McElree's Cardui Tonic; Reverend R.I. McElree; 1879; Fincham Collection 040


Dr. Jack Fincham


McElree's Cardui Tonic

About this object

“The once-popular "McElree's Cardui." Apparently, Reverend R.I. McElree learned of an herbal concoction used by Indian women to relieve menstrual pain. McElree introduced his Cardui in 1879 and sold this product to the Chattanooga Medicine Company in 1882, where it was originally marketed as "McElree's Cardui, The Woman's Tonic."” In the 1920s product, the ingredients were listed as: Blessed Thistle, Golden Seal, and 19% alcohol (38 proof). In the US in the 1800s & early 1900s, use of alcohol was viewed with disdain. Thus, the increasing popularity of an increasing number of alcohol based patent medicines was prevalent. According to tradition, the use of ‘Wine of Cardui’ was attributed to the Cherokee Native Americans.

The Chattanooga Medicine Company was started in 1879 in then small town of Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA). When the the McElree’s Cardui was sold to the company, the corporation flourished with sales and profits.

Source: Wray TB, Patent Medicines, White River Journal, January 1996.


Reverend R.I. McElree

Maker Role

Quack Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

Date Made


Place Made

United States

Medium and Materials

An analysis of the Cardui product by G.B. Taylor of the Louisiana Board of Healthand expressed in a private letter (8/21/1915) found the product contained Alcohol (38.72 Proof), sucrose, invert sugar, lead acetate, lead acetate, blessed thistle, black haw, tannin, and other inert ingredients. Source: Street, John Phillips Street, Patent and Proprietary Medicine, American Medical Association, Chicago, 1917. p. 50.

Inscription and Marks

Common patent medicine packaging for the late 1800s and early 1900s. The US Food and Drug Act passed in 1906 stemmed the use of such outlandish claims attributable to like patent medicines.

Object Type

Patent Medicine Bottle

Object number

Fincham Collection 040

Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved

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