Sloan’s Liniment was originally a veterinary product developed by Andrew Sloan to topically treat sore and lame horses. Andrew’s son, Earl S. Sloan, is credited with initially putting it on the market as a remedy for human ills and developing it into a world wide product that is still available today. Earl’s likeness has been included prominently on Sloan’s Liniment labels from the very beginnings of the business.
Stories published in the August 4, 1910 edition of “Printers Ink” and the December, 1910 edition of another advertising publication called “The Poster,” both referenced an interview with Earl Sloan in which he talked about the origins of the liniment:
The formula for “Sloan’s Liniment,” said Dr. Sloan, was my fathers.
He was one of the chief surgeons and Inspectors of Stock during the Civil War, and it was in that work that he developed and made use of the liniment.
As a young man I was in the horse-trading business and made the liniment simply for my own use, but it became so popular with friends and neighbors that I resolved to go into the liniment business exclusively.
According to census records and limited city directory information, Earl’s father, Andrew, lived in Zanesfield Ohio (1840’s to 1860’s), where Earl was born in 1848 and later in St Louis Missouri (1870’s). By 1880, Earl had moved to Boston where his business took root. A publication entitled “Commercial and Financial New England Illustrated,” published by the “Boston Herald’ in 1906, described the early history of the business.
Whoever knows the ills of the horse, the noblest of beasts, knows the value of Dr. Earl S. Sloan’s Liniment and Veterinary Remedies, which, through extensive advertising and their own merit have become the leading remedies of their kind in the world since their introduction in 1885. When Dr. Sloan put Sloan’s Liniment and Veterinary Remedies on the market, he had only one small room on Portland Street. This room was used for an office, and the remedies, which were then strictly veterinary, were manufactured in a laboratory in the suburbs.
In 1888 increasing business obliged a removal to a larger building on Portland Street, which, being partly destroyed by fire in 1896, necessitated another removal to a still larger building on the corner of Canton and Albany Streets…
In 1901 he bought from Dr. Parker the right to sell and manufacture the Dr. Parker Family Remedies, a venture which from the inception has been crowned with success. Needing still larger and more commodious quarters for the conduct of the business, he bought in 1904, from the Reuben Green estate, the factory which he now occupies on the corner of Brookline and Albany Streets. The plant is more than twice the size of the old factory and has been fitted with all the most modern appliances…
The company was incorporated in 1904 with a capital of $50,000 and employs a force of sixty-four persons. The officers of the firm are Dr. Earl S. Sloan, president; Foreman Sloan, vice president; Andrew Sloan, treasurer; Mrs. Bertha P. Sloan, director, and Archie MacKiegan, clerk.
This history was well supported by the Boston City Directories. Sloan was first listed in the Boston directories in 1880 and by 1882 he was listed at his first Portland Street location, 166 – 175 Portland, where he remained until 1887. This advertisement in the March 6, 1886 edition of the Black Hills (South Dakota) Daily Times confirmed that by this time Sloan’s Liniment was not just being marketed as a veterinary remedy.
The man or woman that has rheumatism and fails to keep and use “Sloan’s Liniment” is like a drowning man refusing a rope.
He was subsequently listed at his second Portland Street location, 132 Portland, by 1889. His first Albany Street address was listed in 1897 at 597-599 Albany and later, by 1905, he was listed at 615 Albany.
The business was still located at 615 Albany in 1913 when Sloan sold the company to the Pfeiffer Chemical Company. The July 31, 1913 edition of “Printer’s Ink” reported the sale.
Dr. Earl S. Sloan has sold his entire interests in the Dr. Sloan’s Mfg. Company (Sloan’s Liniment), of Boston, a “close” corporation. The purchasers are Henry Pfeiffer and J. A. Pfeiffer, of the Pfeiffer Chemical Company of St. Louis Mo. The business will be continued in Boston for the present…
During most of Earl Sloan’s time heading the company, Sloan’s Liniment was advertised as both a farm and home remedy – “cures all pain in man or beast.” An advertisement included in several southern U.S. newspapers in 1898, makes the same point with a little more flair.
A beautiful woman and a handsome horse appeal to every southerner’s heart. Both are better for the use of, and may be kept free from illness, by Sloan’s Liniment!
In fact, Sloan credited advertising for growing “Sloans Liniment” from a local veterinary medicine to a product sold world wide by 1910. According to Earl Sloan’s interview in the December, 1910 edition of Printer’s Ink:
For years I put every dollar I could possibly take out of the business back into advertising. This meant, of course, an increasing expenditure each year until today we utilize practically all mediums, and even issue a magazine of our own, known as “Sloan’s Farm and Home Journal,” of which we send out millions of copies annually.
According to the “Printer’s Ink”story, the business depended on signs and billposting for every-day reminders and on newspapers and booklets for educational work. The words “Sloans Liniment” were always the most prominent feature in his newspaper and outdoor signage.
We believe that in that way we teach the public to unconsciously connect the two in their mind. Whenever they think of liniment they think of Sloan’s.
He went on to describe the world-wide recognition the product was receiving in 1910.
The far-reaching effect of our advertising has been surprising. I do not believe there is a spot in the world, reasonably civilized, where “Sloan’s Liniment” is not for sale. A man once wanted to make a wager with me that he knew one place where there was no “Sloan’s Liniment,” and he gave the Isle of Malta, which he said is the hottest place in the world. I looked up our records and found we had two druggists there who were selling large quantities of the liniment to the natives and to sailors on ships that use the Isle of Malta as a coaling station…
Yes, we advertise in foreign countries, as much proportionately as in the United States, using mostly newspapers, outdoor advertising and some street car advertising. Our business in England, Germany, South America and the West Indies is increasing so rapidly that it is hard for us to keep up with it.
The long history of “Sloan’s Liniment” suggests that it’s value as a liniment also contributed to it’s success but the company’s advertisements marketed it as much more than just a liniment. One 1905 advertisement called it “a complete medicine chest” and another, this one from 1920, listed 26 human conditions for which the liniment offered relief.
Advertisements in 1905 even advertised it as a preventative for yellow fever and malaria.
Avoid Yellow Fever
Use the great antiseptic preventative Sloan’s Liniment. Six drops of Sloan’s Liniment on a teaspoonful of sugar will kill yellow fever and malaria germs.
Farmers were also in luck. This 1908 advertisement announced it brought relief for various ailments associated with horses, cattle and sheep, hogs and poultry.
After Sloan sold the business it continued to operate under the name Dr. Earl S. Sloan, Inc., and they continued to list Boston as their home office on the “Sloan’s Liniment” label through 1916. The label also listed locations of Philadelphia and St. Louis in the U.S.; Toronto, Canada, and London, England.
Then in 1917, the label was revised, dropping the Boston location and adding New York.
The company address in New York was 113 West 18th Street. In the 1933 NYC Directory, Henry Pfeiffer was listed as president, and G.A. Pfeiffer as vice president and treasurer. During this period their advertisements continued to focus on the relief of joint and muscle pain but they were no longer using phrases like “cures rheumatism” and “destroys all germ life.”
According to an article in the October 15, 1945 edition of the Atlanta Constitution, around that time 14 companies, including the Pfeiffer Chemical Co., and Dr. Earl S. Sloan, Inc. were consolidated under the name Standard Laboratories, Inc. The 1948 NYC Directory listed Standard Lab’s Inc. at the 113 West 18th Street address. In fact, Standard Lab’s was listed at that address as far back as the early 1920’s so it appears that the relationship between Sloan, Pfeiffer and Standard Lab’s probably dated back much further than the consolidation.
Built in 1913, the building utilized by the business at 113 West 18th Street still remains today.
By the early 1950’s Standard Laboratories, Inc. was located in Morris Plains N.J. According to bestbusinessny.com the company has been inactive since the mid 1980’s.
Sloan’s Liniment continues to be made today by Lee Pharmaceuticals and according to drugs.com, it’s still used for temporary relief of muscle or joint pain caused by strains, sprains, arthritis, bruising or backaches.
Over 130 years later, the packaging still includes Earl Sloan’s likeness on the label.
I’ve found two “Sloan’s Liniment” bottles, both three ounces in size. One is mouth blown and Embossed “Sloan’s Liniment / Kills Pain” that was probably made prior to Earl selling the business in 1913. The other is machine made, only embossed “Sloan’s Liniment” and most likely dates to the period following the sale.