Fenugreek, Unicorn Root and Black Cohosh

No, I am not renaming the Eagle River Division to the Fenugreek, Unicorn and Black Cohosh RR, but if I ever decide to backdate and model a railroad of the late 1800’s, that just might be an interesting name to consider.  Those are actually three of the ingredients, in addition to life root, pleurisy root and a fair amount of alcohol, that made up an old-time remedy known as Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, The concoction was made and sold by Lydia Estes Pinkham, one of the most successful American businesswomen of the 19th century.

Modern Product Packaging

Modern Product Packaging

Pinkham founded the Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company in 1873 in order to market the herbal medicine that she had developed to treat the medical problems of her female friends and family members. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound claimed to bring relief to women during the menstrual cycle by alleviating menstrual cramps, and also during menopause by counteracting depression, hot flashes, and other symptoms.

The only reason you are reading a blog about herbal remedies for menstrual cramps on a model railroad site is because a recent article about Lydia in one of my professional medical journals reminded me that I have a pink Lydia Pinkham boxcar downstairs in my display case.

I can’t say that I’m 100% sure, but I doubt that the Lydia Pinkham company ever really owned any of their own boxcars, although by 1925 annual profits peaked at $3.8 million.  If you’ve ever seen a full-size prototype of this car, please let me know.  “Lydia Pinkham Herbal Compound” is still available for sale in pill and liquid form.    This is absolutely not an endorsement for this product which is essentially an herbal supplement.  Many years ago, a Boston Newspaper referred to it as “Sweet Extract of Hokum.”

The reason my Lydia Pinkham boxcar is pink?  I’m sure the pink color has to do with the company’s packaging and early marketing slogan of offering “pink pills for pale people”.  The reason I own a pink Lydia Pinkham boxcar?  I thought it was a unique part of pharmacy history, even though there was no equivalent prototype boxcar of which I am aware.   I would have to pick up a model of a Pluto Water boxcar if I wanted that.

Pinkham Packaging - 1960s

Pinkham Packaging – 1960s

(The Pinkham boxcar model was purchased years ago from Greenway Products.  Greenway used to offer a line of specialty cars including a large assortment of beer boxcars and reefers.  They still supply model railroaders, but appear to be out of the specialty car business.)

Pinkham boxcar at the Westburg Freight Depot

Pinkham boxcar at the Westburg Freight Depot on the ERD


Mike enjoys family, music, computers, photography, travel, trains and most all facets of model railroading, especially ops.

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