Thompson's Eye Water

Patriarchy reigned in 19th and 20th century America. Gentlemen were presumed experts. Ladies had lots to learn.

Reality was something else. Just ask Lydia Pinkham, whose Vegetable Compound outsold competing male-concocted Victorian potions for many years!

Isaac Thompson referred to himself as "Dr." although he did not have a medical degree. In 1830 he sold his business to John Thompson who moved it from New London CT to Troy NY.

Yes! that's alcohol and opium you see on the label's ingredient list. No wonder it sold well from 1795 - 1939!

The illustration of the manufacturing plant at 161 River Street in Troy NY on the label (left) closely matches the photo Google Street View captured in July 2017. Note the hoistways and the hoists mounted near the roof-line.

Hoistways, such as the one above #161 were exterior elevators used to move merchandise from one floor to another. Note the series of loading doors stacked vertically >>

The pulley for the hoistway was incorporated into the cornice structure along the roof line of the building.

Google Street View was here!

The Pitch

First Endorsement: I use it myself! "There are few diseases to which mankind are subject, that are more distressing than Sore Eyes, and none perhaps for which more remedies have been used without success. Having long been acquainted with these facts, and having by the use of my Eye-Water, effected a complete cure of my own eyes under great inflammation and consequent debility...."

Secondary Endorsements: "The proprietor is in possession of a great number of letters and certificates, giving an account of the great efficacy of this Eye Water, from which he thinks proper to publish the following:..." ELISHA ALLEN, postmaster, Sandford ME 17 Feb 1823, W.M. STEARNS, Salem MA(?) 14 July 1817, PAUL SWIFT, M.D., Nantucket 19 June 1821...

Convinced? If so, you may now break the revenue stamp seal (left) on the bottle and dose your eyes with -- well, we're not sure what. Eye water was sold beginning in 1795 and sales ended in the 1930s. It is likely the formula may have changed over time. The bottle label we found via Google noted both alcohol and opium. Other ingredients may have included zinc sulfate, "Rose water," ...

Ingredients from:

"Thesaurus of Proprietary Preparations and Pharmaceutical Specialties: Including "patent" Medicines, Proprietary Pharmaceuticals, Open-formula Specialties, Synthetic Remedies, Etc"

Author: A. Emil Hiss

Publisher: G.P. Engelhard, 1898 >>