Brandreth's Pills The Real Power Of Imagination

In the year 1834, Dr. Benjamin Brandreth commenced advertising in the

city of New York, "Brandreth's Pills specially recommended to purify the

blood." His office consisted of a room about ten feet square, located in

what was then known as the Sun building, an edifice ten by forty feet,

situated at the corner of Spruce and Nassau streets, where the Tribune

is now published. His "factory" was at his residence in Hudson street.
br /> He put up a large gilt sign over the Sun office, five or six feet wide

by the length of the building, which attracted much attention, as at

that time it was probably the largest sign in New York. Dr. Brandreth

had great faith in his pills, and I believe not without reason; for

multitudes of persons soon became convinced of the truth of his

assertions, that "all diseases arise from impurity or imperfect

circulation of the blood, and by purgation with Brandreth's Pills all

disease may be cured."

But great and reasonable as might have been the faith of Dr. Brandreth

in the efficacy of his pills, his faith in the potency of advertising

them was equally strong. Hence he commenced advertising largely in the

Sun newspaper--paying at least $5,000 to that paper alone, for his

first year's advertisements. That may not seem a large sum in these

days, when parties have been known to pay more than five thousand

dollar for a single day's advertising in the leading journals; but, at

the time Brandreth started, his was considered the most liberal

newspaper-advertising of the day.

Advertising is to a genuine article what manure is to land,--it largely

increases the product. Thousands of persons may be reading your

advertisement while you are eating, or sleeping, or attending to your

business; hence public attention is attracted, new customers come to

you, and, if you render them a satisfactory equivalent for their money,

they continue to patronize you and recommend you to their friends.

At the commencement of his career, Dr. Brandreth was indebted to Mr.

Moses Y. Beach, proprietor of the New York Sun, for encouragement and

means of advertising. But this very advertising soon caused his receipts

to be enormous. Although the pills were but twenty-five cents per box,

they were soon sold to such a great extent, that tons of huge cases

filled with the "purely vegetable pill" were sent from the new and

extensive manufactory every week. As his business increased, so in the

same ratio did he extend his advertising. The doctor engaged at one time

a literary gentleman to attend, under the supervision of himself, solely

to the advertising department. Column upon column of advertisements

appeared in the newspapers, in the shape of learned and scientific

pathological dissertations, the very reading of which would tempt a poor

mortal to rush for a box of Brandreth's Pills; so evident was it

(according to the advertisement) that nobody ever had or ever would have

"pure blood," until from one to a dozen boxes of the pills had been

taken as "purifiers." The ingenuity displayed in concocting these

advertisements was superb, and was probably hardly equaled by that

required to concoct the pills.

No pain, ache, twinge, or other sensation, good, bad, or indifferent,

ever experienced by a member of the human family, but was a most

irrefragable evidence of the impurity of the blood; and it would have

been blasphemy to have denied the "self-evident" theory, that "all

diseases arise from impurity or imperfect circulation of the blood, and

that by purgation with Brandreth's Pills all disease may be cured."

The doctor claims that his grandfather first manufactured the pills in

1751. I suppose this may be true; at all events, no living man will be

apt to testify to the contrary. Here is an extract from one of Dr.

Brandreth's early advertisements, which will give an idea of his style:

"'What has been longest known has been most considered, and what

has been most considered is best understood.

"'The life of the flesh is in the blood.'--Lev. xxii, 2.

"Bleeding reduces the vital powers; Brandreth's Pills increase

them. So in sickness never be bled, especially in Dizziness and

Apoplexy, but always use Brandreth's Pills.

"The laws of life are written upon the face of Nature. The Tempest,

Whirlwind, and Thunder-storm bring health from the Solitudes of

God. The Tides are the daily agitators and purifiers of the Mighty

World of Waters.

"What these Providential means are as purifiers of the Atmosphere

or Air, Brandreth's Pills are to man."

This splendid system of advertising, and the almost reckless outlay

which was required to keep it up, challenged the admiration of the

business community. In the course of a few years, his office was

enlarged; and still being too small, he took the store 241 Broadway, and

also opened a branch at 187 Hudson street. The doctor continued to let

his advertising keep pace with his patronage; and he was finally, in the

year 1836, compelled to remove his manufactory to Sing Sing, where such

perfectly incredible quantities of Brandreth's Pills have been

manufactured and sold that it would hardly be safe to give the

statistics. Suffice it to say, that the only "humbug" which I suspect in

connection with the pills was, the very harmless and unobjectionable yet

novel method of advertising them; and as the doctor amassed a great

fortune by their manufacture, this very fact is prima facie evidence

that the pill was a valuable purgative.

A funny incident occurred to me in connection with this great pill. In

the year 1836, while I was travelling through the States of Alabama,

Mississippi, and Louisiana, I became convinced by reading Doctor

Brandreth's advertisements that I needed his pills. Indeed, I there read

the proof that every symptom that I experienced, either in imagination

or in reality, rendered their extensive consumption absolutely necessary

to preserve my life. I purchased a box of Brandreth's Pills in Columbus,

Miss. The effect was miraculous! Of course, it was just what the

advertisement told me it would be. In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I purchased

half a dozen boxes. They were all used up before my perambulating show

reached Vicksburg, Miss., and I was a confirmed disciple of the blood

theory. There I laid in a dozen boxes. In Natchez, I made a similar

purchase. In New Orleans, where I remained several months, I was a

profitable customer, and had become thoroughly convinced that the only

real "greenhorns" in the world were those who preferred meat or bread to

Brandreth's Pills. I took them morning, noon, and night. In fact, the

advertisements announced that one could not take too many; for if one

box was sufficient to purify the blood, eleven extra boxes would have no

injurious effect.

I arrived in New York in June 1838, and by that time I had become such a

firm believer in the efficacy of Brandreth's Pills, that I hardly

stopped long enough to speak with my family, before I hastened to the

"principal office" of Doctor Brandreth to congratulate him on being the

greatest public benefactor of the age.

I found the doctor "at home," and introduced myself without ceremony. I

told him my experiences. He was delighted. I next heartily indorsed

every word stated in his advertisements. He was not surprised, for he

knew the effects of his pills were such as I described. Still he was

elated in having another witness whose extensive experiments with his

pills were so eminently satisfactory. The doctor and myself were both

happy--he in being able to do so much good to mankind; I in being the

recipient of such untold benefits through his valuable discovery.

At last, the doctor chanced to say that he wondered how I happened to

get his pills in Natchez, "for," said he, "I have no agent there as


"Oh!" I replied, "I always bought my pills at the drug stores."

"Good Heavens!" exclaimed the doctor, "then they are were all

counterfeits! vile impositions! poisonous compounds! I never sell a pill

to a druggist--I never permit an apothecary to handle one of my pills.

But they counterfeit them by the bushel; the unprincipled, heartless,

murderous impostors!"

I need not say I was surprised. Was it possible, then, that my

imagination had done all this business, and that I had been cured by

poisons which I supposed were Brandreth's Pill? I confess I laughed

heartily; and told the doctor that, after all, it seemed the

counterfeits were as good as the real pills, provided the patient had

sufficient faith.

The doctor was puzzled as well as vexed, but an idea struck him that

soon enabled him to recover his usual equanimity.

"I'll tell you what it is," said he, "those Southern druggists have

undoubtedly obtained the pills from me under false pretences. They have

pretended to be planters, and have purchased pills from me in large

quantities for use on the plantations, and then they have retailed the

pills from their drug-shops."

I laughed at this shrewd suggestion, and remarked: "This may be so, but

I guess my imagination did the business!"

The doctor was uneasy, but he asked me as a favor to bring him one of

the empty pill boxes which I had brought from the South. The next day, I

complied with his request, and I will do the doctor justice to say that,

on comparison, it proved as he had suspected; the pills were genuine,

and although he had advertised that no druggist should sell them, they

were so popular that druggists found it necessary to get them "by hook

or by crook;" and the consequence was, I had the pleasure of a glorious

laugh, and Doctor Brandreth experienced "a great scare."

The doctor "made his pile" long ago, although he still devotes his

personal attention to the "entirely vegetable and innocent pills, whose

life-giving power no pen can describe."

In 1849, the doctor was elected President of the Village of Sing Sing,

N. Y. (where he still resides,) and was re-elected to the same office

for seven consecutive years. In the same year, he was elected to the New

York State Senate, and in 1859 was again elected.

Dr. Brandreth is a liberal man and a pleasant, entertaining, and

edifying companion. He deserves all the success he has ever received.

"Long may he wave!"