Medical practitioners were scarce in rural Nova Scotia during the 1800s and while waiting for the doctor to arrive, people often treated ailments with home-made remedies. One of those home concoctions, a liniment used liberally on man and beast, was dispensed by Dr. Levi Minard while making his rounds in Hants County in the 1860s. His liniment may have been based on an old, commonly used recipe or possibly Minard invented it himself. But whatever its origin, the preparation Minard used to treat minor ailments received glowing reports from his patients. “Dr. Minard knew he was on to something worthwhile,” a 1917 newspaper story said, “when people started to ask for his liniment.”
Dr. Minard practiced from his residence in Brooklyn and from there in the 1860s – the records are hazy about the exact year – he began to market the liniment that for over 100 years was used to treat a host of human and farm animal maladies. “His efforts were crowned with a measure of success,” the Busy East reported in 1917, “the fame of Minard’s gradually spreading (throughout the Maritimes).”
While Minard’s is synonymous with Yarmouth, where it was produced for over 60 years on Jenkins Street until 1967 when the plant was moved to Ontario, the liniment has Annapolis Valley roots. For over a decade Minard’s Liniment was bottled in Hantsport. After establishing solid markets in the Atlantic Provinces and Newfoundland, Minard sold the manufacturing rights to his liniment to his son-in-law, W. J. Nelson. In 1886 the plant was moved to Bridgewater. After changing hands several times, two Yarmouth men took over production, moving the plant to the seaside town in 1905.
From its Yarmouth base the sale of Minard’s Liniment boomed, thanks to an advertising campaign devised by its new owners with an assist from the future Lord Beaverbrook, who was probably a shareholder. The plan was simple: make Minard’s synonymous with the relief of pain. By 1916 Minard’s Liniment ads were appearing regularly in over 800 billboards and newspapers across Canada. Sales in 1905 were 310,000 bottles; by 1916 nearly 700,000 bottles of Minard’s Liniment were being sold annually.
The pharmaceutical company that purchased Minard’s and moved it to Ontario said in 1985 that current sales make the 700,000 bottles sold in 1916 look like a drop in the bucket. In other words, Minard’s is still a popular over-the-counter remedy and it must be effective or people would stop buying it. Sentiment for an old liniment wouldn’t keep it on the market.
Dr. Minard, who prepared his liniment from a formula that is still secret, would be pleased to hear this. However, it seems odd that a preparation originally made as a treatment for both humans and livestock would last as long as it did. Some 90 years ago Minard’s made fantastic curative claims in their advertising. Touted as the “king of pain”, Minard’s claimed to be a cure-all for over 30 human ailments – and at least 15 afflictions common to horses, cattle, sheep and dogs.
Minard’s probably isn’t carried in veterinary bags nowadays, but people still sniff the liniment and rub it on chest and limbs. Maritimers, the greatest users today, still take Minard’s by the spoonful for colds, flu and spring pick-me-ups, mixing it with molasses or honey I’m told to make it palatable.