Designs of the Times column from May 30, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:
Sometimes coins can double as an advertising medium through the use of counterstamps — messages punched into one or two sides of a coin.
This practice was extremely popular in the United States in the 19th century. One of the more famous counterstamps found on coins from this era promotes the use of Houck’s Panacea.
Jacob Houck (1822 to 1888) was born in Frederick, Md., and moved to Baltimore in 1828 to attend the Maryland University School of Medicine.
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After graduation he developed his “panacea” and received a patent in 1833.
The panacea was made from only “vegetable matter,” but included the following items; rye whiskey, gum gualacum, sugar, oil of juniper and oil of lemon.
If you count the rye, corn and barley contained in the whiskey, I guess you can call it vegetable matter.
Houck sold his wonder drug to the public for the then high price of $1.50 per bottle, but who would quibble on the price for a drug that would cure almost all of man’s afflictions? It was claimed that it would cure more maladies than I can list, including indigestion, diarrhea, piles, fevers of all kinds, smallpox, coughs, gout, hysterics and even venereal disease!
Houck sold the panacea from his dry goods store on Market Street in Baltimore across from the Peales Museum. He moved a number of times during his career and even sold the rights to duplicate his medicine.