North Carolina-Headache Powders-January 28

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-January 28

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special.

Sometimes work can give us all a headache. I really did not know that North Carolina was the leader in an over the counter drug marketed to combat workplace headaches.

The three headache powders that have all had an important part of our state’s history are B.C. Powders, Stanback Medicine Company, and Goody Headache Powder.

During the early twentieth century, many Tar Heels moved to towns and urban areas to find work in mills and on railroads, while local pharmacists also began creating patent medicines. One such medicine, headache relief powders, became popular among mill and railroad workers who referred to them as “production powders.”  Pharmacists often compounded their own headache relief medicine in an easier-made powder form rather than in the more complex pill form.

Commodore Thomas Council created one of the most popular headache powders in 1906 at Germaine Bernard’s pharmacy in Durham. Combining their surname initials, Council and Bernard named their headache medicine “B.C. Powder” in 1910. The introduction of B.C. Powders coincided with Durham’s tobacco boom, and factory workers became loyal customers.

Photo of Durham Tobacco Factory

durham tobacco


Pharmacist Thomas M. (Dr. Tom) Stanback created a headache relief compound at a Thomasville drugstore.  In 1911, Stanback moved to Spencer, opened a drugstore, and started a limited commercial production of the powder.  With great success, Stanback sold his headache powders to railroad workers and repairmen, who spread the word about the pharmacist’s powders as they traveled to other railroad towns.  Stanback hired his first salesman, his younger brother Fred Stanback, to sell the powders to commercial retailers. By 1931, Stanback Medicine Company opened a production facility in Salisbury, NC.

stanback drug

Martin C. “Goody” Goodman of Winston-Salem, sold the rights to his headache relief powder formula in 1932 to A. Thad Lewallen Sr. Lewallen soon began mixing and packaging the headache relief powder in two offices in a downtown Winston-Salem bank building. He, like Stanback, Bernard and Council, hired a traveling salesman to sell the headache powders to local mom and pop convenience stores, gas stations and grocery marts. In 1941, a growing customer base demanded larger production facilities and Lewallen moved the company to Salt Street in Old Salem, NC.

While all three brands achieved national recognition in the headache relief category, all three maintained a primary customer base in the Southeastern United States. However, Goody’s and BC Powders also acquired a national market through their sponsorship of baseball, auto racing, and country music.

goody's nascar




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