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antiquebottlesTHE MEDICINE CHEST --- BY DR. RICHARD CANNON

TUCKER'S ASTHMASPECIFIC

My bottle nicely embossed Nathan Tucker, M.D. / shieldover star / Specific / For Asthma, Hay Fever / And All Catarral /Diseases of the Res- / piratory Organs, 4 inches tall, clear,round, bimal, contained a product that was included in Nostrumsand Quackery, First Edition, published by the American MedicalAssociation. It was based on an article, which appeared in thejournal of the A.M.A. on May 20, 1911. Dr. Tucker of MountGilead, Ohio, sold 4 ounces plus the atomizer for localapplication for $12.50. My bottle holds 2 ounces.

Nathan Tucker, Md. Specific bottle.

Daniel L. Rhodebeck of Belleville, Ohio, andthe Morrow County Historical Society, supplied a photograph andbiographical information about Nathan Tucker. He was born inWashington County, New York, August 28, 1838, studied medicine inthe office of Dr. George Allen and Son in Salem, N.Y., and wasgraduated in medicine after taking two courses at BellevueHospital, New York, N.Y., in 1866. He engaged in generalpractice, and moved to Mt. Gilead in 1889. Except for Tucker'sAsthma Specific, I have little information about Dr. Tucker'smedicine business. It must have done well because he becameinvolved real estate and served as vice president on one bank anddirector of two others. Many of the buildings that Dr. Tuckerbuilt in downtown Mt. Gilead remain today. His office buildingfor the laboratories is now a funeral home. Dr. Tucker died in1920. His medicine business was taken over by his nephew, Dr.Will B. Robinson, in 1910, and he continued to manage the TuckerLaboratory until 1944. Then his son, Dr. Gerald B. Robinson, ranthe business until he lost his life in an airplane crash in 1959.The Northfield Laboratories of Northfield, Ill., then purchasedthe holdings and marketed the “original formula”under the name Asthmacaine. Doctors were able to orderAsthmacaine directly, or issue a prescription and have the localdrug store purchase it.

The A.M.A. became interested in Tucker's AsthmaSpecific when 4 out of 5 independent analyses from 1903-1911showed cocaine hydrochloride from 1 to 1.38%, or up to 0.4 of agram per ounce. One found only atropine sulfate, which ispotentially toxic, but not addictive.

Before the sixteenth, the Indians of Peru haddiscovered that chewing the leaves of the coca plant made theminsensitive to fatigue. The Spaniards introduced the plant intoEurope as a botanical curiosity. Nieman isolated the alkaloidcocaine from the leaves and observed its local anesthetic effectin 1860. After Koller used cocaine for eye surgery in 1884, itsuse grew rapidly. However, two problems became obvious; it washabit forming and toxic. An overdose could produce tremors,delirium, convulsions, and even death from respiratory failure orcardiovascular collapse.

Nathan Tucker

Nathan Tucker ad. Probably Dr. Tucker

demonstrating the Atomizer.

The A.M.A. article mentioned two deaths fromTucker's Asthma Specific, one in a 5 year old child and the otherin a 36 year old woman. A British agent had been prosecuted forselling Tucker's Asthma Specific without labeling the preparation“poison”. The Massachusetts State Board ofHealth in 1907, listed it among other cocaine containingpreparations which should not be sold in that state.

These are the concluding sentences in Nostrumsand Quackery: “Under existing federal law, it isimpossible to reach the men who engage in this cocaine dispensingtraffic, unless they make misstatements on the label. It is hightime; then, that the various states enact such laws as will makethe promiscuous distribution of cocaine a penal offense. Whenthis has been done, Nathan Tucker may perforce engage in abusiness that will be more respectable, if less profitable, thanhis present occupation.”

Dr. Tucker looks like a nice guy. I bet that heor Dr. Robinson changed the formula. However, it sounds like evenAsthmacaine still contained some cocaine.


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