JUNE 18, 1908

Regulation 19 for the enforcement ,of the Pure Food and Drugs Act, prohibiting the use of a geographical name in connection with a food or drug product not made in that place has stopped the manufacture of Haarlem Oil in this country. On this point the regulations are specific and no foreign name which is recognized as distinctive of a foreign product may be used of an article of domestic origin. With the accompanying pictures, a brief account of the origin and history of Haarlem Oil will probably be of interest to readers of The Era. Claes Tilly is supposed to have first prepared his  medicarnentum gratia probatum" about the year 1696, and used it in a small way for the benefit of his patrons in and about Haarlem. His laboratory and apothecary shop was situated in the street called Achter straat (now St. Anthonystraat) between Hoogstraat and Barnesteeg CLAAS in the city of Haarlem.

Although the honor of first compounding this well known kidney and bladder remedy has been awarded to Claas Tilly, there is good authority for maintaining that the process for its manufacture was discovered by Hermann Boergrave. professor of medicine in the University of Leyden and one of the greatest doctors of all the past ages. Although Boergrave shared in the profits of the medicine which rapidly achieved popularity, the ethics of his profession prevented him from having his name connected with a proprietary article. While this was true, it is well known that he thought highly of the remedy and recommended its use.

Recent examination of the entire subject of the manufacture of Haarlem Oil in the cities of Holland and Germany has developed many interesting facts. Only one or two concerns are known in Holland as manufacturers of Haarlem Oil. Much of the so‑called Haarlem Oil imported in this country is made in the city of Amsterdam by old women and children. who prepare their concoctions in kitchens, back sheds and cellars, using the vilest materials and eking out a scanty existence. It is said that animal blood is used as an ingredient of some of this product. It is claimed that the use of the word "Haarlem" in connection with this stuff is as much a violation of the law as if the product were made in Hoboken, N. J., and officials of the Agricultural Department are working on the case.

For the manufacture of genuine Haarlem Oil, a factory specially equipped with expensive apparatus is required. The ingredients are subjected to a process extending over several days, it is said, which forms a peculiar chemical preparation very difficult of analysis.. and which has enabled the Tilly family to preserve the secret of its manufacture for 200 years.

Claas Tilly died about the year 1734 and was succeeded in business by his son.. de Koning Tilly, who was in turn followed by his son, G. deKoning Tilly, and thus the business has been Handed down through successive generations to the present time.

An interesting fact in connection with the manufacture of Haarlem Oil was the granting by the Dutch government of a charter to a company controlled by American capital. This company was given the right to use the word "genuine" and the words "Oudste Fabriek" (oldest factory) on its product, a privilege which has not been granted to any other concern or individual making or handling Haarlem Oil. The efficacy of the remedy in the treatment of kidney and bladder diseases has been attested by some of the best medical talent at home and abroad, and its extensive use for two hundred years. with little advertising, would tend to support all of the claims made for it.

 Indeed the Federal Government did go after one of the companies making the product.  Below is the text of the case.

F. & D. No. 1584.

Issued July 20, 1911.

United States Department of Agriculture,




On or about November 15, 1909, The Holland Medicine Co.. Scranton, Pa.,, shipped from the State of Pennsylvania into the State of New Jersey a quantity of a drug product labeled as follows:


" Gold Medal Genuine Tilly Haarlem Oil Capsules, For kidney, liver and bladder. Holland Medicine Co. Scranton, Pa. Guaranteed under the Food and Drugs Act, June 30,1906, Serial No. 16466. The oldest, the surest kidney, liver and bladder remedy. Gold Medal Genuine Tilly Haarlem Oil used for over 200 years."


Samples from this shipment were procured and analyzed by the Bureau of Chemistry, United States Department of Agriculture, and the product was found to consist of alcoholic insoluble matter, nonvolatile material, sulphur, volatile oil, methyl salicylate, and oil of amber. As the above analysis and report thereon showed that the product was misbranded within the meaning of the Food and Drugs Act of June 30, 1906, the Secretary of Agriculture afforded the said Holland Medicine Co. and the party from whom the samples were procured opportunities for hearings. As it appeared after hearings held that the shipment was made in violation of the act, the Secretary of Agriculture reported the facts to the Attorney-General with a statement of the evidence upon which to base a prosecution.

In due course a criminal information was filed in the District Court of the United States for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against the Holland Medicine Co., Inc., charging the above shipment and alleging that the product so shipped was misbranded in the following particulars ., to wit:

(1) The statement on said label " Genuine Haarlem Oil Capsules" is misleading and deceptive as it conveys the impression that the capsules are composed of pure Haarlem oil, whereas the analysis shows that methyl salicirlate, which is not a normal ingredient of Haarlem oil, is present therein.

(2) The statement " The oldest and surest kidney, liver and bladder remedy " is misleading and deceptive because it represents that the preparation is unfailing in its remedial action in diseases of the kidney, liver, and bladder, whereas the said preparation does not possess the remedial value claimed for it.

(3) The statement " The greatest remedy ever known for kidney, bladder, stomach, liver, gravel, internal inflammation and skin diseases " is misleading as it conveys the impression that this preparation has therapeutic value in the treatment of the diseases mentioned, whereas it has no therapeutic value in such cases.

(4) The statement in the circular accompanying the package

Gold Medal Haarlem Oil has been the recognized remedy for diseases of the kidneys, liver, bladder and genital organs the world over for 200 years " is false and misleading because said statement conveys the impression that this preparation is a standard remedy for the diseases enumerated, whereas the preparation analyzed does not justify the above claim being made for it.

(5) The statement on said circular " The operation of this remedy is direct and certain " is misleading and deceptive because it is in effect a claim that the preparation acts directly upon the organs named and is unfailing in its remedial action in the diseases mentioned, whereas said preparation does not justify the claims made for it in this statement.

(6) The statement "For gravel or stone in the bladder take one capsule until better, then every other day until cured. They will greatly expel the gravel without- inconvenience or pain and prevent its reformation," is false, misleading. and deceptive, as said preparation does not possess properties capable of producing the results claimed for it in this statement.

(7) The statement " For palpitation of the heart immediate relief may be obtained by inhaling the odor from a broken capsule " is misleading and deceptive as it conveys the impression that this preparation I

Is valuable in this affection of the heart, whereas said preparation possesses no medicinal value in the treatment of the affection of the heart mentioned.

(8) The statement " In the treatment of bladder troubles and complications originated in the prostatic and urinary tracts * * * it seems to be a specific" is false and misleading as it indicates that said preparation is a certain cure for bladder troubles and complications having their origin in the prostatic and urinary tracts, whereas said preparation does not possess the remedial value claimed for it in this statement.

On March 23, 1911, the defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere to the above information, whereupon the court imposed a fine of $10 and costs.  This notice is given pursuant to section 4 of the Food and Drugs Act of June 30, 1906.


James Wilson
Secretary of Agriculture
Washington D.C. June 24, 1911

©Digger Odell Publications 2002