Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Dose of Hadacol

Today while riding in the elevator with three of my fellow employees, one mentioned she wasn’t feeling up to speed. When I replied, “sounds as if you need a dose of Hadacol” I got a blank stare from the other two.

What is Hadacol, one asked. The person I directed the comment to said she knew what it was, as she had heard of it from her grandmother.
We gave the other two a short synopsis: Hadacol was a patent medicine marketed as a vitamin supplement. Its principal attraction, however, was that it contained quite a bit of alcohol, and people were apt to take it for “whatever ailed them.”
"Need a dose of Hadacol" was a term I heard old-timers use when I was growing up. It was a saying passed down and became synonymous with any panacea or "cure-all" of dubious origin.

I wanted to know more so I did a bit of research and here are some additional details I learned:
Hadacol contained 12 percent alcohol, listed on the label as a “preservative,” which made it quite popular in the dry counties of the southern United States. In case you are not familiar with what a dry county is, that’s where the sale of alcoholic beverages is illegal, as opposed to “wet” counties where it is. There remain, in the South at least, wet and dry counties to this day.

It also contained B vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorous and dilute hydrochloric acid, which the maker claimed allowed the formula to be absorb more easily into the body. A small bottle of Hadacol normally sold for $1.25. The recommended dosage was 1 Tablespoonful four times a day. It was marketed through a multi-pronged campaign that included old-time traveling medicine shows, traditional advertising, comic books, and jingles.
Hadacol was the product of four-term Louisiana State Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc of Louisiana. He was not a medical doctor, or a registered pharmacist, but had a strong talent for self-promotion. Time magazine once described him as "a stem-winding salesman who knows every razzle-dazzle switch in the pitchman's trade".

LeBlanc conceived the idea that became Hadacol in New Orleans, when he injured a foot. He asked a doctor to give him medication for pain: then he found that what the doctor gave him was a B-vitamin elixir, which he proposed to duplicate with a few changes and market it to a mass consumer market.

While those who used Hadacol often reported that it relieved their symptoms, the United States Food and Drug Administration found no evidence to support LeBlanc's claims, and he was obliged to withdraw them.
LeBlanc made millions on his snake oil before he sold the company to a cancer research organization, which quickly discovered the Hadacol company was deeply in debt, and that they, not LeBlanc, were responsible for paying off the creditors. There have been two unsuccessful attempts to resurrect the product.

Hadacol was the subject of several Country, R&B and Cajun tunes of the time, such as "Hadacol Boogie" which was covered by a number of musical acts, notably Bill Nettles and His Dixie Blue Boys and, more recently, Jerry Lee Lewis.
This is likely more than you wanted to know about Hadacol. But I thought the story behind the product was so interesting!


  1. Hello Sanda

    What a delightful story on the history of Hadacol. The name is familiar to me, my late father in law was President of Sterling Drug, which had many items Bayer Asprin being their most famous. He regaled us with stories of travelling through the USA and Canada,in the 30's. There were a few salesmen who were not unlike LeBlanc in their sales tactics.
    What a joyful time in the pharmaceutical industry
    Thank you for sharing this story about Hadacol

    Helen xx

    1. Hi Helen, I am glad you enjoyed the story; I myself really enjoyed learning more about it. I am sure your father-in-law had many interesting stories to tell. It was a unique time.

  2. Oh how I wish I had a big dose tonight!!! I remember it so well - the radio advertisement and folks taking it. These old memories are so wonderful - keep that brain going sis.

    1. Hi Sissy, I can't say that I remember the radio advertisements but certainly people talking about it. I do love remembering things about our past!

  3. Replies
    1. I'd like a dose each night at bedtime. What sweet dreams!

  4. Do you think the amount of alcohol helped the sales,was it the prohibition era?

    My HB could do with a dose 2nd day in bed with a virus....not a good patient! Ida

    1. An intriguing question you pose Ida. I have a theory but no way to prove it. I believe prohibition (1917-1933) was over during Hadacol's heyday in the '30s. I believe teetotalers thought it was OK to have Hadacol, because it was classified as a "medicine" whereas hard liquor, wine, beer, was against their principles. That's just my thought.

  5. Thank you for the story of Hadacol, something I had never heard of. I can't believe people were so naive in the 1930.

    1. Maybe they just wanted a drink! There was a lot of naivity, to be sure, but you know, times haven't changed that much. Look at what believe about products today, spending billions on cures for baldness, diet products, youth serums, etc. The snake-oil salesmen of today are just a bit more polished!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...