Emil Roller, drugs, was first listed in the 1889 NYC Directory at 1441 First Avenue. Over the next ten years, between 1890 and 1899, he both lived and worked as a druggist on First Avenue between East 75th and East 77th Streets in Manhattan. Whether or not he operated his own business during this period is not clear.
Around 1900 he opened a drug store on the west side of Manhattan. Between 1900 and 1908, he was listed with the occupation “drugs”at 864 Ninth Avenue. The 1905 ERA Directory indicated that his drug store provided services in the following categories: drugs and medicine, drug sundries, tobacco or cigars, books or stationary and that the business had a soda fountain.
In 1908 Roller sold the Ninth Avenue business and purchased another one on Amsterdam Avenue. On October 14, 1908, the “Pharmaceutical Era” reported that:
Francis Zitz, Amsterdam Avenue and 86th Street has been succeeded by Emil Roller. Mr. Roller recently sold his store at 56th Street and Ninth Avenue to S Beck.
Between 1908 and 1914 the business was listed as “Roller’s Prescription Pharmacy” at 535 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street. Then in 1915 they moved to 574 Amsterdam Avenue on the southwest corner of West 88th Street
The business incorporated in 1918. A notice in the September 27 issue of the New York Times listed them as a new corporation:
Emil Roller Pharmacy, Manhattan, $6,000; E.Roller, J. Hundy, Martha Hundy, 220 West 88th Street.
The Roller Pharmacy was listed at this location through at least 1925.
It’s not clear when the business ended. By 1933 Roller is still listed with the occupation of “drugs” but I can’t find a listing for the pharmacy. In 1948 Emil Roller is no longer listed as well.
Roller developed a few products that he sold under his own name. A series of advertisements in the April and May, 1910 issues of the New York Age touted “Emil Rollers Unrivaled Skin Balm”
Apparently he sold stomach and liver pills under his name as well. A 1911 issue of the American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record printed the following lyric that they said Roller included in packages to his customers:
Hark, our Stomach, Liver Pills Highly Recommended! Will relieve all minor ills In proper time attended
They restore your appetite, Liberate bad gases, And make life a real delight, A joy in all its phases
You won’t have to hang around Without spunk, ambitions; You’ll feel active, safe and sound, Alert in all conditions
Nausea, Headaches, Dizziness Disappears like wonder; Billousness and pains, distress Will also have to wander
And all troubles, and all ills, Caused by indigestion, You can right by Roller’s Pills Quite surely without question
They are to our best belief Just the medication When you look for help, relief In Chronic Constipation
Therefore give them a fair trial Without hesitation; Buy of Roller’s Pills a vial And you’ll obtain salvation
Roller, in addition to having a good sense of humor, was apparently a pretty smart guy. A chemist, in 1914 he was part of a team that studied the treatment of malignant growths with Colloidal Glyco-Sulpher-Seleno Preparations. He was also working on a new urinary test for syphilis that “threatens to superseed the Wasserman”. (This probably didn’t happen because the Wasserman test was still quite popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s).
He was also heavily involved with the German Apothecaries Society and at one time was Chairman of the Scientific Committee.
The bottle I found is a small (approximayely 4 oz) medicine with a tooled finish. It has the Amsterdam Avenue and 88th Street address embossed on it so it dates to no earlier than 1915. Embossing on the base indicates it was made by Whitehall Tatum Company (W.T. Co). The fact that there’s no ampersand (between the T and Co) indicates it was made after the business incorporated in 1901. A web site article on Whitehall Tatum puts the specific embossing in the 1901 to 1924 time frame. So it looks like the bottle was made between 1915 and 1924. Recognizing that the bottle is mouth blown I’d say it’s manufacture is within a year or two of 1915.