We recently received a donation of a unique postcard. It shows an unidentified home with a family on the front porch. And in the bottom right corner, there is a horse-drawn wagon owned by William A. Edwards of Wausau.
William Edwards was a lifelong salesman who brought his family to Wausau early in the twentieth century. The 1910 U.S. Census lists him as an agent in "real estate," but at some point in the next decade he became a seller of remedies and patent medicines to the Wausau area.
In 1882 (the same year that William Edwards was born), brothers Benjamin and Dexter Wilson started a small drug store in Edgerton, Wisconsin. Their business would grow to become a popular supplier of medical remedies across the country, with their "Monarch Oil"-branded painkiller becoming a huge success. This was the heyday of the patented miracle "cures," and the days before there were much in the way of any oversight as to what goes into medicine or how a company could market their products.
With their success, Wilson's Monarch Laboratory became a sizable employer of both workers to employed at their factory and "many more [representing] them in wagons that traveled over every state with typical medicine shows--where the best singer or instrumentalist drew the best crowd and largest sales."1
^ Edward's wagon lists his phone number alongside slogans and words meant to convince customers of the honesty of his products, "Pure Goods," "Flavoring Extracts," and "Spices."
William Edwards became the proprietor of one of those traveling wagons, and traveled the region selling products from Monarch Laboratories. We can only guess how good he was as a salesman of "Monarch Oil," but considering he would end up as a salesman at Wright's Music Store by 1920, it is possible he did have some musical talent. Still, selling snake oil from a traveling wagon did not work out as a permanent career for Edwards, and he would instead find steady employment selling furniture for Wausau businesses like, Ritter & Deutsch and Leath & Company.
1. The Edgerton Story: a history of Edgerton Wisconsin. (1953) p 80. http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/WI/WI-idx?type=div&did=WI.Edger...