Back in the mid-1950's, doctors in the United States began receiving colorful postcards from
exotic locations around the world advertising a popular anesthetic drug known as Pentothal
Sodium. Its manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories of Illinois, developed a scheme to mail a
postcard every couple of weeks to hundreds of thousands of doctors and health facilities on
its giant mailing list, first to US addresses and then others abroad.
Each card starts with the salutation, "Dear Doctor," hence the nickname of these collectibles
sometimes referred to as "Dear Doctor" cards, followed by a message regarding the virtues of
the drug. By the way, you probably know the drug by its more common name, truth serum, made
popular in movies and TV shows during the spy era! This was "junk mail" at its finest.
There has been rather little written about these cards by either or deltiologists (postcard
collectors) or philatelists (stamp collectors). But each group will find them interesting,
as did their lucky recipients.
The cards all bear native scenes depicting the people, places, or culture of the country it
was mailed from. They came from every corner of the globe, including such locales as
Antarctica, French Polynesia, Panama, and Spanish Sahara.
Each was mailed the cheapest way by surface (boat) mail using colorful stamps of the period.
Some were mailed in bulk and postmarked all on the same day. Others were spread out over
several months and can be found with different stamps and postmark types on them. They were
even sent on the first day of issue for some stamps.
This web site is a resource for collectors of the more than 180 varieties of cards posted
by Abbott Labs. Little is documented on their origin, and few collectors have ever
been attempted to definitively catalog them... until now.
For an introduction to these postcards and others like them, read my article
Dear Doctor Cards- Junk Mail with a Difference below.
You'll also find several other articles of interest about them.
Do you collect these cards? Then consider joining
our group. We are all interested in collecting them and share information about new finds.
To date, we have found Abbott cards in these 10 languages:
Arabic, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish
And sent to these 34 countries and territories:
Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Belgian Congo, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Canal Zone, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador
France, Germany, Greece, Hawaii (pre-statehood), Hong Kong, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands
Nicaragua, Pakistan Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Uruguay, USA
To join or just ask a question, send me an email!
Members- include your name, city/state/country, describe what you type of
around the world cards you collect (Abbott, Squibb, etc.) and feel free to pass along a
buy/sell/trade offer. Send a photo if you have one in JPG format. I'll then post your
name on our member page. There is no charge to join and no membership dues!
Do you have these cards?
Help us build the data base of all Abbott and other drug and non-drug advertising cards.
Check your cards against the master check list and let us know if you have a new find.
Send a scanned image of the card (minimum 100 DPI and 500 pixels in width) or send a
photocopy of the item.
North Chicago Plant of Abbott Laboratories (1950's)
It's a long way from New York to Ohio if you go by way of Yokohama
by Bruce Cameron and Varro Tyler,
Japanese Philately, Vol. 35, No. 3, p. 128-129 Web Page
Pseudo Postal Stationery
by Joseph E. Foley,
The Revealer, Fall 2000 (JPG images)
1958 Burroughs Wellcome "Livingstone" Mailing
by Tom Fortunato, December 29, 2003 Web Page
1913 French Card
by Tom Fortunato, September 5, 2004 Web Page
The Origins of Pfizer Cards
by Tom Fortunato, June 18, 2005 Web Page
German Bayer Cards of 1937
by Tom Fortunato, September 10, 2005 Web Page
Fournier Cards 1911-1917, the First Dear Dr Cards?
by Tom Fortunato, July 3, 2008 Web Page
The Origins of La Biomarine and Similar Cards by Publimer
by Tom Fortunato, July 5, 2008
Updated June 24, 2011 Web Page
Doctor, Marinol et Ionyl vous saluent bien! (Doctor, Marinol and Ionyl greet you well!)
from Timbres Magazine, March 2009 [in French] PDF document
La collection Amora 1950-1972 (Amora Collection 1950-1972 with La Biomarine listing)
[in French] Offsite link
Kerguelen Publicity Postcards
from http://www.philateliedestaaf.fr [in French] offsite link
The "Doctor" Series of Medical Advertising Postcards, 1952-55
by Hugh Osborne, The Upland Goose, Vol. XXI, No. 4 (June, 2011), The Falkland Islands Philatelic Study Group PDF document
Burroughs Wellcome Matched Pair
by Tom Fortunato, June 24, 2011 Web link
Variations of an Early "Dear Doctor" Postcard
by Roger Cichorz, September/November, 2011 Scribblings, Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library PDF document
Variations of Postcard Map IV: Tahiti- Dancers of the Bougaineville Biomarine Series (in French)
by Emmanuel Riou, sent in May, 2014 PDF document
Medical Advertisment on Postcards from Lebanon
by Fadi Maassarani, May 19, 2016 PDF document
Other Abbott Advertising Mailings
1965 Abbott Lettersheet Mailing (and earlier!)
by Tom Fortunato, November 9, 2003
Updated September 19, 2004
Web pageExcel checklist
Misc. Items of Interest
Dear Doctor Card Club Forming
by Rob Haeseler, Linn's Stamp News,
October 13, 2003 (JPG image)
Drug Company Produced First Day Covers
by Tom Fortunato,
updated January 4, 2004
Medical Mailing International
The Use of Special Stamps in Pharmaceutical
Promotions Overseas, (1969 letter and 4
page booklet, Jersey, Channel Islands)
posted May 29, 2005, reported by Bruce
Ellison of Youngtown, AZ
Il bastone di Asclepio (Italian)
drug company underprints stamps with its product names posted September, 2019 PDF document,
Poulenc Butterfly Mailing
by Tom Fortunato, June 11, 2011 Web Page
Actifed Stamp Inserts
by Tom Fortunato, June 11, 2011 Web Page
W. C. Abbott and Abbott Lab History
by the Made in Chicago Museum, 2017 Web Page
Other known articles not online
World Tour, by Louis Gaitanis, Barr's Post Card News, March, 1991
*** Members ***
Click the link here to see a current listing of club members.
Membership Listing: Web Page
*** Join Us/Report Findings ***
There is no charge to join the Dear Doctor club. Simply send along your name, email address,
and city/state or city and country where you reside. Also send along a brief offer to sell or
exchange your items, or note special interests. Send a picture of yourself if you'd like!
We encourage all members and non-members alike to report finds to us of their holdings,
especially ones in languages other than English or to non-US addresses.
Typical information we need include:
Company sending the card (Abbott, Poulenc, etc.)
Country where the item was mailed from
City and date of the postmark
Description of the postcard's picture
Language the card is written in
City and country to where the card was mailed
Email the info to the email address below.
*** Publications ***
You can now order David Lai's book depicting Pentothal cards on Amazon.com!
Click the book to check out the details! List price is $24.95, Amazon's price is $9.98!