The first product was Thedford's Black Draught®, a senna based laxative, originally developed in 1840 by Dr. A.Q. Simmons of Snow Hill, Georgia. The product was renamed Black Draught® and first year sales were $35,488. Legend has it that in the early days of the British Navy it was customary for the sailors to be given a weekly infusion of senna along with their customary lot of rum. Since the mariner's diet consisted largely of salt pork, bully beef and hardtack, the custom was in the best interest of all onboard. As history bears out, Black Draught® was a huge success.
With Black Draught® successfully on its way, the Company acquired a second product called Dr. McElree's Wine of Cardui, a preparation or tonic for women based on the sedative and antispasmodic properties of Cnicus benedictus. While knowledge of the complex drug properties of botanical Cnicus benedictus extended back hundreds of years in Central Europe, there is no recorded history of the plant or its seeds being transported to the United States. Yet in 1833, Mrs. Francis Smith was growing it in her Fayetteville, Tennessee garden.
Reportedly, Mrs. Smith became acquainted with a Cherokee Indian who stopped temporarily in her town. Mrs. Smith observed this Indian bring dramatic relief to a young girl suffering from dysmenorrhea by using a compound from the dried leaves of this botanical plant. The husband of Mrs. Smith persuaded the Indian to give them a handful of dried leaves and a few seeds. Mrs. Smith then gave the seeds to her granddaughter, Mrs. McElree, who placed them in a trunk. Several years later out of curiosity, Mr. McElree planted the seeds to see if they would germinate. They did and the plant grew heartily. He then gave some of the leaves to several neighbors and all reported good results. During the 1870's the drug was commercially packaged and sold. In 1882, Mr. McElree sold the rights to the Chattanooga Medicine Company.