Vegetable Pain Killer
Perry Davis Vegetable Pain Killer - "Good For Man
Henry A. L. Brown
As printed in the
Reprinted in the May 1990 Punty
Rod, newsletter of the Little
Rhody Bottle Club
Pawtuxet Village has, for 350
years, had it's share of colorful characters; in
particular was Perry Davis. Born in Dartmouth,
Massachusetts in 1791, he came from a poor family;
he was crippled at an early age, and by the time he
was 14, he was apprenticed as a
A few decades later, Perry
Davis's name was more widely known than that of any
other citizen of Rhode Island, and his face was
familiar throughout the world. In crowded India, in
Africa, on remote sheep farms in Australia, his
name was a household word.
For many years, Davis barely
eked out a living for his family, moving from city
to city. Arriving in Pawtucket in 1828, he became
an inventor, having designed an improved grain
grinding mill. He was now 47, still poor and lame,
but an ambition burned within him. His invention
failed, owing to hard economic times, and he fell
ill and did not expect to recover.
"I told my wife," he said,
"that she could not expect to have me with her much
longer. A cold settled on my lungs. A hard cough
ensued, with pains in my side. My stomach soon
became sore, my digestive organs became weak,
consequently my appetite failed; my kidneys had
become affected. The canker in my mouth became
troublesome, etc., etc."
"I searched the globe in my
mind's eye for a cure during my illness and
selected the choicest gums and healing herbs. These
were carefully compounded creating a medicine to
soothe the nerves and a balm to heal the body. I
commenced using my new discovered medicine with no
hope other than handing me gently to the
Instead he was cured!! By
that time, he was in debt to the tune of $4500, and
his assets were three cents and the recipe for the
elixir. To become a medicine manufacturer he needed
money to purchase components, bottles, labels, etc.
He was able to raise $24.50 by selling his horse,
wagon, and harness. With this fund he assembled a
batch of medicine to try the Boston market. But the
stuff wouldn't sell, and in desperation he gave
much of it away to poor people.
In the latter part of the
summer of 1843 he carried a batch of medicine to
sell at the Pawtuxet fair. Established by the Rhode
Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic
Industry in 1820, the fair was highly popular,
drawing crowds from all over New
The fair grounds were located
in the village of Pawtuxet, bounded on the east by
Fair Street, on the south by South Fair and the
north by North Fair Streets. The fair mansion
displayed the most up-to-date agricultural
equipment, wares, and produce. It remains today and
is known as the "Bay Winds", built in 1820 by
William G. Budlong and his son, Anthony, for James
Rhodes, first president of the society.
It was here that Perry Davis
set up his stand at the entrance to the fair
grounds. That day proved to be the turning point.
Some people believed what he told them about the
merits of his medicine and one person with a pain
in his stomach was bold enough to try it. The
patient declared he had instant relief.
By 1844 he purchased a
building on Pond Street in Providence making his
medicine on a factory scale. An outbreak of cholera
occurred in Asia. Soon cases of Davis' medicine
were shipped with every Baptist missionary bound
for India and China.
Another occurrence which
helped make the Davis fortune was the Civil War.
During the rebellion the factory was seized by the
United States Government in 1861 to make medicine
not only for the soldiers but for the army's
horses. The medicine was considered "good for man
By the time Perry Davis died
in 1862, his fame was worldwide. The wrapper of
every bottle or his medicine carried a woodcut
image of the maker. He was only a visitor in
Pawtuxet, and the visit was brief, but he has been
adopted by the village as one of her most notable
Davis - Addendum
In 1850 Perry's son Edmund
joined him in the business and the company became
Davis & Son, located at 43 Pond Street,
Providence. When Perry passed away in 1862, Edmund
continued the company his father had
In 1867, Edmund moved the
company to 78 High Street and in 1871 took in Mrs.
Sarah D. Dennis as a partner. They relocated the
company to 136 High Street.
When Edmund died in 1880, his
son, Edmund W. Davis took over the company. One
year later he took in another partner, Horace S.
Bloodgood. Mrs. Dennis also died that year and the
company moved to 594 Westminister Street after her
death. The company was still called Davis & Son
throughout this entire period.
A few years later, Bloodgood
retired, leaving the internationally known company
with offices at 380 St. Paul Street, Montreal,
Canada, and 17 Southhampton Row, Holborn, London,
Perry Davis & Son left
Providence in 1895 and moved it's operation to New
York City. Edmund remained in Rhode Island, living