ABOVE: Ryckman’s Kootenay Cure was manufactured by Hamilton MP S.S. Ryckman in the mid-1890s. BELOW: Ryckman as depicted in Prominent Men of Canada

Kootenay Cure bottle sells for $80

A rare bottle of snake oil with a local connection sold online last week for $80 US.

A rare bottle of snake oil with a local connection sold online last week for $80 US.

Ryckman’s Kootenay Cure was manufactured in the mid-1890s by a Hamilton Member of Parliament with mining interests in the Illecillewaet district southeast of Revelstoke.

Samuel Shobal Ryckman (1849-1929) was one of several MPs drawn to the Kootenay in 1892. He said that on a visit to one of his claims near the headwaters of the Incomappleux River, an old miner gave him a recipe for a rheumatism cure, which he tried on some constituents.

Lo and behold, it worked — not just on rheumatism, but paralysis, blindness, deafness, indigestion, gout, eczema, skin disease, hives, sores, liver and kidney disorders, and just about anything else you could think of.

What was in this potion?

According to A.O. Wheeler in his book The Selkirk Range, “It is, I understand, largely composed of the root of the devil’s club.”

Soon the S.S. Ryckman Medicine Co. was cranking out cases of the Kootenay Cure, and filling newspapers with testimonials about its amazing properties.

It sold for $1 per bottle, or six for $5. Ryckman also used his parliamentary mail privileges to distribute 350,000 copies of a tract titled A Political Review.

“Three pages are taken up with excellent campaign stuff for the Conservatives,” the Victoria Colonist wrote. “The other page is devoted to glorifying the virtues of Kootenay Cure.”

The postmaster general called it illegal.

The Kootenay Cure disappeared by about 1900. However, a few years later Ryckman resurfaced as president of the Umckaloabo Company, which held the American rights to a tuberculosis remedy called Stevens’ Consumption Cure — notorious enough to earn its own entry in Nostrums & Quackery, the American Medical Association’s almanac of fraud.

The Kootenay Cure bottle sold last week by Glass Works Auctions of East Greenville, Pa., using auctionzip.com, was embossed amber and measured 10 1/8 inches high. Its original black and red labels — bearing a pair of crutches, which the purchaser could presumably dispense with — were mostly intact on both sides.

Another example of this bottle was reportedly discovered in a Guyana river.

The auction house estimate on the bottle was $140 to $180, but it sold for the lone bid of $60, plus a buyer’s premium, bringing the total to $80.

(Had the bottle been sold on eBay, this column can reliably state it would have fetched a lot more.)

This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser on May 31.

Just Posted

Firesmart program has homeowners ‘thinking like an ember’

RDCK offering free home assessments to protect homes from wildfires

RDCK issues evacuation order to Deer Creek residents

Local state of emergency declared in the area because of Deer Creek fire

Delays on Highway 3 at Kootenay Pass

DriveBC reminding travellers the area is an active wildfire zone and warning of fallen debris.

Nelson designer raises money for New York Fashion Week trip

Lillea Goian will show off her work next month

Trail company bids to replace Greyhound for Nelson-Kelowna run

Silver City Stage Lines has applied to the Passenger Transportation Board

Social media, digital photography allow millennials to flock to birdwatching

More young people are flocking to birdwatching than ever, aided by social media, digital photography

Vehicle fire on the Coquihalla

Heavy congestion in north bound lanes

East Kootenay fire victim honoured

Bradley Patrick Tipper remembered as gentle-hearted and generous

Lightning blamed for most recent regional fires

Southeast Fire Centre says 90 per cent of the 342 fires recently reported are lightning-caused

Prime minister greeted by B.C. premier as cabinet retreat begins

PM Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan meet in advance of federal cabinet meetings in Nanaimo

Are your kids anxious about going back to school?

BC Children’s Hospital offers tips to help your children be mindful and reduce stress

New trial ordered for James Oler in B.C. child bride case

Meanwhile, appeal court dismisses Emily Blackmore’s appeal of guilty verdict

This trash heap in Vancouver could be yours for $3.9 million

Sitting atop 6,000 square feet, the home was built in 1912, later destroyed by fire

Team Canada’s next game postponed at Little League World Series

They’re back in action on Wednesday against Peurto Rico

Most Read