There are two stories about the formation of Sloan’s Liniment. The version told in Chillicothe, Missouri is that the Sloan Brothers, Earl and Foreman, ran a livery stable in the early 1870s in the 100 block of Slack Street, near the Wabash train station. It was also said they had a “horse barn” at the corner of Locust and Ann Streets. For some time, one of the sons worked for the Tannery harness shop in the 700 block of Locust Street. The liniment was originally developed by their father, Andrew, a veterinarian, to treat horses. Supposedly the Sloan sons brought the ointment to Dr. Reuben Barney, a well-known physician in Chillicothe, and he experimented and improved the product. The Sloans discovered people were using the liniment on themselves and so began marketing it for human needs thereafter. Apparently they found it more lucrative than their livery business, and soon moved to St. Louis and then to Boston where the Sloan manufacturing plant was built.
In Zanesfield, Ohio, the story is told that the Earl and Foreman’s father, Andrew, acquired the recipe for the liniment from Indians. Andrew and his wife Susan would make big batches of the medicine in their kitchen hearth. Andrew was quite successful in distributing the ointment and people began giving him the honorary term “Doc.”
After the Civil War, Earl and Foreman left home. It is said they wondered from place to place over the years, selling their ointment. They discovered that people were using it not just on their animals, but on their own aching backs and feet. The slogan became “Sloan’s Liniment, good for man and beast.” Around 1900, Earl hit it big time with an ad in Chicago. By 1903, he was living in an estate in Boston, having formed the Dr. Sloan Company. He wasn’t a real doctor, but had assumed the title given to this father. Some time after this, he began marketing the product as solely for human use.
The Sloans were very successful. The liniment was known world-wide, or so the claim is made, and sold in drugstores across the United States. Earl built the Dr. Sloan Library in his hometown of Zanesfield in 1914. He died in Boston in 1923 with a net worth of over a million and half dollars; that would be almost $23 million in 2020.
The last ad found in the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune newspaper for Sloan’s Liniment was in 1960.
Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune March 12, 1942
Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune September 13, 1937
Cleveland Plain Dealer Pictorial Magazine, October 9, 1950.