Monday, May 4, 2015

Jesse Walker Stutts & His “Eas-It” Elixir

If you walked down Court Street in Florence exactly 100 years ago, you would encounter the pharmacy belonging to Jesse Walker Stutts. The small business was located where a sandwich shop now sits on the northwest corner of the Tennessee Street intersection.

J.W. Stutts Drug Store, Circa 1916
J.W. Stutts Drug Store, Circa 1916

Born on December 12, 1875, Jesse passed away on December 1, 1960. He's buried in the Florence City Cemetery on Tennessee Street in a plat that includes his wife Virginia Lull Johnson Stutts, his son Jesse Jr., and daughter Margaret E. Stutts.

The early 20th Century was an era when most drugs were compounded. Often physicians opened their own apothecary shops; however, whether these druggists had a doctorate or not, they were often addressed as "Doctor." Some documents refer to Jesse as Dr. Stutts, but records show that Stutts received the Ph.C. degree from Vanderbilt University in 1902, making him a Pharmaceutical Chemist.

Many also confuse Jesse Walker with his brother, Dr. Henry Lee Stutts, a prominent Greeehill physician. Both were children of John Ritter Stutts and his first wife Margaret Jones Stutts.


Over a 35 year span, Stutts marketed several medicines, including Ivago for poison ivy, Scratch-No-More for pruritus, and Germ Death, an antiseptic. Yet it was his pain medicine Eas-It that put his pharmacy on the local and regional map.

The Eas-it Chemical Company was established in December 1913. State records show that initial shareholders were J. F. Brown, R. W. Stribling, and M. S. Hansborough. Stutts proudly marketed his pain relief liquid as "non-narcotic;" however, it was formulated in an elixir base indicating the popular product contained a large percentage of alcohol.

Stutts conducted what could be called an innovative marketing campaign, utilizing both print ads and signage:


When current owner of the former apothecary building Delana Darby Blake began remodeling, she found one of Stutts' ubiquitous signs:


By 1940, Stutts' place in Florence history was cemented. He and son Jesse Jr. and daughter Margaret incorporated the Stutts Laboratories. For whatever reason, perhaps the uncertainty produced by World War II, the company was dissolved after a relatively short time. One of this company's most popular products was Nervine, recommended for both humans and horses.

By 1960, the year of Jesse Walker Stutts' death, his once famous drug store had become home to Kreisman's Men's Wear:


What would Stutts think of the building's current incarnation as a sandwich shop? The entrepreneur in the noted pharmacist would undoubtedly want to buy stock and initiate a new advertising campaign.

Bette F. Terry holds a B.A. in history from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

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