Hadacol, marketed in the 1940's and (briefly) 1950's as a vitamin supplement and health tonic, was the brainchild of Dudley J. Leblanc. Leblanc served one term in Louisiana State House of Representatives and four terms as a Louisiana State Senator.
People who have used Hadacol describe it as "tasting like bilge water" and, if anything, smelling even worse. So why did it sell so well? One reason may be that most of the proceeds from sales went toward promoting it as the "cure for whatever ails you". And boy, oh boy, did "Dud" promote the stuff. He took it, quite literally, on the road with one of the last of the "traveling medicine shows". Hank Williams senior was a sponsor of Hadacol on his popular radio show. George Burns and Gracie Allen promoted the stuff, as did Bob Hope. The list goes on and on. You can bet these names were well compensated.
The other little detail about Hadacol that may have been attractive to some "patients" was the 12% alcohol by volume that was listed on the label as "a preservative". Also present was dilute hydrochloric acid to speed the alcohol's absorption into the bloodstream. It isn't clear whether the alcohol was to preserve the bottle's contents, or the victim of them. Oh, and it did have some vitamin B1 and B2, iron, niacin, calcium, phosphorous and honey in there, too. This "snake oil" was reputedly a cure for high blood pressure, ulcers, strokes, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, pneumonia, anemia, cancer, epilepsy, gall stones, heart trouble, and hay fever. Testimonials were numerous. One user claimed to have gone from illiterate to schoolteacher, simply by taking Hadacol according to instructions.
Songs were written about the stuff, including the "Hadacol Boogie", performed by Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as Bill Nettles and the Dixie Blue Boys. By 1951, the only U.S. company outspending "Dud" on advertising was Coca-Cola. At this point, he was selling millions of dollars of Hadacol, but spending more on advertising than what came in. In a final act, Leblanc sold the company to a group of investors just before the story of how deeply in debt his company was became public.
Shortly after his buyers got stuck with his company's debt, "Dud" appeared on Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life" radio show. Groucho asked him, "What was Hadacol good for?". "It was good for about five and a half million dollars for me last year", replied Leblanc. He was great with the snappy answers, that boy. When asked why he named his tonic Hadacol, he would say, "Well, I hadda call it somethin'!"
Dudley J. Leblanc was inducted (posthumously
) into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame