Tonics, Nostrums and Snake Oil

Wm. Radan's Microbe Killer Logo

onics, Nostrums and Snake Oil

Back in the 1880’s products that claimed to “cure all diseases” were called tonics, nostrums, or snake oil. Historians commonly refer to the colorful therapeutic products from that era as “quack medicine”. One of the more distinctive characters of that era was William Radam, a gardener/botanist who formulated a microbe killer that claimed to “cure all diseases”.

Wm. Radam, a contemporary of Pasteur, believed that all the ailments of the body were a result of microbial infestation of the blood and tissues. He experimented with a variety of chemicals to kill off these terrible bugs and patented his mixture in 1886. His product contained sulfur, nitrate of soda, black oxide of manganese, sandalwood, chloride of potash, wine, pink dye and water.

Wm. Radam’s claim to fame is the logo he designed for his products. He recycled the mythological image of Hercules fighting a multi-headed Hydra from ancient art and came up with a man in a business suit bludgeoning a skeleton as his logo.


William Radam's Microbial Killers

Wm. Radam's Amber Bottle
Wm. Radam Jug Logo
Wm. Radam's Microbe Killer Jug
Radam's Microbe Killer Lehn & Fink Ad

Radam's Microbe Killer Lehn & Fink Ad


The following in an ad that was in the Lehn & Fink Drug Catalog of 1906...
Radam’s Microbe Killer
A wineglassful of Radam's Microbe Killer after meals and at bedtime and it will prevent and cure disease by destroying bacteria, the organic life that causes fermentation and decay of the blood, the tissues and the vital organs.

Microbe Killer is the only known antiseptic principle that will destroy the germs of disease in the blood without injury to the tissues. Pleasant to the taste and agreeable to the most delicate stomach. A purely scientific remedy, recognized as a true specific.
It Cures
I Gallon Jugs, Price $3.00 40 Oz. Bottle, Price $1.99