Monday, February 2, 2015
Kickapoo Quackery and Li'l Abner
Most of us my age and older have heard the name Kickapoo Joy Juice. When I was a kid it was introduced as a soft drink with bottles showing characters From Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip from whence the bottlers got the name. For those not old enough to remember Dogpatch's best known denizen, Kickapoo Joy Juice was a potent potable concocted by the characters Hairless Joe (who is anything but) and a Native American caricature named Lonesome Polecat. According Capp, Kickapoo Joy Juice was, "a liquor of such stupefying potency that the hardiest citizens of Dogpatch, after the first burning sip, rose into the air, stiff as frozen codfish. It was said to be an elixir of such power that the fumes alone have been known to melt the rivets off battleships." The soft drink, however' was little more than a Mountain Dew knock off.
I was surprised to learn that the name predates the creation of Li'l Abner, and Al Capp for that matter. It was also bad enough to warrant its own chapter in Stewart Holcomb's The Golden Age of Quackery. It wasn't called, "Kickapoo Joy Juice", though. It was bottled under the the brand, "Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company" (please follow the link to Digger O'Dell's excellent article).
The KIMC was no more "Indian" than General Custer and was the brainchild of two Connecticut businessmen who marketed their elixirs via medicine shows in the late 1800s. As with most patent medicines, the Kickapoo line was a series of strong cocktails (with medicinal oils etc added) ranging in potency anywhere between 36-120 proof.