And Now You Know: Hadacol, the feel good elixir

Published 2:55 pm Saturday, September 22, 2018

By Mike Louviere

Dudley J. LeBlanc, aka “Couzan Dud”, was a Louisiana state senator who was colorful, exuberant, and above all loved making money.

In 1943, he was treated for severe foot pain. The medicine the doctor gave him had relived his pain and started him thinking about making something similar. On his last visit he saw a bottle with a few drops left in it and stuck it in his pocket, he was going to analyze it.

The medicine was mostly a liquid form of vitamin B1. Leblanc did some research and found that a lot of ailments were caused by a lack of vitamin B1, B2, Iron and Niacin in the system. He developed a patent medicine that contained these supplements and calcium and phosphorus. He also added 12 percent alcohol, about the same as beer, which he labeled as a “preservative.”

He named his new patent medicine “Hadacol”. The name came from letters of other words, but his stock answer, when asked about the name, was, “I hada call it something.”

LeBlanc conducted one of the most aggressive advertising campaigns that America ever saw. He hired some of the most famous entertainment stars in the U.S. to be a part of his “Hadacol Caravan” that toured from south Louisiana into several states. “Coozan Dud” was the star attraction, of course.

There were full-page newspaper ads and often there were one column ads on every page of local papers. Millions were spent on advertising Hadacol.

It was advertised that because Hadacol was in a special liquid form it was quickly absorbed and assimilated by the blood, making a big improvement noticed in a few days.

The Hadacol company was established in Lafayette, Louisiana and the white and blue delivery trucks were a familiar sight in every town in the region.

The marketing of Hadacol in Orange was advertising in the Orange Leader, signs nailed to trees, and the incentive of giving the local grocers one free case for every ten cases they purchased from the Hadacol Company.

“A free case was a very good incentive,” former Orange grocer Harold Emmert said. “I sold a lot of Hadacol in my store.”

The recommended dosage for Hadacol was one tablespoon mixed in a one-half glass of water four times per day, at meals and at bedtime. It was promoted as a dietary supplement.

It became the best-selling patent medicine in the United States.  Hadacol got coverage in national magazines. Time Magazine described it as a “Murky brown liquid that tastes like bilge water and smells worse.”

I well remember the bottle of Hadacol on my grandpa’s table. I was allowed to taste it once and can testify to the accuracy of the Time Magazine description.

No doubt the high percentage of alcohol had a lot to do with the popularity of Hadacol. In dry counties in East Texas Hadacol was often sold by the shot glass. At least one bar in the French Quarter in New Orleans sold a “Tassel Cocktail” made with Hadacol.

Hadacol was expensive. A trial bottle cost $1.25, the large family or hospital bottle cost $3.50. In 2018 dollars, the cost would be $13.07 and $36.60.

Once in an interview with Groucho Marx, LeBlanc was asked what Hadacol was good for.

LeBlanc replied, “It was good for five million dollars for me last year.”

Mrs. J.P. Macure of New Orleans wrote a glowing testimony of her use of Hadacol. “I have taken five bottles of Hadacol. Before I took Hadacol I was very nervous. My family was affected because I was so irritable. Then my sister suggested that I take Hadacol and I started taking it. After the second bottle, I felt like I had taken all the troubles of the world off my shoulders. My family thinks Hadacol is wonderful because my disposition is 100% better and I am not the least bit irritable. That’s because I always have a bottle of Hadacol on the kitchen shelf. Hadacol is the most wonderful product on the market.”

Mrs. Macure’s “relaxation” may well have come from the high alcohol content of Hadacol.

In spite of committed users of Hadacol and the great sales of the product, “Coozan Dud” was heading toward disaster. His tremendous advertising cost was outpacing his sales income. He had also not lived up to the requirements of the IRS regarding his taxes. One morning in 1954, the workers arriving at the Lafayette headquarters found the gates locked and a CLOSED signposted. The era of Hadacol had ended.

Thousands of those like Mrs. Macure who depended on Hadacol were faced with losing “the most wonderful product on the market” cold turkey.

“And now you know”