It's a long way from New York to Ohio if you go by way of Yokohama

By Bruce Cameron and Varro Tyler
published in the June 1980 issue of Japanese Philately, Vol. 35, No. 3, p. 128-129

EDITOR’S NOTE: This Japanese 2 sen green postcard (thick paper type, JSDA #8) was shown to us by Bruce Cameron, who holds doctorates in both medicine and bio-chemistry. We passed it along to Varro Tyler, dean of pharmacy at Purdue Universitysity, and now present comments by both men.

PART ONE, by Bruce Cameron:
Although Wapakoneta, Ohio, is only about 600 miles from New York, the New York firm used a Japanese postcard (with a Japanese collo-type illustration of a Japanese woman) to send patent medicine advertising to a physician in Wapakoneta. The card is postmarked in Yokohama in November 1896 (day illegible), was in San Francisco on 10 December, and in Wapakoneta on 15 December, Coichi—Sal was described as a mixture oF cotchicine and saticylate, and the advertiser offered it as a remedy for gout, rheumatism, and rheumatic arthritis. Colchicine has been used for gout for centuries, and is quite effective. It is not useful in rheumatism, although if there were enough salicylate in the —Sal part there might be a beneficial effect. There was, however, a great controversy in American medical circles in the 1880s about use of colchicine in treating rheumatism. The 1894 National Dispensatory condemned it although “some reputable physicians esteem it highly." The 1936 edition of Martindale’s Extra Pharmacopoeia lists a mixture also called “Colchi-Sal” in use in Britain at that time.

PART TWO, by Varro Tyler:
In spite of the foreign—sounding name, E. Fougera & Co. is an old established New York pharmaceutical company. It has now been absorbed by a larger organization (Byk-Gulden, Inc.) but is still doing business under the name E. Fougera & Co., at Cantiague Rock Road, Hicksville, NY 11802. To the best of my knowledge, they were never established in Japan. The postcard advertising is almost certainly a gimmick to attract physicians’ attention by use of a foreign mailing. I suspect that in 1896, it was quite a novelty to get a card From Japan, so have to credit Fougera & Co. for mounting an innovative advertising campaign.

Colchi-Sal was an interesting product. In addition to colchicine and methyl salicylate, it contained what the company called the “active principle” - in reality, a concentrated extract of Cannabis indica, known today as marijuana. An article in 1915 in the Journal oF the American Medical Association, reprinted in The Propaganda for Reform in Proprietary Medicines, 9th ed., pp. 58—59, gave all the details.

EDITOR’S POSTSCRIPT: In addition to the novelty value of mailing their advertising cards From Japan, Fougera & Co. may actually have saved money. In 1896, the domestic postcard rate in the United States was one cent, Japan’s international postcard rate to the United States, Hong Kong, and China was two sen, which at the official exchange rate in 1896 was equal to only 1.0316 cents U.S. (see JP 32/36). If printing cost less in Japan than in the United States, as is quite possible, it could have been less expensive to print and mail from Japan than from New York, but it is surprising that Fougera & Co. saw no need to include their street address in New York, to which requests for samples should be sent. In 1896 the city had more than three million people.

Note from Tom Fortunato:

This article was brought to my attention by Michael Ruggiero of Staten Island, NY, who also sent me a photocopy of a similar cover he owns, seen above. It was postmarked in Yokohama on 3 Nov. 1896, bears a Victoria, BC (Canada) transit mark of December 15, and eventually was undeliverable based on the Feb 3, 1897 dead letter mark.

He has seen other cards from this Colchi-Sal mailing, all being mailed to US addresses and postmarked in November or December of 1896 with the same printed reverse.

A third such cover has now appeared in an eBay auction in June, 2004. This one is in color!