Biography:Mrs. Joe Person

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Mrs. Joe Person

 Given name:     Alice
 Middle name:     Morgan
 Family name:     Person
 Place of birth:     Petersburg, Virginia
 Place of death:     Santa Fe, New Mexico
 Year of birth:     1840
 Year of death:     1913
 Profile:     Musician
 Source of information: Morgan Person

Biographical notes

'Mrs. Joe' was Alice Morgan Person (1840-1913), born in Petersburg, Virginia, who in 1857 married a wealthy North Carolinian named Joseph Arrington Person, of a prominent family with a Franklinton (near Raleigh) agricultural estate. When her third daughter became seriously ill she gave her a remedy whose recipe had been given her own mother by 'an old Indian'. The child recovered and Alice swore the elixir had restored her to health. She herself started making it for family, friends and neighbors, touting its health benefits. The young family's fortunes changed when Joseph suffered a stroke; coupled with the ravages of the Civil War, it left the family without ability to derive income from their farm; in desperation she began to produce quantities which she sold door-to-door and in drug stores. After her husband's death in 1883, Alice transformed the scale of her medicine into a business, and "went on the road advertising, selling, drumming, talking." In Raleigh she staged a "public test" at Yarborough House, a downtown hotel, to demonstrate the curative powers of the remedy. She traveled across the state in her horse-drawn rig laden with the cure-all. Her procedure was the same in each county. She would make the county seat her headquarters, hire a double team and "good, reliable white driver," visit every country store, and stop at every house on the wayside with an organ or piano, staying the night wherever she was welcome.

She and her sisters had been well-educated, and Alice was an accomplished pianist, a talent that she employed as a demonstrator of pianos for keyboard instrument vendors at county fairs and similar venues throughout the south. She began touring farther afield =, playing and selling her medicine (which consisted of bitters, parts of seven native plants in a 20% alcohol base). There were various spurious health claims made for the tonic but it proved effective for scrofula, a form of tuberculosis. Meanwhile demand developed for her music, largely taken from blackface minstrelsy, but also including folksongs and traditional music, and she published several folios. She died at age 73 while on tour to California and Alaska.