James Cook Ayer

From Kook Science

J. C. Ayer
Born James Cook Ayer
5 May 1818(1818-05-05)
Groton (Ledyard), New London Co., Connecticut
Died 3 July 1878 (60)
Winchendon, Worcester Co., Massachusetts
Burial Lowell Cemetery, Lowell, Middlesex Co., Mass.
Occupation(s) Pharmacist

James Cook Ayer (May 5, 1818 - July 3, 1878) was an American pharmaceutical chemist and patent medicine manufacturer, the founder of J. C. Ayer Co. of Lowell, Massachusetts, producers of his namesake Ayer's Ague Cure and Ayer's Sarsaparilla, among many others. Ayer has been argued to have been one of the most successful patent medicine men of his age, amassing a fortune of some $15 million dollars in the course of his business, and the town of Ayer, Massachusetts was named for him, in large part owing to his generosity in financing construction of their town hall. This financial success, however, did not translate into the political success that he sought later in his life, as Ayer ran unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for the Massachusetts's 7th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 1874 U. S. elections, a failure that has been suggested as being a cause for his later poor health and confinement to an asylum in the final years of his life.[1]


  • Stewart, S. C. (1993), The Sarsaparilla Kings: A Biography of Dr. James Cook Ayer and Frederick Ayer with a Record of Their Family, Cambridge, Mass. 


  1. "DR. AYER'S INSANITY. Three Guardians Appointed of His Estate, and the Doctor to Remain in the Asylum — the Cause of His Malady and His Present Condition.", Boston Globe (Boston, MA): 5, 17 May 1877,, "The unfortunate man first showed symptoms of insanity about thirteen months ago, just after returning from a tip to Chicago, and among the most prominent manifestations was the writing of a number of strange and improper letters to various persons. The cause was attributed to a too close application to business, added to which was a melancholy disappointment on account of being defeated in an attempt to gain an election to Congress. His friends decided to send him to a fruit farm in New Jersey, but while being taken through New York City the Doctor became so violent that the assistance of police had to be invoked. He was for a time held in the Bellevue Hospital, in New York, and afterwards confined in a hotel at High Bridge for a few days, but, becoming gradually worse, he was taken to the Bloomingdale Asylum, and subsequently to the Pleasantville institution, where he is now under treatment."