The Hydrosulphosol Story
During the 1950s and 1960s many families in Fillmore would keep a small green jar with an orange label in their medicine cabinets. The jar contained Hydrosulphosol ointment. Not only was it very effective for treating minor burns – it was also a hometown product manufactured by the E. C. Lientz Company in North Fillmore.
So, what was hydrosulphosol? It was developed by Earl Hill Wilson in the 1930s. In 1935 a piece of steel penetrated the eye of Betty Lientz, then age 12. The steel was removed with a magnet, but the eye did not heal but continued to hemorrhage. Betty’s parents, Elizabeth and Oliver Lientz, were told the best treatment would be to remove the eye. Oliver Lientz was reluctant to do this since he had his right eye removed in 1926 due to complications from a childhood injury, so he looked for alternative treatments. In 1936, just two weeks before Betty was due for the surgery to remove her eye, the Mr. and Mrs. Lientz met with Earl Hill Wilson. His formula was given to a professor of chemistry at Occidental College to test. Based on the test results it was decided it was safe for Betty to take hydrosulphosol internally. Both Betty and her father began in April 1936 to take the medicine. When Betty was examined by the ophthalmologist prior to the planned surgery, no new hemorrhaging was found for the first time in nine months. The surgery was cancelled, and Betty kept her eye.
During World War II hydrosulphosol was used successfully to treat burns on the battlefield and also for burns suffered by welders. The Lientzes formed a company called E. C. Lientz & Co to manufacture and market Hydrosulphosol. E. C. being the initials of Elizabeth Lientz. In 1946 a manufacturing plant was built in North Fillmore. Oliver Lientz concentrated on the medical/scientific aspects, Elizabeth concentrated upon the financial/accounting aspects, and Betty was involved with the manufacturing and packaging of Hydrosulphosol.
Numerous articles were written in the 1940s and 1950s on the effectiveness of the ointment for burns. Articles appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Time magazine. Art Linkletter, a popular TV personality of the day, had several shows spot lighting the success of the ointment.
In a 1988 letter by Betty Lientz to Dorothy Haase, “The publicity happened during a time when it was totally unacceptable to presume to tread upon the sanctity of the medical profession. In other words, the deep core of medical politics viewed this publicity as advertising, as if a small company could influence so many news agencies to publish or broadcast medical news for the purpose of promoting the sale of a specific product.”
Oliver and Elizabeth Lientz
By the early 1960s, the product had attracted the attention of regulatory bodies. One suit was brought which alleged, “The defendants conducted the interstate distribution of the article as a mail order business and promoted the business through the use of newspaper and magazine articles and radio and television programs The defendants sold the article direct to laymen for purposes of self-medication and also promoted sales to doctors, drug wholesalers, and retailers…” According to the complaint, “labeling of the article contained false and misleading representations that the article was adequate and effective for the treatment mitigation prevention and cure of corneal scars, opacities, corneal dystrophy, corneal ulcers, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, iritis, …. and other diseases and conditions of the eye that cause impaired vision.”
In 1962, the company agreed to stop shipping hydrosulphosol to the general public for internal use, but it could be prescribed by physicians for such use and still could be used as a topical ointment.
The company continued in business until 1971 but by that time the founders were ready to retire. Although there was hope that a pharmaceutical manufacturing company would purchase the business, none stepped forward and the enterprise was closed. Elizabeth Lientz died in 1975, and Oliver passed away in Fillmore in 1985. The Hydrosulphosol building still stands in North Fillmore and is a private home.
Hydrosulphosol Plant, North Fillmore