmacy of Wm. S. Merrell one day after lecturing to my class, and Mr. Merrell brought to me a small amount of the powdered resin of podophyllum, saying, 'I have made this according to the process you gave me; how does it compare with that made by you?' 'Exactly like that I made,' was my reply. Mr. Merrell then gave samples to physicians, and introducted it to the trade."

The first concentrations introduced to commerce were the resins of podophyllum, macrotys, and leptandra, and for some time these comprised the entire list.

Four years after Mr. Merrell (1847) introduced the resin of podophyllum to commerce, and after the typical "resinoids" had become well known to Western Eclectics, Dr. Wm. Elmer, of Auburn, New York 1851, went to Syracuse, N. Y., and formed a partnership with Dr. S. H. Potter, who had just established the "Syracuse Medical College." There he associated with himself Dr. John T. Goodin, of Utica, New York, Dr. Dwight Russell, Dr. Sears Crosby, and Dr. Alexander Wilder, the project being, in Dr. Wilder's words (private letter):

"To open the American College of Pharmacy, which, however, was merely a pretext for an alkaloid, resinoid, concentration, business scheme."

Wilder further states:

This "College of Pharmacy" went on some months manufacturing podophyllin, macrotin, and leptandrin until midsummer, when it collapsed.

It began to manufacture in April, 1851, and sold out in the following summer to Hosea Winchester, 108 John Street, who moved to New York and continued the business as a retail drug store. Dr. Elmer, it seems, though the founder, took no active part in the college. On some "unsatisfactory pretext," (Wilder) he withdrew in early spring, and removed to New York, where, in Bleecker Street, he formed a partnership with Mr. B. Keith, of New Hampshire, under the title Keith and Elmer, the object being to engage in the manufacture of Concentrated Remedies, 23 which, according to Wilder, were simply dried extracts. Wilder writes:

23 This data is from a personal letter from Dr. Wilder. See biographical sketch. This firm, (Keith and Elmer), was the Eastern pioneer in the manufacture and distribution of the class of substances listed as "Concentrated Remedies." "The business is now (1909) conducted by a son of B. Keith, 31 Park Row, New York City." In this connection we will add, this Keith family is one of the old New England founders, active in early colonial days.

The products appear to have been made in one uniform manner, by tincturing the drug with alcohol, and drying the product. 24

24 Such extracts are often oleo-resinous, and will not dry without the aid of an absorbing powder. This explains the presence of starch and other products found in them by Prof. Wayne.

The new firm now employed as chemist a man named Grover Coe, 25 who continued with the firm of B. Keith after Elmer withdrew. About the close of the Civil War the firm moved to Liberty Street, but in the meantime, Grover Coe, like Dr. Elmer, had vanished, leaving no record other than his book.26

25 Dr. Wilder tells us he was not a physician, although he used the title M. D., and was referred to in print as Dr. Grover Coe.

26Biographical note, opposite portrait of Grover Coe.

Other medicine manufacturers now perceived in "Alkaloids and Concentrations" a new field. Dr. Hosea Winchester, of Missouri, opened business on John Street, having taken in Dr. Elmer, of Syracuse. In the West, several parties began successively the manufacture of the "Resinoids," "Alkaloids," and "Concentrations," the foundation for all these substances being the resins and oleo-resins discovered by Dr. King, who published his processes, but, being a physician and scientist, and having no connection with any business concern (see pp. 8-10), never made any products for commerce.

Soon active competition uprose. Keith became prominent as the Eastern "Alkaloid, Resinoid, Concentration" manufacturer, and was attacked by the Western interests. His friends, in turn, were not less aggressive in his behalf. Thus came many lines of products from many sources, all being classed either as alkaloids, resins, resinoids, oleo-resins, or as concentrations. Heralded were they as very concentrated remedies, capable, in small amount, of producing marvelous therapeutic results. But, in substance, though bearing the same names, they were as different from one another as were the different makers' labels. Their common origin, based upon Dr. King's discoveries, naturally drew Eclectics into the controversy, a condition of affairs strengthened by the fact that Grover Coe was Secretary (1857) of the National Eclectic Medical Association, and that Dr. R. S. Newton, (at the start one of Keith's adherents), as well as others prominent in their advocacy of Keith, were aggressive Eclectics. However, according to Dr. Wilder, Keith soon withdrew from all Eclectic and Thomsonian affiliations and complications, his remedies being used mostly by the dominant school, which school after a time (and the same is yet true), consumed most of the products. This reversal of conditions was owing, largely, to the crusade of King, Scudder, and others against heroic drugs, poisonous dosage, and especially the alkaloidal medication theories, which led Eclectics to abandon the use of most items of the entire class. Notwithstanding these facts, the "odium" of it all, and the imposition of it all, still clung to Eclecticism.


The Lloyd Libary Bulletin # 12: The Eclectic Alkaloids, 1910, was written by J. U. & C. G. Lloyd.



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