Merchant's Gargling Oil

Merchant's Gargling Oil (no, the horse did not have to gargle it) was manufactured in Lockport, New York beginning in 1833. The first incarnation of the liniment was intended to cure almost any illness that could befall a domestic animal. The form intended for human use was not introduced until 1875. Four years earlier Merchant's Vegetable Worm Tablets had made their appearance.

George W. Merchant sold the business to M.H. Tucker around 1855. John Hodge joined the company as a teenager, and was elected Secretary when M.H. Tucker & Company was incorporated in 1858. Hodge married one of Tucker's daughters and gained control of the company in 1865 when Tucker died.

Both the one-cent black and two-cent green private die stamps were first issued in May of 1869, and last issued February 1, 1883. 853,270 of the black ones were printed on old paper, 1,378,458 on silk paper and 1,873,195 on pink and watermarked papers. The copy above is on silk paper.

626,650 of the two-cent green stamps were issued on old paper, 901,438 on silk paper and 969,026 on pink and watermarked papers. The one shown is on pink paper, though the scan does not pick up the paper color well.

An 1854 cover from Merchant's.

The contents of the cover above, asking for payment of an 1853 bill and showing the wholesale product prices.

An ornate corner card on an 1858 cover from Merchant's. Wording on the back reflects the purchase of the product by H.M. Tucker, which occurred around 1855.

This trade card could have been used between the time John Hodge was elected Secretary of M.H. Tucker & Company in 1858 and when he took control of the company in 1865. However, it appears that Hodge did not take a different title until well after he took control, so the card may be from the 1870's. Here is another version.

A Merchant's cover probably used in 1861.

The increased advertising on the back of this Merchant's cover suggests that it was used after John Hodge took over in 1865.

A trade card trimmed to shape. This sort of advertising also suggests the influence of Hodge.

Hodge advertised Merchant's in other ways. One was to take space in fair programs and playbills, such as this one. Another was to provide various businesses with envelopes they could personalize on the front, but which contained Merchant's advertising on the back. Here is a gallery of different advertising done in that manner.

This cover may show the laboratory and office building built in 1870.

The back of the cover above. It provides a bit of a puzzle, as Merchant's Vegetable Worm Tablets were not introduced until 1871, but John Hodge took over the company around 1865. It appears that he remained in the position of Secretary for some time after that, did not choose to advertise that he became President, or one or the other of the dates reported by Holcombe is incorrect.

The front of a Merchant's almanac from 1876.

The back page of the almanac shows the different types of packaging used for Gargling Oil. A recognizable private die stamp is drawn on the top of the box, third from the left.

An 1886 cover showing a Merchant's corner card and with an advertising back much like those on envelopes supplied to other businesses as shown in the gallery mentioned earlier.