I was documenting some nineteenth century medicine bottles the other day and came across this rather nice example in bluish glass:
and it was embossed Hayman’s Balsam of Horehound
suggesting that it had held a cough medicine of some sort.
When medicines were expensive, and visits to the doctor equally so, people were more reliant on patent medicines than they are today.
Horehound is a herb in the mint family and was used to make soothing medicine that also helped people cough up phlegm. And in the nineteenth century city, with high levels of smoke and grime in the air, people were prone to bronchial coughs aggravated by the air the breathed.
Horehound based cough medicines were popular, and most probably did more good than harm. There were a number of manufacturers, and probably quite a few pharmacists made up their own to sell over the counter.
As horehound was introduced in the nineteenth century (it’s now a notifiable weed in NSW and Victoria), I fully expected that Hayman’s would turn out to be a popular late Victorian local brand.
Not a bit of it. Hayman’s balsam was manufactured by Hayman’s chemists in Neath, south Wales. A search of the National Library of Wales Welsh Newspapers online site shows that he was prolific advertiser in both English and Welsh language newspapers from the 1860’s onwards as seen in this example from the Merthyr Telegraph in February 1861:
What’s more, he also had a considerable trade beyond Wales with balsam bottle turning up in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Searches of PapersPast in New Zealand and Trove here in Australia also show that his product was being advertised extensively
as in this advert from the Sydney Mail in June 1881, from which we can see that he has signed up several significant importers, including Felton Grimwade in Victoria to distribute his balsam.
So why Hayman’s?
Well Hayman’s was not the only brand. There were other similar products imported by other wholesalers and possibly local equivalents brewed up by country pharmacists in their back shop.
I think the answer’s in two parts. Neath was a port town shipping the products of the local iron founding and coal industry all over the world, something that gave Hayman’s ready access to shippers and import export agents.
The other is that Hayman’s had discovered the power of advertising, first in local newspapers and more widely, making his product well known and one which importers and distributors would want to handle, if only because of brand recognition by recent migrants.