While today the ad featuring a pig with a baby’s head might not cause you to part with your fifty cents, by 1890 it was selling more bottles of Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic than Coca-Cola. If it had not been for the pig baby, there probably would not be a Grove Park or Grove Park Inn.
Malaria was a wide-spread problem in the United States throughout the 19th century and well into the twentieth century. George Washington and even Abraham Lincoln were reported to suffer from bouts of malaria. Malaria, especially in the Southern states, like tuberculosis, was a killer. More people may have died from malaria than any other cause. Until the 1930s, quinine with its unpleasant bitter taste, was the only effective malaria treatment.
Edwin Wiley Grove was convinced that whoever could produce a tasteless quinine tonic would make a fortune. And in 1878 working in Paris, Tennessee, he invented his Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic. Grove had mixed, or suspended, quinine in a sweet syrup with lemon flavoring. The truth is, it was not tasteless and was unlikely to have fattened children or adults. Consider this comment posted on the National Museum of American History’s web site:
“As a child …my siblings and l were given chill tonic for everything from a cut or cold or punishment. It was the most disgusting thing l have ever tasted. I think the maker of this tonic should be drawn and quartered…or given the tonic for life.”
Nevertheless, the quinine was genuinely an effective ingredient in combating malaria and the ad worked—so it flew off the shelves. And the Pig Baby was on the way to making Grove’s fortune.
With his doctor’s urgings, in 1897 Grove with his family began spending their summers in Asheville to benefit from its healthy clean mountain air. Like others who did so, he fell in love with the city and through his investments, including the Grove Park Inn, he helped shape Asheville into the alluring destination it is today.