Ward's Radium Ore Healing Pad (1916-1918)
Size: ca. 9" x 7"
Weight: 1.5 lbs.
Exposure Rate: ca. 20 uR/hr above background at 1 foot
The manufacturer of this fine product is identified on the pad as "V. C. Ward, Mfgr., Los Angeles." The estimated date of manufacture, 1916 to 1918, is based on the fact that Ward moved to Los Angeles in 1915 or early 1916 and the fact that he died in 1918.
The product brochure that I have is credited to "V. C. Ward, Discoverer, Shubrick Hotel, Salt Lake City, Utah." More about the mysterious V.C. Ward and his discovery can be found at the bottom of the page.
Here is the opening text of the brochure:
"A magic relief in cases of constipation, gout, rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica, coughing at night, pains anywhere internally."
The pad is radioactive, no question about that. The text on it reads as follows:
Radium Ore Healing Pads
Nothing in Them but Natural Ore
They cure by emanation increasing the power of the heat and nerve action.
DIRECTIONS FOR USE
HEAT WELL and use them dry. Apply tightly to the flesh over the source of pain, soreness or swelling, 4 to 6 hours at a time. Not more than a total of 12 hours per day, alternately with applications up and down the spine, or over the stomach or liver. When not in use keep rolled up in your bed. Helpful in any kind of chronic disease or pain. See circular of general instructions.
V. C. Ward, Mfgr.
Radium Ore Healing Pads
Nothing in Them but Natural Ore. They cure by emanation.
HEAT WELL and use them dry. Apply tightly to the flesh over the source of pain, soreness or swelling, until the pulse increases 20 per cent, then desist a few hours. This pocket can be detached and should be carried during the day in the hip pocket and at night at back of the neck or attached to palm of the hand, or at soles of feet.
V. C. Ward, Mfgr.
1856. Vernon C. Ward was born in Ohio in February 1881. Ward married Marrion.
1890. Ward is working as a “Ticket Broker” in Columbus, Ohio.
1898. The Wards are living in San Francisco. Vernon is a General Agent selling steamship tickets for Goodall, Perkins & Company.
1900. The Wards are back in Columbus, Ohio. According to the census, Vernon’s occupation is Insurance Agent. Vernon and his brother Harry also operate the Ward Brothers Ticket/Travel Agency.
1903. Ward leaves Columbus for Chicago, Illinois.
1907. Marion Ward died. Vernon Ward is still living in Chicago.
1908. Vernon marries Mary Wells. In August, Vernon places an ad in the Los Angeles Herald looking for people to sell stereoscopic photographs of southern California. By December, Vernon has gone from selling photographs to being identified as the vice president of the San Rafael Land Company (headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah).
1909. Ward is living in Green River, UT and/or Salt Lake City, UT. He is now the vice-president of the Queen Valley Land Company which seems to have had its headquarters in New York City.
1910. According to the 1910 Census, the Wards were living in Manhattan, New York. In that year’s census, his occupation is listed as sales agent.
1912. Ward stakes several vanadium-uranium claims along the San Rafael River.
1916. The Wards are now living in Los Angeles. Ward’s health is poor.
1917. Ward identifies himself in the Los Angeles City Directory as a “radium expert.”
1918. Vernon C. Ward died in Los Angeles, Aug. 15, at 62 years of age.
Ward stumbled into the radium ore pad business because of his involvement in a large irrigation project in Millard County, Utah (Salt Lake City Tribune Dec. 24, 1908). Despite a substantial financial investment, the project seems to have collapsed in 1911/1912 because his Queen Valley Land Company was unable to obtain the necessary permits from the state.
Following the failure of the irrigation project, Ward along with two other individuals, staked several uranium-vanadium claims along the San Rafael River, the source of water for the failed irrigation project (Engineering and Mining Journal Vol. 93 No. 23. 1912). Apparently, he and his colleagues recovered enough ore to begin shipping.
How Ward discovered the healing properties of radium ore was explained in a fairly detailed article in the December 13, 1913 issue of the Salt Lake City Tribune:
“At the time he was suffering from rheumatism, and he sat on the sandstone for a considerable time to rest himself. He was surprised to find that in a short time that the rheumatism had left him, and inasmuch as he had been reading of the wonderful curative properties of radium his interest was at once aroused. It as in this way that the discovery was made."
The article indicates that many of his pads were sold overseas:
“Mr. Ward has shipped a lot of carnotite ore from his claims to ENGLAND. However [unreadable] is sent in very small flat canvas bags for application to the body for the cure of various ailments, and brings a good price in the old country.”
The earliest reference that I have found to the pad is an advertisement in the December 5, 1913 issue of the Salt Lake City Tribune. In the ad, Ward indicates that he is looking for sales agents. The pad, which sold for one to five dollars, was said to be
“The greatest medical discovery of the age”... “better than drinking at the perpetual fountain of youth.”
It is possible, but not certain, that Ward might have produced the pads as early as 1910—some of the testimonial letters included in a pamphlet that came with the pad were dated 1910. Even if the dates on the letters were incorrect, there is no doubt that Ward's Healing Pad was one of the earliest of what we have called "radioactive quack cures."
That Ward might have sold other radium-containing products is suggested by the following ad, possibly placed by one of Ward’s sales agents (Los Angeles Herald, Feb. 3, 1916). Note the emphasis on these products as a cure for rheumatism.
"Water made radioactive by the Ward Radium Ore Process" was available at least as early as 1915 (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 4, 1915), but what this process involved is not known.
Notice the address in the above ad: 649 1/2 South Hill Street. A few years later, in 1923, the company producing Thomas Radium Ore Jars would have a facility at 343 South Hill Street, and in 1924 the Revigator Company would operate out of 319 South Hill Street.