13. Lydia Pinkham, Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound
When Lydia Pinkham’s husband lost all his money in the Panic of 1873, Pinkham decided to try marketing an herbal compound she had shared with friends and neighbors for years. Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound included roots and herbs (plus almost 20% alcohol) and was marketed as a tonic for “women’s ailments.”
Advertising prominently featuring Pinkham’s face and promoting the product as “invented by a woman, made by a woman and designed for women” helped make the compound one of America’s most popular remedies. When Pinkham died in 1883, sales were $300,000 per year. Her son Charles kept running the business, reaching peak sales of $3 million in 1925. The family sold the business in 1968, but the product is still available online.