Valmor Products Co., est. 1926

Museum Artifacts: “Lucky Brown” Hair Pressing Oil (1938) and “Slick Black” Promo Poster, c. 1940s

Made By: Valmor Products Co. / Famous Products Co., 2241 S. Indiana Ave., Chicago, IL

Whether you enjoy debating the ethics of cultural appropriation, the definition of true art, or the line between female empowerment and objectification, the story of the Valmor Products Company basically covers all the bases—like a pulp-novel catalog of 20th century American contradictions.

Pepsodent Company, est. 1915

Museum Artifact: Pepsodent Antiseptic Bottle, c. 1930s

Made By: The Pepsodent Co., 6901 W. 65th Street, Chicago, IL

“Pepsodent Mouth Wash kills the stubborn germs in the fastest time it is possible for science to record . . . This remarkable discovery is a new and powerful weapon in fighting germ infections and diseases. It combats instantly the social evil of bad breath.” —Pepsodent Antiseptic advertisement,

Foley & Co., est. 1888

Museum Artifact: Foley Banner Salve, c. 1900s

Made By: Foley & Co., 319-333 W. Ohio St., Chicago, IL

John Burton Foley was one the many opportunistic men of the Gilded Age to find his fortune in proprietary medicines; aka, patent drugs—the “cure-alls” that required no scientific substantiation to sell to the public. The Made In Chicago Museum has tracked several similar quackery kingpins from this same era,

Bauer & Black, est. 1893

Museum Artifact: Blue Jay Bunion Plasters, c. 1910s

Made By: Bauer & Black, 2500 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

Scholl MFG Co., est. 1906

Museum Artifact: Scholl’s Arch Fitter, 1910

Made By: The Scholl MFG Co. / Dr. Scholl’s, 213 W. Schiller St., Chicago, IL

The rather intimidating metal clamping device pictured above was manufactured around 1910, and represents one of the earliest inventions of a young Chicago podiatrist turned entrepreneur named William Mathias Scholl.

Now wait a minute . . . Does this mean that the ubiquitous pharmacy icon “Dr.

Abbott Laboratories, est. 1888

Museum Artifact: Menthol Pill Bottle, c. 1910s

Made by: Abbott Labs / Abbott Alkaloidal Co., 4753 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL

Established during the “Wild West” era of the pharmaceutical industry—when everybody and their brother seemed to have a cure-all potion to peddle—Chicago’s Abbott Alkaloidal Company managed to strike a unique, calculated balance between carnival-barker salesmanship and scientific legitimacy. As a result, even as hundreds of other early drug companies were vanquished during the quackery purges of the 20th century,

John O. Butler Co., est. 1923

Museum Artifact: Butler Gum Stimulator, c. 1960s

Made By: The John O. Butler Company / GUM, 540 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

Halsey Brothers Co., est. 1871

Museum Artifacts: Amber Glass Apothecary Bottles, c. 1900

Made By: Halsey Brothers Co., 645 N. St. Clair St., Chicago, IL

Chicago brothers Clinton, Tappen, and George Halsey were all accomplished chemists and pharmacists. But from the founding of the first Halsey pharmacy in 1855 (at 94 LaSalle St.) straight on into the 20th century, their success was largely rooted in a very specific belief system.

The Anacin Company, est. 1916

Museum Artifact: Anacin Tablet Medicine Tin, c. 1928

Made By: The Anacin Company, 30 E. Kinzie Street, Chicago, IL

The Anacin brand is one of the oldest continuously manufactured commercial drugs in the country, dating back to its invention by a Minnesota chemist named William M. Knight in 1915. Don’t let the product’s longevity and mainstream availability fool you, however.

Like most other pain relievers from its era,

Angel Dainty Dye Co., est. 1898

Museum Artifact: Angel Dainty Dyes Color Packets, 1930s

Made by: Angel Dainty Dye Co., 5201 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL

Their fabric dyes were promoted as colorful miracles in a paper packet, but the Angel Dainty Dye Company itself may have been founded on a dastardly fib.

“The Angel Dainty Dye Co., Chicago, have something which everyone wants,” read an ad in an 1899 issue of the American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record,

E.C. DeWitt & Co., est. 1886

Museum Artifact: DeWitt’s Foot Powder, 1920s

Made By: E.C. DeWitt & Co., Inc., 1127 N. LaSalle St., Chicago, IL

It probably wouldn’t be fair or accurate to call Elden C. DeWitt a “snake oil salesman.” For one thing, the guy’s been dead for nearly a century, so unless a secret diary surfaces, we’ll never know for sure if he genuinely believed in the quirky patent medicines he peddled.

Universal Medicine Co. / Universal Laboratories

Museum Artifact: Universal Special Cream & Wormwood Oil (Piolunkowi Olejek), c. 1920s

Made By: Universal Medicine Co. / Universal Laboratories, 1857 W. Armitage Avenue, Chicago, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

American Automatic Devices Co., est. 1915

Museum Artifact: Ritz Stick Foot Measure, c. 1920s

Made by: American Automatic Devices Co. / King Bee MFG Co, 500-530 S. Throop St., Chicago, IL

When a stick of any kind becomes culturally relevant enough to have its own name, we tend to ascribe it a simple, self-descriptive one: match stick, hockey stick, joy stick. A rare exception is the Ritz Stick,

Stone Medicine Co., est. 1885

Museum Artifact: Dr. X. Stone’s Bronchial Throat Wafers, c. 1920s

Made By: The Stone Medicine Co., 3451 W. Madison St., Chicago, IL

There’s likely not a soul alive who can still speak to the product’s effectiveness, but for over 50 years—from 1883 to the middle of the Great Depression—Dr. X. Stone’s Bronchial Wafers remained a ubiquitous checkout-counter solution for Americans suffering from “hoarseness,