Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

What was Dr. Hess’s Poultry Panacea?

scrap from a handwritten page. Written in copperplate is the date February 2, 1910

Look how lovely my great-grandfather’s handwriting was. I… did not inherit that. (Scrap from the 1904-1912 accounting ledger of Charles A. Phillips)

One of the side effects of having wildfires reach within a dozen miles of your home is that it tends to focus your mind on completing those projects you’ve been putting off while you putter away at things that feel more urgent.

For me, it’s the collection of old family journals from 1871-1952 that my grandparents gave me before they died. For nearly 20 years, I’ve been meaning to either transcribe them or scan them before sending them to their new and much more suitable home in the Town Archives of Victor, New York. (After all, if you believe a document has historical value, shouldn’t you stash it where historians will think to look for it?)

After our bug out bags were packed, I found myself unable to concentrate on much of anything in between bouts of doom-scrolling Twitter reports on the progress of the various wildfires in our area. So I spent a couple of days creating a digital archive of the journals.

Turns out, they have all sorts of interesting things tucked away inside them. Like this receipt, which doubled as an ad for Dr. Hess’s various stock food, poultry medications, and healing powders, which I found tucked between the entries for February 1 and 2, 1910.

Sales receipt from a purchase at E. D. Warren’s General Store with an advertisement for Dr. Hess’s Poultry Panacea on it. (Scan: Shala Howell)

What was Dr. Hess’s Poultry Panacea?

In case you, like me, are wondering what this Poultry Panacea could be, it sounds like it was a medicine to make hens lay more eggs. An online search turned up this clipping from the December 9, 1921 edition of the Haven Journal (Haven, Kansas).

Classified ad reads "Dr Hess' Poultry Panacea will start those pullets laying. Feed it to them now. Miller's Drug Store."
Clipping from the December 9, 1921 edition of the Haven Journal via

When it came to wellness products for the dedicated American farmer, Dr. Hess didn’t put all his eggs in one basket. I found an old catalog of his for sale on ebay. It sounds like he had a complete line of wellness tonics for the farm, including:

  • his Poultry Panacea, “Moulting saps a hen’s vitality”
  • an Instant Lice Killer for horses, poultry, and cattle which he claimed could also be used to kill bugs on cucumbers and other edible plants, “Get rid of the lice tax”
  • Roup tablets to treat roup, a potentially fatal respiratory illness in chickens, to be used “when you hear the first chicken sneeze”
  • White Diarrhea tablets, “Look out for chick diarrhea”
  • a Healing Powder, “Heals everything it touches. For man and beast.”

Pretty sure this list only scratches the surface.

I wish I had more pictures of my great-grandfather’s farm. I would love to get a peek at his medicine cabinet.

So, how are you distracting yourself these days?

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