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A Piece of Early Hungarian Americana
A Piece of Early Hungarian Americana

Recently, our Editorial Board Member Joe Ull showed me a paperback book entitled “Az egészség kalauza – hasznos tanácsadó betegeknek –  egészségeseknek, mindenféle bajban szenvedĹ‘knek” (Health Guide – useful advice for the sick and the healthy, for those suffering from all types of ills).

It was published in 1938 by Bolgár Ervin, Doctor of Pharmacology, and was copyrighted by Vörös Kereszt Patika (Red Cross Pharmacy) in Cleveland, OH of which he was ”president and director”.

The cover of the 112-page booklet identifies Dr. Bolgár as having degrees in Pharmacology and Chemistry both in Hungary and the US, but without identifying the institutions where he obtained his diplomas.

It describes at length Dr. Bolgár’s proprietary remedies, dealing with conditions such as ”álmatlanság” (sleeplessness), to ”vér tea” (blood tea). As a sample of the booklet’s style, here is the description of ”blood tea”:

”There are many types of blood tea, and we too carry many types, but with the best conscience, we recommend the Bolgár blood tea, as the best and most effective among them all.  But there is hardly any family left now which would not always have this outstanding blood tea at hand, as a preventative and as medicine. Children and adults, women as well as men gladly drink it and use it with best results, as a pleasant laxative, stomach and intestine cleanser.  It splendidly regulates the functioning of the liver, kidneys, gallbladder and the entire system.  Drink a cup of it daily to promote the maintenance of good health.  Be careful to buy the real and original Bolgár blood tea, because many imitations and counterfeit products are advertised under similar names.  When you send in the price of the large four dollar box, we will mail it anywhere free of charge.  Order it directly from Red Cross Pharmacy, 12302 Buckeye Rd., Cor. East 123rd St., Cleveland, O.”

Numerous testimonials praise the various remedies, and also the various kinds of beauty products developed by Dr. Bolgár, while many of them are accompanied by a photo of the sender.  Benefits of various remedies and products are highlighted by several skits.  

Plentifully illustrated with drawings, the booklet also provides helpful hints for first aid situations, has a calendar of saints’ days, and lists cleaning methods to remove spots caused by various substances on different textures – wool, linen, etc. 

A whole illustrated section deals with various types of hernia supports.  Over one fifth of the booklet is devoted to ”secret sicknesses”, i.e., sexual ills in men and women, and promises to handle all correspondence relating to them with utmost discretion.

The back cover has a photo of the Red Cross Pharmacy on Buckeye Road (known among Hungarians as ”Bakáj”), and described as ”the oldest, largest, renowned Hungarian pharmacy in America.”  On the principle of ”blowing your own horn”, the blurb also states that from there, they daily send out several hundred packages of medications in response to orders.

Although Dr. Bolgár seems to have adopted the flowery marketing techniques of snake oil salesmen of the time, the booklet may very well have been for many what it claims to be on the front cover: The Book of Hope – „A reménység könyve”.

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