Heart of Louisiana: Hadacol

Updated: Jul. 7, 2020 at 8:39 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - It’s considered the last of the traveling medicine shows. In 1950, a Louisiana politician was criss-crossing the country promoting his cure-all potion.

It was one of those elixirs that were supposed to cure just about anything. Its name was Hadacol. And it became a part of America’s pop culture in 1950, with songs like the ‘Hadacol boogie’.

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 an unsuccessful candidate for governor.

“Whether it be arthritis or whether it be back pain or what have you,” Roland LeBlanc, Dudley Leblanc’s son said.

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

91-year-old Roland LeBlanc worked in his father’s Hadacol business. He was the company chemist who pitched his dad on adding a better flavor to Hadacol.

“We have to do that because these kids won’t take it otherwise. He says listen Roland, it’s medicine and it’s got to taste like medicine,” Roland said.

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

“He had Bob Hope, Carmen Miranda, Dorothy Lamour, he had Jack Dempsey,” Roland said.

Admission required Hadacol boxtops. It’s been called the last of the traveling medicine shows. Part of the show included a small person and “the world’s tallest man”

“This poor little guy is sick, he is never had any Hadacol whatsoever, but now after six bottles of Hadacol, they would go inside show and outcomes this huge fellow, seven-foot six inches tall. This is what Hadacol can do for you,” Roland said.

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

Robert Vincent of Erath 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,” Vincent said.

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 joked about it with entertainer Groucho Marx.

“Hadocol, what’s that good for?” Vincent said.

“Well it was good for five million dollars for me last year,” LeBlanc said.

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

But 65 years after Hadacol disappeared, the son of its creator says it really was good for whatever ails you.

“Absolutely. Yes, it was very meritorious,” LeBlanc said.

And it’s part of a rich cultural and political legacy of Louisiana’s Cajun country.

The Hadacol and Dudley LeBlanc memorabilia is featured in an exhibit at the Acadian Museum in Erath.

For more information. visit the Acadian Museum here.

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