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Barry's Tricopherous Bottle

$825.00 (excluding tax)

Product Description

Set includes:

  • Certificate of Authenticity
  • National Geographic's Civil War Gold DVD
  • Museum style display case with acrylic cover
  • Copy of Bottles from the Deep book

Bottle Height: 15.00cm

The self-declared “Professor,” Alexander C. Barry, was a New York wigmaker who had never actually received any academic degree. Barry’s Tricopherous for The Skin and Hair was nonetheless a popular product. The “Professor” claimed that his father established the Tricopherous formula in 1801, although this too may be another Barry tale. The product was first sold in the United States around 1842.

Ads for Barry’s hair preparation included popular trade cards, typically featuring a beautiful woman with luxurious, long-flowing hair. The ads claimed the product was “guaranteed to restore the hair to bald heads and to make it grow thick, long and soft.” More than 80 bottles of Barry’s famous Tricopherous were retrieved from the wreck site. They had once contained Barry’s alcohol-based formula combined with some castor oil and other fragrant oils.

The product’s most active ingredient, though, was its one-percent tincture of cantharides. Cantharides came from the dried, crushed bodies of the blister beetle or Spanish fly. When threatened, the beetle produces a caustic irritant called cantharidin. The theory was that this substance would stimulate blood supply to the scalp, which in turn would promote hair-follicle growth. Barry claimed that “if the pores of the scalp are clogged, or if the blood and other fluids do not circulate freely . . . the result is scurf, dandruff, shedding of the hair, grayness, dryness and harshness of the ligaments, and entire baldness. . . .”

“Stimulate the skin” he claimed, with Tricopherous, and “the torpid vessels, recovering their activity, will annihilate the disease.” Cantharidin, however, is today recognized as a toxic substance that can cause severe gastrointestinal disturbances if ingested, sometimes leading to convulsions, coma, and possible death. Still, Barry’s formula was sold well into the 20th century. Even today, a search of the Internet yields sites selling modern versions of Barry’s Tricopherous hair tonic, marketed as “based” on the original formula.

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