What is in Hayden’s Viburnum Compound?

Collection of HVC bottles from the Bedford Historical Society Collection

Hayden’s Viburnum Compound (HVC) was manufactured right here in Bedford at the New York Pharmaceutical Company, located at the Bedford Springs. First produced in the 1860’s, the company’s Souvenir Hand-Book from 1893 notes that HVC was for “the ailments of women” and that it did not contain any narcotics. Katherine Schaub, a doctoral candidate in History at Case Western Reserve University wanted to find out exactly what was in a bottle of HVC as part of a REEL Lab project at Cleveland State University. The 1893 Souvenir Handbook lists the ingredients as viburnum opulus (European cranberry bush), dioscorea villosa (wild yam), scutellaria lateriflora (blue skullcap), and “a combination of aromatics.” However, like many patent medicines of the day, it contained large amounts of alcohol.

Schaub obtained a sample from an HVC bottle provided by the Dittrick Medical History Center, located in Cleveland, Ohio and subjected the dry sample to chemical analysis with Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Her results identified vanillin, cinnamaldehyde, benzoic acid, and coumarin as ingredients; the alcohol had since evaporated from this sample. The Bedford Historical Society has a bottle of HVC from c.1955 with its dark red liquid still inside. The bottle lists the contents as 48% alcohol with viburnum opulus, dioscorea, and prickly ash berries.

While the large amount of alcohol found in Hayden’s Viburnum Compound may have allowed one to temporarily forget their pain, Schaub did not identify any active ingredients with known analgesic properties. However, it appears that HVC might have at least tasted good; as Schaub notes, “HVC would have been a pleasant-smelling beverage with a strong vanilla/cinnamon flavor.” We agree; our 1955 bottle still has a vanilla and cinnamon scent.

Schaub presented her results, along with images of HVC advertising from the Bedford Historical Society collection, at the Research ShowCASE at Case Western Reserve University. We sincerely thank her for sharing her findings with us! If you would like to learn more about William Hayden, New York Pharmaceutical Company, or HVC, click here to check out our online collections.

Kathleen Fahey, for the Bedford Historical Society

Advertising for HVC from the Bedford Historical Society archives, c.1950s

Bedford Farms Milkman Uniform

Thanks to the Jensen family for donating their father’s Bedford Farms milkman uniform. William “Bill” Jensen was a milkman from 1958-1966 and the family donated 2 uniforms in pristine condition. The uniform included a black and white striped jacket with dark maroon details, matching striped overalls, black and white check overalls, and two caps – all with a yellow and red “Bedford Farms” patch.

What really makes this donation special are the photos, archival materials, and biography that the family provided. See below for a wonderful picture of Bill wearing his uniform in a Bedford Farms delivery van. Rather than donating just a uniform, the family donated a story that we can share with generations to come.

Kathleen Fahey, for the Bedford Historical Society

William “Bill” Jensen in a Bedford Farms delivery truck, c. 1958-1966.
William “Bill” Jensen’s black and white check overalls. Still neatly folded and tied with a ribbon from the A.E. Jewell Company in Worcester.

Today in Bedford’s History: April 26, 1919

Lost Swans!

From the Boston Daily Globe, April 26, 1919

“LOST. One pair of swans, stolen from Bedford Springs. Mass.; reward offered for information that will lead to discovery.”

The Hayden family were the proprietors of the Bedford Springs resort area, including the Sweetwater Hotel and the New York Pharmaceutical Company, located near Fawn Lake. Above you can see the Hayden family home, “Lakeside,” with 2 white swans (circled in red) swimming near the shore of Fawn Lake. Perhaps these are the missing swans or their relatives! The ad may have been submitted by Mrs. William R. Hayden, who also printed an ad in the same newspaper for a lost diamond and sapphire pin in 1918. This undated photograph is from Leona Proctor Cail’s scrapbook at the Bedford Historical Society.

Kathleen Fahey, Executive Director

Thanks to member Brian Oulighan for locating this newspaper article. Brian grew up in Bedford and now lives in Hudson, NH. Brian combs through old newspapers online for items related to Bedford history and sends them along to the Bedford Historical Society for our archives.