Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
The Black Hawk Medicine Company
Patent medicines were very popular a century ago. The name implies that the medicine had a trademark registered with the U.S. Government Patent Office, but rarely was this the case. They were usually home-made remedies for various maladies.
To promote and sell their products, the inventors would often put together a "medicine show." The show traveled from town to town, and often the cure-all was brewed inside the wagon. Vaudeville acts, magic acts, animal acts, jokes, music and singing, and other types of entertainment accompanied a sales pitch by the "doctor" who had discovered the amazing secret ingredient. Cures for menstruation, cancer, tumors, odor, insomnia, stomach illness, depression, birth control, fertility and women’s diseases were either promoted in this fashion, or through a mail-order business advertised in catalogs and herbal magazines.
These American medicines produced in the 19th and early 20th Centuries sometimes prompted a bad reputation. They often did not do what they advertised, and many contained alcohol as one of the main ingredients. In those days, doctors sometimes even diagnosed illnesses through the mail, although they also usually encouraged people to visit them for further examination and/or treatment.
Fletcher’s Castoria and Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound were among the more famous of the cure-alls advertised a century ago. However, Keosauqua had its own patent medicine.
The Black Hawk Medicine Company of Keosauqua was incorporated in 1908 and was in existence until 1912. All of their products carried the Black Hawk name, and all were said to contain Iowa herbs. The one receiving the most attention was the Algire Kidney Cure, said to put an end to all kidney diseases and malfunctions.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick