Kendall’s Spavin Cure

April 1, 2016

Benjamin J. Kendall marketed his Spavin Cure in Vermont in 1876, intended as a liniment for medical and veterinary use.

Spavin (from the Old French espavain, “swelling”) usually refers to enlargement of a horse’s hock joint (due to bony growth, collected fluids, or distended veins) that can cause lameness (according to the OED 1971). But Dr. Kendall extended the term to other livestock—and even humans, as in this ad (American 1882):

“When you meet with an accident, get a sprained ankle, or [become] otherwise injured, don’t go to the expense of sending for a doctor, but apply Kendall’s Spavin Cure, and you will experience instant relief.”

Kendall had established his B.J. Kendall & Co. in 1879, incorporated it in 1883, and sold it in 1889. By 1891 “KENDALL’S SPAVIN CURE” was being manufactured at “ENOSBURGH FALLS, VT.” (This is shown by embossments on the shoulder and bottom of the 12-panel, amber-glass bottle in the author’s collection. It is about 5 12” high by 1 78” diameter.)

By 1907 (after implementation of the Food and Drug Act), the paper label listed its alcohol content as 41%, and recommended its use for numerous conditions, including “Swellings, Wounds, Sprains” (Fike 2006, 101, 169). The product was later known as “Kendall’s Spavin Treatment for Human Flesh” by 1921, and was sold until at least 1948.

It is unclear whether Kendall was a physician, despite the firm’s name sometimes being given as “Dr. B.J. Kendall Co.” Other products attributed to him, using the medical title, were Dr. B.J. Kendall’s Blackberry Balsam (for diarrhea, dysentery, etc.) and Dr. B.J. Kendall’s Quick Relief (a topical, all-purpose pain reliever). (See Fike 2006, 25, 101, 169.) In any event, it appears that Kendall was a rather typical enterprising quack of his day.


The American Bee Journal. 1882. Advertisements, 18: 509, 541.

Fike, Richard E. 2006. The Bottle Book: A Comprehensive Guide to Historic, Embossed Medicine Bottles. Caldwell, NJ: The Blackburn Press.

Oxford English Dictionary. 1971. Compact Edition, New York: Oxford University Press.