"Indian Miracle Man"? Chief Two Moons
"His immense `practice' was more than
a mere legend.(1) Two policemen were required to handle the
traffic near his headquarters in Waterbury, Connecticut on
Sunday mornings, and his `register' was crowded with the signatures
of `patients' from all parts of the country . . . .Hundreds
insisted that he cured them where medical science had failed."
Indeed, Chief Two Moon is a part of America's fascinating
herbal, pharmaceutical, and medical history; the known facts
concerning his life surely should be told.
Chief Two Moon was born Chico Colon Meridan but later changed
his last name to Meridas. His father, Chico Meridan, was born
in Mexico, as was his mother, Mary Tumoon, from whom he no
doubt took the name Two Moon. Where Chief Two Moon was born,
no one knows with certainty. According to Dorothy Cantor,
education director of the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut,
Chief Two Moon claimed he was born in Devil s Lake, South
Dakota, and so his death certificate states; however, Ms.
Cantor s extensive research, which included correspondence
with officials of the U.S. Department of the Interior as well
as with people who had known the Chief, could not confirm
the place of his birth.(2) From another source,(3) we are
told that he himself did not know the year of his birth; however,
his marriage license indicates that he was born in 1888, and
that is the date on his tombstone. How he developed an interest
in herbal medicine is also uncertain. It is believed that,
as a young man, he sold herbs on the street comers of Philadelphia.
Nevertheless, little, if anything, is known of him until 1914
when he married Helen Gertrude Nugent in Brooklyn, New York.
[Ed. note| Loretta R. Nugent, co-author of this article, was
married to Daniel Nugent, Helen Nugent's nephew.] On the application
for their marriage license, he gave his address as 210 East
29th Street, New York City; his age was 26; his occupation,
metal worker. In 1914, shortly after their marriage, Chief
Two Moon and his wife moved to the Graf rooming house on Griggs
Street in Waterbury, Connecticut. Here he began to make local
history, selling his herbal medicines on the street and in
parking lots as well as from his rooming house. When none
of his patients died in the 1918 flu epidemic, his fame spread
rapidly. Many of his patients were convinced that he had supernatural
powers, enabling him to penetrate the minds of his patients
and to know intuitively answers to questions before they were
even asked. For example, a patient from Warren, Ohio, wrote,
"His supernatural power of discerning ailments of the
human body and prescribing relief places him at once in the
front ranks of benefactors of his brother man." He was
also a sleight-of-hand artist and skillful in telling fortunes;
these abilities drew crowds of people to him.
It was, however, his "Bitter Oil -- the Wonder Tonic"
that brought patients to him from all over the country. Advertised
as a laxative, it contained mineral oil, tincture of aloes,
and compound tincture of gentian. An advertisement in the
Thursday, June 8, 1933, Manchester Evening Herald (Manchester,
Connecticut) read as follows| This miracle medicine thoroughly
lubricates, cleanses and revives the entire intestinal tract,
removes all internal poisons, thus relieving constipation,
gastric conditions, sick headache, biliousness, kidney and
bladder troubles, etc. Consistent use will soon put vigor
and vitality into any run-down system. His patients became
so numerous that in 1921 he moved to a house at 33 Wales Street
and before too long (1925-26) built a laboratory, which still
stands today, at 1864 East Main Street in Waterbury. Letters
of thanks and commendations of his products poured in from
all around the country.(4) Mr. William Kellogg of Bridgeport,
Connecticut, wrote a letter, dated July 24, 1928, thanking
the Chief for all he had done to help his wife, and at the
close of the letter said, "You have done so well by my
wife, I want to ask you if you can advise me regarding my
own case." Mr. and Mrs. George Robinson of South Portland,
Maine, on January 27, 1928, wrote, "The work you have
completed on Mrs. R. and myself certainly is worth publicity.
Your diagnosis was correct. Your treatment, the same. The
result, as you predicted. Cured. Who could do more?"
On Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1929, Madelyn Grogan wrote,
" . . . it almost stuns me when I think of what a miracle
your apparently simple remedie s worked. I feel one hundred
per cent now and my legs are well and strong again. Your Bitter
Oil and herbs proved to be the Elixir of life for me, and
while you must know that my heart is brimful of thanks, I
sincerely hope that your name and fame will permeate every
land and that the prayers of a happy and grateful people will
ever be an inspiration and a blessing to you." Many other
letters expressed the same feeling.
Chief Two Moon's "Bitter Oil" product was "Sold
at all Leading Drug Stores," or it could be obtained
through salesmen or by mail order. From the James A. Hetherington
drugstore at 55 E. 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue in New
York City came the following letter to Chief Two Moon on November
3, 1925| We have been handling Chief Two Moon Bitter Oil for
the past two years and found it to be one of our most popular
as well as profitable sellers. We cannot say too much for
the agency of Bitter Oil. It has proven to be one of the best
agency propositions we have ever taken on. The Hindle Drug
Stores, Inc. of Bridgeport, Ct., wrote the following letter
to the Chief on November 24, 1925| Due to the consistent advertising
given Two Moon Bitter Oil, and the beneficial results obtained
by customers who use it regularly, we find our sales of same
to be very gratifying. Our sales average two gross a month,
and are steadily increasing as the Oil becomes better known.
Chief Two Moon's Bitter Oil came in three sizes. An 8-oz.
bottle cost $1.00; the 12-oz. size, $1.25; and the large 16-oz.
bottle, $l.50. Other items listed on the order blank of the
Chief Two Moon Herb Co. were| All Herb Rheumatism Relief,
etc., All Herb Stomach Relief, All Herb Asthma Relief, All
Herb Female Tonic Relief, All Herb Liver Relief, All Herb
Kidney Relief, All Herb Tonic (Builder) Relief, Skin Cream,
Cough Elixir, Pile Ointment, Liniment, Household Ointment.
These, too, were available in the three sizes and at the same
prices as he charged for the Bitter Oil. A mixture of herbs
from the big bins he had in his consultation room was $5 a
bag. Each of Chief Two Moon's medicinal mixtures contained
a variety of herbs. Below are listed the ingredients of some
of Two Moon's products. His Stomach Tea, for example, had
13 herbs in it| Tinnevelly Senna, Coriander Seed, Gentian
Root, Juniper Berries, Centaury, Calamus Root, Buckthorn Bark,
Jamaica Ginger, Cascara Sagrada, Pale Rose Buds, Anise Seed,
Lavender Flowers, Fennel Seed. The Female Tea contained| Squaw
Vine, Motherwort, Chamomiles, True Cramp Bark, Uva Ursi, Ginger
Root, Helonias Root, Celery Seed, Aletris Root, Mexican Saffron,
Cascara Sagrada, Cornflowers, Black Haw Bark. Nervine Tea
contained| Hops, Cascara Sagrada, Black Cohosh Root, Lady
Slipper Root, True Cramp Bark, Select Lavender, Valerian Root,
Blue Malva Flowers, Celery Seed, Musk Root, Pulsatilla Herb.
For his Rheumatism Tea, he used 11 herbs| Wintergreen, Yellow
Dock, Black Cohosh, Uva Ursi, Birch Bark, Bittersweet Twigs,
Cascara Bark, Buckbean Leaves, Coriander Seed, Burdock Root,
Buchu Leaves. But the Tonic Tea contained more herbs than
any of his other products. It had 14. They were| Fennel Seed,
Dandelion Root, Licorice Root, Sarsaparilla, Senna Leaves,
Cascara Sagrada, Sassafras Bark, Clover Tops, Juniper Berries,
Chamomile, Mexican Saffron, Elder Flowers, Blue Malva Flowers,
Calendula Flowers. A few of Two Moon's other preparations
and their ingredients were| Kidney Tea| Juniper Berries, Cascara
Sagrada, Buchu Leaves, Uva Ursi Leaves, Chamomile Flower,
Mexican Saffron, Dog Grass, Elder Flowers, Celery Seed, Cornflowers.
Asthma Tea| Wild Plum Bark, Cherry Bark, Capsicums Liver Tea|
Wahoo Bark of Tree, Gentian, Senna Leaves, Berberis aquifolium,
Mandrake Root, Capsicums. Cough Elixir| Chloroform, Calcium
Glycerophosphate, Creosote, Sodium Glycerophosphate, Terpin
Hydrate, Alcohol 25% Base. Liniment| Camphor Gum, Oleoresin
Capsicums, Oil of Rusci, Oil of Sassafras, Oil of Origanum,
Spirits of Turpentine, Pine Oil. Skin Cream| Benzocaine, White
Mineral Oil Russian, Zinc Oxide, Base Cream, Powdered Boric
Acid, Spermaceti, White Petrolatum. Rectal Ointment| Powdered
Alum, Benzoinated Lard, Powdered Nutgall, Stramonium Extract
U.S.P., Precipitated Sulfur. Cathartic #1: Epsom Salts, Sulfuric
Acid, Quinine Sulfate, Spirits of Anise, Burnt Sugar, Distilled
Water. There was very little unique or even unusual in the
various Two Moon herbal formulas. They drew upon the conventional
medical wisdom of the period and, in many cases, incorporated
the same remedies, both botanical and chemical, that would
have been utilized for the same conditions by practitioners
of mainstream medicine.
The source of the formulas is unknown but probably drew on
the numerous formularies and dispensatories of the early twentieth
century. To peddle his herbal medicines throughout the area,
Chief Two Moon had several buses for salesmen to travel in
from point to point. He also owned a fleet of cars and an
airplane. Chief Two Moon charged nothing for his consultations,
only for his tonics and herbs. Though his charges were small,
he became very wealthy and is said to have spent his money
on expensive clothes, furniture, and travels. However, he
did give generously to the poor. The only condition he ever
imposed upon those he assisted was that any help he gave would
be kept secret. Therefore, not until his friends and beneficiaries
came together after his death were the stories told of his
charitable deeds. Mr. James Courtney, a friend of the Chief's
and the proprietor of a market near the Chief's home, knew
of more than 300 families in Waterbury for whom Chief Two
Moon had purchased food and clothing, paid rent, provided
fuel, and assisted in other ways. A man who had been unemployed
for two years told of the Chief caring for his family and
then getting him a job. A mother told of Two Moon advancing
her several hundred dollars to pay for an operation on a crippled
A story that did ma ke the newspapers before his death concerned
his generosity during the prior Christmas season. At that
time, he distributed 200 turkeys, 4 tons of coal, 12 pairs
of shoes, 200 dolls, a supply of candies, and 100 baskets
filled with fruit and food to needy families in the city.
In 1926, Chief Two Moon went to New York City where he was
received by the mayor and given a public reception on the
steps of New York's City Hall. He then traveled on to Washington,
D.C., to see President Calvin Coolidge, but at the last minute,
Coolidge changed his mind and did not meet the Chief. Chief
Two Moon and his retinue continued on to Florida. As the story
goes, the trip did not turn out very well for the Chief. He
had to leave Jacksonville in a hurry because of some displeasure
he caused the authorities there.
Then his publicity agent, Anne Whelan, accused him of not
paying her the salary he said he would. She settled out of
court. Chief Buffalo Bear, a Sioux Indian, sued Chief Two
Moon because of a broken wage agreement. The latter, it was
claimed, had said he would pay Chief Buffalo Bear $35 a week
plus a year's board; instead, he was discharged after the
Florida trip. Though he sued for $1,000, he settled for $450.
In Atlantic City, officials gave the Chief the keys to the
city. By 1928-29, the Chief Two Moon Herb Co. had a business
on Atlantic City's famous Boardwalk -- 1623 Boardwalk, to
be specific. William Spotted Crow and his family worked for
Two Moon at this "Indian temple," the facade of
which did indeed look like some kind of an ancient Indian
place of worship. Later, however, the Atlantic City Chamber
of Commerce refused to let Chief Two Moon continue to do business
there. It was believed that, had he received permission from
them, he would have moved his business from Waterbury to Atlantic
City. For most of his adult life, Chief Two Moon tried to
prove he truly was an American Indian. In 1929, he traveled
to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota hoping that
the Oglala Sioux would make him a chief of their tribe. He
left disappointed, however; in spite of the $500 he had given
the chiefs of the Sioux tribe for the ceremonies when he was
there (the chiefs had expected more), he was given only the
title of honorary chief and "friend of the Indians."
Undaunted, he planned another trip to South Dakota and, according
to his agents' correspondence, was willing this time to pay
more for the title he coveted. Serving as an influential helper
of Chief Two Moon, Mr. William G. Sorrentino of New Haven
wrote to Richard Whalen, the postmaster -- and an interpreter
-- at Pine Ridge reservation, in June, 1930, regarding this
second trip. After some further correspondence, it was agreed
that Chief Two Moon would donate $1,000 or so with the stipulation
that his name be given as th e sponsor of the Pine Ridge rodeo,
that he receive "a royal welcome" and "be made
chief of the tribe with all honors and ceremonies usually
[sic] for such events."
Thus, during this visit in the late summer of 1930, Chief
Two Moon was presented with a document proclaiming him chief
of all the Sioux. Try as he would, however, he could never
get the Department of the Interior to certify that he was
an American Indian. Correspondence with senators, officials
of the Department, and even an army general, was to no avail.
He was never officially acknowledged as an American Indian.
In the early 1920's, some Waterbury residents, because of
the complexion of his skin, tried to prove he was of African-American
origin; this claim also remained unproven. However, a headline
in the November 29, 1929, edition of the New York Evening
Journal read, "Indian Miracle Man Besieged by Sick,"
and in the first paragraph it states, " . . . a dapper,
coffee-colored American Indian has become famous as a modem
miracle man." The New York Times article referred to
earlier described him as "the colorful little brown man
in the big, white sombrero." It seems that every publicity
story about him referred to Chief Two Moon as an Indian, as
did all of his thousands of patients. During his visit in
August of 1930 to the Pine Ridge reservation, Chief Two Moon
noticed that many of the older members of the Sioux tribe
were troubled with constipation and stomach disorders. Upon
his return to Waterbury, the Chief Two Moon Herb Co., not
realizing it was contrary to government regulations, shipped
some of its Bitter Oil product to Richard Whalen, the postmaster
at Pine Ridge who agreed to distribute it among the Indians
if permission to do so was received from the Commissioner
of Indian Affairs. Consequently, the Chief Two Moon Herb Co.
wrote a letter to the Commissioner on October 15, 1930, requesting
"permission to have this distributed (gratis) . . . .This
`Bitter Oil' is composed of the highest grade of Russian mineral
oil that can be obtained in the market, combined with extracts
of roots and herbs, and has been of benefit to thousands suffering
with constipation and kindred stomach troubles."(5) Permission
was no doubt granted.
In the fall of 1930, Chief Two Moon and his wife traveled
to Europe where, on October 20th, they, wearing "the
customary full dress attire required by papal regulation,"(6)
had a private audience with Pope Pius XI. The Vatican newspaper
called him the "leader of the Indians,"(2) and Italian
surgeons and physicians saluted him for his "cures,"
calling him the "great medicine man from America."(3)
Dr. G. Colazza of Rome sent a letter to the Chief at his hotel
in Rome, the Hotel Palace, stating, "I hope you did not
mind my submitting you to various and difficult tests with
several of my patients . . . .You showed remarkable insight
on the cases and in many instances your finding out the diseased
organ without any suggestion or local examination seemed incredible
. . . ." Mr. Sorrentino, however, left the Chief's service
in Rome, explaining later that "I helped the chief through
the other achievements but I could not bring it upon myself
to humbug the Pope." Sorrentino was sure that the Pope
believed he was giving an audience to East Indies Indians,
not American Indians, because Two Moon had introduced his
wife to the Pope's secretary as an Indian princess. When the
secretary mentioned that Indian princesses lost their titles
upon marriage, the Chief explained to her that East Indian
tribes allowed their women to keep their titles after marriage.
Thus, the presumed deception, although the Chief probably
did not intend for his statements to mislead. He may have
been speaking about Indian customs in the tribes of Eastern
During the last couple of years of his life, Chief Two Moon
spent much of his time in courtrooms. In the New York City
Court, he was convicted of practicing medicine without a license.
The State of Connecticut also brought him to trial on five
counts of practicing naturopathy without a certificate or
license. Evidence was obtained by the state police, and a
warrant served on May 3, 1932. John H. Cassidy, Chief Two
Moon's attorney, fought over the interpretation of state statutes.
He quoted from section 2772 of the 1930 general statutes which
defined the practice of naturopathy as " mechanical manipulation
but not internal medication." Cassidy made headline news
as he ridiculed the state statutes, but he lost on the point.
In October 1932, Chief Two Moon brought, at his expense, 26
Sioux chiefs to Waterbury to speak on his behalf in the trial
with Sorrentino and in regard to his being an Indian.
Among the chiefs were six who said they had been in the battle
of the Little Big Horn 57 years earlier when Custer's 7th
Cavalry was wiped out. They were Stephen Standing Bear (a
noted Indian artist), Little Crow, Black Moccasin, Catches
Enemy, Little Bear, and Charles Turning Hawk (one-time president
of the "Black Hills Council").(9) Five of the chiefs
were with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show; three others were
with the "Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show;"
three others attended the Carlisle Industrial Indian School.
On their way to Waterbury, the group stopped off for about
two hours in Van Wert, Ohio, and the following are quotations
from the Van Wert Daily Bulletin of October 19, 1932."A
band of Sioux Indians, the party including twenty-three braves
and three squaws . . . made a peaceful invasion of Van Wert
late yesterday afternoon (the 18th), while traveling on a
goodwill trip to Waterbury, Connecticut. In keeping with the
traditions of that fighting tribe . . . the members of the
party were garbed in native costume with the chiefs wearing
the ornaments indicating their high office . . . . "The
visiting Sioux band was headed by four leaders, Chief Turning
Hawk, Chief Spotted Crow, Chief Black Horn and Chief Standing
Bear, with two interpreters, M.E. Kidney, private secretary
to Chief Two Moon Meridas . . . and Frank Goings, who fills
the office of Marshall of Indian Police, and, also, Judge
Noah Bad Wound, Indian legal adviser, and Richard Whalen,
United States government interpreter at the Pine Ridge Reservation
. . . .the goodwill tour is a courtesy extended to the Sioux
by Chief Two Moon Meridas, of Waterbury, widely known as `The
Man With the X-Ray Eye,' the head of a proprietary medicine
company, the owner of a large estate in Connecticut and one
of the richest Indians in the country. Chief Two Moons (sic)
Meridas is meeting the expense of the goodwill tour and will
entertain the Sioux in lavish manner during their stay in
Waterbury . . . ."
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the next day, the group visited
the state capitol, dined, and paraded through the downtown.
The Naugatuck Daily News reported, "They sang weird tribal
songs and through interpreters told of their feats in hunting,
fishing and fighting." Upon the group's arrival at its
destination in Waterbury, the Waterbury' Democrat, in an article
on the front page of its November 5, 1932, issue, noted that
the purpose of this trip was to give depositions in the defense
of Chief Two Moon. William Sorrentino had filed a $10,000
suit in the New Haven Superior Court some months earlier against
his former employer who, he claimed, had failed to keep his
part of an agreement. The $10,000 was to have been paid to
Sorrentino in return for getting Chief Two Moon recognized
as an honorary chief by the Sioux. Five of the Sioux chiefs
signed depositions, however, stating that Chief Two Moon had
been acknowledged as supreme chief of the Sioux at a huge
ceremony with over 100 chiefs and 8,000 Indians present at
Pine Ridge reservation on August 6, 1930, and, further, that
Sorrentino had nothing to do with this action.
Those five chiefs signing the depositions were: Chief Turning
Hawk, Chief No Water (these were the two who had the final
say as to who was, or was not, a member of the Sioux tribe),
Chief Spotted Crow (chief of police at the Pine Ridge reservation),
Chief Noah Bad Wound (retired judge of the reservation court,
appointed by the U.S. government), and Chief Kills Crow. At
Chief Two Moon's Beacon Valley estate, the Sioux chiefs performed
tribal rituals at a barbecue and dance which was attended
by 450 persons from the area.(13) The Naugatuck Daily News
on November 12, 1932, reported, "The affair was probably
the most unique conducted in the history of the vicinity."
Speakers included Frank W. Hayes, mayor of Waterbury; Charles
A. Templeton, ex-governor of Connecticut; John T. McGrath,
judge; John T. Monzani, coroner; and Mrs. A. Webster, commissioner
of education, just to mention a few. All, the article stated,
praised Chief Two Moon "for the charitable acts he performs
each year anonymously" and "for the good work he
is doing in general." On the Sioux chiefs' return to
the Pine Ridge reservation, they stopped in New York City
where Acting Mayor McKee greeted them on the steps of City
Hall and where, dressed in full regalia of warbonnets, beaded
shirts, and bright colored pantaloons, the chiefs entertained
the New Yorkers with a spectacular war dance.
New York papers carded three-column pictures of the ceremony.
Within the year, Chief Two Moon became ill. Without realizing
the greatest desire of his life -- to be officially acknowledged
as an American Indian by the U.S. Department of the Interior
-- he died on November 2, 1933, at his home, of cirrhosis
of the liver. He was buried in Hillside Cemetery in Roslyn,
Pennsylvania. The cause of his death remains something of
a mystery. Friends reported that they had never seen the Chief
intoxicated. It is possible that some of the herbs in his
medicines were hepatotoxic, but an examination of the various
formulas does not reveal any obvious responsible ingredient.
Many of the formulas did contain alcohol, but consumption
of a sufficient quantity to cause cirrhosis would certainly
have produced an obvious state of drunkenness, at least on
occasion. And thus the life of the "modern miracle man"
came to an end.
Chief Two Moon himself never claimed to have performed a healing
miracle, giving credit instead to nature's remedies; however,
thousands of his patients believed he cured them of their
ills when physicians had given up all hope. Joseph D. Marrese,
one of the Chief's admirers in Westwood, New Jersey, wrote
on August 19, 1931, "After being given up by the doctors,
I learned of Chief Two Moon Meridas. After 3 weeks treatment
with the Chiefs Bitter Oil and Herbs pains began to disappear
. . . .Today thanks to Chief Two Moon Meridas I am free from
pain and can honestly say that I never felt better in my life."
Another friend, Melvin Bodley of Poughkeepsie, New York, wrote
the Chief in 1922, saying, "I was treated by local doctors
for a long time, but could not see much improvement, only
at times. I was finally induced to try your Bitter Oil, and
I can frankly say that after using the first bottle I began
to pick up and after finishing the third bottle I felt like
a new man." Most of his out-of-town visitors (he would
not call them patients) had come from New York City, New Jersey,
or Long Island, but cars with license plates from Maine, Rhode
Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania
often lined both sides of Wales Street where his home and
office were located in Waterbury. Though sometimes called
a charlatan, he was more often praised as a hard-working,
compassionate folk doctor, and, of course, for the healing
properties of his herbal medicines. Among the numerous letters
of thanks he received was one, written March 23, 1928, from
J. S. Braren, pastor of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church
in Jamaica, New York. Pastor Braren said, in part, "Having
arrived in the critical age of the middle fifties . . . I
found myself lacking in vitality . . . a few organs misbehaving.
Then I gave myself into your skillful care and for three months
followed your regime as faithfully as possible. Now after
the interval of four months I can say . . . I have enjoyed
perfect health without even becoming the victim of a single
winter cold; I have carded on my work with unusual vigor and
success . . . I certainly attribute this physical and mental
alertness to the splendid treatment received at the hands
of Chief Two Moon Meridas, whom naturally I greatly admire
both as man and as wonderful benefactor of an ailing humanity."
Oscar Tschirky, the famous "Oscar of the Waldorf"
and creator of the delectable Waldorf salad, was another loyal
believer in the Chief's herbal potions. However, perhaps one
of Chief Two Moon's most prized testimonials came from Eva
Tanguay, a well-known vaudeville star of the time, who, on
October 18, 1929, sent a telegram to him from Hollywood saying,
"Send another bottle of your bitter oil quick."
That, indeed, is a request that would please any patent medicine
"miracle man," true-blooded American Indian or not.
FOOTNOTES (1.) Anon., "Chief Two Moon dies in Waterbury,"
New York Times, November 3, 1933. (2.) F. Juliano, "Chief
Two Moon: quack medicine man or true man of medicine?"
Waterbuy Republican, October 1, 1989. (3.) Anon., "Chief
Two Moon, showman and medicine maker, passes," Waterbury
Republican, November 3, 1933. (4.) The quotations and formulas
that follow are abstracted from an extensive collection of
Chief Two Moon letters and other memorabilia in the possession
of two of the authors (T.J.F. and L.R.N.). (5.) Letter from
Chief Two Moon Herb Company, Waterbury, Connecticut, to Commissioner
of Indian Affairs, dated October 15, 1930. Supplied to T.J.F.
courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
(6.) Anon., "Pope received American Indian," New
York Times, October 21, 1930. (7.) Personal communication,
Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Connecticut, to T.J.F. (8.) Steinberger,
B., "Chief Two Moon: museum tells story of local popular
Indian," Waterbuy Republican, October 22, 1983. (9.)
Anon., "Mayor McKee Greets Sioux chieftains at City Hall,"
New York Times, November 19, 1932. (10.) Anon., "The
day the Indians invaded Van Wert," Van Wen Daily Bulletin,
October 19, 1932. (11.) Anon., "Sioux Indians on way
to visit Chief Two Moon," Naugatuck Daily News, October
20, 1932. (12.) Anon., "Sioux tribe sends five chiefs
here," Waterbury Democrat, November 5, 1932. (13.) Anon.,
"Over 450 attend Indian barbecue and dance here,"
Naugatuck Daily News, November 12, 1932. Article copyright
American Botanical Council. ~~~~~~~~ By Thomas J. Fillius;
Loretta R. Nugent; Virginia Tyler and Varro E. Tyler">Reprinted
from Pharmacy in History, Vol. 37 (#3, 1995): 143-151, the
quarterly journal of the American "Chief" Two Moon
Meridas (1888? - 1933) was an American seller of herbal medicine
who claimed that he was of Sioux birth.
Meridas was born Chico Colon Meridan, son of Chico Meridan
and Mary Tumoon; his exact place and date of birth are unclear.
Later, his marriage certificate records his birth at Devil's
Lake, South Dakota on August 29, 1888, but this information
By 1914 Meridas was selling herbal medicines in the streets
of Philadelphia and New York. In New York he met Helen Gertrude
Nugent and later married her. Shortly afterwards they moved
to Waterbury, Connecticut.
Meridas began to sell his herbal medicines from his house.
Contemporary newspaper accounts stated that during the 1918
influenza epidemic, none of his patients died. This increased
his prestige and clientele. His most famous product was "Bitter
Oil", a laxative that was widely marketed as a cure-all.
In 1921 Meridas moved to a larger house and established an
extensive and prosperous herb business in a storefront at
1898 East Main Street. He built his own laboratory at 1864
East Main Street in 1925. His business increased to such an
extent that he had a fleet of buses for his salesmen and an
airplane. He took money only for his products, not his advice.
He spent lavishly but also surreptitiously donated to charities
and to the poor.
In 1928 the Atlantic City gave him the keys to the city when
he founded his Indian Temple there.
Meridas claimed that he was a Pueblo Indian. However, the
Unites States Department of Interior refused to certify that
he was an American Indian, although he was presented as one
in his publicity. On August 6, 1930 the Oglala Lakota Sioux
of the Pine Ridge Reservation gave him the honorary title
of chief, due to his financial help during the Great Depression.
In October 1930 Meridas and his wife traveled to Europe to
meet Pope Pius XI.
In May 3, 1932 Meridas was indicted and later convicted of
practicing medicine without a license in New York and Connecticut.
In November 1932 Meridas brought 26 Sioux to Waterbury to
speak for his defense, some of whom stated that they had taken
part of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. They also stated
that Meridas had been named an Honorary Chief of the Sioux.
They later celebrated at Meridas' Beacon Valley, Connecticut
Two Moon Meridas died on November 3, 1933.