Kids! Get rich selling Cloverline Salve!

Posted by | May 9, 2012

By the time George Wilson Jr. became president of the Wilson Chemical Company in 1937, two generations of Wilsons had perfected the art of what was then a most unusual sales technique. The company recruited young children nationwide via advertisements in comic books and newspapers to sell their White Cloverline Brand Salve door-to-door, stating in the ads that the salesperson could keep a certain amount of the profit or collect premiums listed in a catalog. An attractive offer to rural children in Appalachia during the Depression, when money was scarce to begin with.White Cloverline Brand Salve

The money raised by selling the heal-all ointment actually went to the adult who recruited the children. The children, meantime, received points which could be spent on prizes. And oh, were the pictures of those wonderful prizes eye-catching! One could win yo-yos, dolls, baseball gloves, bats and balls. The more you sold the bigger and better the prize; “Daisy” air rifles, “Radio Flyer” wagons and even bicycles could be won. Through the eyes of that era’s children, this was a great opportunity to get toys they otherwise could not have.

There were plenty of adults who were quite willing to take advantage of that fact, and the children were ripe for the taking. By the mid-1930s 300,000 young salesmen had signed on, endeavoring to sell the salve to anyone with a door on which to knock. To aid sales the company provided its sales force a beautiful 8”x10” religious print to give away with each 25-cent can. In order to handle the large volume of requests for Cloverline, the Wilson plant soon had to open it’s own postal substation at Cloverline Terrace, near its Tyrone, PA headquarters.

The lid of Cloverline Salve’s tin container had an art nouveau design motif around the edge with a green four-leaf clover in the center. “Apply freely, and repeat as often as needed for temporary relief of the minor irritations of the skin mentioned below.” The petroleum-gel product promised to remove wrinkles, heal cuts and burns and give your skin a glowing complexion. If you got chapped skin, you rubbed it in, and if you had a cold, you rubbed it on your chest or your nose, and you rubbed it on any sores you had.

In 1967 the Wilson Chemical Company was dealt a crushing blow by the Federal Trade Commission, which decided that the Company’s advertising method of luring young salesmen had to stop.

sources: www.tyronehistory.org/faq_WCCo.html
http://irvsukelele.blogspot.com/2006/09/on-child-labor-laws.html
http://mywilson.homestead.com/old_jules.html

Cloverline+Salve Wilson+Chemical+Company appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+culture history+of+appalachia,

12 Responses

  • When I was 9 or 10 years old and living in Philadelphia,I got into selling Cloverine Salve and really loved it.I liked the religeous pictures we had to give to customers and they really helped sell the salve.I was watching an old Andy Griffith show with my son where the town boys got involved in selling salve.It really brought back memories and I was telling my son about my experience with Cloverine.I decided to research it on my computer and was delighted to see that it is still available.I couldn’t believe it.I’m 81 years old now and the nostalgia was great!If the archives still list your kid salesmen by name,that would be something.I really enjoyed the stories about Appalachia.Thanks for the memories. Bob Garton Sr.

  • Laura says:

    Ah yes, I remember Cloverine salve well, it smelled so good
    and was a cure all for just about all skin problems. I
    cannot believe that they are selling it.. But I am going
    to buy some if I can find a local store that sells it, so
    far I have not been able to find one, not Walgreens or
    Walmart.. Guess I will keep looking.

    Does anyone remember Hadacol..? I used to sell that door to
    door as a kid..They took it off of the market because of
    the alcohol content, I believe…

  • Linda Smith says:

    I was just writing my memories of early “jobs” and decided to find out what I could online about Cloverine Brand Salve. Even though I wasn’t from Appalachia, I was a kid who went door-to-door selling the tins. I had forgotten about the pictures..although I don’t think they were all religious by the ’40′s. What fond memories I have of those innocent days of yearning for “gifts” and the satisfaction of earning them myself. I think my mother actually sold it in the late 20′s/early 30′s.

  • Rosalie M. Ash says:

    I sold Cloverine products back in the early 1950s. I had no competition in our area so I had a pretty lucrative business. I received a lot of premiums including a bicycle which my brother promptly stole and sold to a friend for $5.00. My parents made him get the bike back but it had been wrecked by then. I also sold Grit, a newspaper, with lots of tidbits in it, together with voluminous ads. Today, I am almost 70 and have fond memories of my childhood and earning those prizes.

  • Carolyn says:

    I have never used this salve, but in going thru my mothers belongings I found one of the tins. It has Price 25 cents. Are these tins collectibles and how old would the tin be that sold for 25 cents?

  • I sold Cloverine Salve door to door during the 1940s summers, while attending elementary school. We lived at the Aluminum City Terrace in New Kensington, Pa. It was a community housing Alcoa Aluminum workers, & still exists today as condos. Ladies would be so excited to see me, saying “Marlene, I hoped you would sell Cloverine again this summer!” I am 73yrs. old & living in CA. In this day of computers, I wondered if I could find any info on Cloverine Salve. Thanks for the prizes & for the memories!

  • Al Sandefur says:

    I was born and raised in Geneva, KY. My Grandmother (MaMaw) sold Cloverine Salve and got me my first Telescope, which was made of cardboard. She wanted me to get interested in astronomy so I would be sure and see Haleys Comet when it returned in 1986. Well it worked, I got interested and taught astronomy for some time. In 1986 I had a 11 inch Celestron mounted in a dome in my back yard just outside of Kansas City, KS. When the comet reappeared from it’s journey around the sun, I had seven school buses and twenty or so cars parked on my fifteen acre backyard at 3 am. We had a great time, what wonderful memories, thanks to Cloverine
    Salve which by the way, is one of the great cure-all’s of all time.

  • Betty Moran says:

    I have all the pictures & 12cans of Salve. My Pharmacy ordered the salve for me. Now $3.85 a can

  • Pa. resident says:

    Lots of mistakes in this article. Not sure where this writer got the idea about adults recruiting kids, because he’s wrong. I have a penny postcard and a premium catalog from 1925 right here to prove it. Furthermore, the company paid to advertise in comic books so they could reach kids directly.

  • Natalie Tschiedel says:

    My big brother, 14 yrs. old, who probably found the ad in one of his many comic books, sold Cloverine. An easy product to sell, and had repeat customers. He later “won” a pocket watch, and a “Daisy” air rifle, the smaller items in the beginning. I’m amazed that the Cloverine is still available. A real American made product. Just what I prefer…Made in USA. I discovered your article while researching information for my “Family Memories” book in the making. ‘Stuff’ about my brother. Thank you for your article.

  • Diane Santoriello says:

    I sold the salve in my neighborhood for several summers during the 1950s. I answered an ad in a comic book. I remember getting a fishing rod and reel and a train case. I also remember that the kid’s in neighborhood called it Diane Salve and that the kids in one family would only let their mom use that on their cuts as scrapes as it didn’t burn or sting.

  • George Blahun says:

    I sold Cloverine Salve door to door in Quaker Hill, CT in the 1950s. My mother called it “bag balm” since my grandparents raised goats and used it on them. I didn’t get rich from it, but always had enough money for popsicles and fireballs.

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