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Zenas Crane Rennie, born October 27, 1836 at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. His occupation before the war is shown as that of a merchant and on the breakout of the war, he became involved in military recruiting duties in his home state.   At the Time of Rennie’s enlistment on October 28, 1862, at twenty-six years of age, he was recorded as being a residence of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.   On October 28, 1862, Rennie was elected Captain of Company I, 49th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, a nine month militia organization recruited at Pittsfield, Massachusetts.   He was mustered out on September 1, 1863 and shortly after went to Providence, Rhode Island, where the governor of the state appointed him as Allotment Commissioner for the state of Rhode Island.

Rennie enlisted in the 49th Massachusetts Infantry and was commissioned into Company I as a Captain. Rennie fought for the Union in conflicts at Baton Rogue, Louisiana in 1862.  Rennie was mustered out of service at Pittsfield, Massachusetts on September 1, 1863.   After the War Zenus C. Rennie lived in Springfield, Massachusetts for a time and first appeared in the Providence Rhode Island Directory, 1865 edition, as a store cashier and clerk at 42 Weybosset Street; home 215 Friendship.   The Census of Rhode Island for June 1, 1865 records that his family was in fact located at that address in  Ward VI. It was recorded as household # 220 and included Zenath Rennie, age 28, born in New Hampshire and was then serving as State Commissioner.

It further recorded Margaret Rennie, age 25, born New Hampshire; Margaret Ross his wife, age 65, born in New Hampshire and one Margaret Lenihan, age 18, a servant who was born in Ireland. He is at that time listed as being a bank cashier.   A son is also documented as being born at 215 Friendship Street in  Providence, Rhode Island on Oct. 1, 1864; Harry Norwood Rennie, 2nd child. His parents were recirded as Zeno C. Rennie, age 28, born Pittsfield, Massachusetts & Margart J., age 29, born at Dover, New Hampshire.

Another son, Edwin Smith Rennie is documented as having died at 189 Frendship Street at 6 years of age, 4 months, 5 days; born at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Rennie’s father owned a patent medicine manufacturing business and after leaving the military, Zenas went to work with him in the company.   They produced “RENNE’S MAGIC PAIN KILLING OIL”, one of many patent medicines manufactured and sold in small bottles during that period and often referred to by many as “Snake Oil”. They also produced “RENNE'S NERVINE”, but the Magic Pain Killing Oil was their major product. Their caption was “It Works Like A Charm” and was recommended for both medical and dental uses.

Advertisements listed ten different “ailments” it was sure to cure.  Rennie’s competition at the time was “A. D. Elmer's Pain Killing Balm” with the caption “It Cures Like a Charm”. A. D. Elmer of Northfield, Mass, like Zenas C. Rennie, manufactured the elixir which promised to cure everything from diphtheria to humors, from cramps to cricks in the back, from toothache to wounds by glass, scythe and rusty nails.   Renne advertisements included billboards, large colourful metal signs that were nailed to walls and fences and metamorphic cards that when folded shows a man/woman in grim, crippled, painful condition and after using Renne's they appear young and happy as shown when card unfolded. There were also comical cartoon advertisements of a salesman juggling bottles of the elixir with claims that it cured all internal and external pains and was available for 25 cents, 50 cents or $1 a bottle. Then there was the hand bills that were passed out to people on the street, stating it was “safe, clean and delicious to use”.

It to claimed it was a cure for “rheumatism, colic pains, cramps, dirrhcea, sour stomach, headache, toothache,  neuralgia and ectera; IT HAS NO EQUAL”. On the flyers it stated it could be purchased at all drug stores and country stores and bore the name of L.W. Warner & Co., Proprietors. The business was sold in 1877 and Zenas then went to work as an insurance agent in Springfield, Massachusetts.  In 1869, 1870 and  1871, the last entry, Zenas C. Rennie is noted as an insurance agent in Providence, Rhode Island on Weybosset Street; his home recorded as 146 Cranston Street. 


A search of the State Census index revealed no record of the family in Rhode Island in 1875, indicating by that time they may have removed back to Massachusetts.   Rennie’s wife passed away in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1884, leaving him with his son Harry, born in 1865 and Richard, born in 1873. Two years later he married Mary Eunius Warner. Records reveal that Zenas in 1886, arrived in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.Zenas applied for a military pension while in Massachusetts, before migrating to Australia, under pension Application number 1329207, Certificate number 1102407.


He came to Australia on October 27, 1886, as an insurance agent in the city of Sydney, for the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. He was retired in 1904 and returned to the US, settling in San Francisco, California but an earthquake a couple of years later destroyed his possessions.   He then decided to return to Australia and became a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, as well as a Knight Templar.   Rennie passed away in Sydney but his legacy lives on in the Rennie Trophy which is awarded at a Rowing Regatta on the Hawkesbury River, each year.

The Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of New South Wales (A.A.G.P.S) was the forerunner, and the outcome of a meeting held at Gunsler’s Café on new Circular Quay, on 30 March 1892.  The schools represented at the initial meeting were The King’s School, St Ignatius’ College, St Joseph’s College, All Saints College, Bathurst and the North Shore Grammar School (SCEGS). 

On April 12, 1892 delegates from Sydney Grammar School, Newington College and Cooerwull Academy joined those who attended the first meeting. At a third meeting held on  April 28, 1892, membership of the AAGPS was clarified and St Patrick’s College Goulburn, St Stanislaus College Bathurst and The Scots College joined those schools who attended the earlier meetings.  Sydney High School applied for membership in March 1894 but were not admitted until  February 14, 1906 and the Armidale School entered the Association on May 7, 1897.  It was then that official rowing competition began; in 1893.

In June 1893, Major Rennie came up with his silver trophy to be used for the major event at the Sydney Rowing Regatta, which began that year and continued until 1935, on the Parramatta River.

In 1936 the race was transferred to the Nepean River and remained there until 1996, when it was moved to the Olympic course. From 1993 until 1909 the race was contested by four-oared boats and by eight-oared boats since then. Since 1996 the race has been contested over 2000 meters; all previous events were over a mile and a half, except in 1946 and 1947 when the race was over a mile and a quarter. Trophies were allotted to winners of the rowing competition with 1st VIII  in 1910 and onwards, the original “Major Rennie Trophy”,  presented by  Rennie himself as a prize to the regatta in 1894 that has since become known as the “Head of the River”.   Until 1910 the Major Rennie Trophy, donated in 1894, was awarded for the First Four race there being no First Eight race until 1910.


“Renne's Magic Pain Killing Oil”, one of many patent medicines manufactured and sold and often referred to as “Snake Oil”.

RENNE'S NERVINE (also produced by Zenas C. Rennie)

Trading Card inscriptiom: Card # BAE01; Advertises: Renne's Pain Killing Magic Oil; Caption: It Works Like A Charm;

 Categories: Before and After, Medical & Dental; Printer: H. & C. Koevoets, N.Y.; Reverse: Lists 10 ailments cured by Renne's Pain Killing Magic Oil.; Size: 5-7/16" x 3-9/16"; Rare; Salesman is selling bottles of the product to sick people who walk out the door cured. An unpaneled with & without card.


Renne's Pain Killing Magic Oil utilized the slogan it Works Like A Charm.    The twin to this bottle in shape, height, and appearance is A. D. Elmer's Pain Killing Balm, “It Cures Like A Charm”.

The Elmers bottle is ten times harder to find and is thought to be the elder brother of the two. A. D. Elmer of Northfield, Mass, like Zenas C. Rennie, manufactured the elixir which promised to cure everything from diphtheria to humors, from cramps to cricks in the back, from toothache to wounds by glass, scythe and rusty nails.

Metamorphic card that when folded shows man/woman in grim, crippled, painful condition. After using Renne's they appear young and happy as shown when card unfolded.


Zenas Crane Rennie died on April 24, 1923 in New South Wales, Australia and was buried in the South Head Cemetery, Waverly, New South Wales, Australia in allotment 84, section O.

Zenus Rennie donated the original “Major Rennie Trophy” as a prize in 1894 to the regatta that has since become known as the “Head of the Rive”.


Bob Ducharme, George Maple, Department of Mass, SUV

Franklin Haley, Historical Data Systems, Inc

Kenneth S. Carlson, Reference Archivist

“Life With the 49th Massachusetts Volunteers”, Henry T. Johns, Washington,

      D.C., Ramsey & Bisbee,1890

Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War

Register of the Commandery of the State of Massachusetts MOLLUS

Union Blue:  History of MOLLUS


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