During the middle of the last century, Snare’s Re-Lef could be found in many a medicine chest in our area. This article will tell something about the man that developed this highly effective concoction: Henry Irvin Snare. I want to acknowledge Danny Batson for his extensive research on the product and the man.
Henry Irvin Snare was born in 1868 on a farm near Bogard, Missouri. Around the turn of the new century he moved from Kansas City to Chillicothe where married and started a dairy farm north of Simpson Park. He also was full owner and meticulous caretaker of the Forest Park Cemetery for about 40 years! Unsold portions of his cemetery were parceled out to both the Chillicothe Country Club and to the city for a major extension to Simpson Park in the 50’s.
One impetus for that sale came when Henry broke four ribs while plowing with his horse Dolly in 1954. He was 86 at the time and had somehow recovered from being literally run over by a car in 1950 during a snowstorm. His leg had been broken in three places! Henry Snare was an entrepreneur in every sense of the word. He was quick to credit his recovery from the car mishap to the ointment he had made for almost twenty years! And considering his age, the severity of his injury, and medical practice of that time--- maybe his claim that his ointment prevented pneumonia had some validity after all.
I was tremendously impressed by the numerous C-T front page articles on his nearly miraculous recovery over the next year. Henry died at the ripe old age of 88 in 1956. It is clear to me that Henry Snare was loved, respected, and had made our town a better place.
Our Re-lef story begins in 1932 when Henry’s son Ron was injured playing football. We have no details, but apparently Ron’s life hung in the balance due to serious complications. Henry concocted his salve to battle his son’s condition and it worked! Henry became a true believer in his ointment and in 1933 decided to patent, manufacture, and market what he called “Snare’s Re-lef.”
Snare’s Re-lef was sold in a small jar. It was sold at five Chillicothe drug stores for one dollar. Our five local drug stores held an annual Snare’s Re-lef sales contest just prior to cold weather. In 1939, more than 7500 jars of Re-lef were sold locally! Our town’s population hovered around 8000 in that day, a single jar might last a family for years. The local sales volume would indicate that Snare’s Re-lef was already being used regionally, statewide, and likely in neighboring states.
Remember that Chillicothe was a salesman’s town in those days. Then, as now, there is nothing worse for a working person than being sick and away from home. Although small ads appeared in the local paper regularly, I think that “word of mouth” Snare’s Re-lef testimonials from nonresidents were very effective in promoting the product.
Henry had always sold as many jars has he could produce.
Henry also wrote his own ads, here are but a few examples that appeared in the C-T paper from 1934-1947:
True, many of Henry’s claims were overstated and not really provable. But such wild claims were typical of the day for products of all kinds.
In 1939, the Regional US Attorney acting on a report from US Department of Agriculture filed a federal case claiming that his company was in serious violation of the Food and Drugs Act. The proceedings determined that his product when shipped from Missouri to Nebraska in October 1938 had been simply mislabeled. The charge had been reduced from a more serious “false and fraudulent curative and therapeutic claims.” On December 4, 1939, Henry entered a plea of guilty to mislabeling and the court imposed a fine of $25.
In 1946, Henry gave exclusive rights to H. B. McClintock for the purpose of expanding Re-lef sales over much of the country. Mr. McClintock had previously owned a grocery store at the corner of Locust and Clay streets. That property would then become a part of Winklemeyer's Furniture. Mr. McClintock had purchased two light planes for use as exclusive distributing agent for Snare's Re-Lef. They planned to cover a 2300-mile circuit over 26 states with the two planes, dealing only with drug wholesalers. I could find no further information regarding the success of that venture.
In 1947, Mr. Snare moved his factory from the second story of the Milbank building on the north side of the square to his newly acquired home on the curve of Springhill Road. He was still concocting his fiery, pungent salve from a secret formula known only to the Snare family. Now 80, Henry noted that having his manufacturing operation on the ground floor was of great benefit!
On a personal note, my Mom used Vick’s Vaporub on me from the first sniffle; so I am not really sure whether I ever experienced Re-lef. Likely, my big brother Glenn did.
I know one thing for sure; both products were far superior to mustard plasters, goose grease, and the highly noxious Sloan’s Liniment. The latter product was locally made and billed as “good for man or beast.” You better not catch cold as a kid growing up in those days…