Gowdy’s Medicated Beer, Manufactured 10 Ormond Place, Trademark L&S (Smith & Layton)

The L&S trademark embossed on the bottle represents the Brooklyn, N.Y. business of James E. Smith and Elbert (sometimes Albert) Layton. The roots of the business date back to 1875 when Smith was listed individually in the Brooklyn City Directory at 10 Ormond Place with the occupation of “root beer.”

Layton apparently joined Smith in business sometime in the early 1880’s and the partnership of Smith & Layton was first listed at the Ormond Place address in 1883. It remained listed in the Brooklyn directories up through 1911, always with the 10 Ormond Place address.

Their bottling notice was published in several February and March, 1889 editions of the Brooklyn Citizen.

The letters “L&S,” trademarked on July 24, 1890, and the pictorial representation of a five-pointed star highlighted in the notice are clearly visible, embossed on the subject bottle.

An August 7, 1892 story in the Brooklyn Citizen featured the business and their products.

It is often a question of a great many people during very warm weather such as we have been experiencing during the past two weeks, what it is best to drink…

While he is making his examination it would be well for him to remember that there is nothing more refreshing than a drink that is impregnated with carbonic acid gas. At the same time such a drink is quite healthful, and provided the flavoring extracts are not injurious, there is no reason why a carbonated beverage should not be the one chosen by the seeker after healthful, and at the same time refreshing drinks. Among the manufacturers of these carbonated beverages is the firm of Smith and Layton, whose establishment is at No. 10 Ormond Place. They have established a reputation that is more than local, because of the delightful flavor of the goods they turn out, and above all, because of the purity of the flavoring extracts with which they impart the palatable flavor that has helped to make their goods so popular. Then the water used by this firm is all filtered and distilled, and thereby is freed from the possibility of its being impure from organic matter or microbes. They manufacture lemon soda, ginger ale, sarsaparilla, root beer, and have recently placed a new drink on the market which they call Neopolitan cream.

Later that decade, a company advertisement in the February 13, 1898 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced that their mineral waters had won an award at Brooklyn’s annual Food Show.

As early as the late 1880’s the company’s territory had expanded beyond Brooklyn, reaching east to parts of Long Island as evidenced by their inclusion in this July 1, 1889 Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertisement for the Northport (Suffolk County) business of Green & Wheeler.

While the company could certainly have served as the bottler for a brewery (PABST was making a medicated beer in the 1890’s), there’s no mention that I can find for a Gowdy’s brewery. That, coupled with the fact that the business was always listed in the directories as a manufacturer of mineral water and soda, leads me to believe that their medicated beer was actually a root beer. A description of root beers in a July 2, 1875 Brooklyn Union Times Story seems to bear this out, referencing medicated beer as a class of root beer.

Of root beers there is an endless variety of names, but they are much the same in composition. Birch beer, spruce beer, root beer, Ottawa beer, medicated beer, Green Mountain beer, Otaki beer, Madoc beer, and scores of others are of about the same taste, chiefly compounded of essential oils of sarsaparilla, sassafras, birch, dandelion, dock, wintergreen and other healthful botanical substances. They are ready for use in a few days after brewing, as yeast which is the “working” principle operates very speedily upon the whole mass. Molasses and sugar are used for sweetening , and the compounds are either manufactured in the shops where they are sold, or exported from the factories in store bottles and kegs, and placed on draught. Root beers are generally healthful, but should, like all fermented drinks, be used moderately as they are liable to exercise a purgative influence.

Whether the name Gowdy’s was their brand or the brand of another business that they manufactured and bottled for is unclear.

The Smith & Layton business dissolved in July, 1911. The Dissolution Notice, published in the July 25, 1911 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle indicated that neither original partner was still associated with the business at that time.

As fas as I can tell, Wilson Smith was the younger brother of James E. Smith and William Marquart was a grocer whose store was listed within several blocks of Smith & Layton at 1165 Fulton Street.

Note: Elbert Layton was no longer listed in the Brooklyn directories by 1907 so its possible he retired, moved or passed away around that time with his place in the firm being taken by local businessman Marquart. Smith was still listed individually in 1910 but not in 1914 so his younger brother may have inherited the business in 1911 with no interest in continuing it. (All conjecture on my part.)

Two years after the co-partnership dissolved, Dingwell Bros. absorbed what was left of the business. This development was reported in the November 15, 1913 edition of the “American Bottler,”

On October 8th DINGWELL BROS, 1017 Greene Ave., Brooklyn, took possession of the bottling business of Messrs. Smith & Layton, 10 Ormond Place..

Ormond Place, located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, was later renamed Claver Place. According to street easy.com, the current building at 10 Claver Place was built in 1930 so it doesn’t date back to the days of Smith & Layton.

The bottle I found is approximately 27 oz. with a tooled blob finish. It fits the time frame from 1890 (registration date embossed on the bottle) to 1911 (dissolution of the business).