Many a lubricated patron of the taverns and restaurants that make up the Soulard neighborhood has at one time or another pondered this large and friendly sign, one of the best remaining examples in St. Louis. Dr. Hoffman’s Red Drops rests on the north face of a building on Ninth Street at Allen. There are four distinct lines of copy, the first two boldly speling out the brand name of this patent medicine. The third line is mostly readable, and the fourth line less so. It is the third line that intrigues, for Dr. Hoffman’s claims to cure or relieve “Colic, Cramps and Cholera Morbus.” Cholera? There hasn’t been a serious outbreak of cholera in St. Louis since 1866. The fourth and last line reads “World’s Greatest Diarrhea Cure.” Wow, this must have been some really good stuff!
It is quite possible this sign has lasted more than 120 years. The Lemp Avenue Archaeological Sites, on their website, shows a Dr. Hoffman’s Red Drops medicine bottle, excavated from a privy not far from this building. The raised letters on the bottle, dating to the 1880s, say it was used for relieving menstrual cramps. Additional evidence comes from the owner of the building adjacent to the old sign. Oreon Sandler stated that his building dates to 1879, and since the architecture of the Dr. Hoffman’s building is similar, we may surmise the wall as well as the sign painted on it is of like vintage.