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Fabled Dr. Jim Jordan

To: alt.religion.orisha,alt.lucky.w,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick.folk
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: Fabled Dr. Jim Jordan
Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2000 07:20:12 GMT

E. C. Ballard wrote:
> Well, the book has finally arrived through ILL. Too late for help you
> however, I am looking forward to the read.

Please post your opinions and observations here! 

> Your short geneology has raised a question in my mind which is 
> completely aside from the main subject of your post, but not unlike 
> some discussions we've had in the past. do you know if any of these 
> period (for lack of a better term) mail order companies are still 
> functioning?

Regarding those mail order spiritual supply companies that i mentioned
in my earlier post about Doctor Jim Jordan's 1827-1962 hoodoo drug store
in Como, Tennessee, and the merchandise he carried there, i can add the
following information:

Valmor / King Novelty / Famous Products slowly went out of business in
an orderly manner when Morton Neumann retired. One of the Valmor
trademarks (Sweet Georgia Brown) was ressurected for a line of cheap
teen make-up a few years ago by a company in the Bronx. The other lines
(Lucky Brown, Madame Jones, etc.) are no longer active trade marks.
Neumann died in 1985, and is best known today not as the nation's
one-time leading manufacturer of spiritual supplies, whose system of
agents throughout the South and beautifully illustrated mail order
catalogues shaped the inclusion of Jewish Kaballistic magic in modern
hoodoo practice -- but rather as a forward-looking, albeit extremely
naive collector of modern art! More details on Valmor at
and some stuffy art-criticsm rants about Neumann's personality at
(when you get there, search for Neumann's name -- it's a long article on

Chicago art collecters and you probably won't be interested in its
entirety -- but the Neumann stuff is invaluable, and highly relevant to
our earlier discussions about the old-time relationships between Jeiwsh
chemists and pharmacists and their African-American root worker

Clover Horn survives as two retail outlets, still making products
on-site for local sale. The Menke family no longer owns the stores and
they are no longer part of a chain, nor do they sell mail order any
more. Each of the remaining stores (in Baltimore and D.C. now*) is owned
and operated by a former employee of the Menkes. I believe this came
about because the heirs were not interested in the work, and so the
elder Menkes left the stores to the oldest employees. The current owners
are, i have been told, African-Americans. Chris Warnock said he would
check out the D.C. Clover Horn store a couple of weeks ago, but he has
not yet done so. Chris???

As i mentioned earlier, Chicago-based Neumman bought his hoodoo herbs
from Joseph Meyer, who had a large herb garden across the state line in
Hammond, Indiana. Indiana Botanical Gardens is no longer a grower, but
does operate as a disributor of bulk and capsuled herbs via mail order. 
Meyer's publishing wing, Meyerbooks, continues to republish "The
Hebalist" -- written by Joseph Meyer, subsequently revised by him, then
by Peter Meyer and Clarence Meyer in numerous editions, and probably
still in print today. The illustrations in the current edition are by
Joseph and Clarence, both very good artists, by the way. "The Herbalist"
collects offprints of some of the more comprehensive articles and all of
the alphabetical entries for plant species written by Joseph Meyer and
originally published in his annual "Herbalist Almanac" catalogue /
magazine. For years, many articles remained unreprinted, but eventually
Clarence Meyer collected them into a book called "The Hebalist Almanac:
A Fifty Year Anthology." Clarence continues the family tradition and has
written and published his own books on the magical and medical uses of
herbs, including one on aphrodisiac herbs. Like his grandfather, he does
not stick merely to received European attributions for herbs but gives
recipes from many cultures. Joseph, for instance, wrote extensively
about Afro-Caribbean uses of herbs and also imported botanical curios
from the Caribbean during the 1930s. He wrote one particulalry
interesting anecdoctal account of the relationships he saw between
herbal usage in the Caribbean and among Harlem Negroes. This article
(already 30 years old and out of print when i first ran across a copy of
it in the "Herbalist Almanac" in the 1960s) was highly influential on my
formative thoughts regarding the subject of "African cultural survival"
in hoodoo. Like F. Roy Johnson, Joseph Meyer is, in my opinion, a
spiritual member of our little internet group. Go to and
buy a cheap edition (say, late 1960s or so) of "The Herbalist." Be sure
it is an edition with the chapter on "botanical curios." You'll be glad
you did. If Meyer holds some charm for you, the next step is to buy the
"Anthology," or, if old newsprint gives you a thrill, go to ebay and
start bidding on copies of "The Herbalist Almanac." They are common and
cheap enough that building a collection is not difficult. I used to have
a near-complete run but lost them all in a flood in 1985 that wiped out
my entire agricultural, botanical, and gardening book collections (as
well as my house...) Any bright, clean copies of "The Herbalist Almanac"
that folks don't want, i'll trade Lucky Mojo products for. I want to
rebuild that collection, but it is not high priority right financially.
Meyer's beautiful herb gardens are now a subdivision, but his home still
exists, a mere half hour from downtown Chicago, and it is available for
rent by bridal parties! 



     Meyer Castle is significant as an outstanding 
     example of Jacobethan Revival Architecture and 
     as a former home of one of Hammond's early 
     millionaire businessmen, Joseph Ernest Meyer. 
     A structure of a three and one-half story mansion 
     of hand chiseled Lannon stone is a showcase of 
     excellence in craftsmanship as shown in all its 

     Meyer was born on September 5, 1878, in Kenosha, 
     Wisconsin. After his father died he was sent to 
     an orphanage where he learned botany and printing. 
     He worked as a printer first in Milwaukee, and 
     later in Chicago. After working in Chicago, Meyer 
     went to work for the Hammond Times. 

     Feeling the financial pinch caused by the size of 
     his family (he had eight children), Meyer bought 
     some land in Hammond, and drawing on his background 
     in botany, Meyer began growing medicinal herbs which 
     he then sold door-to-door. This evolved into the 
     Indiana Herb Gardens, later renamed the Indiana 
     Botanical Gardens. Meyer made a fortune from the 
     sale of his herb medicines. He promoted his herbal 
     therapy through a series of publications that included 
     The Herbalist & Herb Doctor (1918), and The Herbalist 

     With the growth of his fortune Meyer branched out 
     into other business activities. With the failure 
     of the Calumet State Bank in 1933, Meyer saw an 
     opportunity to get into banking. He bought the bank 
     and reorganized it as the Calumet National Bank. 

     Seeking an impressive residence for himself and 
     his family, Meyer hired Architect Cosbey Bemard, Sr., 
     to design for him a mansion that would copy a Scottish 
     castle once seen by Meyer. Construction began in 1929 
     on a specially selected hill site surrounded by woods. 

     When completed in 1931, it was the largest and most 
     lavish mansion in the Calumet region. Built in a large, 
     park-like setting, Meyer was able to indulge his interest 
     in botany. He covered the grounds with an abundance of 
     trees, shrubs, flowers, and ground covers. Stone windmills 
     were built, which one still exists. Two sunken rock 
     gardens and a gazebo still grace the property. A goldfish 
     pond, bird sanctuary, and fruit and berry orchards, were 
     enjoyed by the family in the early years. 

     Meyer lived in the mansion until his death in 1950. His 
     wife, Cecilia, remained in the mansion for several years 
     after her husband's death. The estate was sold by the 
     survivors in 1975 to the East Dyer Development Company 
     after the death of Mrs. Meyer. The acreage surrounding 
     the estate became the Castlewood Subdivision. 

Well, Eoghan, ask a complex question, you get a complex answer. Hope
this was what you were looking for... And siva, dear, would you be so
good as to archive this somewhere? I guess it should go in 
along with the other Jim Jordan posts. Kiss kiss. 

cat (*Dancing in the Street) yronwode 

Hoodoo in Theory and Practice --

No personal e-mail, please; just catch me in usenet; i read it daily. 

Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
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This post copyright 2000 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.

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