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Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills

Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills was one of the most successful and enduring products to be manufactured and marketed in North America as part of the lucrative patent medicine industry, which thrived during most of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was claimed that the pills contained herbal ingredients that would help to "cleanse the blood," as "impurity of the blood" was believed to be the cause of all disease.


The pills were first formulated and manufactured in 1854 by Andrew B. Moore, who was then operating under the name A.B. Moore in Buffalo, New York. Rights to the pills were then transferred through a number of different business partnerships under the control of Moore, Andrew J. White, Baldwin L. Judson, George Wells Comstock and his nephew, William Henry Comstock. These reorganizations all occurred amid numerous disputes and lawsuits. Ownership of Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills finally stabilized in 1867 when it settled solely in the hands of William Henry Comstock, and, thereafter, business was carried out under the name W.H. Comstock Co. Ltd.. During the long period of instability, the manufacturing operations moved from Buffalo to New York City and then to dual sites on opposite sides of the St. Lawrence River, one at Brockville, Ontario and the other at Morristown, New York. 

When William Henry Comstock died in 1919, control of the company passed to his son, William Henry Comstock II, known to some as "Young Bill." W.H. Comstock Co. Ltd. ceased operations in 1960. This was precipitated by the overall decline of the patent medicine industry and the death of Young Bill in 1959.

The marketing of Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills was the most significant chapter of the complex history of the Comstock patent medicine business. The first chapter was that of Edwin P. Comstock, the father of William Henry Comstock I. Edwin founded a drug company in New York City in 1833. Between 1833 and the time of the acquisition of the rights to Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills, the company remained under the control of the Comstocks through the additional involvement of Edwin's brothers; Lucius, Albert Lee, John Carlton and George Wells. Before and during the marketing of Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills, the Comstock patent medicine business was involved in the sale of a number of other successful drugs, including Carlton's Pile Liniment, Oldridge's Balm of Columbia, Kline's Tooth Ache Drops and Judson's Worm Tea.


Shaw, Robert B. History of the Comstock Patent Medicine Business and Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1972.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dr._Morse's_Indian_Root_Pills". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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