William E. Clarke of Providence, Rhode Island produced and marketed “Hunt’s Remedy”, a widely sold nostrum for kidney complaints, for decades. Research into Providence city directories from 1859 (no mention of Clarke) through 1910 provides insight into Clarke and his activities.
His name first appears in 1860, listed as a clerk at a business located at 43 Wickenden Street; I suspect the number “43” might be a typographical error and that Clarkemay have worked at the apothecary and dry goods store of Benjamin Bailey at 46 & 48 Wickenden. Clarke’s home address is given as 58 Sheldon Street, which is also the address of John Clarke, “Carpenter & Builder”.
I strongly suspect that John (whose directory appearances and advertisements date back to 1850) was William’s father.
The Hunt’s store at 28 Market Street with his traveling wagon posed out front, complete with dog sitting in the front, 1860s. The man in the doorway is likely William E. Clarke, and the driver holding the reins may well be his traveling salesman W. B. Blanding. ( from a stereo view in Sheaff collection ).
William’s name does not appear again until 1864, at the end of the Civil War. Research in other sources indicate that he enrolled in the 11th Regiment of the Rhode Island Volunteers on September 15, 1862.
On November 4, 1863 Clarke married Emma P. Mason of Providence. In the 1864 directory he is listed as an apothecary at 233 South Main Street (“Corner of South Main and Transit Sts.”), and as boarding at 58 Williams Street. In 1866 he is listed as a clerk again, at 40 Weybosset Street (the address of Mason, Dawley & Baker, apothecaries).
Importantly to the story of his career, in 1866 the earliest advertisement for Hunt’s Remedy of Providence which I have so far uncovered (appearing on a broadsheet “The National Hotel Register”, December 5, 1866, Worcester, Massachusetts) lists “William E. Clarke, Proprietor, 28 Market Street, Providence.
” The 1867 Providence directory lists him as the proprietor of an apothecary at 28 Market Street. Later, in an 1883 Hunt’s Remedy “ABC” advertising pamphlet, Clarke states that Hunt’s Remedy “had been on the market several years prior to 1867” and also that “In 1867 Hunt’s Remedy attracted my particular attention”.
The most common Hunt’s Remedy trade card “Copyrighted 1883”