Queens junk pick-up job leads to vintage Sloan’s Liniment bottle
In a Queens junk pick-up job not long ago, I found a small piece of history amidst a not-so-small mound of debris and old rubbish. It’s a bottle of Sloan’s Liniment, which happens to be part of a rags-to-riches story.
Earl Sawyer Sloan was the man who grew the product and brand, but his father was the one who started it. Andrew Sloan, Earl’s father, and the family lived in Venango County, Pa., after emigrating from Ireland in the early 19th century. Andrew bought and sold horses for the army during the Civil War and he cared for them often. He developed a strong-smelling brown potion, the formula for which (legend has it) he acquired from Native Americans. He applied the formula to horses’ shoulders to alleviate stiffness.
Though Andrew became a successful, self-taught veterinarian—and became known as the town’s medicine man—his accomplishments never matched those of his son Earl, who later took Andrew’s magic formula and turned it into a thriving business.
At the end of the Civil War, the demand for the Sloan liniment formula grew and grew. Earl, then a young man in his 20s, and his brother, Foreman, took the medicine from farm to farm. Eventually, Earl discovered that the formula also cured human stiffness, not just animal stiffness, and the business grew ever further. Earl became very successful. He married in 1899, and he and his wife lived in a 12-bedroom, three-bathroom house that had nine fireplaces. He sold the company in 1913 and died in 1923 in Boston.
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