THE OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY
1998 DIGGER ODELL PUBLICATIONS

During the last twenty years of the 19th century Indian Medicine Shows traveled the country putting on elaborate demonstrations of Indian life while hawking their medicines to the crowd. For a few cents, or even for free in some cases a colorful show starring real Indian entertained audiences. The Buffalo Bill may well have gotten the idea for his Wild West Shows from these slick promoters. Indian Bottles & Brands lists over 1000 bottle related products that used Indians in their advertising. Below are excerpts from the book.
The founder of the Oregon Indian Medicine Company was one Thomas Augustus Edwards, born in 1832 in Saugerties, New York. At seventeen Thomas left home to go to sea, where he worked at the whaling trade. Upon returning he worked as a grocer until he met John Robinson, a professional circus man. Around 1855 Edwards became me business manager of the Spaulding and Roger's Circus.

In 1857, he joined with General Albert Johnston on an expedition to Utah to help with the difficulty with the Mormons. He was at Pike's Peak in 1858 and then returned East to work for the Memphis Transportation Company until the outbreak of the Civil War. Entering the ranks of the Secret Service, he operated behind enemy lines as a spy for the Union Army, was captured, and would have probably been shot, had he not escaped. Having earned the rank of Colonel he worked in Arkansas as a scout for General Steele.

In 1866, still employed by the Secret Service, he traveled to Oregon during the Snake Indian War. It must have been in Oregon that the idea for Indian Medicines came to Colonel Edwards, for when he returned East again, he brought with him a band of eighteen Indians of the Warme Springs Tribe. In 1874, he and the band of Indians, the Heroes of the Lava Beds, traveled around Europe putting on displays of Indian skills and customs.

He returned to Philadelphia m 1876 and was an unofficial part of the Centennial Exposition. It was at the Exposition that Edwards claims to have introduced the medicines. In the fall of 1876, Edwards with his brother, Alfred Edwards, organized the Oregon Indian Medicine Company with headquarters in Pittsburgh. No records of the business could be found in the Pittsburgh directories. At first, the medicines were sold to the public in raw form, to be compounded at home. Edwards maintained that the company did not do well at first because the medicines, sent East from Oregon, were compounded carelessly and did not bring satisfaction. For several years the Colonel took up with John Robinson, the veteran showman trying to sell the medicines at his Indian shows. According to the advertising, in the early 1880's, while in Boston, Edwards was shown by a chemist how to prepare the remedies so that they could be bottled.

 

 

Around 1882 grounds for erecting laboratories were purchased in Corry, Pennsylvania. Corry was chosen as the site for the factory because of its central location and existing railroad facilities. The factories took up an entire city block and in front of several of the buildings the grounds were paved with bricks embossed with the words Ka-ton-ka. By 1885 the factories at Corry were operating at full scale production.

Edwards claimed that his partners in the manufacture of the medicines were Dr. William C. McKay and his brother, the famous Indian fighter, Donald McKay. Although no documents could be located to prove or disprove his story, Edwards made great use of his name in the advertising and promotion of the products. Supposedly, Donald McKay was the son of a Scotsman, Alexander McKay, and his Iroquoi bride. Donald achieved his greatest victory over the Modocs as an Indian fighter. He married a woman of the Nez Perce Tribe, Minnie McKay, and his people were the Warme Springs Indians, who regarded him as a medicine man. Accordingly, he associated himself with Edwards for the purpose of introducing to the public, real Indian medicines. He would have his people gather the remedies at the proper season and then have them sent East to his partner.

Edwards employed a number of successful means to sell the remedies. He kept the medicine shows going through the turn of the century and hired Indians to hawk the remedies on the streets. He printed a newspaper called The Ka-Ton-Ka Story and a paper back booklet The Last War Trail of the Modocs, in addition to other printed material Colonel Edwards retired from active participation in the management around 1901 and left the business in the hands of a man named Claude D. Place, who was president and general manager for a number of years. When Edwards died in December of 1904, the company was carried on by his daughter, Mrs. Daisy Van Vleck, until the firm was sold to Jerry Frantz around 1912. Frantz had worked for the company and managed the medicine shows for several years.

PRODUCTS OF THE OREGON INDIAN
MEDICINE COMPANY

>>NEWSPAPER ADVERTISEMENT FROM<<
>>ALTOONA TRIBUNE JANUARY 29, 1884<<
OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-INDIAN COUGH SYRUP

EMBOSSING: INDIAN COUGH SYRUP//WARME SPRINGS, OREGON

HEIGHT: 7" COLOR: Light aqua SHAPE: Rect. LIP: LTC BIMAL.

The cough syrup was 60 cents per bottle, and reportedly made from spruce and pine tops. It was manufactured from about 1885 through 1912.

THE OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY KA-TON-KA

EMBOSSING: [on sides] KA-TON-KA//THE GREAT INDIAN REMEDY

HEIGHT: 8 7/8" COLOR: Aqua SHAPE: Rect. LIP: LTC BIMAL.

Variant: Same as above except 8 3/4" and clear.

Ka-ton-ka was the best selling product of the Oregon Indian Medicine Company. It was the first medicine manufactured by the company and originally put up in powdered form; compounded of Prickly Ash, Oregon Grape, Mountain Sage, and other herbs and barks gathered by the Warme Springs Indians in Oregon. The name Ka-ton-ka was trademarked by the Oregon Indian Medicine Company in December of 1886, together with a cut of Donald McKay. A note mentioned that the word Ka-ton-ka had been used since 1876.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-MODOC INDIAN OIL

EMBOSSING: MODOC INDIAN OIL HEIGHT: 6 1/2" COLOR: Aqua or clear SHAPE: Round LIP: SB BIMAL.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-MODOC

EMBOSSING: MODOC OIL//PRICE 25 CTS. [on sides] HEIGHT: 4 1/2"

COLOR: Clear SHAPE: Rect. LIP: SB BIMAL.

Originally the Modoc Oil was to be used both internally and externally, but in the later years of business it was advertised as being for external use only. The oil was a remedy for pain, snake bite, inflammation or swelling and gangrene. The earliest variant, the round aqua bottle, sold for 50 cents. The smaller size was rectangular. Perhaps the Indian Oil was a good seller because of its low price. It is believed that the Modoc Oil was one of the first products manufactured by the company, and was only offered in the large size for the first few years. The Oil was still being sold after 1912. (see MODOC OIL).

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-DONALD McKAY'S GREAT

INDIAN WORM ERADICATOR

Were put up in boxes containing wafers. Always advertised with a picture of Minnie McKay, wife of Donald McKay the great Indian fighter. Circa 1888.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-DONALD McKAY'SLOZENGES
Replaced the Indian Worm Eradicator. Circa 1900.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-INDIAN CORN SALVE

Circa 1900. Sold by the box at 15 cents each.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-INDIAN MOC-CI-TONG

This is believed to have been a label only bottle. At $10 per bottle it seems likely that the Moc-ci-tong was not that popular. The product was a cure for loss of manhood, nervous and muscular disorders. No advertisements for this brand could be located in the later years of business. Circa 1891.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY - KA-TON-KA PILLS

There were introduced around 1900 as an alternative form of the Ka-ton-ka, were sold at 50 cents per box.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-NEZ PERCE CATARRH REMEDY

Also put up in boxes, with a cut of Minnie McKay. The name was later to Nez Perce Catarrh Snuff, and still later to Nez Perce Nasal Snuff. Circa 1888.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-WAR PAINT OINTMENT

Was a healing ointment for burns, scalds and skin eruptions. Sold for 50 cents per box. Circa 1891.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-WARME SPRING

CONSUMPTION CURE

Also believed to be labeled only, the Consumption Cure was only half the price of the Moc-ci-tong. It sold for $5.00 per bottle, or $50.00 per dozen. According to the advertising it was put up in quart bottles as was the Moc-ci-tong, and the company claimed that the expense of gathering the ingredients made the cure so expensive. Circa 1888.

OREGON INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANY-WASCO COUGH DROPS

One of the later medicines. Around 1900 they were 10 cents per package and sold separately, three for a quarter.

............... .MORE INDIAN MEDICINE COMPANIES........................................................ HOME