Layfayette, Louisiana; August 17, 1951: Hank Williams sings about having “The Love Sick Blues;” Bob Hope delivers his famous one liners; Carmen Miranda shows her samba moves; Jimmy Durante does his signature “Inka Dinka Doo,” and every movie star one can imagine—Lucille Ball, Dorothy Lamour, Cesar Romero, James Cagney, Judy Garland, even boxer Jack Dempsey– comes out on stage to talk live to the regular folks and sign autographs. Is it a big-time Hollywood movie extravaganza? Nope. It’s the Hadacol Caravan! And, it could be stopping in your area really soon! Price of admission? Only one Hadacol box top per person.
Canjun entrepreneur, razzle-dazzle showman, and Louisiana State Senator Dudley LeBlanc, the creator of this wildly popular Hadacol brand “health tonic” that has swept the country, has put together another multi-million dollar, star-studded Hadacol Caravan railroad tour, promoting his product like never before.
This huge Hadacol Caravan with 17 plush railroad cars loaded with America’s top movie stars and singers is going to have whistle stops and one-night-stands in 15 states, while traveling 3800 miles. All to increase the sales of Hadacol.
Hadacol, of course, is that “cure anything” patent medicine that LeBlanc markets as a vitamin supplement and, according to the Senator, “marches into battle against the pain and suffering of rheumatism, heart problems, ulcers, diabetes, nervousness, gas, cancer” and on and on. You name the medical malady, LeBlanc says, “Hadacol cures it.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Hadacol contains 12 % alcohol and has tremendous sales in “dry” areas of the country where one cannot buy liquor– like much of the South. A bottle of wine has about the same alcohol content as this “medicinal” elixir.
So, alcohol? Yes. Taste? No. Hadacol has been described as “smelling like a sewer and tasting like dirt.” Consequently, entertainer Groucho Marx asked its creator, “What is Hadacol good for?” Always the showman, LeBlanc replied, “It was good for five and a half million for me, last year.”
The Food and Drug Administration has recently begun to ask the same question. LeBlanc has not been quite as glib with the FDA. But so far, the sales of Hadacol have continued to rise and the Hadacol Caravan is being allowed to roll on. It is an entertaining craze. It is a cultural phenomenon. And, since Senator LeBlanc seeks higher office, Hadacol could also be a political movement. Clearly, LeBlanc has taken the old fashioned traveling medicine show to unparalleled new heights by adding the stars of Nashville, New York and Hollywood, and riding his rails to riches here in the middle of the 20th Century on the Hadacol Caravan.
Actor Mickey Rooney asked why it was named Hadacol. LeBlanc said, “I had-a-call it sumpin’.”
After the Hadacol Caravan got underway in southern Louisiana in 1951, it meandered through the South entertaining tens of thousands of people, but on September 17th, in Dallas, LeBlanc secretly got word that the Food and Drug Administration was going to shut him down. He moved quickly, contacting a research foundation in New York that had expressed an interest earlier in buying Hadacol. Lightning fast, he sold Hadacol to the foundation for a reputed $8 million dollars. The foundation, in turn, leased the elixir to a distribution syndicate.
With the sale, the Hadacol Caravan came to an abrupt stop. LeBlanc made a hasty exit back to Louisiana with a lot of cash. But, in a matter of days, both the foundation and the syndicate found out the Hadacol company financials were not what they seemed. The buyers claimed LeBlanc made numerous misrepresentations about the company. The new Hadacol company quickly went bankrupt. LeBlanc was able to wiggle out of any legal responsibility in the matter. Plus, he probably poured salt on the wounds of the newly bankrupt owners by saying publicly, “If you sell a cow and the cow dies, you can’t do anything to a man for that.” Hadacol was definitely dead, never to be revived.
Hadacol was a gargantuan gaudy comet flashing across the American sky from 1948 to 1951 and, then quickly disappearing into history, remembered today only in Southern Memories.