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McHistory: Bowles Street Named For The 'Old Singing Soldier' With The Medicine Wagon

McHistory - Bowles clipping
The National Kidney and Liver Cure was made in Normal.

Production of patent or "quack" medicine was at its regional center in Bloomington-Normal during the Civil War and into the 20th century.

One of the most popular medicines was made in Normal off of Normal Avenue at the home (which also served as the factory) of Joseph W. Bowles. Said to be a blood purifier that could cure it all from headaches to nervousness, the National Liver and Kidney Cure sold for $1.

Known as the “Old Singing Soldier,” Bowles eventually brought on his son and daughter to work for him. They traveled the area selling the cure via medicine wagon. The National Liver and Kidney Cure was said to be made from vegetables and herbs—and may have had some alcohol in it for an extra kick.

The Bowles legacy survives with Bowles Street in Normal.

McHistory is a co-production of WGLT and the McLean County Museum of History. Subscribe to the McHistory podcast.

Ariele Jones is currently the host of Morning Edition; Center Stage, a show focusing on the music of Broadway and Hollywood; and Highway 309.