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Catarrh Remedy and Peruna Scandal: Topics in Chronicling America

In the late 19th century, Peruna was lauded as a panacea but it quickly became scrutinized. This guide provides access to materials related to the "Catarrh Remedy and Peruna Scandal” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Pe-ru-na never fails to cure Catarrh wherever located." December 17, 1902. The Lexington Dispatch (Lexington, SC), Image 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Do you have a stomach ache, headache, cough, or any illness at all? If so, it must be catarrh related…or not. During the latter half of the 19th century, the famous Dr. Samuel Hartman, created his world-renowned proprietary medicine, Peruna. He launched a vigorous advertisement strategy, which included hundreds of endorsements from politicians, business professionals, and many other regular citizens. However, despite his boundless success at the dawn of the 20th century, a journalist named Samuel Hopkins Adams displayed the scandal of the Peruna medicine. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


July 29, 1885By 1885, Dr. Samuel Hartman began to sell many prescriptions of Peruna and other medicines that are becoming widely popular.
July 27, 1898Peruna has been “securing freedom from the grip of catarrh and makes loyal friends for the liberator” and Dr. Hartman encourages patients to buy his book, “Health and Beauty.”
December 17, 1902Peruna company claims that half of the human illnesses are catarrh in nature, and that Peruna cures all forms of catarrh. Many people have endorsed the product.
March 7, 1903Dr. Hartman personally claims a catarrhal “grip” has a great hold on America and “has found no remedy that equals Peruna for prompt action.”
February 5, 1905The Ohio home of Peruna, “the greatest medicine plant in the world,” is built on a floor space of about seven acres.
October 20, 1906Journalist, Samuel Hopkins Adams, in his Collier’s Weekly article claims Peruna and other patent medicines are frauds. Specifically, he claims that Peruna contains 28 percent of alcohol.
February 20, 1913Dr. Hartman speaks out and claims that alcohol in Peruna is “an unjust criticism.”
December 11, 1914The New-York Tribune calls out for a “need of law to curb quack ‘cures’” including Peruna.
January 6, 1915Mr. Samuel Hopkins Adams again calls out patent medicines like Peruna, writing that advertisement cannot sell health.
February 1, 1918 Dr. Samuel Hartman, age 88, died of acute indigestion in his apartment at the Hartman hotel.