Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover was addressed to The Manager, Peruna Drug Mfg. Co. 115 East Rich St., Columbia, Ohio, U.S.A. The blue 2½d QV stamp of New South Wales was postmarked with a roller cancel SYDNEY N.S.W./ 1909 1P.M. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

Samuel Brubaker Hartman was the ‘genius’ behind a career that made him a millionaire, starting from humble beginnings. A burger from Switzerland, Christian Hartman and his wife Nancy (Brubaker) Hartman settled down to agricultural pursuits in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and a son, Samuel was born on April 1, 1830. He left home at 15, going almost directly to Cincinnati, Ohio where he entered the Farmers College near the city. He passed through a literary course at the institution and prepared himself for a wider field of study and research

. The medical profession was his dream, especially the surgical branch and he began his studies with a Dr. Shackelford, until he was fit to enter the ‘Medical University of Cleveland’. He finished his course in that institution and successfully conducted his practice of medicine in Ohio for 2 years. His ambitions were not satisfied, and he took a special course in orthopedics and the surgical treatment of eye and ear diseases in New York city, and then he entered the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia under the celebrated Dr. Gross, and he graduated from that institution in March 1857. He then went to Lancaster Pennsylvania and successfully entered th practice of medicine and surgery. He became known as having a high order of “mechanical skill and genius” in operations on the eyes and ears. A picture of Dr. Samuel Brubaker Hartman is seen in Figure 2.

The date for his turning away from traditional medicine and surgery to the manufacture of his anti-catarrhal medication by the Peruna Drug Manufacturing Company (which occupied several blocks in the central portion of Colubus, Ohio) has not been confirmed, but he took over the manufacture of Benjamin Mishler’s nostrum around 1867, as the sole proprietor of the remedy. Mishler was in the brewing business in 1857, and he put together a concoction called Mishler’s Herb Bitters. The six cent Revenue stamp over the top of each bottle was first issued in January 1868, and it shows that by this time Hartman had taken over the manufacture of the product, as see in Figure 3.

His empire grew rapidly from sales of the medicinal product that he preferred to call PE-RU-NA which was comprised of up to 28% alcohol, water, burnt sugar for coloring and cubeb (a tropical southeast Asian shrubby vine (Piper cubeba) having spicy, berrylike fruits used for flavoring). He built the fancy downtown Hartman Hotel & Sanitarium, a theatre and he had an extensive herd of cows with a large dairy. The large Peruna administrative building was the manufacturing headquarters for the Peruna tonic is shown in Figure 4.

He advertised extensively in newspapers, magazines, on radio and via his annual Peruna Almanac which was published over the period of 1895-1919. He hired an individual to travel to places to acquire testimonials from people cured by his tonic and this man later accused the company that the testimonials were forgeries. The Peruna advertisements were colorful and frequently featured attractive young women, as seen in Figure 5.

Hartman’s particular genius was in defining catarrh as the root cause of virtually all known diseases: pneumonia was catarrh of the lungs, as was tuberculosis; canker sores were catarrh of the mouth; appendicitis was catarrh of the appendix; chronic indigestion, catarrh of the stomach; nephritis, catarrh of the kidneys. Hartman wrote a 32-page booklet entitled Peruna Cures Catarrh the World Over. Harman’s success in “curing” catarrh spawned a host of imitators, many in his home state of Ohio.

Additional information concerning Hartman included his marriage to Sallie A. Martzell in 1859 and two children were born to them. His hiring of a super salesman Frederick W. Schumacher who he eventually became vice-president of the firm, married Hartman’s daughter, Maribel in a lavish wedding in 1895, and he took over the firm after Hartman’s death ofrom pneumonia in 1912 at the age of 82. The story goes that the millionaire quack was tramping over his fields during a snow storm, and he died shortly after. There was no evidence that he was doctored with his own medicine!

With repeal of prohibition, Peruna’s appeal to the drinking public faded. With slump of sales other patent medicines eventually replaced it, and Peruna was withdrawn from the market in the 1940s.

Categories: Health Sciences