St. Jacobs Oil: New Acquisition

January 24, 2017

My recent acquisition of another St. Jacobs Oil liniment bottle warrants this update. My earlier blog (St. Jacob’s Oil, January 8, 2014) told how German immigrant August Vogeler (1819–1908) came to America and founded a patent-medicine business by 1845; after 1878 he and his son Charles were selling “ST. JACOBS OEL” (sic, using German spelling). I only described their early bottle but showed a photo of a later one.

Now having acquired a third (later) bottle in the product’s evolution, I here show the three (from left to right) in order of age:

1) “ST. JACOBS OEL” (Baltimore), embossed bottle, hand blown in a mold, ca. 1880–1900, about 63/8” high (cork missing);

2) “St. Jacobs Oil” (New York), unembossed, automatic bottle machine, after 1903, about 51/4” high (including cork and composition stopper), complete with contents and box; and

3) “St. Jacobs Oil” (The Larned Corp., formerly Wyeth Chemical Co., distrib., Jersey City, NJ), unembossed, automatic bottle machine, metal screw cap (prob. 2nd quarter 20th century), about 41/2” high, complete with contents and box.

The newer bottle’s box like the earlier one’s has a picture of a wizard but states: “St. Jacobs Oil has no miraculous history nor is it intended to perform any miracles. It is a manufactured compound and the name . . . is a trademark name arbitrarily used for nearly half a century to designate this meritorious time-tried preparation. INTENDED TO HELP RELIEVE MUSCULAR PAINS DUE TO EXERTION OR EXPOSURE.” Its “Active Ingredients” were listed as chloroform, aconite, turpentine, camphor, oil of camphor, and oil of thyme.

The wording would seem intended to comply with the 1907 Food and Drug Act, which opposed false claims and required listing the contents.