Crab Orchard Spring Salts, J.B. Wilder & Co, Louisville, Ky.

According to the State of Kentuck’s web site, Kentucky is home to numerous natural mineral springs. One group of mineral springs was located near the town of Crab Orchard, where a popular resort, sometimes referred to as the “Saratoga of the South” (and sometimes “West”) was established in 1827.  The resort operated into the 1930’s and drew people from all over the country.

An 1883 notice that announced the seasonal opening provides a little insight into the scope of the resort and its amenities.

The buildings have been placed in first-class condition and everything possible will be done to promote the comfort and add to the enjoyment of the visitors. The hotel and cottages with all modern improvements, gas, telegraph office, telephone connections, extensive promenades, ample amusements, ball-room, music, billiard-room and bowling alleys, with excellent fishing and hunting convenient.

The waters for medicinal qualities, excellence and variety are the best the world affords – the Epsom, White Sulphur and Chalybeate being the finest and purest in the United States, the sulphur greatly excelling any found in Virginia.

Most of the salts were made from the Chalybeate waters. The first mention I can find for the Crab Orchard Springs Salts is in a series of 1874 advertisements in the (Louisville Ky) Courier-Journal that stated that they were manufactured by the ‘Crab Orchard Springs Salts Manufacturing Company.”

The Crab Orchard Springs Salts Manufacturing Company, having secured the control of all the territory in which the genuine salts are produced, in order to protect the public against the spurious article; are now putting up the salts in one pound and half-pound bottles, with the name of the company thereon in raised letters, and labeled with a miniature map of the State of Kentucky.

A copy of their trademark label/map was included in the advertisement.

The advertisement goes on to provide a description of the salts and their supposedly curative properties.

These salts are obtained from the waters of the mineral wells near Crab Orchard, a small town in Lincoln County, Ky, whence the name is derived. As long ago as 1825, a farmer in that vicinity observed a globular substance remaining after some of the water had been evaporated by the sun. He immediately began to experiment, and by bottling obtained a small quantity of the salts. The analysis of this by a competent physician at once showed that it contained Sulphate of Magnesia and it was at first pronounced epsom salts. Soon, however, it became apparent that it contained other constituents besides the Sulphate of Magnesia. possessing medicinal properties as powerful and more salubrious, and it acquired the appellation “Crab Orchard” as contradistinguished from Epsom Salts.

…The salts are made by boiling the water impregnated with it in large iron kettles; when boiled down to sufficient consistency the contents of the kettles are stirred gently until they granulate. Nine gallons of water yield one pound of salt.

…They are pronounced to have a specific action on the liver, joined with good tonic properties, being the only salts known in the world with these valuable qualities. They are specially recommended for patients suffering from Dyspepsia, Biliousness and Piles, and for persons who indulge in strong alcoholic drinks. The dose is from half an ounce to an ounce, dissolved in water. They act with greater certainty and more advantageously when given in drachm doses, at short intervals, until half an ounce is taken.

The next year, an advertisement/notice dated February 19, 1875  appeared in  at least two issues of the Courier-Journal that stated that the Crab Orchard Springs Manufacturing Company had appointed J.B. Wilder & Co. as the sole and general agent for the sale of all Crab Orchard Springs Salts. The notice was endorsed by H.N. Haldeman, President of the Crab Orchard Springs Manufacturing Company.

According to their advertising, Wilder & Co. was established on October 15, 1838 so by the time they partnered with the Crab Orchard Springs Manufacturing Company they had been in business for almost 40 years.

Wholesale druggists, early advertisements from 1839 listed their first location as simply 4th Street in Louisville. Sometime after 1844 they had moved to MainStreet In Louisville where they remained through 1888. During this time they utilized several Main Street addresses: 181 Main (1866 to 1878), 215 Main(1878 to 1882) and 601 -605 W. Main (1882 to 1887). As far as I can tell, at the time, each of these addresses was located on the block between 5th and 6th Streets.

The business was well known in the south serving as a wholesaler for drugs, medicines and a lot more. This advertisement, printed in the March 14, 1878 edition of the Courier-Journal listed a menu of the various items that they carried.

Newspaper advertisements also named them as agents for a wide variety of patent medicines as well including Sand’s Sarsaparilla, Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry and Dr. Abernathy’s Ambrosial Balsam to name a few.

I assume that the company was started by James B Wilder. Both he and J.B. Wilder, who I assume was most likely his son, were listed in the 1850 census records; James as a merchant and J.B. as a 32 year old druggist.

The elder Wilder passed away sometime around 1860 and by 1866, J.B. Wilder & Co. listed three partners: J.B. Wilder, his son Graham Wilder and Thomas O’Mara. Around 1876 they began listing a fourth partner, T.A.Courtenay. In 1882 O’Mara retired. The youngest Wilder, Graham, died in 1885 and his father, J.B. died three years later in May of 1888. That left Courtenay as the sole surviving partner and according to this September 1, 1888 notice in the Courier Journal, he promptly put the business up for sale.

Apparently he had no takers because by December he was selling everything from show-cases to office furniture to chemical apparatus in lots to suit purchasers. The 1889 Louisville Directory noted that the company was “in liquidation”

It appears that J.B. Wilder’s relationship with the Crab Orchard Springs Manufacturing Company that started in 1875, continued until sometime in late 1882 or early 1883. In August of 1882, H.N. Haldeman, purchased the Crab Orchard Springs property. The sale was reported in the August 11, 1882 edition of the Courier-Journal.

The Crab Orchard Springs property was sold today by a decree of court for $26,000, and the furniture and fixtures for $3,500; total, $29,500. It was purchased by H.N. Haldeman, representing a Louisville syndicate. The property cost nearly $200,000, and, considering its intrinsic value, is regarded as the lowest sale ever made in the United States.

Following the sale, on January 10, 1883 they formed a new corporation called the”Crab Orchard Springs and Salts Company.” H.N. Haldeman was named as a director, along with Bennett H. Young, E.F. Trabue and P.B Muir. According to the incorporation notice printed in several January/February, 1883 editions of the Courier Journal, the new corporation’s business included the manufacturing and vending of the salts.

The business of said corporation shall be the operation of a summer resort and hotels in connection therewith near the town of Crab Orchard , in Lincoln County, Ky., manufacturing and vending salts and other products of mineral medicinal waters, with power in connection therewith to accept leases of the right to take and use such waters and lands necessary for the manufacture of such salts and other products of such waters and to do other acts incident to the purposes aforesaid.

This advertisement in the February 2, 1884 edition of the Courier-Journal exhibited a new crab-apple trademark and made it very clear that “the Crab Orchard Springs and Salt Co.were now the SOLE OWNERS of all genuine Crab Orchard Salts made.”It went on to say that the salts were sold in sealed paper box packages and that “None of their salts can be obtained in bulk or in bottles.”

These developments make it pretty clear that Haldeman and his new corporation were attempting to cut  J.B. Wilder & Co. out of the equation. Nonetheless, it appears that J.B Wilder & Co. continued to represent themselves as the product’s agent. This is supported by this Wilder advertisement for the salts that included the old “Kentucky Map” trademark and the 601 Main Street address. Wilder started using this address sometime in late 1882 so, while not definite, it’s highly possible it was produced after the January 1883 incorporation date of the Crab Orchard Springs and Salt Company. 

An article in the September 13, 1883 edition of the Courier-Journal, reporting on Wilder’s display in the “Great Southern Exposition” being held in Louisville at the time, addressed the issue.

…To the west is an assortment of Crab Orchard Springs Salts in large and small bottles. Over this portion of their display Wilder & Co. have the following sign: “Crab Orchard Sprigs Salts Manufacturing Company, J.B. Wilder & Co., agents.” Now it is not the purpose of the Courier-Journal to distract from any display in the Exhibition. Its aim is not to mislead any visitors, and right here an interesting point comes in. The genuine salts are now manufactured solely by the Crab Orchard Springs and Salts Manufacturing Company. Their goods are put up only in package form and are branded with the “crab-apple” trade mark. Thousands of pounds of these salts are manufactured every year by outside parties, and they contain really none of the active ingredients of the natural and properly manufactured salts. The Crab Orchard Springs and Salts Company have exclusive control of the entire belt of springs in Lincoln County from which the genuine salts are manufactured. J.B. Wilder & Co. are not their agents and their sign tends to lead strangers to a false impression…

To be fair, H. N. Haldeman,  was also president of the Courier-Journal so its highly possible that there was some bias built into the above story.

Whether J.B. Wilder & Company continued to sell these salts up through their liquidation in 1888 is unknown.

The bottle I found is mouth blown and embossed: “Crab Orchard Springs Salts, J.B. Wilder & Co., Louisville Ky., Sole Agents for the Company.” The bottle is 5-1/2 inches tall and 2-1/4 inches in diameter and is probably their half pound size. It’s shape matches the one in the 1880’s advertisement above. The embossing takes up half of the bottle, leaving the other half for their trade-mark label, which is long gone.

The Forbes Diastase Company, Cincinnati, Ohio

James Winchell Forbes developed the formula for Forbes Diastase and founded the Forbes Diastase Company.

A digestive aid, Forbes Diastase was described as:

a scientific production from malt, in a perfectly fluid, concentrated form, without sugar and readily aids digestion in any part of the alimentary economy without any objectionable feature

Until the mid-1920’s, it was not available to the general public but only sold to wholesale druggists from whom physicians could procure and prescribe it.

The early story of J Winchell Forbes and Forbes Diastase was printed in the January 1, 1893 issue of the Pharmaceutical Era and portions of it are summarized in the paragraphs below.

J. Winchell Forbes was born in Troy N.Y., in 1837 and in a peculiar pharmacy atmosphere, his childish playground being the upper stories of the drug store of his granduncle, the late John L. Thompson.

He started his pharmacy career in the drug and manufacturing house of Chas. F. Rogers in Lansingburgh, N.Y., but in 1859, lured by the California “gold rush,”he moved to San Francisco. After a short time, he was back in the pharmacy business out west, ultimately becoming a charter member of the California Pharmaceutical Society. After nearly 20 years in California and Nevada he returned east.

…he came to Cincinnati and at once obtained a position as superintendent of  an extensive laboratory in this city. In this position he remained nearly four years when he resigned in order to devote his entire time to analytical work and the study of chemistry and its collateral sciences, biological chemistry receiving the most attention…Reasearches in biology showed the necessity and a long series of experiments resulted in the production of Forbes Diastase during this time. Being without capital and unwilling to enlist that of others in what then was in the embryo stage, Mr. Forbes paid his expenses with his pen.

The story goes on to say that he worked as a writer and editor for several local publications until 1888 and:

then returned to analytical work and perfecting the details of manufacturing “Liquor Diastase,” as it was then called. In the latter part of 1890, these details being perfected, “The Forbes Diastase Company” was organized and the preparation placed regularly on the market. Mr. Forbes entire time is occupied with his duties as secretary of the company and general superintendent of laboratory details, and figuratively speaking, he has scarcely time to maintain a speaking acquaintance with his family.

Cincinnati directories from this era both confirm and supplement this early history and later complete the picture.

His four year employment as superintendent appears to have started in 1878 or 1879. J. W. Forbes was first listed in the 1878 directory and between 1879 and 1881 his occupation was listed as foreman (1879), superintendent (1880) and superintendent of Wm.S. Merrel & Co. (1881). Wm. S. Merrell & Co. described themselves as “Manufacturing Chemists and Wholesale Dealer in Foreign and American Drugs.”

He was listed individually as a chemist in 1882 and 1883. Then, in 1884, he was listed as the superintendent of the Standard Chemical Company, where he was manufacturing and selling the early version of his preparation called “Liquor Diastase,” that was at the time, as the biography states, in its “embryo stage.” This is confirmed by the following advertisement that appeared in an 1884 issue of the “Eclectic Medical Journal,” a publication of the Ohio State Eclectic Medical Association.

In accordance with the biography, in 1887 he was listed in the Cincinnati Directory as an editor but by the late 1880’s he was back listing himself individually as a chemist. Finally in 1890, the Forbes Diastase Company was listed in the Cincinnati Directory for the first time. R.D. Mussey was named president, Forbes was vice president and Paul Crosley and Wilmot J. Hall were treasurer and secretary respectively. The address was given as 74 Johnston Bldgs.

The following advertisement  in the Columbus Medical Journal, printed in July of 1890 has to be one of, if not their first ads. It starts out: “In presenting Forbes Diastase to the Medical Profession, we…” and appears to be completely introductory in nature.

The 1891 directory listed two locations: the office at the northwest corner of 4th and Elm and the plant or laboratory at Locust near Elmwood Ave (later 1128 Locust). The business remained listed in Cincinnati until 1898, during which Forbes was listed with different titles from year to year; sometimes vice president, secretary, superintendent, but never president.

An item in the November 20, 1897 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer announced that the company had just incorporated.

The Forbes Diastase Company of Cincinnati was incorporated today with a capital stock of $50,000, the purpose being to make and sell diastase and other chemicals.

The president was T.D. Dale and D.H. Buell was listed as treasurer and manager. It appears, at this point, that Forbes was no longer associated with the company. One month later the Marietta Daily Leader announced that the manufacture of Forbes Diatase was moving to Marietta, Ohio. The December 15, 1897 issue stated under the heading “New Business Building:”

Mr. D.H. Buell has broken ground for a new two-story brick building on the rear of the Hovey property, Third Street and close by the union depot. Mr. Buell will occupy his new building for the manufacture of Calabar Grains and Forbes Diastase.

In 1902 the company reincorporated and between 1902 and 1913 the Forbes Diastase Company was listed in the Marietta City Directory, with a Union Street location and Buell named as either president or proprietor. The 1906advertisement below, referencing the Marietta, Ohio location, is from the Memphis Medical Journal.

By 1913 it appears that the business was not headed in the right direction They reincorporated again in 1915 reducing capital from $50,000 to $10,000 and subsequently were no longer listed in the Marietta or ERA Druggist Directories. The business apparently remained operational because they were listed sporadically. I found them listed as Marietta Ohio manufacturers in the 1919 Modern Hospital Yearbook and the 1922 Druggist Circular.

It appears that the product went off the market for a stretch but returned in the mid 1920’s. A December 22, 1925 advertisement in the Richmond Indiana newspaper called the Richmond Item stated in part:

Prepared exactly as it was 40 years ago, Forbes Diastase is again on the market for use in cases where either an impoverished supply of diastase or other digestive disturbances require additional starch-digesting power.

No longer marketing to just the medical industry, their advertisements were now in general circulation newspapers and aimed at the general public.  Similar to many patent medicine advertisements of the time, they were presented to look like a typical news item. This one from the December 8, 1925 edition of the Star Gazette in Elmira New York was typical of their new approach. Under the headline: “Sent Home to Die from Incureable Stomach Trouble Recovers Almost Magically with Short Treatment of Forbes Diastase,” it goes on t say:

Today this is no longer a miracle to doctors who know and have been prescribing Forbes Diastase, and that means the majority of physicians – especially stomach specialists. But in 1892 when New York’s best known hospital gave up a chronic sufferer as hopeless and sent him home to die, his sudden recovery really seemed like a miracle. (letter testimonial X, 24, on request)

Forbes Diastase is in reality exactly the same marvelous diastase that is manufactured by the human system for digesting fats and starches, the Forbes Diastase can digest 1000 times its own mass of starch in five minutes.

Forbes Diastase does not eliminate. It digests. Therefore it is not only good for all people – it is positively wonderful for convalescents and sick folk whose digestive apparatus is below par. Excellent for building up thin, scrawny, under nourished children.

Forbes Diastase has been on the market for 40 years by prescription only. Everybody can now buy it – at these druggists: Kelly’s, Spillan’s Central, Trebell-Calkins drug store.

A series of these advertisements appeared over a six month period from December 1925 to May 1926 and only in limited geographic areas; upstate New York and Indiana. By the end of May the advertisements ceased for good and I have  to assume that the business didn’t last much longer.

In 1899, when Buell moved the company to Marietta, J. Winchell Forbes remained in Cincinnati and apparently continued to work on improving his diastase. On April 22, 1908 he established a corporation called the Dexigen Company and began manufacturing his improved product which he called Forbes Dexigen. An item in the November, 1908 issue of the Midland Druggist described the new operation.

J. Winchell Forbes, originator of Forbes Diastase, and well known to readers of pharmaceutical journals, is the president and general manager of the Dexigen Company, whose new laboratories have recently been installed at 347 E. Third St., Cincinnati.

Dexigen, a name coined from dextrin and generator is an improved form of diastase, is a much more powerful starch ferment than the varieties heretofore produced, and has the additional merits of definite strength and good keeping qualities.

It is the result of more than thirty years of study and experiment on the part of Prof. Forbes, and is believed to represent the enzymes of malt in the highest state of efficiency that has yet been attained.

It will be marketed strictly upon ethical lines, and we speak for it the favor of both pharmacist and physician which we believe its merits deserve.

The following advertisement for Dexigen appeared in a 1909 issue of the a publication called the “Lancet Clinic”

The Cincinnati directories listed the Dexigen Co. at 347 E. 3rd from 1909 to 1911 with Forbes named president in both the 1910 and 1911 editions. Forbes passed away sometime in 1911 and the company is not listed after his death

The bottle I found is mouth blown with an applied lip. It’s embossed “The Forbes Diastase Company” and the embossing includes the Cincinnati Ohio location. This dates it between 1890 when the business started and 1898 when it moved to Marietta, Ohio.

Fellows & Co., Chemists, St. John, N.B.

The founders of Fellows & Co. were Isaac Fellows and his son, James I. Fellows. Originally located in St. John, New Brunswick in Canada, the business manufactured household remedies and patent medicines. Their most famous product was a tonic called “Fellows Compound Syrup of Hypophosphites.”

The actual start date of the business is unclear but various web sites put it sometime in the vicinity of 1850. The first reference I can find for Fellow’s and Company is in the 1865-66 edition of the “Hutchinson New Brunswick Directory where they were listed as follows:

FELLOWS & CO., chemists and druggists, wholesale and retail dealers in drugs, chemicals, perfumery and fancy articles, King  cor. Germain.

James I Fellows was also listed individually in the same directory as a druggist located at King cor. Germain. Advertisements referred to this location as Foster’s Corner.

The company printed several full page advertisements in the same directory that provided some insight into their initial operation. One mentioned recent additions they had made to their premises leading me to believe that they had been in business for a while and lending more credence to a start date sometime in the 1850’s.

Another called them “Apothecaries to the Army and Navy” and provided an expanded list of their products that included in addition to drugs and perfumes, items such as medicine chests, surgical supplies, dyes, paints and artist supplies and soda water.

By this time the company was also manufacturing patent medicines under their own name. Another full page advertisement promoted Fellows Original “Worm Lozenges.”

How long the corner drug store in St.Paul survived is not clear but by the 1870’s the company had become focused on the manufacture of patent medicines and by the mid 1880’s they maintained laboratories in Montreal, London and  New York. An 1884 advertisement included the following addresses:

  • St. Antoine Street, Montreal, Canada
  • 48 Vesey Street, New York, U.S.A.
  • 7 Snow Hill, London

It’s not clear exactly when these facilities were established but I’ve found the Montreal location mentioned in advertisements dated as early as 1878 and London as early as 1881.

The New York location was first listed in the 1886 general directory as James I Fellows, pat medicines with the 48 Vesey Street address. The directory listed James Fellows’ home address as “England,” so apparently he had moved to London and was overseeing that operation until his death in January of 1896.

The New York facility remained at 48 Vesey Street until 1900. Advertisements as early as 1901 then listed them at 26 Christopher Street. In 1904, the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed them as Fellows Co., a New York corporation with the Christopher Street address. Around 1919 the name of the business changed in the directories to the Fellows Medical Manufacturing Co. but they remained listed at 26 Christopher Street through the late 1950’s.

In the early 1960’s, the Fellows Medical Manufacturing Co. merged with Testagar & Co., Inc. and moved to Detroit, Michigan. According to the December 20, 1962 edition of the Detroit Free Press:

The gain by Detroit of a pharmaceutical operation accompanied the merger Wednesday of Testagar, & Co., Inc., a 30-year-old Detroit drug firm, and its affiliated firm, Fellows Medical Manufacturing Co., of New York City.

Sydney J. Heinrick, president of Testagar, said the Fellows manufacturing would be brought to Detroit. Fellows, in which Testagar has held a heavy stock interest for over 10 years, has operated in the East for nearly a century.

Testagar produces injectable drugs and tablets and capsules. Fellows makes prescription drugs and Fellows Syrup, a long used bitter tonic.

The merger will create a new name, Fellows-Testagar, Inc. The additional operation will be joined with Testagar at 1354 West Lafayette.

Fellows manufactured a number of patent medicines including “Fellows’ Original Worm Lozenges,”shown in the advertisement above, as well as “Fellows’ Speedy Relief,” “Fellows Dyspepsia Bitters,” “Fellows’ Golden Ointment,” “Fellows’ Leemings Essence” and “Fellows Balsam Liverwort & Colt’s Foot.”

According to newspaper advertisements, their signature product, Fellows Compound Syrup of Hypophosphites, originated in 1864 – “A Family Tonic Since 1864” – and  by the early 1870’s, it was being marketed over a large portion of the U.S.  This advertisement, printed in an 1871 Richmond, Indiana newspaper, named distributors in New York, Boston, Chicago and St.Louis.

By 1885 they were world-wide, listing principal depot locations for Fellows’ Hypophosphites in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and the America’s.

Fellows discussed the origin of the product in an 1882 document entitled “A Few Remarks Upon Fellows Hypophosphites of Quinine, Strychnine, Iron, Lime, Potassa and Manganese”   in which he described his development of a syrup that successfully cured him of a disease: “pronounced by some chronic bronchitis and by others tubercular disease of the lungs…”

After succeeding in compounding such a preparation and finding my health so much improved under its influence, I determined to apply myself solely to its manufacture and hence the origin of Fellows’ Hypophosphites

A full page advertisement in the September, 1888 edition of the “Medical Press of Western New York” described it as containing:

  • Essential Elements to the Animal Organization – Potash and Lime
  • Oxidizing Agents – Iron and Manganese
  • Tonics – Quinine and Strychnine
  • Vitalizing Constituent – Phosphorous

All combined in the form of a syrup, with slight alkaline reaction.

Despite the presence of strychnine, a poison, the advertisement stated that it was:

pleasant to taste, acceptable to the stomach and harmless under prolonged use.

The Advertisement went on to say that:

It has sustained a high reputation in America and England for efficiency in the treatment of Pulmonary Tuberculosis, Chronic Bronchitis and other affections of the respiratory organs, and is employed also in various nervous debilitating diseases with success.

An 1880 advertisement goes even further, stating:

Wasting diseases such as Consumption, Bronchitis, Asthma, General Debility, Brain Exhaustion, Chronic Constipation, Chronic Diarrhea, Dyspepsia or Loss of Nervous Power are positively cured by Fellows Compound Syrup of Hypophosphites.

Their advertising relied heavily on the strength of testimonials; both from those who were allegedly cured as well as from the doctors whose patients were allegedly cured.

The following letter, typical of a patient testimonial, appeared in the Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, on December 20, 1871. It was dated July 13, 1871 and signed “George C Font” from Baltimore Md.

Mr. James I. Fellows – Sirs, I obtained three bottles of your syrup of Hypohosphites from Hegeman & Co., New York, and to its use I ascribe cessation of cough, return of appetite, removal of pains from which I had greatly suffered in the back and chest, and greatly reduced expectoration, for several months my system has suffered a drain of nearly a pint expectorated every morning and evening, caused (the doctors tell me,) from wasting of lung tissue. Your syrup has certainly worked wonders, and greatly surprised my friends, so that now I am so far recovered as to resume my wanted duties with vigor.

One testimonial went so far as to include a signed and sealed statement from the Mayor of St. John, verifying the signatures of references supplied by Fellows. The Mayor didn’t stop there but actually went on to include his own endorsement of the product in his statement.

I, Aaron Alward, Mayor of the City of St. John, in the Province of New Brunswick, having examined the signatures attached to the foregoing permit of reference, hereby certify that I believe them all genuine. I can also testify to the high therapeutic value of Fellows Compound Syrup of Hydrophosphites, consider it deserving of attention by the profession generally.

The success of the product appears to have been based entirely on the Fellows’ marketing campaign and product literature. According to the June 1, 1918 American Medical Association Journal:

Examination of the literature used in the exploitation of Fellows’ Syrup fails to disclose any evidence to show that it has therapeutic value. Not only is there an entire absence of any evidence of its therapeutic value, but there is an abundance of evidence that the hypophosphites are devoid of any such therapeutic effects as they were formerly reputed to have, and that they are, so far as any effect based on their phosphorous content is concerned, singularly inert. As a result of its investigation of the therapeutic effects of the hypophosphites, the Council of Pharmacy and Chemistry concluded: “There is no evidence that they exert a physiologic effect: it has not been demonstrated that they influence any pathologic process; they are not foods.” If they are of any use, that use has never been discovered.

As you might expect, the Fellows claims were toned down as time went on. All mention of cures and remedies were gone from this 1928 advertisement.

Instead the product was marketed as a “good tonic” that will improve your appetite and digestion and increase your general strength. Fellows Syrup continued to appear in newspaper advertisements into the early 1960’s.

The bottle I found is mouth blown and exactly matches the description provided in the 1882 document entitled “A Few Remarks Upon Fellows Hypophosphites”

The Fellows Hypophosphites is dispensed in bottles containing about 15 oz. by measure – the address, Fellows & Co., St. John, N.B. blown on…

This document listed the company’s business address as 48 Vesey Street, New York, and James Fellows address as Snow Hill, London. Based on this it appears that the company continued to use the New Brunswick location on their bottles even after establishing facilities in New York and London.

Bell & Co., Inc., Orangeburg, New York, U.S.A., Bell-Ans

The business of Bell & Co., along with their signature product, a remedy for indigestion called “Pa-pay-ans, Bell,” later renamed “Bell-Ans,” was the brainchild of William Lanphere Dodge. According to Dodge’s April, 1940 obituary:

He was born in New York City, the son of the late Dr. John Lanphere Dodge ( a Civil War Union Army Surgeon) and Cornelia Holt Dodge of Montreal. He became a drug clerk in Groton Conn., where he lived during his early manhood.

At some point, he relocated to New York City and together with a chemist named Robert J. Bell, developed the formula for Pa-pay-ans, Bell. Prior to 1897, Bell was listed individually in the NYC Directory as a chemist with an Eighth Avenue address. I have to believe that this is the time and place where Bell & Dodge first developed their formula.

The company was first listed as Bell & Co. in the 1898 NYC Trow Business Directory under the heading “Manufacturing Chemists” with an address of 110 John Street. The business was not listed in the same directory in 1897.

They remained at 110 John Street until 1900, when they moved to 68 Murray Street. The Copartnership and Corporation Directory in 1900 listed John L. Dodge as president and R. J. Bell as secretary.

During this time, Dodge was building a new manufacturing facility north of New York City in Orangeburg, New York. It’s not clear when exactly the plant was up and running but the business remained listed in New York City at 68 Murray Street up through 1908. The 1909 listing in the Copartnership and Corporation Directory stated that Bell & Co., had “removed to Orangeburg N.Y.”

According to 1940 legal documents, up through 1909, Bell & Co., Inc manufactured and sold Bell-Ans as well as a number of other products. At this point, Dodge formed a second corporation called Hollings-Smith. The incorporation notice was printed in the June 3, 1909 edition of the Trenton Times.

Both Bell & Co and Hollings-Smith were New Jersey corporations  with their main offices, plant and assets all located in Orangeburg. The stock of both corporations was owned and controlled by Dodge. Bell was no longer mentioned.

In 1910, Dodge retired from active participation in both companies, turning the day to day management of them over to David Clark who served as director, treasurer and general manager. Dodge retained 75 % ownership with Clark the other 25%. In 1926, Dodge’s son, Joseph, become active in the management of the company and in 1933 Clark was forced out of the company as a result of conflicts with Joseph who, at the time, was an executive vice president.

As far as I can tell, up through the mid 1970’s both companies remained under control of the Dodge family and continued to manufacture pharmaceuticals.

Bell & Co.’s signature product, Pa-pay-ans, Bell, was touted to aid digestion and much more. Packaging in and around 1909 included the following information:

For the treatment of dyspepsia, flatulence, nausea, vertigo, hyperacidity, palpitation and the symptoms of indigestion and the vomiting of pregnancy. Peritonitis, cholera morbus, alcoholism and seasickness. Digests every variety of food, removes every symptom of indigestion, restores the entire digestive tract to a normal condition.

The dosage is recommended as follows: from one to three tablets before meals, or two hours after eating. In severe cases three tablets dissolved in hot water and repeated as necessary.

They claimed that papaya was the key ingredient to the success of their product, describing it as:

the digestive principle obtained by our own exclusive process from the fruit of Carica papaya, combined with willow charcoal, chemically pure sodium bicarbonate and aromatics.

However, in 1909, the August 11th Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the Council of Pharmacy and Chemistry had done a chemical analysis of the product, finding “charcoal, sodium bicarbonate, ginger, saccharine and oil of gaultheria (wintergreen) , but no papaya.

Ultimately, in 1914, Bell & Co., changed the name of the product to Bell-Ans. This caught the attention of the American Medical Association who published this opinion regarding the name change in their May 9, 1914 Journal.

Within the past few weeks physicians have been notified that the name of ‘Pa-pay-ans, Bell” has been changed to “Bell-ans.” The reason for the change, according to the company, is that the new name is “shorter, pleasanter sounding and better.” As the most valuable asset of a “patent medicine” company is the name of its product, it is hardly likely that the name of Pa-pay-ans, Bell would have been changed for purely euphonious reasons. As previous analyses indicate that there is not, and probably never has been, any appreciable amount of papain in the product, and as the older name, “Pa-pay-ans,” carries with it the impression that papain is the essential drug, a more rational reason for the change of name should be sought. There is little doubt that this might be found in the federal Food and Drugs Act, especially that part which refers to misbranding. Bell & Co. are changing a misleading name into a meaningless one.

The American Medical Association also took exception to the wide ranging and extravagant claims made in connection with the product. The May 9, 1914 AMA Journal stated:

Reading some of the literature on “Pa-pay-ans, Bell,” might, if it were believed, lead one to think that with a bottle of this preparation on hand the balance of the pysicians’ therapeutic armamentarium could be thrown into the discard.

In 1915 the AMA summed it up this way:

Bell-Ans (Pa-pay-ans, Bell) possess the virtues – and there are few – and the limitations – and these are many – inherent to a mixture of baking soda, ginger and charcoal. Any druggist could put up just as good a remedy, and any physician could write a prescription for a better one in those cases in which he might think it indicated. The whole secret of the commercial success of Bell-And lies in the mystery of it’s composition and the false and misleading claims that have been made for it. The same tablets put out under a non-proprietary name, as an open formula and with claims that were reasonable and true, would have practically no sale.

Originally Bell & Co. marketed and advertised only to the medical profession, usually in the form of free samples and testimonials printed on advertising post cards. The testimonials were allegedly written by prominent physicians but the names of those physicians were never provided.

Advertisements to the general public began appearing in newspapers around 1915. This advertisement from the October 1, 1915 edition of the Washington Post was typical of their earlier newspaper advertisements.

Another advertisement, this one from 1918, calls for six tablets – double the dosage they recommended in 1909.

Newspaper advertising continued into the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the 1960’s the product was also being marketed as a cure for bad breath. According to the “Palisades Newsletter,” the Bell-ans patent was sold to Grandpa Brands sometime in the 1970’s. The last newspaper advertisement I can find for Bell-ans was in 1975 for Thrift Drug Store in Pittsburg Pa.

     

Despite the negative attitude of the medical profession, Bell-ans was highly successful. The complex in Orangeburg New York was built on 1500 acres and included the main factory building as well as several smaller buildings used to house employees. A huge harness racing enthusiast, Dodge also built stables and a racetrack on the property.

Located at the intersection of Route 303 and Kings Highway, the buildings still exist today and remain owned by the Dodge family. They have been given new life as the Bell-Ans Center of Creative Arts.

The bottle I found is a machine-made small square medicine. One edge side is embossed “Bell & Co., Inc. Orangeburg, New York, U.S.A.” The other is embossed “Bell-Ans,” which dates it no earlier than 1914 when they changed their name.

Pinus Medicine Co., Monticello, Ill., USA. Fruitola

It appears that the Pinus Medicine Company was started in 1903 or 1904 by Henry F. Edsall in San Francisco, California. The company was first listed in the 1904 San Francisco Directory with an address of 734-736 Valencia. Fruitola advertisements begin appearing in 1904 as well. The earliest one I could find was in the January 12, 1904 issue of the Oakland Tribune. Marketed as a system cleaner it claimed to remove gall stones and cure all stomach troubles.

It was advertised with another product called Pinus which I have to assume was the inspiration for the company name.

Sometime in 1906 or 1907, Edsall moved the business to 622 West 9th Street in Los Angeles and on January 5, 1910, the Los Angeles Times reported that the business had incorporated with capital of $100,000. H.F. Edsall, Elizabeth Edsall and John P. Newell were listed as directors.

H.F. Edsall remained listed as president until 1912. Then, abruptly, in the 1913 directory Henry T Edsall was listed as president and Henry F. Edsall was no longer mentioned. It’s not clear what relation Henry T. was to Henry F., why the change was made or what became of Henry F. (or maybe it was just a typo in the directory?).

Anyway, that same year the company was sold. On November 5, 1913 the Los Angeles Times reported:

It was announced yesterday by Henry T. Edsall of the Pinus Medicine Company of this city that he had disposed of a majority of his stock in the corporation to Allen F. Moore of Monticello, Illinois. Moore is the president of the Dr. Caldwell’s Pepsin Syrup Company. The amount involved is understood to be about $100,000. The business of the Pinus Medicine Company, which Edsall has built into a large concern, will be continued in this city and branches will be established in the East.

I have to believe that the local press was mislead into believing that the company would remain in Los Angeles because less than two months later they had relocated to Monticello, Illinois, the home of the Pepsin Syrup Company. According to the January 1914 issue of the National Drug Clerk:

An announcement of much interest to the drug trade is found in the advertisement of the Pinus Medicine Company in this issue. It will be noted that this business is now located at Monticello Ill., a controlling interest having been acquired by the stockholders of the Pepsin Syrup company.

The initial act of the new management, reducing the trade price from $9.00 to $8.00 per dozen, will undoubtedly appeal to all druggists as is an indication of the broader spirit of cooperation that characterizes their policy.

Our readers are familiar with the liberal advertising policy and spirit of trade cooperation that has made Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin a staple remedy with a constantly widening field, and with the experience and resources of the new management a largely increased trade in Fruitola, Traxo and Pinus can confidently be expected.

A compelling newspaper advertising campaign, National in its scope, has been inaugurated and will be continued indefinitely, insuring a persistent, constant and permanent call for these preparations. Attractive advertising material will be furnished druggists on request and no effort will be spared to make Fruitola, Traxo and Pinus as staple as is Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin.

The advertising campaign promised in the above article apparently came to fruition. Between 1914 and 1919, newspaper.com alone identifies over 4000 advertisements in 30+ states. A significant portion of the advertisements involved testimonials from people who used and were subsequently miraculously cured by Fruitola and their digestive tonic named Traxo. Many included photographs and were presented to look more like news stories than advertisements. A woman “saved from the operating table”  was highlighted in one example from a 1916 issue of the Potsdam New York Courier & Freeman.

As early as 1910, the American Medical Association was identifying Fruitola’s curative abilities as a total scam. According to an item in the December issue of the A.M.A Journal that year:

Of more recent origin is what may be called the “fake gallstone trick” which is now being industriously worked in many parts of the country. Originally operated by traveling fakers, it has been lately adapted to the exigencies of the “patent medicine” industry. The principle on which the fake depends is the well known fact that in giving the patient massive doses of some bland oil will result in the passing of soapy concretions. These lumps, greenish in color and of varying sizes, are easily mistaken by the laymen for “gallstones.”

There are several modifications of this “gallstone cure” fake but the most widely advertised is that sold by the Pinus Medicine Company, of Los Angeles, under the name “Fruitola.” It is usually exploited in connection with another nostrum – “Traxo” – put out by the same concern.

Fruitola consisted of an eight ounce bottle of oil and six powders. The A.M.A. item went on to describe one woman’s experience with Fruitola.

One of my patients, a young woman, took the contents of this bottle, as well as the powders, which accompany the liquid as part of this treatment. Several hours after taking the medicine there were several painful evacuations, in which there appeared a large number, probably two dozen or more, small greenish masses about the size of an ordinary garden pea. The young woman was very much frightened, thinking that they were really gallstones and that she was in a serious condition.

Of course, the “gallstones” were simply soapy concretions that usually follow the administration of massive doses of oil.

The A.M.A.’s conclusion is actually quite humorous.

That persons should be mulcted of a dollar, however for the privilege of having their bowels moved and being made into a peripatetic soap factory may seem humorous – but it is an outrage nonetheless. To such as wish to make the experiment – and it is one that by no means is free of danger in all cases – we would suggest the following procedure as equally efficacious and much less expensive: Buy 20 cents worth of olive oil and a nickel’s worth of seidlitz powders. You then have all the paraphernalia necessary for the production of home-made gallstones. All that is required is to take the oil and powders and then practice watchful expectancy. The expected will happen.

Possibly as a result of this negative information, the Pinus Medicine Company went through several ownership changes in the late teens and early 1920’s. According to an article on the company in the January 25, 1959 issue of the Decatur Herald & Review, in 1919 it was taken over by Charles Demaree and then sold to William Dighton in 1922. The company remained successful enough to build the Pinus Medicine Company Building at 116-118 East Washington Street in Monticello, where they moved in September 1923. It appears that the building still exists today on the northwest corner of East Washington and North Independence Street.

In 1928 the company was purchased by John Hott, a former vice president of the Pepsin Syrup Company. The November 14, 1928 issue of the Alton Evening Telegraph reported the sale.

After being connected with the Pepsin Syrup Company for nearly quarter of a century in the capacity of second largest stockholder and vice president, John F. Hott, who is nationally known to the drug trade, has resigned his position and purchased the Pinus Medicine Company, who manufacture Fruitola for gallstones and stomach trouble. It is Mr. Hott’s idea to develop and expand the business by adding other well known preparations to the line.

Not surprisingly, around this time the Fruitola advertisements have been toned down quite a bit. Words and phrases like “cures” and “removes gallstones” have been replaced with ambiguous phrases like “recognized treatment for gallstones” and “lubricates and flushes intestinal tract.”

 

John Hott ran the company until his death in 1933 after which it was taken over by his son Max Hott. The company remained in Monticello and was still active, though barely, in 1959. According to the 1959 Decatur Herald and Review article, it was still owned by Max Hott but was down to two employees. They were still making three proprietary medicines including “Traxo” and “Fruitola”which was being marketed as “Fritola.”

The bottle I found is a 6 to 8 ounce machine made medicine. It’s embossed “Fruitola” on one side and “Pinus Medicine Co., Monticello, Ill., U.S.A.”on the other. It dates no earlier than the company’s 1914 move to Monticello.

Scott’s Emulsion of Cod Liver Oil with Lime & Soda

Scott’s Emulsion of Cod Liver was originally developed and manufactured by  the firm of Scott & Platt in the early 1870’s. Soon after, it’s manufacture was taken over by the firm of Scott & Bowne. The early history of the product was summarized in Samuel W. Bowne’s 1910 obituary.

Mr. Bowne was born at Walton, Orange County N.Y., and began his business career in Newburgh. In 1865 he came to New York, entering the employ of Scott & Platt as a traveling salesman. The firm was composed of Colonel Alfred M. Scott and Henry B. Platt. Their most successful preparations were an emulsion of cod liver oil and a disinfectant. Later on the business was divided, Mr. Platt taking the disinfectant and establishing an independent business in the manufacture and sale of Platt’s chlorides. The manufacture of the emulsion was continued by the firm of Scott & Bowne.

It looks like the break-up of Scott & Platt took place sometime in the mid 1870’s. From 1870 up until 1874, Scott, Platt & Co. was listed at 1211 Broadway. Then in the 1876-77 Directory, H.B. Platt & Co. was listed for the first time at the same 1211 Broadway address and  Scott and Bowne was listed for the first time at 124 Hudson Street.

Over the course of the next fifteen years Scott & Bowne was listed at 108 Wooster (1880-81 through 1884) and later at 132 S 5th Ave (1886 through 1892). Then in 1892 the company finished construction on their new 12-story building at 411 Pearl Street called the Scott & Bowne Building.

According to a 1917 interview with then president of the firm, P.H. Fowler, that appeared in the publication “Printers Ink,” around the time they moved to Pearl Street the business was producing 1.5 million bottles of Scott’s Emulsion each year and they had facilities in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. According to Bowne’s obituary, he ran the piece of the business located in the Americas from Pearl Street, while Scott lived in London and ran the balance of the business from there.

Scott died in 1908 and Bowne in 1910. Shortly thereafter, the company moved from New York to Bloomfield New Jersey. The 1910 Montclair N.J. Directory listed them as “patent and proprietary medicine mfr’s” located on Orange Street near the D L & W Railroad. Later directories list them at 60 Orange Street. According to the Fowler interview, by 1917 the business had 63,400 distributors in the U.S. alone. Most (more than 2/3’s) were druggists, but the number also included general stores, corner grocery stores and department stores.

I have found Scott & Bowne listed in Montclair Directories up through 1941 after which I lose track.

Cod liver oil in general had a reputation as an effective treatment for consumption or “wasting diseases” that included bronchitis, scopula, tuberculosis, etc. The problem was its highly disagreeable taste and smell. According to Fowler’s interview they solved this problem through the emulsifying process that broke up the large fat particles of the oil into smaller units more readily absorbed by the system and coating them in a solution of glycerine. According to this 1889 advertisement, this made their cod liver oil “Palatable as Milk”

One early advertisement that’s shown below actually printed the emulsion’s formula: 50 percent pure cod liver oil, 6 grams of the hypophosphite of lime and 3 grams of the hypophosphite of soda to the fluid ounce.

In the 1917 Printer’s Ink interview the merits of Scott’s Emulsion were described like this:

They have plugged steadily at the theme that their product is really a prophylaxis (not in these words, though), a builder of body resistance to the ills coincident with exposure and bad weather and a general tonic under all conditions.

Advertisements from 1897 and 1917 document this approach.

 

In the 1920’s with the discovery of vitamins it was learned that cod liver oil was especially rich in Vitamins A and D. It didn’t take long for Scott & Bowne to capitalize on this discovery and build it into their advertising.

Now made by the global health care giant GlaxoSmithKline, Scott’s Emulsion is still available today and interestingly their message has remained consistent. One hundred years later, the GlaxoSmithKline web site still calls it Scott’s and states:

The emulsion helps build up the body’s natural resistance to infections and develop strong bones and teeth.

I couldn’t end this post without touching on the company’s famous trade mark of a Norwegian fisherman with a huge cod hanging from his shoulders. The trademark’s registration date was May 27, 1890. The registration documents state that it was first used on March 28, 1890 however I found it in a Bloomingdale Brothers’ Price List dating back to 1886.

Fowler’s interview talked of how the idea was born.

The idea for this figure originated with Mr. Scott. He was on a visit of inspection of the cod fisheries of Norway when he saw a fisherman coming up the beach with a leviathan cod flung over his back, just as the figure looks. The fish weighed some 137 pounds. The successful advertising mind saw in the episode material for a figure to impress the fact that the basis of his commodity is cod liver oil. Had he been casting about deliberately for a symbol of his business, he could hardly have chosen more happily.

The public began thinking of Scott’s Emulsion in terms of this fisherman and his fish, similar to GEICO’s gecko today.

At any rate, it has served to gain for the company that most priceless and elusive of desiderata – spontaneous and natural public association and acceptance of the figure as a symbol of its sponsors.

The company even had an eighty four foot high painting of the fisherman on the side of the Scott & Bowne building and later they illuminated the entire area so that it could be seen both day and night.

I’ve found two machine made Scott’s Emulsion bottles with the famous fisherman embossed on them. Embossing on the base indicates that both were made by the Owens Bottle Co. at their Glassboro N.J. plant; one in 1923 and the other in 1924.

 

 

 

McKesson & Robbins, New York

McKesson & Robbins was a predecessor to the McKesson Corporation, a global health provider that was ranked 11th of the Fortune 500 in 2014 with more than $179 billion in annual revenue.

According to the company history that’s presented on McKesson’s corporate web site the company dates back to 1833.

John McKesson and Charles Olcott, two young entrepreneurs, opened Olcott & McKesson, a drug import and wholesale business located on Maiden Lane in Manhattan. The company quickly thrived with it’s first customers – captains of the tall masted clipper ships that docked nearby. In 1853, Daniel Robbins, who originally started as an apprentice in 1833 after walking 80 miles to answer McKesson’s first help-wanted ad, became a partner and the company was renamed McKesson & Robbins.

I’ll leave open to speculation as to whether Robbins actually walked 80 miles to answer McKesson’s help-wanted advertisement, but I will point out that according to his obituary, in 1833 he was living 80 miles north of Manhattan in Poughkeepsie New York.

The limited NYC directories I can find from this period generally confirm the rest of the early story. The 1834-35 Longworth’s American Almanac – New York Register listed Olcott & M’Kesson, druggists, at 145 Maiden Lane. Charles M Olcott and John M’Kesson were also listed individually as druggists at the same address. In the 1837-38 Directory, the company name was listed as Olcott, M’Kesson & Co. and by 1847-48 the company address had changed to 127 Maiden Lane. The 1853-54 Directory listed the business as Olcott, McKesson & Robbins and then in the 1855-56 Directory it was listed for the first time as McKesson & Robbins.

Around 1857 the company moved from Maiden Lane to a new building on Fulton Street. According to “Cast-Iron Architecture in America, The Significance of James Borardus” by Margot Gayle and Carol Gayle:

John McKesson and Daniel Robbins, who had a drug business at 127 Maiden Lane, purchased property for a new building in the spring of 1853. They bought a 50 foot wide double lot at 91-93 Fulton Street and soon added two smaller lots to the rear facing on Ann Street. Probably in 1855 they commissioned (James) Bogardus to build a five-story iron front on the Fulton Street lot.

The 1857-58 NYC Directory listed them at 91 Fulton Street and 82 Ann Street where the business remained through at least the mid-1920’s.

Over the course of the next two decades, both McKesson’s son, John McKesson Jr. and Robbins’s sons, Charles A. Robbins and Herbert D. Robbins joined the business.

According to McKesson’s corporate web site, during this period, McKesson & Robbins pioneered the development of gelatin coated pills. A full page advertisement in the August  1879 issue of the New York Medical Electric (Devoted to Reformed Medicine, General Science and Literature) provided a partial list of medications that they produced utilizing this process. The advertisement stated that “these important changeable substances will be found perfectly preserved in our Gelatine-Coated Pills.” Interestingly, the list included both Cannabis Indica (medical marijuana) and Coca Exythroxylon (cocaine).

In December of 1885, Copartnership Notices published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced that McKesson & Robbins had been dissolved and a new firm with the same name had been formed along with another company called the New York Quinine and Chemical Works. The notice listed John McKesson Jr. and Herbert Robbins with McKesson and Robbins. That business, described as wholesale druggists and manufacturing chemists, remained at the original location which now included 91-93 Fulton Street and 74-84 Ann Street.

Charles A. Robbins was listed with the New York Quinine and Chemical Works. Their office was located at 35 Liberty Street, but soon after they moved to 114 William Street, within a block of McKesson & Robbins. Their Eastern District factory was located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. They were described as manufacturers of medicinal chemical preparations.

Daniel C Robbins remained associated with both firms and on December 3, 1885, the Eagle published a letter from Daniel Robbins explaining the reasoning behind the need for two companies.

Some eighteen months since the great Italian factory at Milan, which manufactured nearly one-half of all the quinine consumed in the world, failed, and Dr. Charles A. Robbins, who was educated in Germany for the purpose of conducting a similar establishment in the United States, and who had for seven years superintended the chemical productions connected with the house of McKesson & Robbins, advised the employment and transfer of trained experts connected with the Milan establishment to the United States.

Fourteen lots have been purchased in the Eastern District, a factory has been built and a corps of Italians and Germans have been transferred to the United States.

Through the early 1920’s, both companies remained closely controlled by the McKesson and Robbins families and were apparently associated in some way. In fact, when Daniel C. Robbins died suddenly in 1888, Herbert Robbins was named president of the New York Quinine and Chemical Company and also continued to remain listed as a principal of McKesson and Robbins. As late as 1919, the Copartnership and Corporation Directories listed John McKesson Jr. as president of McKesson and Robbins and Herbert D. Robbins as president of the New York Quinine & Chemical Company and a Vice President in McKesson & Robbins.

Both companies were involved in the importing and manufacturing of cocaine in the United States. According to “Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States 1884-1920” by Joseph Spillane:

Before 1884 the New York firm of McKesson & Robbins was among the leading importers of coca and one of the few companies that offered small amounts of cocaine to its customers in that period. Although McKesson & Robbins was primarily a wholesale drug company, it also imported and manufactured some drug products, including cocaine. The company claimed to be the first and largest cocaine manufacturer in the United States, making all of its product from coca leaves imported into New York. Coca importation data from the late 1880’s confirm that McKesson imported between 20 and 30 percent of all leaves entering New York each year, usually the largest proportion of any single manufacturer. The families who controlled McKesson & Robbins also owned the New York Quinine and Chemical Works, which gradually took over the cocaine business from McKesson.

McKesson & Robbins also controlled at least two additional companies, the Tartarlithine Co., and the Galen Drug Co. Both were listed in the directories at the McKesson & Robbins Fulton Street and/or Ann Street addresses. The Tartarlithine Co. was listed in the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories between 1901 and 1925. They manufactured a rheumatism remedy and I’ve seen advertisements for their products as early as 1902.

The Galen Drug Company was first listed around 1914 at 91 Fulton Street and was still listed in 1925. Based on the definition of galenical (a medicine prepared by extracting one or more active constituents of a plant) they were most likely involved with plant based remedies.

In the mid 1920’s, the McKesson & Robbins name, along with its medicinal departments were sold to Frank D Costa. The 1933 NYC Directory listed Costa as the president, secretary and treasurer of McKesson & Robbins with an address of 79 Cliff.

Costa, who’s real name was Phillip Musica, had a criminal past and operated under several aliases. He seeded the company with family members and proceeded to loot the business up through the mid-1930’s. His scheme involved fake purchase orders, inflated inventory and skimming cash from company sales. The scheme fell apart in 1938 when the suspicions of the company treasurer led to an investigation that revealed that the McKesson & Robbins balance sheet was made up of 20% fictitious assets that included $10 million in fictitious inventories and $8 million in overstated receivables.

The company survived the scandal and by 1948, the NYC Telephone Directory had McKesson & Robbins listings for their Executive Offices (155 E 44th), a  Wholesale Drug Division (3674 3rd Ave), Liquor Division (111 8th Ave), Export Division (155 E 44th), Industrial Chemical Division (155 E 44th) and a Warehouse (90 Beekman).

In the 1960’s they merged with Foremost Dairies of San Farancisco becoming Foremost-McKesson Inc., the largest U.S. distributor of pharmaceutical drugs, alcoholic beverages and chemicals. In 1970 they moved to new corporate headquarters at One Post Street in San Francisco.

As far as I can tell the McKesson and Robbins families retained the chemical manufacturing piece of the business and continued to operate as the NY Quinine & Chemical Works. The factory location was still listed in 1952 at 101 N 11th Street in Brooklyn.

The bottle I found is a small mouth blown rectangular medicine with a tooled finish. It’s embossed “McKesson” on one edge side and “& Robbins” on the other. I found a labeled sample listed on the Internet of what appears to be the exact same bottle. It contained 100 gelatin coated pills containing extract of cannibis.

D.D.D Company, Chicago, Ill.

The D.D.D. Company was started by Decatur D. Dennis who sold a patent medicine called the D.D.D. prescription that was purported to cure the entire spectrum of skin disorders. According to the July, 1897 edition of the “Druggists Circular and Chemical Gazette” he registered the “D.D.D.” trade mark (No. 30147) on June 8, 1897. At the time, he was located in St. Louis, Missouri.

An advertisement, presented to look like a newspaper article in the June 23, 1907 Sacramento Union, provides a general description of the company and it’s product.

Scientists have at last found how to conquer skin diseases. For generations medical men have been experimenting with internal treatment to cure eczema, but the progress in the germ theory has shown that the old fashioned medical schools were on the wrong track.

As it is now known that eczema, psoriasis, salt rheum, ringworm and all kinds of rashes are caused by germs which lodge in the skin, the best skin specialists have come to believe that the skin can be cured only through the skin. The application externally of oil of wintergreen, mixed with soothing ingredients, strikes right at the germs and destroys them effectually. Properly mixed this makes a powerful wash, yet so mild and harmless that it can be used as a gargle. The mixture is prepared according to the prescription of a well-known skin specialist, Dr. Decatur D. Dennis. It is compounded in Chicago and has been sold for years by druggists under the label of D.D.D. Prescription.

According to census records and various city directories, Dr. Decatur D Dennis was born in Texas in 1867 and apparently, shortly after registering the trade mark he returned there and was listed as the president of the D.D.D. Company in the 1899 Galveston, Texas Directory.

In 1900, he was still listed as president of the D.D.D. Company but by then the company address was listed in Chicago at 70 Dearborn Street. According to 1900 census records, during the same time period, Dennis was living at a nearby hotel.

The company incorporated on March 1, 1900 with capital stock of $10,000. The incorporators were Decatur D. Dennis along with William E. Bristol and John W. Baker. The incorporation notice was printed in the March 2, 1900 edition of the (Chicago) “Inter Ocean.”

In 1901, The D.D.D. Company was still listed at 70 Dearborn with John W. Baker named as president and Benjamin E. Page as secretary. Meanwhile, Dennis was back in Texas and listed as a physician on East Lamar Street in Dennison. So it looks like Dennis’s brief visit to Chicago resulted in a successful effort to sell the business.

The D.D.D. Company remained listed at 70 Dearborn with Baker as president in 1902. Then, sometime between 1903 and 1905, the business moved to 118 Michigan Street where it was listed in 1906 with Page named as president. By 1911, the company had moved again, this time to 3843-45 East Ravenswood Park Avenue. The company remained there through the mid-1920’s with Page as president, after which, I lose track.

The company must have grown quite quickly into a national and international presence. By 1913, they were advertising in most if not all parts of the country with local druggists acting as their agents. I’ve found newspaper advertisements for D.D.D. in Kingston, N.Y. (1903), Sacramento, California (1907) and Denver, Colorado (1913). In 1924, I even found an overseas advertisement for them in a New Zealand publication called the New Zealand Truth.

The company’s end date is not clear. The company was not listed in the 1930 Chicago directory but continued to advertise the D.D.D. Prescription (without an address)  well into the 1950’s. I’ve seen advertisements in Life Magazine as late as 1952.

In regard to the product itself, an early advertisement in 1903 boldly claimed that each of these skin afflictions is parasitic in nature and all of them have yielded to D.D.D.

Acne, Barber’s Itch, Carbuncles, Acne Rosacea, Dermatitis, Eczema in all its forms: Eczema in Infants and Young Children, Erythema, Impetigo, Contagious, Lupus, Lichen Planus, Herpes, Erysipelas, Ichthyosis, Pityriasis, Itching Piles, Lichen Ruber, Psoriasis in all its forms: Scrofula, Seborrhea, Mycosis, Scabies, Tinea Favosa, Tinea Circinata, Tinea Trichophytina Barbae, Lupus Serpiginous, Elephantiasis.

It goes on to say that it will clear off any parasitic break in the skin in from 3 to 60 days time. According to the directions on a labeled bottle that was recently listed on E-Bay, application was simple:

Apply the remedy with a piece of absorbent cotton or an atomizer to the parts affected two or three times daily. After a few treatments the disease will begin to dry up and form more scales and scabs than appeared at its natural stage. The patient should not remove them but let nature throw them off.

 

Throughout their history, their marketing strategy included the offer of a trial bottle. The bottle was free or simply required a nominal amount for postage and packaging. They also used testimonials quite a bit to get their message across. Here’s a typical testimonial from 1923:

I suffered for the last ten years. Every effort that I tried-most of them doctor’s prescriptions- and even injections given in my arms; and in the army, injections in my back failed to do me a bit of good.

Today I am proud to say after using a few bottles of D.D.D. I am almost cured of that hated disease.

The other day a friend of mine who was suffering from eczema came over to thank me because I told him to use D.D.D.

M Kaspar, 55 Grove St., Chelsea Mass.

D.D.D’s miraculous claims concerning the theraputic effects of their product caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who alleged they were misbranding the product in violation of the Food and Drug Act. In the late teens and early 1920’s, there were at least three instances where shipments of their products, circulars and booklets from Illinois to other states were seized for this reason. In two instances, D.D.D. chose not to appear for the property and it was destroyed. In one case, where they did appear, they were fined $2,000 and in addition had to pay for the cost of the proceedings.

Prior to that, D.D.D. had also caught the attention of the American Medical Association. The label on the bottle pictured above clearly shows the contents of the product which included chloral hydrate. Consequently, the A.M.A. used D.D.D. as an example in advocating for the use of poison labels to discourage the use of certain dangerous drugs as ingredients in patent medicines. According to the October 19, 1912 A.M.A. Journal:

Chloral hydrate is one of the drugs in the British “poison schedule.” If this drug were a constituent of D.D.D. as sold in Great Britain, the nostrum would have to be labeled “Poison.” But apparently chloral hydrate is omitted from the D.D.D. put up for British consumption…

This indicates that D.D.D. furnishes another example of how the “poison label” protects. The D.D.D. that contains chloral hydrate naturally produces in some cases what physicians commonly call the “chloral rash.” This physiologic effect is turned to account by the manufacturer as follows:

“Occasionally in bringing the disease to the surface, D.D.D. will spread the eruption temporarily over a much larger area. This is not a sign that the malady is growing more serious, but, on the contrary, it shows that the disease is being uprooted.”

No matter how greatly the American and British preparations of D.D.D. vary in composition, the purchasers in both cases are told:

“D.D.D.is no ordinary patent medicine but the preparation of a skin specialist, Dr. D.D. Dennis, who used the compound now known as D.D.D. successfully for years on all patients suffering from skin diseases.

In August 1910, a man who had used 48 bottles of D.D.D, for eczema wrote to the Journal and complained that it had not relieved his eczema. He complained that he had lost fourteen pounds in weight, had become weak and emaciated and was “generally miserable.” This example of the danger the public runs in using “patent medicines” containing such insidious poisons as chloral hydrate, emphasizes the need of a “poison label” requirement being added to the federal Food & Drugs Act.

Today, according to medlineplus.gov, chloral hydrate can be used as a sedative in the short term to treat insomnia and relieve anxiety. There’s no mention of its use in treating skin disorders.

Not surprisingly, as time went on, the word cure disappeared from their advertising. This 1937 advertisement from Popular Mechanics still stresses the fact that its made using “Doctor Dennis’ original formula,” but the focus of the ad is  now on itch relief and no longer mentions the elimination of the root cause.

The bottle I found is a square shaped medicine that contained approximately five ounces. It’s machine made and the makers mark embossed on the bottom is an “I” within a diamond, indicating it was made by the Illinois Glass Company. There are no date or factory numbers included with the mark so according to various web sites it was probably made between 1914 and 1929.

The following two advertisements serve to narrow down that range. The first is from 1923 and shows their bottle with a cork finish. The other is from 1925 and shows a screw top finish. This leads me to believe that the company switched from cork to screw top around 1924, making this the end range for the bottle’s manufacture.

 

 

The Arnold Chemical Co., Chicago, Bromo Celery

 

According to an item in the March 1898 issue of the Pharmaceutical Record, the Arnold Chemical Company was an off-shoot of the John C West Drug Company of Chicago.

I can’t find the Arnold Chemical Co. in any of the Chicago directories that I have access to (which aren’t many), but the company was in business as early as the mid – 1890’s. They ran newspaper advertisements from December of 1893 through February of 1899 using 151 S Western Avenue as an address. After 1899, advertisements for Arnold’s continue but the company name and address no longer appear.

The Arnold Chemical Co.,Limited, surfaced in Toronto, Canada around 1900 so it’s possible they moved from Chicago to Toronto but I haven’t been able to confirm or deny that and I haven’d found any advertisements connecting them to the Bromo Celery Product.

In the April 9, 1908 issue the Pharmaceutical Era announced under the heading “Proprietary Changes – Change in Name or Package” that:

Arnold’s Bromo Celery, manufactured by Burks Medicine Co., Chicago, Ill. is now called Arnold’s Bromo Compound.

I’m guessing Burks acquired the rights to manufacture Arnold’s Bromo Celery when the Arnold Chemical Company either dissolved or moved around 1899-1900.

The Burks Medicine Company called themselves manufacturers, agents and wholesalers of patent medicines. Burks was listed as a new business enterprise in the April 24, 1884 issue of the Inter Ocean, a Chicago newspaper. The first listing I can find for them is in the 1889 Chicago directory, located at 135 East Lake Street. In 1912, they moved to 115 West Lake Street, where they remained through at least 1917. S.S. Cressler and J.A. Cressler were listed as directors. By 1930 they are no longer listed.

Typical advertisements described Bromo Celery as a “splendid curative” for headaches, brain exhaustion, sleeplessness, neuralgia, rheumatism, gout, kidney disorders, dispersion and anemia and as an antidote for alcoholic excesses.

One from 1894 called it a refreshing summer drink dispensed at soda fountains or in 10, 25 and 50 cent bottles. This advertisement claimed it cured headaches as well as everything else under the sun.

There probably was some truth to the headache claim. A 1911 analysis of the product by the Massachussettes Board of Health reported that it contained acetanilide. While acetaminilide has unacceptable toxic effects on the kidney and liver, it metabolizes in the body to paracetamol (acetaminophin), a common ingredient in over-the-counter pain relievers used today.

One last advertisement that caught my eye, this one from the May 3, 1894 issue of the Leavenworth Times, was actually an acrostic that spelled out Arnolds Bromo Celery.

The bottle I found is a small (maybe 2 0z.) round, brown medicine, similar in shape to a Bromo Setzer bottle of the same era. It’s mouth blown and fits the late 1800’s to early 1900’s time frame. I assume the bottled product was powdered and mixed with water before drinking it. I found rhymed directions in another advertisement:

If you have the headache you must simply pay a dime for the trial bottle as a test.

Drink it same as soda water and Bromo Celery will do the rest.

 

E. C. Dewitt & Co., Chicago, U.S.A., One Minute Cough Cure

The E stands for Elden C. DeWitt, whose company, E. C. DeWitt & Co. manufactured and distributed patent medicines that included the “One Minute Cough Cure” as well as many others including:

  • Dewitt’s Early Risers – a laxative and cathartic
  • Kennedy’s Laxative and Honey Tar
  • Dewitt’s Witch Hazel Salve – for superficial cuts, minor burns, bruises, contusions and minor scalds
  • Kodal Dispepsia Cure – for indigestion

Elden DeWitt’s story is told in a newspaper article found in the June 14, 1927 issue of the “Geraldton Guardian,” a Washington State newspaper. Written sometime after his death it provides some interesting insight into the man and his business.

That in the United States, where the newspapers chronicle every action of persons of wealth, a man could acquire a fortune of $17,000,000 without the public being aware of the extent of his riches is disclosed by the death of Mr. Elden C. Dewitt.

It has been discovered with nothing short of amazement by the newspapers that Mr. Dewitt lived in New York for 20 years as the head of a drug and medicine firm which bears his name without being once mentioned in print.

During that time he built up his large fortune, which he left to his wife and upon her death to fourteen relatives.

Only when the filing of the will disclosed that he was unusually rich did the newspapers print his name. Then they had great difficulty in learning how he amassed his millions.

Born 72 years ago in Iowa, he began as a clerk in a chemist’s shop and ultimately became its proprietor. He started to manufacture his own remedies for common ills and the business gradually grew until the firm had branches in Europe.

A close search revealed that he once received newspaper attention when in 1895 he participated in an election campaign to reform Chicago, but beyond that he had succeeded in avoiding publicity.

E. C. DeWitt & Co. is first listed in the 1890 Chicago directory, classified as a patent medicine business and located at 253 Kinzie. Prior to that DeWitt was partnered with Charles W Beggs in the business of Beggs and DeWitt. They were classified as either medicines or pharmacists, and listed in the Chicago directories between 1887 and 1889 at 197 Michigan. In 1890, Beggs remained at the Michigan Avenue location, starting the Beggs Manufacturing Co., also a patent medicine business.

E. C. DeWitt & Co. maintained the Chicago location at least into the 1960’s. During this time frame, I’ve tied them to several different addresses based on limited directory information: 253 Kinzie (1890), 160 Superior (1897), 205 Lasalle (1898 – 1907), 1127 – 1131 N Lasalle (1911 – 1920’s) and finally 2830 Sheffield Avenue (1940 – 1960’s).

By 1904 the company had opened up a New York City location as well and in 1912, the business incorporated in New York. The December 1912 issue of the Pharmaceutical Era reported:

The E.C. DeWitt & Co., Inc., of New York was recently incorporated with a capital of $2,000,000. to deal in drugs and pharmaceutical supplies. The directors are Elden C. DeWitt, Cora E. DeWitt and Christopher E. Millar of New York.

Similar to Chicago, the New York offices moved around quite a bit. Their New York addresses included: 1133 Broadway (1904 – 1905), the Times Building (1906 – 1909), 244 W 49th Street (1910), 146 West 52nd Street (1912 – 1915), 30 E 42nd Street (1916 -1919) and 512 Fifth Avenue (1922 -1925). During this period, Elden DeWitt also listed several residential addresses in New York, including the Plaza Hotel for a few years, confirming the above story that he lived the last 20 years of his life in New York. The company maintained a New York location at 750 Fifth Avenue well into the 1960’s.

One indication of the early success of the company can be inferred from an item published in the January 1906 issue of N.A.R.D. Notes (National Association of Retail Druggists). In it they stated that E. C. DeWitt & Co. had sent contracts to serve as one of their distributing agents to 40,000 retail druggists . Within 18 days, 20,000 had already been signed and returned.

One Minute Cough Cure was one of many patent medicines manufactured and distributed by the company. An advertisement from the early 1900’s stated that it does not pass immediately into the stomach, but lingers in the throat, chest and lungs producing a list of ten desired results.

The North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station Report dated June 30, 1906 did an analysis of the One Minute Cough Cure and stated that it contained salicylic acid and chloroform. The Report went on to say:

The products of the above firm (E. C. Dewitt & Co.) are exceedingly variable in composition. The literature put out by the firm is often false and misleading. Even it’s affidavits are deceptive and give the reader a false notion. Such methods and preparations cannot be too strongly condemned.

This wasn’t the last time that the company was accused of false and misleading advertisement. In December, 1966, the Federal Trade Commission issued an order requiring E. C. DeWitt & Co., manufacturer of “Man Zan Pile Ointment” and other pile remedies to:

cease falsely representing it in its advertising that its product will shrink, avoid need for surgical treatment on, heal, cure, or remove hemorrhoids or effect any other cure beyond temporary relief.

Church & Dwight Co. Inc., a $3.4 billion consumer packaged goods company, acquired  DeWitt International Corp. in 1986. Church & Dwight’s web site states that they were able to diversify into over-the-counter pharmaceuticals through that acquisition.

I would have thought that “One Minute Cough Cure” would have come to an end in 1906 when the Pure Food and Drug Act outlawed the mislabeling and amplified claims associated with many patent medicines, effectively eliminating the word “cure” from their labels. However, “One Minute Cough Cure” remained listed in various local drug store advertisements up through the early 1920’s. In fact, an Albany, Missouri drug store named Hardin’s included it on a “Reference List of Standard Remedies carried in Stock at Hardin’s” printed in the January 27, 1921 issue of the Albany Ledger.

The bottle I found is a small medicine embossed “One Minute Cough Cure” on the front. The company name and Chicago, USA are embossed on the sides. It’s mouth blown and fits the period from the start of the company in 1890 to the first decade of the 1900’s.