Heart of Louisiana: Hadacol

Heart of Louisiana: Hadacol

ERATH, LA (WAFB) - It was one of those elixirs that was supposed to cure just about anything.

Heart of Louisiana: Hadacol

“Whether it be arthritis or whether it be back pain,” said Roland Leblanc.

Its name was Hadacol, and it became a part of America’s pop culture in the 1920s, inspiring songs like the “Hadacol Boogie," and popular superhero “Captain Hadacol.”

The cure-all liquid contained vitamins, minerals and 12 percent alcohol.

The main ingredient that made Hadacol so popular was marketing, and the genius behind that was a flamboyant Louisiana politician from the tiny Cajun town of Erath.

Dudley Leblanc, known as “Couzin Dud," had a knack for selling just about anything. He was a four-term Louisiana state senator, a public service commissioner, and unsuccessful candidate for governor.

“He had a personality whereby anytime he would walk into a room it would light up,” said Roland Leblanc.

Leblanc, 91, worked in his father’s Hadacol business. He was the company chemist who pitched his dad on adding a better flavor to the mixture.

“We have to do that because these kids won’t take it otherwise," Leblanc remembered telling his father. "[Dudley Leblanc] says, listen Roland, it’s medicine and it’s got to taste like medicine,” Leblanc remembered his father responding.

Dudley Leblanc traveled the country with a caravan of trucks loaded with cases of Hadacol, putting on shows with major Hollywood stars.

“Bob Hope, Carmen Miranda, Dorthy Lamour. He had Jack Dempsey,” Roland Leblanc said.

It’s been called the last of the traveling medicine shows, part of which included a small person and the world’s tallest man.

“This poor little guy is sick. He has never had any Hadacol whatsoever, but now after six bottles of Hadacol they would go inside and out comes this huge fellow, 7-foot-6-inches tall. This is what Hadacol can do for you,” said Leblanc.

“Dudley Leblanc also gave away gold-plated bottles of Hadacol,” said Robert Vincent.

Robert Vincent, also of Erath, still has a huge collection of Dudley Leblanc memorabilia. His great-grandmother worked in the cafeteria of the Hadacol factory.

"If Dudley told them it was going to work, they believed him. If Dudley told them you need to go out and vote for Edwin Edwards, they were going to vote for Edwin Edwards.

Leblanc sold his Hadacol business as federal regulators were turning up the heat and just before the business collapsed under the weight of its huge marketing expense.

Leblanc once joked about it with entertainer, Groucho Marx.

MARX: Hadacol? What’s that good for?

Leblanc: Well, it was good for $5 million for me last year!

“He had an articulate style of portrayal, which was clowning. But, he was an ethnic activist. He was devoted to the cause of the Acadian people,” said Frank Summers III.

However, 65 years after Hadacol disappeared, the son of its creator says it really was good for whatever ailed the person it was used to treat.

"Absolutely. Yes, it was vert meritorious, and it’s part of a rich cultural and political legacy of Louisiana’s “Cajun Country.”

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