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Advertising, Medical, Merchant’s Gargling Oil, Antique, American, Late 19th Century


Merchant’s Gargling Oil Advertising Sign
American: Late 19th Century
Lithograph on embossed tin
9.25 x 9.25 inches, overall
12.5 x 12.5 inches, as hung

Colored embossed tin advertising sign for the patent medicine Merchant’s Gargling Oil. It bears the company‚Äôs whimsical slogan, “A Liniment for Man or Beast. Established 1833.” An illustration in a central oval in the sign shows the product being applied to the leg of an Arabian stallion by Turkish groomsmen, a scene related to a publicity stunt conceived by Morris Tucker, a partner in the company. Tucker sent a dozen bottles in a satin-lined oak box as a gift to the Sultan of Turkey and announced it to the American press, which ran with the story, boosting sales, even though the sultan never acknowledged receiving the gift. Thereafter, the company decorated its packaging of gargling oil for animals with this picture.

Product description continues below.


Merchant’s Gargling Oil was made in two versions, one for animals and one for people. The ointment for animal ailments was intended for surface wounds and skin ailments common to horses, cattle, sheep and poultry. A topical ointment was also made for human skin problems. Neither product was intended for internal use, despite the product name of gargling oil.

The Merchant’s Gargling Oil Company of Lockport, New York was founded by Dr. George W. Merchant, a druggist, in 1833, and initially sold to drivers of horses and mules alongside the Erie Canal. Shrewdly marketed with the slogan “Good for Man and Beast,” by the end of the 19th century the product was sold worldwide and company was one of Lockport’s main industries. Overall, Merchant’s Gargling Oil lasted almost 100 years, going out of business in 1928.

Condition: Generally good with the usual expected wear, toning, fading, oxidation, bending and creases. Edges with various crimps, more significant in one corner; and with another corner lacking. Several small holes variously placed for hanging, and some randomly placed extraneous holes for hanging or otherwise, unobtrusive.


Farley, Doug. “Erie Canal Discovery: Merchant’s Gargling Oil’s tie to Lockport.” Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. 13 July 2008. (3 November 2011).

“Merchant’s Gargling Oil.” Patent Medicine: Hagley Museum and Library. (3 November 2011).

Additional information


19th Century