Bailey’s RadiThor was a brand of patent medicine that gained popularity in the early 20th century with a history as a cure-all tonic. It was created by British entrepreneur, William Bailey. Bailey, a Harvard drop-out, began selling RadiThor in 1905 as a cure for a wide range of ailments. Amazingly, despite its deadly ingredient, it was not removed from the market once and for all until the 1960s.
Bailey’s RadiThor was marketed as a cure-all tonic that could supposedly treat a wide range of ailments. Some of the conditions that the product was claimed to cure or alleviate included fatigue, insomnia, impotence, arthritis, and even cancer. The tonic was advertised as a “wonder drug” that could improve overall health and well-being, and Bailey employed a team of salespeople to travel around the country promoting the product.
The main ingredient in RadiThor was thorium chloride, a radioactive substance that was discovered in 1898 by French physicist Marie Curie. At the time, the potential health hazards of radiation were not well understood, and many people believed that exposure to radioactive materials could have therapeutic effects.
Bailey’s RadiThor was primarily owned and marketed by a businessman named William J. A. Bailey, who invented the product and founded the Bailey Radioisotope Laboratories to produce it. Bailey’s company was based in East Orange, New Jersey, and he employed a team of salespeople to travel around the country promoting RadiThor to consumers.
The cost of Bailey’s RadiThor varied over time and by location, but it was generally a relatively expensive product compared to other patent medicines of the time. In the early 1900s, a single dose of RadiThor could cost as much as $1, which was a significant sum of money at the time. As the product’s popularity grew, the price of RadiThor decreased somewhat, but it remained a relatively expensive item. At its peak, RadiThor was sold in a variety of forms, including as a tonic, tablets, and even as a brand of cigarettes, with prices ranging from a few cents to several dollars per dose or package.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence to support the claims made about RadiThor, the product continued to be popular throughout the 1910s and 1920s. Many people believed that the tonic was helping them to feel more energetic and healthy, and Bailey’s advertising campaigns played on this perception. No formal studies are thought to exist measuring the placebo effect.
While Bailey’s RadiThor was not an overtly lethal product, its use of radioactive thorium chloride had the potential to cause significant harm to people who consumed it regularly over long periods of time. Eben Byers, a well-known athlete and socialite, is though to have died in 1932 from his excessive use of RadiThor. The dangers of radiation exposure were not well understood at the time that RadiThor was marketed, and many people who consumed the tonic experienced health problems that were later attributed to radiation exposure. The death of Byers and his subsequent exhumation and radiation tests, led the FDA to restrict the use of radioactive material to be ingested.
There are numerous documented cases of people who suffered from radiation-related health problems after consuming RadiThor, including skin burns, hair loss, and even cancer.
Mercifully, the tonic was usually administered in small doses, with a typical bottle of RadiThor containing less than one milligram of thorium chloride. Other ingredients in RadiThor included water, alcohol, and a variety of flavorings and colorings to make the tonic more palatable.
Chain of Ownership
Bailey’s RadiThor was primarily owned and marketed by a businessman named William J. A. Bailey, who invented the product and founded the Bailey Radioisotope Laboratories to produce it.
In the years following Bailey’s death in 1949, ownership of the RadiThor trademark passed through several hands. The product was eventually acquired by the Quaker Oats Company, which was interested in the name recognition and brand loyalty that RadiThor still commanded among some consumers. Quaker Oats continued to sell RadiThor until the 1960s, when concerns about the potential health hazards of the product led the company to withdraw it from the market.
- Year Started: 1905
- Year Ended: 1965
- Origin Of Name: Mix of Name of Ingredient and its characteristics
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: William Bailey
- Owner While In Use: William Bailey and Quacker Oats
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Amberen
- Naics Code: 456191
- Location Headquarters: East Orange, New Jersey, USA