“Hadacol is a Dietary Supplement . . . formulated as an Aid to Nature in rebuilding the Pep, Strength and Energy of Buoyant Health when the System is deficient in the Vitamins and Minerals found in this Tonic . . .”
—Grier’s Almanac, 1951
The most appealing ingredient in Hadacol, popular in the South for a few years in the 1950s, was its ‘preservative:’ 12 per cent alcohol. Sold by the shot glass in pharmacies in dry counties, and as a “Tassel Cocktail” in New Orleans, Hadacol was the brain child of “a stem-winding salesman who knows every razzle-dazzle switch in the pitchman’s trade” (according to Time magazine in 1951)—the same man who also did the Louisiana people’s business for four terms as State Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc.
“Two months ago I couldn’t read nor write. I took four bottles of Hadacol, and now I’m teaching school.”
Along with his wild promises, the fortune LeBlanc made from Hadacol’s brief success (self-reported to Groucho Marx as $5.5 million) was as short-lived as its popularity, but its name (coined by LeBlanc because “I hadda’ call it something!”) was once synonymous with an unlikely cure-all. LeBlanc’s penchant for advertising—his annual spend was second only to Coca Cola’s—finally ran his company into deep debt, coupled with IRS trouble and FTC sanctions. He sold it off to unsuspecting new owners. To their surprise, they were forced to declare bankruptcy. LeBlanc’s marketing genius extended to childrens’ promotions like Captain Hadacol comic books, squirt pistols and cowboy holsters; and a jingle he wrote for Jerry Lee Lewis to perform:
I missed the Hadacol craze, but I’ve surely taken some dubious cure-alls in my life, such as Smith Brothers Cherry Cough Drops, Tang and Ovaltine. I’m probably taking some now (probiotics, anyone?) but don’t realize it yet. None of them have that extra little kick that Hadacol had, alas. I discovered the Hadacol sign, above, on the wall of a Texas Hill Country bar, and photographed it for its rusty colors and textures and the whimsical appeal of its slogan, For Men, Women and Children. I wondered then, but no longer do, why a bar would advertise a vintage tonic. I realize now that Hadacol’s magic preservative must have done the trick for many a patron. ♣