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.

Bedford’s Favorite Ice Cream Stand: From Prescott Dairy to Bedford Farms

Looking south on North Road, c.1900. J.B. Prescott Dairy barn is on the right, the family home is on the left.

J. B. Prescott Dairy Company, founded in 1880, is the longest surviving business in Bedford, though the business has changed hands and names multiple times. Josiah Bartlett Prescott, the founder of the business, acquired a plot of land on North Road in 1879. The next year he founded his dairy company, which he ran from his home for the next twenty-five years.

In 1905, J. B. Prescott acquired the adjacent lot (where Holi and Bedford Farms stand now) and built a dairy plant and a large stable for his horses. According to Williston Farrington in An Awesome Century, after morning milking, local farmers would put their shipping cans in well houses, little buildings that would keep the milk cold (think along the line of an old-fashioned refrigerator). J. B. Prescott dairy would pick the milk up from the farms, pasteurize the milk, then ship them to Bedford residents.

When J. B. Prescott died, he left the business to his son Horace, who continued to run the company until his death in 1929.

Amos L. Taylor acquired the business and renamed it Bedford Farms Dairy. In the 1950s, Bedford Farms Dairy began to produce and sell ice cream.
Dairy operations ceased in the late 1960’s, but Glenn Simm Jr. acquired and continued to operate the ice cream business. Current owner Joe Venuti acquired the business in 1984.

From its humble beginnings as a dairy company operated out of Josiah Bartlett Prescott’s home to a popular ice cream shop with two locations, Bedford Farms is the oldest business in Bedford and remains a popular place for Bedford residents enjoy a cold ice cream on a hot summer day.

Emma Battaglia, Summer 2019 intern