Prof. Ludwig Zimmer, Herbalist . . . and Zimmerton’s Namesake

“The world is my country and to do good my religion.”

Ludwig (“Louis”) Zimmer (1838-1895) was born in Grunberg, Hessen Darmstadt, Germany, but left his homeland when a young man. He settled in Guelph, ON in 1861. In 1867, he married Salome (b1829), who was also born in Germany. His business focus during the time he was in Ontario was on wild animal hides (oddly, to my way of thinking, he incorporated the hide trade into his Vancouver business a couple of years after getting his herbalist business business going here). He left Guelph and settled in Waterton, NWT (later Alberta), later living for a brief time in Winnipeg before coming to Vancouver in the autumn of 1888. He and Salome did not have kids.

During his years in Vancouver, Zimmer identified himself as “Prof.” and as a “Herb Druggist” operating out of 10 (later 110) Abbott St. (nearby the railway track). I don’t know what educational background he had, but it wasn’t uncommon in Vancouver’s earliest years for someone to refer to himself as “Prof.” when he had less than advanced educational credentials, but wanted to be identified as having such.

Zimmer was a frequent advertiser in the Vancouver press. One of his earliest ads read as follows:

“Relief for all pains. I have just received a large consignment of fresh herbs that, properly handled, will certainly cure all diseases as mentioned below. These herbs have not lost their virtue by long standing on shelves, but are the recent season’s growth with all their strength. They will cure the following diseases:

For colds and burns of all descriptions. Dyspepsia. For worms in the Bowels and Stomach, for Swellings in any part of the body, for Killing Tape Worm, for Relief of Toothache, for cure of Seventy-seven different Fevers, for Swellings, for Worms in all Joints of the Body, for Colic, for Stopping Rupture in Young People [acne, I think, rather than hernias], for Erysipelas, Wild Fire or Saint Anthony’s Fire, for Burned Sores, for Limbs, for Sore Eyes. for Healing Wounds, for Polypus [polyps] of the Heart, for Fresh Wounds, for Jumping Toothache, for Killing Hair Worm, for Rheum in the Eye, for Curing Worms in the Fingers, for Remedy of all kinds, Bodily Defects (to cure old blemishes), for Jaundice, for Podagra, for Cure of Warts, Cramps and many diseases peculiar to Men, such as Gonorrhea, Gleet, Etc.

When all physicians fail to affect a cure, call and see what herbs can do for you..

Daily World, 23 Nov 1888

At the very least, I found that ad to be an education in medical terms that were largely unknown to me!

As I read through local news clippings in which Zimmer was mentioned, I expected eventually to come across a charge of quackery. And sure enough, within days of the above ad appearing, the following appeared in the same paper:

An appeal will be taken in the case of Prof. Zimmer, fined the other day in the Police Court for an infraction of certain clauses of the British Columbia Medical Act. It is believed [by the Daily World, I guess, or perhaps this was a clandestine ad paid for by Zimmer] that the Professor is quite within the law in claiming that he can bring about good health by a liberal use of herbs. He is certainly doing wonderful things in this line, and is favorably spoken of by those who have consulted him.

Daily World, 28 Nov 1888

Nothing much appeared to come of this 1888 police court business. Later, in August 1894, according to the Daily World, Zimmer received a summons to appear before Justice of the Peace Schofield on a similar charge. Again, the summons seemed to fizzle (Daily World, 4 Aug 1894). I did see one brief write-up claiming that Zimmer had been fined $28 on one occasion (Daily World, 10 Oct 1889).

These moments aside, however, Zimmer seemed to carry on his herbalist business relatively unmolested by police courts or attorneys-general. Remarkably, he appears not to have been perceived as a quack by the general public. This positive perception was probably assisted by his ads which, as time went on, consisted less of lists of ailments which he could cure with his herbs and more of testimonials by Vancouver residents — some of whom were well known and influential. For exanple, in 1894, a lengthy ad/testimonial appeared, excerpts of which appear below:

We, the undersigned, are well acquainted with Professor Zimmer…and know him to be all that he represents himself as an Herbalist, and we recommend him to the public….

[Zimmer] does not claim to be a physician in any sense of the term, and, though often solicited, never visits a patient; but he believes in the curative virtues of herbs, roots, bark and berries and is an Herbalist and Botanist….

The Professor has traveled much and seen a great deal of the world in sunshine and shade. He is in every respect a perfect gentleman, kind-hearted and generous, whose fame as a benefactor is now spreading far and near. The cures effected by his treatment have been so astonishing that they have formed the subject of gossip throughout the province.


R. A. Anderson, Mayor
F. Cope, ex-Mayor
J.W. Horne, M.P.P.
James Orr, ex-M.P.P.
Henry A. Mellon, Justice of the Peace
W. Godfrey, Manager, Bank of British North America
M. A. MacLean, ex-Mayor
Alb. Zeplien, Captain, German barque Gutenberg
Thomas Dunn, hardware merchant and ship chandler
John McLaren, Chief of Police
V. W. Haywood, Sergeant of Police
G. A. Jordan, P.M. [Police Magistrate]

[At the conclusion of that omnibus testimonial, appeared this one, specific to an individual]:

Dear Sir: It affords me much pleasure to bear testimony to the success which has attended your treatment of various diseases by the use of Botanical Remedies, and the confidence which is placed in your methods by the people of this city and district. I believe that the more extended use of herbs, which are Nature’s primary remedies, would prove highly beneficial to humanity, and I wish you every success in your efforts to bring them into popularity.

I am faithfully yours,

D[avid] OPPENHEIMER [2nd Mayor of Vancouver]

Daily World, 25 May 1894

Village of Zimmerton?

Zimmer established a ranch in the vicinity of Seymour Creek (aka Seymour River in North Vancouver near the Second Narrows Bridge). (1) The legal description of the land (in bold) in the notice was:

NOTICE is hereby given that 60 days after date I intend making application to the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, for permission to purchase the following described lands in Group One, north side of Burrard Inlet, in Seymour Creek Valley, District of New Westminster, viz:

Commencing at Philip’s northwest corner post on his purchase claim, thence west 20 chains, thence south 40 chains, thence east 20 chains, thence north 40 chains to point of commencement, containing 80 acres more or less.

1892 Vancouver Feb 19
Ludwig Zimmer

Daily World, 6 Apr 1892

There was consideration given in 1890 to naming a village in the Seymour Creek Valley Zimmerton in honour of Louis Z. Believe it or not! To the best of my knowledge, nothing came of this proposal. And Ludwig Zimmer seems today to be utterly forgotten by the populace of North Vancouver and Vancouver alike.

Zimmer died in 1895 at age 58. His death came about from him being outside most of the night, on his Seymour Creek ranch. It started to pour, evidently, and Prof. Zimmer didn’t get out of the rain and, thus, got himself well and truly soaked. The cold he caught that night was considered the precipitating event (if you’ll excuse the pun) that led to his death a couple of months later.


(1) There was an earlier notice (in 1889) of Zimmer’s intention to purchase 2 acres of land on Boulder Island and also to purchase land on an (unnamed) island (perhaps what is now known as Hamber Island?) west of Turtle Head. Both of these land parcels were along the North Arm of Burrard Inlet. It isn’t clear to me whether Zimmer actually purchased this land; since no mention was later made of him owning land in these places, I assume nothing came of these plans.

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1 Response to Prof. Ludwig Zimmer, Herbalist . . . and Zimmerton’s Namesake

  1. lhhouben says:

    I still suffer from “eye boogers”, which I call “sleep”, and is known as rheum. What an interesting article. He’d be a zillionaire if he could do all that with his herbs! Thanks for the good read.

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