Dr. M. M. Fenner’s Peoples Remedies Fredonia, N.Y.

Dr. Milton Marion Fenner made his name and his fortune manufacturing and selling proprietary medicines of his own formulation, including “Dr. Fenner’s People’s Remedies”, “Dr. Fenner’s Specific Lung and Throat Remedy”, “Dr. Fenner’s Specific for the Itch”, “Dr. Fenner’s Capitol Bitters”, “Dr. Fenner’s Liver and Blood Alterative and Tonic Compound”, “Dr. Fenner’s Eye-Salve remedy”, “Dr. Fenner’s Vegetable Blood and Liver Pills”, “Dr. Fenner’s Golden Syrup”, “Dr. Fenner’s Kidney and Backache Cure” and “Dr. Fenner’s Pleasant Worm Syrup”, among many others.

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Bottle embossed Dr. M. M. Fenner Fredonia, NY, 1904


According to Douglas H. Shepard, of the Darwin R. Barker Historical Museum, in Fredonia, NY, “Milton Marion Fenner, was born on July 28, 1837 in Stockton NY. He attended Allegheny College in Meadville, PA from 1854 to 1856, after which he attended The Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati. In May, 1860 he received his M.D. degree and set up practice in Flint MI.

Fenner served in the Union Army during the Civil War from July 1861 until the spring of 1864, when he resigned his commission and set up a private practice in Jamestown, NY as an Eclectic Medical Doctor. Eclectic Medicine was a practice that opposed the earlier “heroic” measures of bleeding, purging and the like. Instead, it attempted to bring together more benign treatments and remedies, especially the use of botanic medicine and medicinal herbs, as well as physical therapy. In addition, he began to edit an Eclectic Medicine publication, The Medical Progress and, in 1865, he was appointed city physician of Jamestown.  Fenner’s practice flourished and he became a prominent member of the State Eclectic Medical Society.”

“In 1869, Fenner moved his practice to Fredonia NY, where he was appointed Fredonia’s Physician to the Poor, (a post he held through 1872). In 1870 he was made a U.S. Examining Surgeon, one of the physicians who were called upon to validate or deny pension requests by veterans of the Civil War. Fenner had devised a questionnaire, “Blank printed Questions” which could be sent to any patient who was unable to visit his office. From the answers provided, “he can usually get a good understanding of the case, and prescribe, sending medicine by mail or express.” Where he had been a very popular physician, he now determined to go into the wholesale manufacturing of medicinal cures for some common ailments. As The Fredonia Censor of 7 February 1872 said, he was going to “manufacture his popular remedies for the wholesale trade.”

He grew his manufacturing business through the next decade, making use of printed advertising, trade cards and pamphlets, and used his growing wealth and influence to expand into politics in the Republican party. In 1878 and 1879 he was elected Pomfret Town Supervisor and was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1880 and 1881. In 1883 he formed the Buffalo Mutual Life and Reserve Association with himself as President.  In 1890 President Benjamin Harrison, a Republican, had come to power in Washington  and Fenner was quickly appointed Deputy Collector of Customs, though he resigned in August 1891.

The History of the Republican Party (1898) contains a series of biographical sketches. The one of Fenner notes that in addition to his People’s Remedies, “He also manufactures a line of flavoring extracts and conducts a grape and miscellaneous farming enterprise on a large scale. He is furthermore Secretary and Treasurer of the Dunkirk and Fredonia Electric Railroad Company, in which he holds a controlling interest, and which, in addition to an Electric Street Railway between Dunkirk and Fredonia, carries on the business of Commercial Electric Lighting, Power and Steam Heating. It also owns and operates the Gas Plant of the village of Fredonia. Dr. Fenner has actively managed the affairs of this [Street Railroad] corporation since 1880, receiving it as simply a somewhat dilapidated horse line, and bringing it up to its present high state of development. He is also proprietor of the large printing establishment of the Globe Printing Company of Fredonia.”

The Dunkirk Herald of 1 February 1905, in a piece about Fenner’s patent medicine business mentioned at the end that “Dr. Fenner has retired from active business life and his business is cared for by H. M. Clarke, who manages his large concern.” (Fenner had been ill for most of 1904 with a progressive, wasting disease.) On 14 March 1905 Milton Marion Fenner died, age 67.”

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Dr. Fenner’s Golden Relief box. “Used internally as a warming carminative to the stomach. Used externally for bruises and minor cuts, superficial congestion or sore muscles due to exertion or fatigue. Ingredients: alcohol 68%, ether 22 minims, chloroform 5 minims to each ounce.” Via National Museum of American History – Smithsonian Institution

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(Front and Back) Trade card advertising Dr. Fenner’s Golden Relief, 1880s.

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Dr. Fenner’s Cook Book 1886, via eBay

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1898 Store Advertising Posters for Dr. Fenner’s Blood & Livery Nerve. Each poster is dated 1898 the Spanish-American Patriotic War theme is certainly at the forefront. Each poster has a title that reads Submarine boat Holland and U.S.Ram Kathadin. These posters were likely displayed in the windows of the store.  Via RubyLane

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1898 Store Advertising Posters for Dr. Fenner’s Blood & Livery Nerve. Each poster is dated 1898 the Spanish-American Patriotic War theme is certainly at the forefront. Each poster has a title that reads Submarine boat Holland and U.S.Ram Kathadin. These posters were likely displayed in the windows of the store.  Via RubyLane

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Dr. Fenner’s Kidney and Backache Cure advertisement, via PeachTreeGlass

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Dr. Fenner’s Cook Book June 30, 1906, via eBay

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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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