Vita Radium Suppositories (ca.1930)
Produced by the Home Products Company of Denver, Colorado, these suppositories were guaranteed to contain real radium.
Size: 2 3/4" x 1 3/4" x 1 1/2"
Donated by Joel Lubenau (the box was empty).
From the company's literature:
Weak Discouraged Men!
Now Bubble Over with Joyous Vitality
Through the Use of
Glands and Radium
“If YOU are showing signs of “slowing up” in your actions and duties, perhaps long before you should—if you have begun to lose your charm, your personality, your normal manly vigor—certainly you want to stage a “comeback.” The man who has lost these precious attributes of youth knows how to appreciate their value. He realizes that happiness depends on his ability to perform the duties of a REAL MAN. Sweet, glorious pleasures of life. Nature intended that you should enjoy them.”
“Now is the time to act! Today! RIGHT NOW! Tomorrow may never come.”
And if you needed further convincing, the Home Products Company literature included a letter from an assistant cashier at the American National Bank describing the men behind the company (E. P. Gurley and R. T. Nash) as “valued clients” who were “honest, trustworthy and financially responsible.”
It might be hard to believe, but despite such assurances, there were naysayers. Take, for example, the answer Dr. W. A. Evans gave to a question in his “Your Health” newspaper column (Canton Daily News. Dec. 29, 1925):
“A.H.B. writes: Will you kindly state what value you consider radium suppositories to reduce size and hardening of prostate gland?
In addition to Vita-Radium Suppositories, the Home Products Company offered many other fine products:
- Soothol Radium Bougies. You don’t want to know.
- Magik Radium Ointment. When applied directly, “it can confidently be expected to increase manly courage and vigor.”
- Magik Radium Massage. “For promoting a healthy flow of blood” “pleasing soothing, stimulating effect” “parts begin to take on a more healthy glow and shrunken tissues begin to fill out and become plump.”
- Testone Radium Appliance. “For that sagging, dragging, weight that pulls you down and saps your energy - and for storing up and husbanding strength in that seat of all male activity.” The resulting “increased warmth is evidence of increased circulation and thus you know that radium is doing its work.” “Contains 20 Micrograms Refined, Measured Radium.” “GENUINE radium salts â€“ plenty of it to give you the results you want.”
- Nu-Man Gland Tablets. “for the man who has been weakened by excesses, injurious habits and loss of vital fluids.” General Jack D. Ripper in the film Dr. Strangelove could testify to the perils of losing vital bodily fluids.
- Vagatone Gland Tablets “for women”
- Orgatone Tablets
Until the Hormex Company and the Home Products Company were up and running, Gurley and Nash did little to change their product line during a decade-long career in the mail order business.
A testimonial letter published in a Home Products Company flyer identified two products: Magik Ointment, Vita Suppositories and Nu-Man Tablets. If the letter was real and its date (July 1919) was accurate, these products must have been sold by the Vital-O-Remedy Company, the predecessor to the Vital-O-Gland Company. The latter, in turn, was the predecessor to the Hormex and Home Products Companies. All of these businesses sold Nu-Man Tablets.
The active ingredient consisted of animal glands. As an example, each Nu-man tablet was said to contain
“4 grains of the active sperm-secreting cells of the boar’s testicles.” “Only perfectly fresh glands are used, taken from healthy, virile animals of the proper age.”
The innovation introduced by the Home Products Company and/or the Hormex Company, was the addition of radium. Magik Ointment became Magik Radium Ointment and Vita Suppositories became Vita Radium Suppositories. This combination of ingredients, a potent source of manly and womanly vigor, was the subject of the brochure “Glands and Radium.”
While there is no empirical evidence that Gurley and Nash’s products contained radium, I suspect that they did. After all, radium was readily available in Denver at that time. Besides, we have Gurley and Nash’s word:
“Our radium products are made by an expert radium chemist, under the supervision of a very able radium investigator and therapist. Each product is guaranteed to contain a definite, measured quantity of radio-active RADIUM SALTS. The radium content can easily be detected in any of our products with the electroscope.”
In case you wondered, Home Product customer orders were shipped in a plain wrapper for confidentiality.
The earliest references I have found to the Home Products Company date from 1928. It was formed at about the same time that Eugene P. Gurley joined his brother-in-law Robert T. Nash at the Hormex Company. The latter, along with the Home Products Company, continued to operate until August of 1931 when they were effectively put out of business by the federal government.
Both of these mail-order operations sold similar, if not identical, consumer products. The product labels differed, but that was about it. In theory, Gurley managed the Home Products Company while Nash oversaw the operations of the Hormex Company. In practice their efforts focused on running the Home Products Company.
I say that the focus was on the Home Products Company because it, not the Hormex Company, was listed in the Colorado Business Directory from 1929 to1932. The same was true for the Denver City Directory from 1929 to 1931. Although Nash had the primary responsibility for operating the Hormex Company, the 1930 census indicated that he was a manager at the Home Products Company (described as a “mail order house”).
The end came in 1931 when a fraud order was issued against both companies by the U.S. Postal service. Quoting the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Vol. 97. No. 12. 1931):
“Without going into details regarding this nauseatingly filthy piece of quackery, it is sufficient to say that the scheme was declared a fraud and on August 25, 1931, the Postmaster General debarred from the United States mails the Home Products Company, the Hormex Company, E. P. Gurley and R. T. Nash.”
With the unfortunate closure of Gurley and Nash’s businesses, weak and discouraged men and women were forced to look elsewhere for hope and relief.
As a side note, the previously mentioned JAMA article speculated that one of Gurley and Nash’s lawyers, E. C. Brookmeyer, had been responsible for the insertion of an unusual clause into the Harrison Narcotic law. The clause, exempting products derived from coca leaves if the cocaine had been removed, was added so that the Coca Cola Company could continue to use the mysterious “Merchandise No. 5” in their products. Unfortunately for Gurley and Nash, Brookmeyer didn’t duplicate this success for the Hormex and Home Products Companies.
Addresses for the Home Products Company (both refer to the same location)
Suite C, Evans Building, Denver, Colorado
1450 Lawrence Street, Denver, Colorado
Prior to becoming involved with his brother-in-law, Robert T. Nash, in the mail-order business, Eugene Gurley was a stenographer for R. G. Dun & Company, the first commercial credit reporting agency. It was steady work, if a little boring.
In 1919, his life became a lot more interesting. Eugene and Robert teamed up for what I believe was the first of their many joint ventures, the Vital-O-Remedy Company. It’s pure speculation, but I suspect that Nash was the instigator-in-chief for the team.
Gurley and Nash liked to keep things within the family, and they were soon running another operation, the General Remedies Company, with the assistance of Eugene’s brothers John and Harry Gurley. Alas, family loyalty didn’t guarantee success. By late 1924, their business had tanked and everyone was looking for a job. Perhaps it was fond memories of younger days, but for whatever reason Eugene went back to work for his old employer, R.G. Dun & Company. It must have been a mistake because he quickly jumped ship and went to work for the Great Divide Company, a gold mining concern.
Working with gold must have lacked the allure of working with Robert Nash because Eugene soon joined his partner in crime at the Hormex Company. It's not clear why they did it, but Gurley and Nash created a new company that operated in parallel with the Hormex Company. Nash was primarily responsible for the latter while Gurley took primary responsibility for the new concern, the Home Products Company.
When both companies were barred from using the U.S. Mail in 1931, Gurley and Nash found themselves suddenly unemployed. Again.
For Gurley the solution was obvious. By 1934 he was back where he started—working as a typist at Dun and Bradstreet, the successor to R.G. Dun & Company. Some ten years later he seems to have been promoted to report writer.
More willing to take a risk, and perhaps because he had fewer options, Robert Nash hooked up with something called the Gold Profit Sharing Corporation. Given Nash’s track record, the fact that he was the company’s secretary-treasurer tells you something about its long-term prospects. And its short-term prospects for that matter. The Denver City Directory for the following year included a single word next to Nash’s name: “mining.” No company affiliation was given. The last bit of information I have about him is from 1937. Robert T. Nash was a messenger for the Central Savings Bank and Trust. I believe that he and Lottie subsequently moved to Texas.
The Vital-O-Remedy Company seems to have been the first joint operation run by Robert T. Nash and Eugene P. Gurley.
Company Addresses (both refer to the same location, the Evans Building)
Suite B, 1132 15th Street, Denver, Colorado
1450 Lawrence Street, Denver, Colorado
The only two products of the Vital-O-Gland Company that I know of were a cure for male impotence and a mechanical stimulator. The product line was probably more extensive than that however. Those involved included the three Gurley brothers, Eugene, Harry and John, as well as their brother-in-law, Robert Nash.
Company Addresses (both refer to the same location)
Suite B, Evans Building, Denver, Colorado
1450 Lawrence Street, Denver, Colorado
The General Remedies Company was operated by the usual suspects, Eugene Gurley and Robert Nash, as well as Eugene’s brothers, Harry and John.
Their only product, a supposed cure for consumption, was sold under two names: Heilol and Haelan. Ironically, John Gurley would be stricken with tuberculosis and committed to a sanatorium within 5-7 years.
In late 1924, the Postmaster General barred the company from using the U.S. mail to sell:
“a fraudulent and worthless nostrum” and obtain “money through the mails by means of false and fraudulent pretenses” (The Medical World. Vol. 46. 1928; J. Nat. Assoc. Retail Druggists. Vol. 39. 1924).
The Vital-O-Gland Company suffered an identical fate. This was a death blow to any mail-order operation.
In Nash’s view, the logical path forward was to create another company, and that’s what he did.
Based on entries in the Denver City Directories, Robert Nash seems to have founded the Hormex Company in 1926. The following year, Eugene’s brother John joined Nash’s company. It wasn’t until 1928 that the City Directory indicated that Eugene Gurley with the Hormex Company.
Although the disappearance of the Hormex Company from the Denver City Directory in 1929 coincides with the first listing of the Home Products Company, both companies operated in parallel until 1931 or 1932. Their products were similar or identical—only the product labels and the methods of payment differed. While the Hormex Company’s customers made their checks payable to Robert Nash, payments for purchases from the Home Products Company were made out to Eugene Gurley.
I suppose it was fitting that the Hormex Company shared the same fate as the Home Products Company. In 1931, both operations were declared a fraud with the result that neither one could use the U.S. Mail. Gurley and Nash were out of the mail order business, and this time it was for good.
Despite the fact that the company’s product line was similar to those of the Hormex Company and the Home Products Company, neither Eugene Gurley nor Robert Nash were involved. The company officers consisted of L.T. Moore as president, Mrs. L.T. Moore as vice-president and Harry N. Gurley as secretary, treasurer and manager. John Gurley, remember, was in a sanatorium suffering from tuberculosis.
The Home Products Company almost certainly had some sort of business interaction with the Hammer Radium Company.
The companies’ addresses provide good circumstantial evidence for such an interaction.
The Home Products Company and their predecessors (Vital-O-Remedy Company, Vital-O-Gland Company) occupied Denver’s Evans Building on the southwest corner of 15th Street and Lawrence Street from 1919 to 1931. This was on the same block as the Central Savings Bank Building where the Hammer Laboratories were located from 1931 to 1933. In fact, Robert Nash, one of the two men responsible for The Home Products Company would go to work at the bank. Neither he nor Eugene Gurley were chemists, nor did they have any prior connection to the radium business. Nevertheless, they sold radium-containing products, some very similar to those produced by the Hammer Radium Company, e.g., radium suppositories. They had to get the radium from somebody, and that somebody was probably Raymond Hammer—a trained chemist and radium expert.
For more information about Raymond Hammer and his company, check out the collection's Hammer Spinthariscope.