For sale is an early 1900s DR EDWARDS OLIVE TABLETS TIN made by the Olive Tablet Company, Columbus, Ohio. This round lithographic tin originally sold for 30 cents. The tablets were sold as a laxative and include the following directions: “One or two tablets taken at bed time should cause the bowels to act nicely next morning. A pleasant treatment for Constipation.” The company’s swastika logo had to be changed after it became a symbol of Nazi Germany. Tin measures 2 1/2″ tall. A great apothecary collectible.
In 1865, Frank Mott Edwards was born in Lawrence County, Ohio. As a doctor, Edwards encountered many cases of constipation. Calomel (mercurous chloride) was at that time a favored treatment. It was effective but produced a violent, explosive, and often painful purging of the bowels. It was also poisonous. Frequent users could lose teeth, hair, jaws, become paralyzed, go insane, or die. Edwards sought a gentler and less toxic solution to his patients’ woes. He compounded a pill of aloe, Jamestown weed, mayapple root, cascara bark–all substances known for their laxative effects–and olive oil. The pills seemed to have the desired effect for his patients. Noting the national obsession with constipation, in 1909, Edwards began advertising and offering his laxative for sale and The Olive Tablet Company became his principal business. The great secret of Dr Edwards’ Olive Pills was that, despite their olive green color and olive packaging and references to oil and lubrication, they contained little to no olive oil.
On each and every tin of Dr. Edwards’ Olive Pills was a dark green swastika. Prior to the Second World War, the swastika was a completely inoffensive decorative element. Its presence on Dr. Edwards’ tins might have been an attempt to connect his product with the herb lore of the Native Americans or perhaps the secrets of exotic India or mystic Tibet. All three cultures made use of the swastika in their iconography. The rise of the Nazis in Germany after 1933 made the swastika untenable as a trademark. In 1934, the company altered the swastika on its packages by removing the left and right arms but by 1936 the product’s new logo was changed to a drawing of Dr. Edwards.