Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin, Monticello, Illinois

Pepsin is an enzyme that aids in digestion.  It was also an ingredient in the early recipe for Pepsi, which gives that soda its name.

Bottle embossed “CALDWELL’S SYRUP PEPSIN/ M’F’D BY / PEPSIN SYRUP COMPANY / MONTICELLO, ILLINOIS”



According to the City of Monticello website:

History of the Pepsin Syrup Company
The history of the Pepsin Syrup Company dates back to the 1880s when Dr. William B. Caldwell first began prescribing his senna and pepsin laxative.William Burr Caldwell was born March 27, 1839, in Shelbyville, Missouri, the son of Samuel B.F. and Lucinda Steele Caldwell. In 1858 he attended the Eclectic Medical Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio. Soon after he became a student at a medical college in Keokuk, Iowa where he earned his diploma and began practicing medicine at Laclede, Missouri.Shortly before the Civil War he moved to Bloomington, Missouri and began a drug store business. He moved to Monticello, Illinois in 1885 when he purchased the Hamilton and Company Drug Store. He sold the drug business just one year later to Charles G. Armstrong and Charles H. Ridgley and moved his medical practice upstairs.  Due to the popularity and high demand for his senna pepsin laxative, Dr. Caldwell began producing his prescription at the corner drug store by 1888.

It wasn’t until 1892 that Dr. Caldwell’s former store clerk, Charles H. Ridgley, conceived the idea of manufacturing the doctor’s famous prescription. Dr. Caldwell gave Ridgely and his partner, John Bell, permission to go ahead and as a result “syrup pepsin” was made in small quantities, bottled, and sold in neighboring counties.

The company was growing so rapidly that by 1902, Syrup Pepsin Company needed larger facilities. In August 1903, they purchased 180 feet of the William Holmes Block just west of the Wabash between Livingston and Washington Streets. This included the old Daniel Stickel residence on the hill, which seemed perfect, as it stood alone on a city block. With some remodeling and an extension added to the rear of the home, this two story brick home served as the factory for several years. It was at this time that Monticello residents began referring to this area as “Pepsin Hill.”

In 1925, Pepsin Syrup Company was sold for a reported $5,000,000 to Household Products Company, a division of Sterling Drugs Products, owner of several medicine businesses including Bayer Asprin, Pape Dispepsin, Phillips Milk of Magnesia, and Danderine.

Production continued under Pepsin Syrup Company until 1934 when it was renamed Dr. W.B. Caldwell, Inc. followed by Dr. W.B. Caldwell Co., Division of Sterling Drugs, Inc. in 1943, Centaur-Caldwell Division (makers of Castoria, Campho-Phenique, Z.B.T. Baby Powder, and Molle Shaving Cream) in 1948, National Brands Division of Sterling Drugs, Inc. in 1956, and by 1965 commonly known as Glenbrook Laboratories.

In 1984, Sterling Drugs Inc. announced they had signed a contract selling all trademark rights and inventories to Mentholatum Company of New York who closed the Monticello Plant in October 4, 1985.

Ad for Dr. Caldwell's Syrup Pepsin, date unknown

Ad for Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin, date unknown

A 1904 advertisement for Dr. Caldwell’s Laxative Syrup Pepsin Company in Monticello, Illinois featuring Fielder Jones and Frank Smith.

A 1904 advertisement for Dr. Caldwell’s Laxative Syrup Pepsin Company in Monticello, Illinois featuring Fielder Jones and Frank Smith.

 Dr. Caldwell's Christian entertainer. Monticello, IL: Pepsin Syrup Co., n.d., [1908]

Dr. Caldwell’s Christian entertainer. Monticello, IL: Pepsin Syrup Co., n.d., [1908]

Dr. Caldwell's guide to health home cook book. Monticello, IL: Pepsin Syrup Co., n.d., [1908]

Dr. Caldwell’s guide to health home cook book. Monticello, IL: Pepsin Syrup Co., n.d., [1908]

1910s Dr Caldwells Home Entertainer booklet, Monticello IL

1910s Dr Caldwells Home Entertainer booklet, Monticello IL

DR. CALDWELL'S GUIDE TO HEALTH HOME COOK BOOK PUBLISHED BY PEPSIN SYRUP COMPANY MONTICELLO, ILLINOIS No Date [circa 1910]

DR. CALDWELL’S GUIDE TO HEALTH HOME COOK BOOK PUBLISHED BY PEPSIN SYRUP COMPANY MONTICELLO, ILLINOIS No Date [circa 1910]

Early cardboard litho medicine sign for Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin Cure (Forbes Litho, Boston), featuring beautifully detailed multi-color graphics of young boy picking apples with bottle of cure in his back pocket. Sign reads “Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin cures Indigestion Constipation Sick-Headache Stomach Trouble Manufactured by Pepsin Syrup Co. Monticello, Ill.  Date unknown

Early cardboard litho medicine sign for Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin Cure (Forbes Litho, Boston), featuring beautifully detailed multi-color graphics of young boy picking apples with bottle of cure in his back pocket. Sign reads “Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin cures Indigestion Constipation Sick-Headache Stomach Trouble Manufactured by Pepsin Syrup Co. Monticello, Ill. Date unknown

Box front for Dr. Caldwell's Syrup Pepsin, date unknown

Box front for Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin, date unknown

1920s advertisement “How To Keep A Child Healthy”

1920s ad, source unknown

1920s ad, source unknown

1923 print ad from the Minnesota Sun

1923 print ad from the Minnesota Sun

Print ad from 1925

Print ad from 1925

1924 newspaper advertisement from the New York Evening Journal, “Women’s Minor Ills Come From One Cause”

1924 ad from New York Evening Journal

1924 ad from New York Evening Journal

prescription

Ad from The Chicago Tribune, 1929

Ad from The Chicago Tribune, 1929

Dr. Caldwell's Syrup Pepsin Porcelain Door Push.  No date

Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin Porcelain Door Push. No date

 

 

About Jessica

I am the supervisor of the analysis of the archaeological collection recovered from the Old Main excavation.
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2 Responses to Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin, Monticello, Illinois

  1. Chandra says:

    I have this bottle if anyone’s interested in buying it.

  2. TStorm says:

    I it was still on the market. My mother had to hide the bottle or we kids would have drunk the whole thing. It was really very tasty.

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