Kids! Get rich selling Cloverine Salve!

Posted by | May 31, 2016

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 Cloverine 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.

cloverine 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 Cloverine, the Wilson plant soon had to open its own postal substation at Cloverine Terrace, near its Tyrone, PA headquarters.

The lid of Cloverine 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.


30 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.

  • I sold Cloverine salve when I was 9 & 10 years old in Hovers Orchard (west Wichita Ks.).
    I remember scenic pictures also in the round tube that the salve was shipped in. That was 65 years ago.

  • larry sanderson says:

    I sold Cloverine salve in San Saba, Tx. back in the 50’s. I got a roll (8) of Val-O-Milk candies for selling my order. I signed up to sell them from an ad in a comic book. I was 8 years old and it was my first job. I made a living in sales as an adult and always credited that first experience of selling Cloverine salve door to door as the foundation for my success in sales.

  • Dan Glasgow says:

    Around 1948-9 I was 6 o years old and went door-to-door selling the salve and Christmas cards. For a 6 year old I did exceptional and had repeat business. I learned to sell myself and I think that was the most valuable of life’s lessons. Today no kid should be permitted to sell as I did because society has allowed America to become unsafe. What a shame.

  • I remember cloverine salve very well! I sold it when I was in
    the 6th grade.A great product! I agree with Dan Glasgow above.

  • Connie Greer says:

    About 1958, I sold Cloverine to everyone I and my family knew – I really wanted roller skates and I got them! My Grandmother bought a tin(s) and in 1964 used some of it on my field hockey stick shin injury; it was the cure. When she passed away in the late 70s, I thought to peek into her medicine cabinet and acquire the tin, still with contents. Today, that tin with contents is in my medicine cabinet.

  • Kay Massey says:

    My little brother and I sold Cloverine Salve door to door Twice….Once in the summer. easy going at that time and then that winter following….Dang it was cold and snow knee deep. and too, early dark. He took one side of the street and I the other! Boy were we ever good sellers. Full of ourselves and the need to ‘git er done!’ Loved that stuff!

  • Kay Massey says:

    Forgot to mention, it was in Kokomo, Indiana…..1958

  • Lawrence Wilder says:

    I sold “White Cloverine Brand Salve” in Kingsport (Lynn Garden), Tennessee, for a few months circa 1950 as a 7-year old. I earned a pocket watch and possibly other small prizes that I can’t recall. Also sold Grit newspaper for a short while; My most lucrative “business” was selling Lancaster vegetable and flower seeds at 10-cents a packet. I’m sure I found all these “opportunities” in comic-book ads.
    Those really were the good old days. Too bad our grandchildren will never be able to enjoy those times and experiences.

  • John Kraklau says:

    I am curious to know if selling Cloverine Salve could earn you a Winchester 22cal rifle. My father sold Cloverine Salve in the 30’s and thinks that’s how he earned his most prized possession as a boy.

  • I remember in the 30’s when I was between 7 and 10 years old, I sold this product and earned many prizes. I sold it door to door for 25 cents. I have fond memories of this experience. Thank you, Cloverine Co.

  • Lynn says:

    Have the print of the boy and girl which was a prize was wondering how much they might b worth

  • Don Robertson says:

    I was born in Kincaid Wv. And moved to Aiken SC in 1951 and GRIT newspapers and Cloverline salve when I was in the third and fourth grades. People loved both of them.

  • Harold Dennis says:

    Born 1940…. in late 40’s and early 50’s sold the salve and

    neighbors loved it and I received gift from the company. It

    was very enjoyable for the era. Brings back very good


  • Peter Aretin says:

    I have just been rereading Lumiansky’s excellent version of the Morte Darthur. There are damosels in these tales who use magic salves to hear all manner of grievous wounds, including reattaching a severed head. Even Cloverline could not do that!

  • Martin Rose says:

    My mother in-law sold the salve over 70 years ago. She got the ‘Last Supper’ picture and two others as a prize. The smaller ones are Jesus at a door and the guardian angel. Would these be of any value in today’s market?

  • Charlie Coleman says:

    I didn’t get rich selling Cloverine, but the memories I have of going door to door selling the salve and the pictures in the early 50s are worth millions..

  • Phillip Roach says:

    I was born August 1936 in Lynchburg Va.and sold Cloverine Salve when I was around 10 or 11. I don’t remember getting any prizes but thought there was an option to keep some of the money from your sales. Does anyone remember that? One of my best customers was a hair salon and they would buy 2 or 3 cans at a time. I guess they used it on burns.

  • Sylvia T. Clark says:

    I sold this salve in 1948 in Riverside, California. I loved talking with the people who used it. It made them happy. It made me happy to make a few dollars. It made my Mom happy that it kept me busy.

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