Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup of Pepsin

Digger Odell Publications ©2007

Your bottle is a product of Dr. William Burr Caldwell introduced in 1889.  It became a very popular seller well into the 20th century.  The bottle contained his Syrup of Pepsin.  Embossed variants range in age from 1895 until 1962.  Bottles had a cork style mouth until 1942 when the screw cap replaced the cork top.  They are very common with probably ten of thousands of specimens known, hence the value of $1-2.

Dr. Caldwell was indeed a real doctor. His first published article appeared in 1887. His interest in Pepsin as a medical agent was evident from an article which appeared in Medical News, Feb. 23, 1889.  His investigation into dipthera treatment was announced under the heading of Medical Progress.

An antiseptic and peptonizing agent might act powerfully when used separately, but might be inactive when in the same mixture. Pancreatin is an active peptonizer, but it can only be used with an antiseptic which can act in an alkaline menstruum ; hence, it cannot be used with bichloride of mercury. Dr. Caldwell has not tried pepsin in combination with an antiseptic. Papain acts in an acid, neutral, or alkaline menstrua, and hence it is more available for combination. Bichloride of mercury is a powerful antiseptic in neutral and acid menstrua, but it not only arrests the growth of the bacteria, but also, to a certain extent, the peptonizing ferment. At least it has this effect in artificial digestion ; however, the author used it with papain.”

FTC ACTS ON PEPSIN CLAIM WASHINGTON

March 13.
The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Dr. W. B. Caldwell, Inc., Monticello, Ill., manufacturer and distributor of Dr. Caldwell's Syrup Pepsin, Syrup Pepsin and Syrup of Pepsin to cease misrepresentation as to the efficacy of its preparations for the relief of constipation or other ailments, the commission announced today. The order prohibits the use of the word "pepsin" alone or in association with other words to describe a preparation not containing sufficient pepsin, as an active ingredient, to possess substantial therapeutic value because of the pepsin content. NYT March 14, 1939

 

Interest in Pepsin as a medicinal agent goes back into the 1850s. Many well-known and large companies were using Pepsin Medicines, even as late as 1912 the list included:

SHARPE & DOHME.

PAN‑PEPTIC ELIXIR. "An efficient tonic‑digestion containing pure pepsin, pure pancreatin, pure caffein, lactic acid and celery, the latter being added chiefly for Its flavoring properties."

ELIXIR PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN.
ELIXIR PEPSIN BISMUTH AND PANCREATIN.

H. K. MULFORD COMPANY.

ELIXIR LACTATED PEPSIN. "Contains pepsin; pancreatin, lactic acid, maltose, hydrochloric acid, etc."LIQUOR DIASTOS "Contains pepsin (isolated). diastase, trypsin ptyalln, nltro‑hydrochlorte acid, C. P., nux vomica with aromatics."

PARKE, DAVIS & CO.

ELIXIR PEPSIN. BISMUTH AND PANCREATIN. "Designed to cover the Indications when both the stomach and the duodenum fall In functional activity‑that Is when there is both gastric and intestinal IndIgestion‑with symptoms of catarrh In the regions named.'
ELIXIR PEPSIN, BISMUTH, STRYCHNIN AND PANCREATIN.
ELIXIR PEPSIN AND PANCREATTN WITH CAFFEINE.
MALT EXTRACT WITH PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN.
ELIXIR LACTATED PFPSIN. "A combination of pepsin, pancreatin, diastase, lactic acid and hydrochloric acid."

FREDERICK STEARNS & CO.

ELIXIR LACTINATED PEPSIN. "Few combinations of digestive ferments have given better satisfaction than this one. It contains pepsin, pancreatin, vera diastase, lactic acid, hydrochloric acid, sodium chloride, and milk sugar, thus representing the various digestive fluids of the body."

ELIXIR PEPSIN, BISMUTH AND PANCREATIN.
ELIXIR PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN.

ARTHUR PETERS & CO.

PETERS' PEPTIC ESSENCE COMP. "This valuable preparation contains pure pepsin, pure pancreatin, pure diastase, pure lactic acid, pure hydrochloric acid, pure glycerin, and aromatics."

WM. S. MERRELL CHEMICAL COMPANY.

ELIXIR ATONIC DYSPEPSIA, PHENOLATED. "Contains pepsin, pancreatin, cascara sagrada, ipecac, nux vomica, phenolated elixir."
MALT EXTRACT WITH PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN.

WILLIAM R. WARNER & CO.

ELIXIR PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN.
LIQUID PANCREOPEPSIN. "Comprises the natural and assimilative principles of the digestive fluids of the stomach and duodenal tract, viz.: Pepsin, pancreatin, lactic and murlatic acids."["This ferment (pancreatin) is completely destroyed in the gastric juice. This is why thinking practitioners should not use both pepsin and pancreatin together in the same solution, because the medium in which one must act is opposed to that of the other. In the majority of cases in which pancreatin is  given empirically, HCl is still secreted in the stomach and the ferment is destroyed." Heinnieter, Diseases of the Stomach, pages 345‑6.1

SMITH, KLINE & FRENCH.

ELIXIR PEPSIN, BISMUTH AND PANCREATIN.
ELIXIR PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN.

["The value of pancreatin is even more problematical than that of pepsin, for though it would no doubt be valuable where the digestive ferments, particularly those of pancreas, were deficient, this has not been shown to occur. On the other hand, the pancreatic ferments are certainly destroyed in passing through the stomach." Cushny, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, on the Action of Drugs, page 710.]

COLUMBUS PHARMACAL COMPANY.

PEPTIC DIGUSTANT. "Composed of pepsin, pancreatin, diastase, hydrochloric and lactic acids, combined with an aromatic vehicle."["Pancreatin does Hot act in an acid medium and should not be given with acid." W. Gilman Thomson, Practical Medicine, 1900, page 403.]

LILLY & CO.

ELIXIR PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN.
ELIXIR PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN COMPOUND.
ELIXIR PEPSIN, PANCREATIN AND BISMUTH.
ELIXIR PEPSIN, PANCREATIN, BISMUTH AND STRYCHNIN.
ELIXIR PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN WITH CAFFEINE.

THE MALTINE COMPANY.

MALTINE WITH PEPSIN AND PANCREATIN. "Contains the three principal artificial digestants, diastase, pepsin and pancreatin, In such proportions as to be capable of converting all foods required by the human organism into the soluble condition necessary for proper assimilation."["Hence it if obvious that pancreatic extracts or ferments given by the mouth can be of no value whatever, since the proteolytic ferment at least will undoubtedly be destroyed in the stomach before reaching its normal sphere of action." Chittenden, quoted by Yeo in Hare's System of Practical Therapeutics, yol. i, page 221.1

REED AND CARNRICK.

PEPT0NZYME ELIXIR. Formula: "Enzymes of the peptic glands. . . . Enzymes of the pancreas. . . Enzymes of the salivary glands. . . . Zymogens from the spleen. . . . Enzymes of the intestinal glands."


By 1942 the Sterling Drug Company Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware were using the name and trademarked a new product DR. CALDWELL'S A LAXATIVE WITH CARMINATIVE in 1942.  By that date, the actual Dr. W. B. Caldwell had died.

In 1947, the Chicago agency of Sherman Marquette Inc. that was handling the promotion of the Syrup of Pepsin expanded its radio advertising campaign.

 Despite the fact that in 1906 the Federal Government had passed a Food and Drug Act which was aimed at patent medicine makers, Dr. Caldwell’s Medicine was still misleading the public about the worthiness of its product.  This no doubt was accomplished by well-placed donations and lobbying.  With the owners making millions each year they would have been a formidable opponent for the government lawyers. So much so that the product was made continuously from 1889 until 1985.

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