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.
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.