A lot of people in Louisiana in the late forties and early fifties did just that ...
especially in dry parishes (counties).
You see it contained 12% alcohol (24 proof) ... but only as a preservative, mind you.
Hadacol was also a mixture of vitamins B1 and B2, iron, niacin, calcium, phosphorous, honey,
and diluted hydrochloric acid in that 12% alcohol.
The alcohol content wasn't all that high,
but the hydrochloric acid meant it was delivered through the body faster than it would be otherwise.
The mixture really made people feel better,
although it wasn't a cure for the many diseases it was advertised for:
high blood pressure, ulcers, strokes, asthma,and hay fever.
What made Hadacol a success was Dudley LeBlanc's advertising ingenuity.
He explored ways to promote his product that took the public by surprise and worked.
He kept supplies low in some pharmacies to create demand.
He paid people for their testimonies, which sometimes crossed the line to the outrageous:
"Two months ago I couldn't read nor write. I took four bottles of Hadacol, and now I'm teaching school."
(He probably gave bottles of Hadacol to his students!)
Yes, the mastermind of Hadacol, Dudley LeBlanc, even recommended his tonic to children,
going so far as to make a comic book to promote his elixir to kids!
Indeed old Dudley was a scoundrel but this was Louisiana!
And he had his good side:
He put himself through college in Lafayette, Louisiana by running a clothes pressing business.
Then he put four brothers and two cousins through college as well.
LeBlanc sold shoes, tobacco, patent medicine, and funeral insurance.
He also ran a funeral home that benefited greatly from the insurance sales.
On his way to making millions,
LeBlanc served as state senator and in the Louisiana Public Service Commission.
He made several unsuccessful bids to become governor.
LeBlanc served as state senator for four non-consecutive terms between 1940 and his death in 1971.
Why did Dudley name his tonic, Hadacol? As he told Groucho Marx on his game show:
"Well, I had to call it something!"
Groucho Marx you frown? How could Dudley afford his services?
LeBlanc made millions courtesy of the last of the traveling medicine shows:
At the time, Hadacol was the second biggest advertiser in the US, right after Coca-Cola!
In 1950, LeBlanc took the show on the road.
The Hadacol Caravan of 130 vehicles played one-night stands throughout the South.
Thousands of people paid admission with Hadacol box tops each night and enjoyed entertainment from
Carmen Miranda, Mickey Rooney, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, and other big names.
The band played, chorus girls danced, circus acts performed, and LeBlanc sold millions of bottles of Hadacol.
The caravan then headed west and recruited the talents of Groucho Marx and Judy Garland.
In 1951, LeBlanc toured using a 17-car train called the Hadacol Special. The shows featured bicycle giveaways, beauty contests, and clowns selling Hadacol.
Jack Dempsey, Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, and Cesar Romero joined the show, which played for a month straight in Los Angeles.
Hank Williams played the final act of the show and brought people to their feet every night.
By the end of the tour, the IRS and debtors were circling that train.
But Dudley, in true Louisiana politician form,
sold his company to an outside group who belatedly found out how deep in debt the company was.
The group that bought Hadacol was stunned to find how far in debt the company was,
and declared bankruptcy even before paying the entire $8 million selling price to LeBlanc.
Still, LeBlanc had the last laugh, as the company's debts were no longer his!