History, Wildrick

Need Stomach Relief? Try Tanlac!

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photo from Los Angeles Herald, Number 149, 23 April 1920

“What the hell is Tanlac?”

I found myself asking this same question over and over again as I found a string of advertisements featuring the ex-wife of my 3x great-grand uncle James Albert Wildrick, Amanda Louisa DeLapp Wildrick. The ads ran from February until April in 1920 in various papers around the Los Angeles,California area. And each time I looked over the advertisements, I heard myself saying: “what the hell is Tanlac?”

The majority of the ads I viewed contain a similar canned message:

The always well-known and respected citizen of said city makes a statement regarding the poor health they’ve been suffering from for said amount of time. Typically, it involved some sort of chronic indigestion. In Amanda’s case, her condition was so bad she “had to spend half my time in bed from sheer weakness.” The person then goes on to say that since they’ve taken Tanlac (anywhere from a bottle or two) their conditions have improved greatly. Why, they feel as if a whole new person! And please, use a picture so others can see how much I’ve improved. (Tanlac: the original before/after weightloss phenom.) In Amanda’s advertisement, it lists Tanlac as being sold at various Owl Drug Stores “under the personal direction of a special Tanlac representative”.

The quickest of Google searches brings up a listing for a Tan Lac Vien Vietnamese Bistro, located in Pittsburgh, PA (which looks delicious and has great reviews, btw) before returning a listing for 1 May 1915, Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 64, Issues 18-26 (available for free through Google Play Books!). Inside it’s pages was the following write-up regarding Tanlac and dispelling its touted uses:

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So, Tanlac was basically a pretty bottle of wine elixir. One with 17% alcohol content. It’s a wonder people taking Tanlac could feel their extremities with that percentage. But that also probably explains the freshman fifteen and the “whole new person” mentality. I’d feel on top of the world after drinking that much. That is, until I found my arms hugging the porcelain.

The most disturbing part of this discovery was found in Nostrums and Quackery: Articles on Nostrum Evil and Quackery…,Volume 2. Tanlac, at least on one occasion, ran an advertisement stating that “Mr. Fred Wick of Granby Road, South Hadley Falls, Mass., has been relieved of stomach trouble and has gained ten pounds in weight since taking Tanlac.” However, the same newspaper, under the dark cloud of “Funerals” let readers know that “the funeral of Fred Wick was held this morning from his home, Granby Road, South Hadley Falls…” He passed away from carcinoma of the stomach, which, I can only imagine was exasperated by the taking of a 17% wine. Yikes. Buyer beware.

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