Buffalo Ammonia was manufactured by the Robinson Brothers Chemical Works of Brooklyn New York.. The application for their trademark buffalo, registered on May 30, 1913, stated that it had been continually used in the business since 1896.
Advertisements for their ammonia published in the late 1940’s use the phrase “since 1893.” Based on this I think it’s safe to assume that the product hit the market sometime in the mid 1890’s
The first listing I can find for the Robinson Brothers Chemical Works was in the 1897 Brooklyn City Directory, located on Montrose Avenue, corner of Seneca Avenue. (They are not in the 1889 directory and I don’t have access to directories in-between.) The business remained listed at that location through the late 1940’s. By 1949, the business address had changed to 235 Randolph Street, also in Brooklyn, where it was still listed in the mid-1960’s. The 1913/1914 Copartnership and Corporation Directory for Brooklyn listed the brothers’ names as Edward S. and David Robinson. In the same directory in 1922, only David was listed.
Buffalo Ammonia was advertised with a wide variety of uses both as a cleaning fluid and toilet article. An item in the August 25, 1923 issue of “Brooklyn Life,” while lengthy, paints a good overall picture of it’s “as advertised” qualities and benefits.
Doubtless few appreciate the many uses of ammonia and the importance for most purposes of it being pure.
Most of the cheaper brands of ammonia sold in bottles consist for the most part of water softened by the addition of caustic soda, or soda ash, and containing only enough ammonia to impart to the solution the odor of the chemical.
When used for washing clothes, ammonia solutions containing caustic soda are very injurious as the soda will cause the fabric to rot or disintegrate.
Impure brands of ammonia, therefore should never be used for laundry purposes, while for other household uses, such as cleaning nickel work on gas stove ranges and other appliances, and removing stains, a pure ammonia is incomparably more effective.
Its purity, coupled with its low price, is the chief distinction of Buffalo Ammonia, manufactured by the Robinson Brothers Kings County Chemical Works at Montrose and Seneca Avenues, Brooklyn.
This ammonia is perfectly pure and clear and wholly free from caustic soda or soda ash, so that it can be used with perfect safety on the most delicate fabrics and employed with equal confidence for all household purposes. Not only that, but it is equally good for toilet purposes.
Added to the bath, especially in hot sultry weather it will make the water feel smooth and soft and without the use of soap, leave the skin equally smooth and soft as well as odorless and clean and impart to the body a delightful sensation of coolness. For shampooing the hair it is equally good. A teaspoonful should be put into the water with the soap. This will produce an abundant lather when rubbed into the scalp with the fingers and, having washed the hair with clean water and rubbed dry with a towel, it will be left soft and fluffy. The use of the ammonia will also tend to prevent dandruff.
A little Buffalo Ammonia placed in the water will also make shaving much easier and smoother by softening the beard. Incidentally it is a perfect substitute for smelling salts, the reviving effects of which are due wholly to the ammonia they contain. A whiff of Buffalo Ammonia will produce the same revivifying effect.
Buffalo Ammonia is sold by all grocers.
The bottle and labeling of Buffalo Ammonia was described in a “Special Notice” printed in the January 4, 1912 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
This description of the bottle “Engraved or blown on its upper parts near neck on opposite sides words BUFFALO AMMONIA” fits the bottle I found exactly. Both the bottle and label, as described, are shown in a 1932 advertisement. In a 1949 advertisement, other than a screw-top finish, the bottle didn’t change much.
Today Montrose and Seneca Avenues do not intersect. Seneca (north-south) terminates at a railroad corridor and Montrose (east-west) terminates west of Seneca. I guess it’s possible that at one time Montrose continued east adjacent to the railroad. 235 Randolph is currently part of a yard that stores/services aerial lift vehicles. It is located directly adjacent to the same rail corridor. It’s possible that both locations are actually one and the same and that the address simply changed as the neighborhood developed around the Robinson facility.
On a final note, a business called the American Bluing Company, located in Buffalo New York also manufactured a product called Buffalo Ammonia. Advertisements for their product say that the company was established in 1873 and they used a different image of the Buffalo on their packaging so the two companies don’t appear to be related.
I guess it’s possible that the Brooklyn company was a knock-off or copy cat of the Buffalo company?