The Alice Morgan Person collection (1874-1943, 2004-2008) contains ledgers, testimonials, advertisements, correspondence, and news clippings related to the Mrs. Joe Person Remedy Company. The Remedy was developed by Alice M. Person (Mrs. Joe Person) of Franklinton, Charlotte, and Kittrell, North Carolina, and marketed by her and later her son Rufus M. Person. Other material pertains to the sale of her arrangements of popular songs, and to family life.
Mrs. Alice Morgan Person "Mrs. Joe Person" was born July 28, 1840, in Petersburg, VA, to Samuel and Esther Morgan. In December 1857, she moved to Franklin County near Franklinton, North Carolina, to farm with her husband Joseph Arrington Person after marrying him on December 17, 1857, in Petersburg. She and her husband had eight children--Alice Gibson ("Gib"), Esther Morgan, Wiley Mangum, Josephine Arrington ("Josie"), Robert Lee, Rufus Morgan, Henry Harris, Levin King, and William Montgomery ("Willie")--and made most of their income by farming, until 1863. In 1863, Joseph Person had a stroke which caused Alice Person to find another form of income for the family. She was able to support her family by selling a proprietary medicine, named Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy. This medicine was advertised as being effective against scrofula, catarrh, rheumatism, cancer, heart disease, colic, and indigestion as well as many other illnesses. She claimed that her mother gave her the recipe after an old Indian gave it to her. She has also claimed that the recipe was given to her by her neighbor. The recipe is supposedly made up of plants that grew in the woods around her house.
After her husband's death in 1883, Alice Person decided to expand her business and travel around North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia selling her remedy. At each county she came by, she visited every country store. When not selling her remedy, she was playing music on the piano or organ usually in someone's home or at county fairs. In 1889, she started to sell music books of popular songs that were arranged by her. She even made a recording of her music at Victor Records in New Jersey in 1912.
After losing the Franklin Co. farm and having experienced several failed partnerships to market her remedy, she moved to Kittrell, North Carolina, in 1886. The next year her son Rufus joined the business. In 1904, Alice Person and the company moved to Charlotte and she and Rufus established a plant there. This increase in manufacturing led to the remedy being sold up and down the eastern seaboard and as far west as Texas. Although there was no need, she still traveled for business. On June 12, 1913, Alice Morgan Person died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, while traveling to the west coast with her sister Lucy.
Hill, Michael. "Person, Alice Morgan." Accessed 2021. https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/person-alice-morgan
Long, Timothy. "Alice Morgan Person Papers, 1872-1972." Accessed 2021. https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/03987/
Hursh, David, and Chris Goertzen. Good Medicine and Good Music: A Biography of Mrs. Joe Person, Patent Remedy Entrepreneur and Musician, Including the Complete Text of Her 1903 Autobiography. McFarland and Company, 2009.
Most of this collection is ledgers, testimonials, advertisements, correspondence, and news clippings relative to Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy Company (also later called Person Remedy Company). Other materials include photographs, and correspondence between Alice Person and her family; and materials related to the finances of Rufus Morgan Person, Mrs. Alice Person's son, his involvement in the Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy Company, and his position as executor for the estate of Lucy J. Morgan Beard (Mrs. James B. Beard), Alice Morgan Person's sister. Mrs. Beard ran a school and many of the accounts relate to tuition payments. Her 1915 will with 1916 codicils is here, too.
The news clippings usually relate to Person Remedy Company but some of the clippings are of just daily news articles. Other clippings document Alice Person's death in New Mexico while traveling with her sister Lucy and her funeral in Charlotte. Most of the clippings come from the Charlotte News and Charlotte Daily Observer. Besides the testimonials found within the news clippings, there are testimonials found within correspondence sent to Mrs. Joe Person and in sales promotional booklets. The booklets in the collection are titled Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy and Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy: All Blood Diseases. There are a couple of advertisement cards for Decker Brothers Grand Upright and Square Piano, and the Blood Balm Company.
Other documents not connected to the ledgers are postcards, photographs, receipts related to expenses of the Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy Company and to the finances of Rufus M. Person, correspondence (1930s) between him and prospective buyers of the Person Remedy Company, and 1917-1918 minutes of the Person Remedy Company stockholders.
Photographs which contain identified images include Alice Person and her sons Rufus and William. The other photographs are of unidentified people and landscapes. One photograph is of a female Native American interpreter that she met during her 1908 travels in New Mexico.
Rufus M. Person was a Mason and membership receipts, meeting programs, and other documents reflect his membership in Phalanx Lodge No. 31, Oasis Temple, the Masonic Fellowship Club, and the Red Fez Club, all in Charlotte, N.C. The receipts reference membership payments and the papers are usually letters from the clubs or invitations to banquets.
The collection also has a manuscript draft (ca. 1900-1910) of the preface of Alice Person's autobiography "The Chivalry of Man as Exemplified in the Life of Mrs. Joe Person," and the first chapter (titled "Notes by the Wayside") of the second part of the autobiography. In the parts that are present, Alice Person discusses her travels, her music, and her musings about life and humanity. Pages 9 and 10 are missing from this manuscript draft of the chapter.
The ledgers mostly contain information about Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy Company. The information is about their client's accounts, expenses, Mrs. Alice Person's and Rufus Person's personal expenses, testimonials, orders sent, letters of inquiry, list of places they advertised at, music sales, and the "whereabouts" of Alice Person. The "whereabouts" of Alice Person represents journals of her travels to promote the remedy. The ledgers are dated between 1895 and 1942. With these ledgers, loose papers were found. The papers found are mostly news clippings, receipts, postcards and letters. The news clippings range from testimonials to not having any related content to the collection. Some items of interest that have been found within the ledgers are, an Easter card, Christmas cards, a 1913 calendar by Kirschbaum Clothes, closing exercises for Mrs. J. B. Beard's School, and a double-sided poster (placed in the oversize folder) advertising lots for sale in the Westleigh Subdivision in Birmingham, Alabama, ca. 1910.
Besides the ledgers related to the Person Remedy Company, there are four other volumes in the collection. One is a scrapbook (1892-1929) that contains various news clippings about the Person Remedy Company, Alice Person's personal life including her travels, and marriages and deaths among her children and other relatives. Found with the scrapbook is correspondence (1921-1935), receipts (1922-1929), the aforementioned will of Lucy Morgan Beard, and an unused receipt from Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy Company in Kittrell, N.C., showing prices for medications the company sold. Another is a notebook bought from Sutton and Alderman, Druggist in Chapel Hill, NC. This notebook is for schoolwork and belonged to Joe A. Person for use in "Mrs. T. J. Wilson's" [class?] in September 1925. Another volume is a Day Book (1927-1941) presumedly belonging to Rufus M. Person containing records of the types of plants sold and planted and contains accounts for foodstuff sales. The last volume titled Game Day Book (n.d.) contains handwritten descriptions and rules for several card games.
Three music books in the collection contain collections of popular airs arranged by Alice Person. Two of the books are titled A Collection of Popular Airs and were published in 1889 by Hume, Minor and Company in Richmond, VA. The songs the books contain are the "Italian Waltz," the "Weird Waltz and Polka," "Polka," "Carolina Racket," "'Liza Jane," "Nelly Bly," "Shoo Fly," "Dance," the "Boatman Dance," "I Bet My Money," "I'm Gwine Down Town," "Dixie," "De Year of Jubilo," "Billy in the Low Grounds," "Oh! Carry Me Back," and "Walk Around." The other music book is titled A Transcription of the Beautiful Song The Blue Alsatian Mountains! Also "Down-Town Girls" and "Boatman Dance" which was published by Mrs. Joe Person in 1889. The songs the book contains are "The Blue Alsatian Mountains," "Down Town Girls," and the "Boatman Dance."
Gift of Mrs. Graham Barden, Jr.
Gift of Michael Boyce
Gift of Peggy Brinkley & Susan J. Joyner
Gift of David Hursh
Gift of Alice Ritter
Gift of Virginia W. Brewer
Encoded by Mark Custer, February 26, 2008
Processing completed 2019 by Corinne Taylor and revised 2021 by Martha Elmore.
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
Alice Morgan Person Papers (#3987) at the Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Department, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill