Valentine’s Meat Juice; An Odd Tonic Trusted the World Over

There’s nothing like those tried-and-true remedies when life throws an ailment your way: plenty of rest; chicken noodle soup; a tonic of meat juice in your rear end. Okay, maybe those first two have survived the ages, but that last one, believe it or not, was a recommended application of a product that was all the rage a hundred years ago.

Valentine’s Meat Juice was the brainchild of Mann S. Valentine, a Richmond, Virginia merchant, artist, collector and all-around-tinkerer who became desperate for a restorative that would furnish his sickly and withering wife with the nourishment her body needed. He set to work straightaway.

“My experiments,” Valentine later wrote, “pointed to extracting the soluble constituents of flesh – first by mechanically tearing asunder the broad muscular fibre; secondly, by the application of heat, at a low temperature, rupturing the ultimate fibres; and thirdly, by the adoption of judicious pressure, liberating from the entire body of the meat all the constituents contained in it.” In other words, tear raw beef apart, gently heat it, and press out the liquid. Valentine’s Meat Juice was born.

Valentine's Meat Juice

From A Brief History of the Production of Valentine’s Meat Juice

The strange brew cured Valentine’s wife, or at least appeared to, and gained worldwide renown. Harry Kollatz, Jr. of Richmond Magazine says England’s King George V was among several noblemen, not to mention explorers and military officers, who swore by the stuff. President James A. Garfield credited Valentine’s Meat Juice with aiding his recovery from an assassination attempt.

To be fair, the preferred method of delivery was not up the pooper, but simply by mouth, a solution of one part meat juice to two parts water. Valentine did, however, recommend that “In the administration of the meat juice by enema, the directions are the same as when taken by the stomach, except that the quantity should be larger.”

And for the truly ambitious, or ill, or just plain weird, medical experts offered a bizarre concoction to be administered rectally. In an issue of The British Medical Journal dated January 13,1900, an article called “Rectal Feeding In Exhaustion Following Children’s Ailments” recommended the following mixture: “One egg beaten up; Valentine’s meat-juice, 1 tablespoonful; milk (sterilised), 4 ozs.; brandy, 1/2 oz. (1 tablespoonful); salt, nearly 1/2 teaspoonful; sterilised water, 5 oz. This is mixed and 2 ozs. injected warm every two hours.”

This was evidently popular on both sides of The Pond, as The Quack Doctor shows; the Philadelphia Medical Journal published the same recipe that year, too.

While most folks used the meat juice to restore their health, at least one woman might have used it as a medium for murder. James and Florence Maybrick, who lived in Norfolk, Virginia for a decade, had a rocky marriage from the start. He was 24 years her senior. Both were given to infidelity.

The story goes that Florence poisoned a bottle of James’s Valentine’s Meat Juice with arsenic while the unhappy couple was living in Liverpool, England. James died. Florence was tried and convicted and spent 15 years in jail, only to be released in 1904 after questions arose about her guilt. Turns out she might have been doing the world a favor; there is some (admittedly inconclusive) evidence that James Maybrick might have been the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.

Valentine's Meat Juice 4

Florence Maybrick, meat juice murderer?? Courtesy of “Ray” at findagrave.com

Valentine’s Meat Juice owes at least some its popularity to a surge in demand for all-things-meat extract. Take a look at this advertisement that appeared in Honolulu’s The Daily Bulletin in September 1892:

Valentines Meat Juice 3

Valentine’s Meat Juice, however, was among the most popular and recognized, so much so that the firm ultimately waged a successful court battle against an English company, the Valentine Extract Company, which was selling a slightly different product, solid meat extract globules (kind of like portable tablets you could toss into a glass of water anywhere), but using almost the same name as their better-known competitor.

The meat juice enriched the Valentine family and upon his death in 1892 Mann S. Valentine, Jr. endowed what’s now The Valentine Richmond History Center, where visitors can see a small exhibit that pays tribute to the world-famous meat juice.

Valentine Meat Juice Company has long since folded, its Richmond factory razed, but, as Marianne Dow of the Findlay Bottle Club points out, if you look carefully you can still find traces of the the distinctive little brown bottle that was used and trusted the world over for decades.

Valentine's Meat Juice 5        Valentine's Meat Juice 1

Courtesy of Marianne Dow, Findlay Bottle Club

About Ben Swenson

Ben lives in Williamsburg, Virginia. He is writing a book on places of historic value that have been forgotten and are being reclaimed by nature. Abandoned Country is a companion blog to that project. You can contact him at benswenson@cox.net
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One Response to Valentine’s Meat Juice; An Odd Tonic Trusted the World Over

  1. barron powell says:

    I have a valentine meat sauce. bottle in excellent. condition what is the value

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