In 1889, William B. Montgomery founded the Seminole Indian Medicine Company to provide medicinal compounds and related products to central Iowans. Montgomery’s name appeared on more of the company’s labels than did the Seminole Indian Medicine label, which was used only for special compounds.
Traveling salesmen sold the company’s product-line to communities near and far. They handled medicines such as Indian Liver and Kidney Remedy, Indian Throat and Lung Balm, Indian Worm Destroyer, Montgomery’s Anti-Pain Plaster, Montgomery’s Laxative and Montgomery’s Digestive Tablets. The company also distributed herbs and spices and produced poultry powders, toilet soap, sewing machine oil, shaving soap, insect and louse extract and a hair tonic. Prices ranged from 10 cents to $1. By 1910, the company had 100 employees and did about $75,000 in business annually.
The firm began in a small room on the top floor of 811 Story St., but expanded rapidly, eventually changing locations four times. In 1907, the firm moved from 813 1/2 Keeler St. to a newly-constructed building at 823 Arden, which was called “one of the handsomest and most complete buildings ever erected in the city of Boone.”
“The two story building built with red Boone brick has a dome and basement in addition to first and second floors.” Patrons entered the building through a “beautiful entrance” located on Ninth Street which led to a large mahogany reception hall. Access to the main office was from this reception area. Furnishings for the reception area and the private office were mahogany, and a mahogany stairway led to the second floor. From the private office, a doorway also led to the shipping room where there were washrooms, a clothes press and other amenities for employees.
The building was noted for its electrical and natural lighting. An up-to-date electrical system and well-placed windows provided light for workers. A large, roomy basement was used for storage. It, too, had good lighting, a cement floor and a furnace, which provided steam heat for the building. The second floor, where there company’s products were compounded, was accessible by a rear staircase and elevator as well as the front mahogany staircase.
Montgomery died of pneumonia in 1908, and Emmett O., William U. and George E. Montgomery assumed responsibility for the company. Business ceased sometime between 1917 and 1921.
The Seminole Medicine Company Building housed several businesses over the years, including the Elsie Lawrence Funeral Home (early 1920s) Jones Funeral Home (1930s), the Schultz Lab (1940s-2009). Lawrence Hamman and Wilson Investments (1997-2009). The building was recently restored, and now a consignment shop called Shelley’s Great Things in Store is located there.