I found an old bottle in my grandparents’ 1930’s basement behind a workbench down between the wall framing and was intrigued by the name embossed on the side of the bottle: Pluto Water… then I saw the Devil embossed on the bottom!
Ran to look it up…Pluto Water was bottled at Pluto Spring, one of the mineral springs at a large resort area at French Lick, Indiana. It was said to cure everything from alcoholism to constipation. Pluto Water was named for the god of the underworld since the mineral waters sprang from underground sources. One of the springs is called Proserpina. Cashing in on this phenomena, Dr. William Bowles bought acreage here in the early 1800’s and built the French Lick Hotel which burned down and was rebuilt. Later, Tom Taggart and investors bought the hotel and established a major resort called The French Lick Resort.
These “miracle waters“ drew people from many miles around. The Monon Railroad offered round trip tickets to the door of the French Lick Hotel. Famous visitors to the Springs included Al Capone, Helen Keller, FDR, Boxer Joe Lewis, Duke Ellington, and many others.
Here’s Harry Houdini posing in front of a Pluto Water sign with an unidentified man around 1907.
The world famous chef Louis Perrin first served tomato juice at this hotel, supposedly after running out of oranges for juice. Louis Armstrong was said to favor Pluto Water.
At the hotel’s main entrance was the luxurious Beaux Arts-style structure section known as the Pluto Bar, where guests could take a dose of Pluto Water upon entering.
A statue outside the hotel
Bottled and sold throughout the world, the beverage carried the slogan “When Nature won’t, Pluto will,” a reference to the water’s powerful laxative properties.
French Lick has such a fascinating history, including a wealth of conflicting information on whether or not Bowles formed the secret society called Knights of the Golden Circle.
Production of Pluto Water finally ceased due to the naturally occurring Lithium in the water which had become a controlled substance. During Tom Taggart’s heyday, Pluto Water sales topped one million dollars a year.
Back to the basement.