Worth noting: Winona's Watkins Museum

  • Updated: July 15, 2000 - 11:00 PM

One of our stops in Winona, Minn., was the Watkins Museum, which showcases historical exhibits from the J.R. Watkins Medical Co.

Watkins founded his company in Plainview, Minn., in 1868 (the company moved to Winona in 1885) and produced Red Liniment, a healing concoction made from camphor, extract of capsicum (red peppers), oil of spruce and other botanicals. The company branched out into spices, extracts and other items over the years.

Watkins had people go door to door to sell his products -- the first recorded direct-sales strategy. He also built consumer trust: If you weren't satisfied with his products, Watkins refunded your money. When he died in 1911, Watkins had a door-to-door sales staff of more than 2,500.

Many of the older passengers on our cruise remembered "the Watkins Man" coming to town when they were young, and they advised me to try Watkins vanilla, cinnamon and black pepper.Today the company sells products ranging from gourmet specialty foods to personal care products in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. And you can still get that original Red Liniment.

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