Peruna and the 50 Million Dollar Art Endowment
Peruna was a prohibition tonic. Otherwise known as booze. It was 28% alcohol, that's a pretty stiff drink. At one time the elixir was banned on Native American reservations by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs for that very reason. It was claimed to cure nearly everything you can find on WebMD, but all it did was make you feel warm inside and slur your words. For a dollar a bottle. Peruna was at one time the largest selling proprietary "medicine" in the United States, due largely to the innovative advertising techniques of Frederick Schumacher. I presume the "Cotton Queen" show above was one of his projects. Peruna was spending one million dollars on advertising and that's more than enough to hire as many minstrels, cowboys and tuba players you need. I believe the minstrels here are one "Hink" and "Dink" as a duo with those names toured midwestern states claiming to be WLN radio stars in the late 1930's. Like another recent post of mine, early radio plays heavily in this story...why, for god's sake, the performers dressed in blackface for a RADIO show is beyond me, but then I guess they all slicked up for the camera here.
Peruna faded away... maybe because the "kick" was reduced to 18% alcohol in response to pressure from the AMA and others. Today, it lives on only in the form of the the kicking horse mascot of Southern Methodist University, and yes, that's where they got the name. As for Schumacher? HIs swill tasted bad but he had good taste. He left a 50 MILLION DOLLAR estate to the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, now the Columbus Museum of Art. That's an awful big gift from a bootlegger, but I'm sure they would prefer the term "philanthropist" in Ohio. And they do have Renior, Matisse, Monet and Weegee!
Peruna Promotional Photograph 1935 Collection Jim Linderman