Sloan’s Liniment, Boston, MA

Sloan’s Liniment, much like S. B. Kitchel’s Liniment, was initially made for use on horses to ease their sore muscles after a long day. And, just as Kitchel learned, liniment can be used and sold to people for much the same reason. The trick to getting people to buy and use on themselves a product previously intended for livestock, is marketing, and Earl Sloan excelled at marketing and advertising his product.


Bottle embossed “SLOAN’S LINIMENT / MADE IN USA”

Wikipedia notes that “Liniment is a medicated topical preparation for application to the skin. Sometimes called balms, liniments are of a similar or lesser viscosity than lotions and are rubbed in to create friction, unlike lotions, ointments or creams. Liniments are typically sold to relieve pain and stiffness, such as from sore muscles or arthritis. These are typically formulated from alcohol, acetone, or similar quickly evaporating solvents and contain counterirritant aromatic chemical compounds such as methyl salicilate, benzoin resin, or capsaicin. Liniments have been around since antiquity.

Liniments are commonly used on horses following exercise, applied either by rubbing on full-strength, especially on the legs; or applied in a diluted form, usually added to a bucket of water and sponged on the body. They are also useful in hot weather to help cool down a horse after working, the alcohol cooling through rapid evaporation, and counterirritant oils dilating capillaries in the skin, increasing the amount of blood releasing heat from the body.”

According to Jim Hodges, curator of the New Bern Historical Society, “Earl Sawyer Sloan, the third of five children, was born Sept. 8, 1848, in Zanesfield, Ohio. The Andrew Sloan family emigrated from Ireland after the American Revolution and eventually settled in Zanesfield, Ohio. Andrew Sloan was a horse harness maker and a self-taught veterinarian. “Doc Sloan” was also known for his strong-smelling brown formula that was effective in reducing joint pain and inflammation for overworked horses.

“Young Earl did not attend more than the elementary grades, but he did learn to read and write and developed a great appreciation for books. He was apprenticed as a harness maker at the age of 15, but in 1871 joined his brother Foreman in St. Louis, Mo. Earl carried with him a supply of his father’s horse liniment and they peddled it throughout the area. It was discovered that the liniment was beneficial not only for the horses but humans as well. Consequently, it was advertised as “good for man and beast.” The essential ingredient is chili pepper (capsicum, a topical analgesic) and its external use was once recommended for everything from a stiff neck to bruises, sprains, strains to mosquito bites.”

Betsy Butler, blogger and author of Inside Dr. Sloan’s Library, It Feels Like It’s Still 1914 continues, “Sales took off, and before long, Earl was so successful that he moved to Chicago. There, he started running ads for Sloan’s Liniment in the evening newspapers and on streetcars, touting its healing powers for rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago, muscular aches, and minor strains and sprains. Concocting a marketing scheme that encompassed everything from advertisements to special publications like cookbooks, Earl targeted housewives to buy his product since they were the main purchasers of items for the home. He added the title “Dr.” to his name, added his picture and signature to the label to set his product apart from other liniments, trademarked it and incorporated his business. In 1904, he moved to Boston, continuing his successful business until he sold it for $1 million in 1913 to William R. Warner & Company, the maker of Listerine.”

According to Jim Hodges, “eventually, W. R. Warner & Co. merged into Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical in 1955, which was eventually acquired by Pfizer in 2000.  Earl Sloan died in 1923.”

According to Jill Harness, “‘Dr.’ Earl S. Sloan was known for being an excellent spokesperson and a great advertiser. In 1905, he released this book dedicated to “the women of America who are the home-makers” in order to gently market his products while creating goodwill towards his brand. The organization of the book is a bit odd, transitioning abruptly from vegetables to the care of a child and from how to treat a horse to preparing lobster, but I guess you can’t expect too much from a fake doctor releasing a cookbook to sell liniment.”

One of his legacies is the lovely library he built in his birthplace, Zanesfield, Ohio, which was dedicated on September 8, 1914. Butler describes the library  in admiring detail  in her post Inside Dr. Sloan’s Library, It Feels Like It’s Still 1914.

Sloan’s Liniment is still sold today, and packaged in a carton and a labeled bottle depicting the mustachioed doctor.


Sloan’s Liniment Ad, 1894. Image Source.

treatise sloan

Treatise on the Horse. Boston, MA, c.1896. From


Sloan’s Handy Hints And Cookbook, Cover, Sloan’s Liniment, 1901. Image Source.



Sloan’s Liniment Cook Book 1901. Image Source.



Sloan’s Liniment Ad, 1900s. Image Source.



1905 Sloan’s Liniment “Cookbook and Advice to Housekeepers” Image Source.



Sloan’s Liniment & Veterinary Remedies Illustrated Billhead, 1906. Image Source.



Sloan’s Liniment Ad, 1921. Image Source.



Sloan’s Liniment Ad, 1930s.


Sloan’s Liniment Ad. 1930s. Image Source.



Sloan’s Liniment Ad 1933. Image Source.


Sloan’s Liniment “Can You Solve A Crime Booklet” 1937. Image Source.


Sloan’s Liniment Ad. 1940s. Image Source.

About Jessica

I am the supervisor of the analysis of the archaeological collection recovered from the Old Main excavation.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Sloan’s Liniment, Boston, MA

  1. Fran Knapik says:

    Hello, so it’s Aug 14, 2018 and we have a Canvas Sloans Linament ad sheet approx 2’W x 3′ tall and was looking for a place to sell it. It’s in a frame under glass and dated to approx 1865 (bcuz of other memorabilia found adjacent to it AND dated). EXCELLENT shape. Any ideas??? Fran Knapik Thompson CT or cell 508 612-7641 EST

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, thanks for reading! I’m not sure where you should sell your item, maybe eBay or Craigslist? But I would advise against openly sharing your contact info so openly on an open internet site like this.

      • Fran Knapik says:

        I was actually looking FOR the “Sloans” company cuz some sites show them as still being IN Boston & didn’t know your affiliation with them. As for offering my info, thanks….I AM heavily armed, trained in marksmanship and a martial artist so I’m not real worried, but again…thanks.

  2. Cecil caldwell says:

    I found an old empty bottle of sloans liniment,, what is it’s value today.

  3. Fran Knapik says:

    In MINT…..PERFECT shape with label in tact…..maybe $8 – 10

    • Betty Mills Sloan says:

      My daughter was walking in woods behind her house, She came and discovered a old run down house or what use to be. She found this Bottle. Of Sloan’s Liniment bottle half full.
      And my Name was Sloan. Pretty neat prize.
      Learning more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s