Humphreys Homeopathic Medicine Company, New York City, NY

Frederick K. Humphreys (1816 – 1900) was a physician and the founder of Humphreys Homeopathic Medicine Company in New York City in 1853.  While homeopathic treatments have been scientifically proven to offer no curative benefit to sick humans or animals, enormous sales of Humphreys “Homeopathic Specifics” made him a very rich man.  His bottles of veterinary specifics are probably the most common veterinary patent medicine bottle available today, according to the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors.

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Bottle embossed HUMPHREYS’ MARVEL WITCHHAZEL

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Bottle embossed HUMPHREYS HOMEOPATHIC TRADE MARK VETERINARY SPECIFICS


According to the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors, Frederick Humphreys was born in Marcellus, New York, the son of Dr. Erastus Humphreys. In 1848, he entered the Pennsylvania Homeopathic Medical College in Philadelphia and graduated with the degree of Doctor of Homeopathic Medicine in 1850. Three years later, Dr. Humphreys and his family moved to New York City where he established a large and successful medical practice, helped form the New York State Homeopathic Medical Society, and became an important member of the American Homeopathic Institute. In 1854 he started the production and sale of medication of his own invention, which he called Homeopathic Specifics.

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Frederick K. Humphreys (March 11, 1816 – July 18, 1900), via Wikimedia Commons

Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, based on his doctrine of like cures like, a claim that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. Homeopathy is a pseudoscience – a belief that is incorrectly presented as scientific. Homeopathic preparations are not effective for treating any condition; large-scale studies have found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo, indicating that any positive effects that follow treatment are only due to the placebo effect, normal recovery from illness, or regression toward the mean.

According to the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors, “Professionally, Dr. Humphreys then had to fight against such name calling as “fraud” and “quack”. But his company prospered and made Dr. Humphreys a very wealthy man indeed. The Humphreys Homeopathic Medicine Company entered the production of veterinary medicines around 1860. While his human remedies were numbered, his veterinary cures were lettered.”

According to the New York Times, Frederick Humphreys died in 1900 in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, and he was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.

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Courtesy of New York Times

According to the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors,  “In 1940 the company name was changed to the Humphreys’ Medicine Company.  In 1968, the company changed its name again, becoming Humphreys’ Pharmacal Inc.  Humphreys’ Pharmacal Inc. is still doing business and is located in Rutherford, New Jersey.”

According to the website of Humphreys’ Pharmacal Inc. “Humphreys’ achievements included being Chairman of the American Institute of Homoeopathy’s “Bureau for the Augmentation and Improvement of the Materia Medica” of the American Institute of Homoeopathy. During this time, he also helped to establish what came to be known as The New York State Homoeopathic Medical Society.  As one of his most pivotal and significant contributions to homeopathic medicine, he introduced his finding of homeopathic “combinations” and coined the term “Homoeopathic Specifics.” The value of combination preparations was that they offered, in a single dose, what traditional homeopathic physicians would prescribe by the individual ingredient, or “singles.” This approach made it easy for individuals to diagnose and self-prescribe without the need to worry about a host of traditional concerns, including content or potency selection.”

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Humphrey Homeopathic Manual, 1884, Courtesy of U.S. National Library of Medicine

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Humphreys Witch Hazel Oil advertising card, date unknown.

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About Jessica

I am the supervisor of the analysis of the archaeological collection recovered from the Old Main excavation.
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