Warner’s Safe Cure: 26 Million People Can’t Be Wrong

In December, 1886, someone in the advertising department of the Warner’s Safe Cure Company  decided that he would appeal to the American public’s deep seated notion that there was safety in numbers.  If lots of people do something, then perhaps it’s worth doing. The whole mob mentality thing. In any event, the folks on St. Paul’s Street in Rochester decided that it would be worthwhile to figure out how many bottles of Safe Cure they had sold up to December 27, 1886. They came up with the number 26, 587,335. Now, how, you may ask, did they do this? Good question. No only did the advertisement provide the total number of bottle sold, but also purported to break that number down as to various cities, like Boston, Chicago and Providence as well as by state, Pennsylvania and New York and region, Southern States and New England. There was even a category of sales to Canada.

I find it difficult to believe that some accountant spent days or weeks reviewing the sales records of the Warner’s Safe Cure Company just to be able to come up with this magic number.  After all, these are folks that are in the business of selling nostrums that fraudulently claimed to cure all manner of illnesses and frailties. How worried are they going to be about arriving at a total sales number with mathematical certainty?  At best, this was a guestimate based on average sales. By using a precise number rather than saying “over 26 million,” they gave their estimate credibility. Now, the add does not say if this figure includes just Safe Cure or if it also includes Diabetes Cure, Rheumatic Cure, Nervine, etc.  But bear in mind that the population of the United States in 1887 was likely just over 59 million people. A far cry from the 310 million that now populate our country. However you slice it, we are talking lots of Safe Cure. And at $1.25 a bottle………………..$33, 284,168.75 (that’s about $774 million in 2010 dollars).

Now, you would think that if the good folks at Warner’s Safe Cure went to all the trouble to come up with this data, they would shout it from the roof tops with big ads in the New York Times or the San Francisco Chronical. Nope, this ad graced the pages of The Southern Cultivator & Dixie Farmer. I expect there were some very impressed farmers in Alabama and North Carolina. Go figure.

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