Dr. Tichenor

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“DrTichenor1895Ad” by Dr. Tichenors & Sherrouse Medicine Co. LTD, New Orleans – Advertisement for Dr. Tichenor’s Antiseptic, 1895 Via [1]. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

When I was growing up, there were two main medications in my house: aloe vera and Dr. Tichenor’s. My mom treated many a scraped knee from my rambunctious bike riding with the stuff. My childhood memories are laced with the strong peppermint smell and sting of Dr. Tichenor’s. Dr. Tichenor’s antiseptic was invented by George H. Tichenor, a physician and Civil War veteran who moved to New Orleans, as so many entrepreneurs did, after the war. According to an excellent article on NolaVie by Keith Marshall: “The good doctor, so the story goes, was seriously wounded on the battlefield. A military physician was preparing to amputate one of his legs. Fortunately, Tichenor had sequestered in his knapsack a supply of his miracle elixir. He cleansed the wound himself and walked straight into medical history, allegedly saving the limbs of other wounded soldiers with what would become, as Cajun Pete would crow, ‘that good ole Dr. Tichenor’s — best antiseptics in town.’ “ In the 1880s, Dr. Tichenor’s son Rolla was attending law school at Tulane and joined the Louisiana Cycling Club. Riding high wheel bicycles was a hazardous hobby, and the riders had a tendency to injure themselves regularly, putting them in need of Dr. Tichenor’s antiseptic, then being sold by the company Tichenor and Sherrous, to treat the frequent scrapes and cuts they came by.

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Louisiana Cycling Club Spokes Scrapbook, accession 98-62-L,

Williams Research Center, The Historic New Orleans Collection

Dr. Tichenor began taking out ads for his antiseptic in racing programs and donating bottles of it as prizes.

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Louisiana Cycling Club Spokes Scrapbook, accession 98-62-L,

Williams Research Center, The Historic New Orleans Collection

Around 1890, Dr. Tichenor himself joined the LCC, riding one of the new “safety” bicycles that the allowed less athletic–and less inclined to injure themselves–to ride. Dr. Tichenor started the Dr. G. H. Tichenor Antiseptic Company in 1905, and his antiseptic became both an icon and a staple in all self-respecting southern households. It’s now marketed as a mouthwash, along with a toothpaste and an antiseptic gel. The FDA apparently still has it’s doubts about Dr. Tichenor’s famous formula. In a warning letter sent to the company last December they wrote: “Peppermint oil and alcohol 70% are not recognized as skin protectant active ingredients in 21 CFR 347.10. Furthermore, the Agency determined there is inadequate data to establish general recognition of the safety and effectiveness of alcohol for use as a Poison ivy, Poison oak, Poison sumac drug product under this monograph [21 CFR 310.545(a)(18)(vi)(A)].” Well fiddle dee dee. I’d still recommend throwing a bottle of Dr. Tichenor’s “mouthwash” in your bag for the treatment of cuts and scrapes. The FDA might not agree, but cyclists have known since the 19th century that stuff can treat anything.

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