Given the time of year, I was trying to think of an appropriate brand story to tell and having suitably over-indulged I naturally thought of Alka Seltzer.
So with apologies to the Scaffold, who co-incidentally and suitably had a UK No 1 hit over the Christmas holidays in 1968, with their song Lily the Pink, here is a little tale I’ve called …
Most efficacious in many ways
Dr. Franklin Miles established Dr. Miles’ Medical Company in 1884 in Elkhart, Indiana (it changed its name to Miles laboratories in 1935).
By 1890, the sales success of his patent medicine tonic, Dr. Miles’ Nervine which claimed to treat “nervousness or nervous exhaustion, sleeplessness, hysteria, headache, neuralgia, backache, pain, epilepsy, spasms, fits, and St. Vitus’ dance”, allowed him to develop a mail order medicine business
To fill the mail order catalogue the company was always on the look-out for new ‘medicines’ which it could market. So it was that in 1928 during a severe flu epidemic that Hub Beardsley, then president of Miles Lab visited the local newspaper where it was rumoured that all the employees remained fit and healthy. Talking to Tom Keene, the editor, Beardsley discovered their secret – all the employees took a mix of aspirin and baking soda at the first sign of illness and then miraculously did not succumb to the dreaded flu.
Beardsley decided that this might be an opportunity and asked his chief chemist, Maurice Treneer, to come up with a ‘concoction’ that the company could market. Treneer duly made up some samples.
Beardsley then took 100 of these tablets with him on a cruise and as people exhibited early symptoms of the flu, he passed out his free samples. He was pleasantly surprised to found that they worked.
Alka Seltzer was duly launched on February 21, 1931
However the old habits of claiming their medicines were efficacious in many ways lead to early advertisement claiming that the new brand was suitable for “colds, headaches, gas on the stomach, sour stomach, simple neuralgia, muscular aches and pains, that tired feeling, that ‘morning-after’ feeling, rheumatic fever and muscular lumbago”.