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.