The town of Bad Kissingen, located in the heart of Germany, has a reputation for its mineral waters that dates back to the mid-16th century. Over 170 years ago, the 1850 edition of the “Handbook for Travelers in Southern Germany” described Kissingen like this:
Kissingen is a town of about 1,500 inhabitants pleasantly situated on the Franconian Saale. It possesses 3 mineral springs. The Rackoczy and Pandur Brunnen furnish saline and chalybeate waters, which are tonic and aperient without flying to the head; the Rakoczy is used for drinking, the Pandur for baths: they are highly recommended as a remedy for chronic diseases, gout and complaints of the stomach; 40,000 bottles of Rakoczy are exported annually.
Around the same time that the above description was written, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Samuel Smith, who referred to himself by his middle name Hanbury, began to artificially reproduce the water from Kissingen’s Radoczy Spring. He would go on to artificially manufacture a host of other natural spring waters as well including the well known Vichy and Congress waters that, according to his advertisements, were:
Identical with the natural in composition and effects, more effervescent, and less liable to change.
The motivation for Smith’s endeavor was the medicinal properties that these waters were thought to possess. In a paper authored by Smith, published in the January, 1856 edition of the “Cincinnati Medical Observer” he explained:
Whenever a novelty is pressed upon his notice, the Anglo-Saxon instinctively puts the question, “Cui bono?” “What is the use and the value of the thing?” The question I will endeavor to answer in the following lines…
That there is a large series of chronic diseases, and anomalous disordered conditions, best cured by the use of mineral waters, and a similar series often incurable by any other known means is a postulate which will undoubtedly be granted by every practitioner of reputation throughout the whole continent of Europe . That, moreover, in another series of cases, mineral waters efficiently aid ordinary therapeutic measures, and that in a fourth the effects produced by their employment afford a valuable source of diagnosis, will be readily granted. The well established facts, the long catalogue of observations recorded by competent observers, leave no room for dispute or cavil about the truth of these propositions…
An April, 1858 editorial in the Cincinnati Lancet and Observer credited Smith with introducing this thinking, which was prevalent in Europe at the time, into the United States. Written several years after Smith established his business, the Lancet editorial opined:
Carlsbad. Spa – We take pleasure in calling the attention of our readers to the effort which has been persistently made for nearly two years, by Dr. S. Hanbury Smith, to introduce to the notice of the profession and the public the factitious Mineral Waters. We have always thought it strange that an art so important to the development of the therapeutics of chronic diseases, should have so long remained a terra incognita on this side of the Atlantic, awaiting the advent of some adventurous pioneer…
…At the “Carlsbad Spa,” as Dr. Smith has christened his establishment, the waters of the most celebrated springs of Continental Europe are reproduced with wonderful exactness. Many of our physicians have already prescribed them quite extensively, and they are on sale by most respectable apothecaries in this city, especially Kissingen, a water resembling Congress – tonic, alterative, aperient and depurative, but very much stronger.
One of Smith’s early advertisements listed several disorders that his mineral waters were specifically prescribed to address.
So, with that as background, here’s Hanbury Smith’s story which according to his obituary found in the September 15, 1894 edition of the “Brooklyn Citizen,” began “across the pond” in 1810.
He was born in England in 1810 and studied medicine in a London college, from which he graduated in 1831. He continued to study in a college in Stockholm, Sweden, and during the cholera epidemic in 1834 was senior physician of the cholera hospital in that city. He came to America in 1847…
In the United States he settled in the State of Ohio where he remained for the next 13 years. His time there included stays in Columbus, Hamilton and Cincinnati were, among other things he served as editor of the “Ohio Medical and Surgical Journal,” and superintendent of the Ohio State Lunatic Asylum. It was also in Ohio where Smith began to manufacture his artificial mineral waters
According to later advertisements, it was in 1855 that Smith established what he called the “Carlsbad Spa,” in Cincinnati. An introductory story on the business appeared in the July, 1856 edition of the Western Lancet.
We deem it an agreeable duty to call the attention of our readers to the establishment which, under this name, Dr. Hanbury Smith has opened at the N. E. corner of Walnut and Seventh Streets, in this city. Here, by ingenious processes, are reproduced in the laboratory exact imitations of the more active and valuable medicinal mineral waters of the known world; and thus an opportunity is afforded to the large class of sufferers in whose cases mineral waters are especially indicated, to avail themselves of them at comparatively very small cost of money, time or labor, – and to the physicians of the country to make themselves practically acquainted with a series of remedies heretofore out of their reach.
The story went on to present the spa’s varied menu of mineral waters.
The waters are drank at the Spa, as a rule, early in the morning, say between five o’clock and eight, directly out of the apparatus in which they are prepared and preserved. Among those to be procured are Carlsbad, Eurs, Marienbad, Pyrmont, Vichy, Ergs, Spa, Kissingen, Heilbrunn, Hombourg, Fachingen, Geilnau, Selters, Seydschutz, Pullna, etc. Some of these are purgative, others deobstruent, some tonic, others alterative; and yet others are possessed of two, three or more of these properties in a large series of varied combinations, thus affording advantages of choice and change unknown at any one watering place, and an inexhaustible store of therapeutic resources.
This initial story did not mention bottling so it’s not clear if Smith bottled his waters from the start. That being said, by the following year he was certainly bottling and distributing Kissingen Water locally, as evidenced by this August 16, 1857 advertisement in the Cincinnati Enquirer that listed several Cincinnati drugstores and one, across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky, where Hanbury Smith’s “Kissingen Water” was available.
Sometime in the late 1850’s the business moved from their original 7th Street location to the Burnet House on Third Street where they were listed in the 1858 Cincinnati directory. In late 1858 an item in the October edition of the Lancet announced that they moved again, this time to 128 West Fourth Street.
Dr. Hanbury Smith. – The Carlsbad Spa of Dr. Smith is removed from the Burnet House basement, on Third Street to rooms in Neaves’ building, corner 4th and Race. This is quite an improvement, giving our friend, Dr. Smith, the advantages of a much better location, and more pleasant rooms.
An advertisement featuring this new location appeared in the 1860 edition of Cincinnati’s city directory.
These physical moves implemented over a short period of time were likely necessitated by the growth in popularity of both their spa and bottling business; a fact made clear in the April, 1858 Lancet editorial.
We are agreeably surprised to learn that the quantity consumed last year, partly in bottles, and partly direct from the fountains, considerably exceeded 30,000 pints.
The editorial then went on to say:
This seems a large quantity, but at the low rate at which it is sold, and in view of the very heavy expense attending the enterprise a much larger consumption will be required to prove remunerative. Fifty thousand bottles per annum is a common sale at quite insignificant European establishments , exclusive of the quantity drank out of the apparatus, and we should not be so sorry to learn that the “Carlsbad Spa” rivals these already the coming year.
Sometime in 1859 the growth and economic realities mentioned in the editorial forced Smith to establish an operation in New York City. He apparently left Cincinnati’s “Carlsbad Spa” in the charge of a man named Alex M. Berger; a fact confirmed in this May 11, 1860 item found in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Who actually owned the Cincinnati spa at this point is unclear, however, what is clear is that Berger continued to advertise the Hanbury Smith mineral waters up through the end of the decade, as evidenced by this September 18, 1869 Cincinnati Enquirer advertisement.
Meanwhile, Smith was up and running in New York City in the summer of 1859; a fact confirmed in this August, 1859 announcement published in the “New York Monthly Review and Buffalo Medical Journal.”
The Spa. – Under this name, Dr. S. Hanbury Smith has established at 833 Broadway, near 13th Street, fountains of artificial mineral waters, several of the most valuable of the German springs being reproduced as regards chemical composition and temperature. Four springs, models of different classes, have been selected by Dr. Smith, and the waters exactly imitated. They are, first, the Carlsbad Spring, which is hot and alkaline, the sulphate of soda being the largest medicinal ingredient; second, the Manerbad, which is cold, and resembles closely, in other respects the Carlsbad; third, the Kissingen, in which the muriate of soda is the most prominent ingredient, resembling in this respect, the Saratoga waters; and fourth, the Pyrmont, a chalybeate spring.
Advertisements in the medical journals soon followed.
Not long after Smith had settled at 833 Broadway, he opened what he called a “Branch Spa” in Caswell, Mack & Co.’s Drug Store located in the Fifth Avenue Hotel.
At the time, the hotel was located on Broadway between 23rd and 24th Streets.
Not long at 833 Broadway, sometime in 1862 Smith moved his primary location to 808 Broadway where it remained listed through 1866.
A description of 808 Broadway, included in an 1860’s “tourist” publication called “American Travel,” revealed that it was as much a “destination” as it was a manufacturing facility.
To the citizens of New York, not less than to those visiting it during the spring and early summer months, mineral waters and baths have become a necessity. Dr. Hanbury Smith’s famous mineral water establishment, “The Spa,” is pleasantly and centrally located at 808 Broadway, near its intersection with Eleventh Street. Its health-giving waters, agreeable shade, and proximity to other objects of interest, combine to make it one of the pleasantest lounging-places of the metropolis.
During this time, Smith continued to operate branch locations as well. The 1867 N. Y. C. directory listed two; one at 32 Pine Street and the other at 83 Wall Street. Smith’s waters were also available, on draught or in bottles, at local drug stores around town. A May 9, 1865 Brooklyn Daily Eagle item highlighted a Williamsburg, Brooklyn drug store named Jenson’s as one such location.
By the late 1860’s and early 1870’s, its apparent that Smith’s distribution network had grown well beyond the New York metropolitan area with mention of his mineral waters now appearing in drug store advertisements of other major U. S. cities including Baltimore, Md., Washington D. C., Hartford Conn., Richmond Va., and even New Orleans, La.
In May, 1868 an item in the New York Medical Journal announced the business had moved again, this time to 35 Union Square.
Not long after he moved, Smith partnered with William S. Hazard changing the company name to Hanbury Smith & Hazard. The name change was reflected in both N. Y. C.’s 1870 directory and this early 1870’s advertisement that appeared in the The Pharmacist and Chemical Record.
The business operated as Hanbury Smith & Hazard for 15 years adding a second location at 309 Broadway in the early 1870’s and a third at 39 West 4th Street in 1882. It was during this time, they introduced the manufacture of their “granular effervescing salts to compliment the mineral water business. An advertisement announcing this addition appeared in the 1877 Vermont Medical Register.
Sometime in 1883 or 1884, the partnership with Hazard was apparently dissolved and the business was once again listed in the directories as simply Hanbury Smith. With Smith in his 80’s, the business was last listed in 1892 with only one address; 39 West 4th Street. At that point, Smith was living in Brooklyn, where he passed away in September, 1894.
The history of the business during the rest of the 1890’s is sketchy. According to a classified item appearing in the January 26, 1899 edition of The (New York) Sun, a man named John Morgan claimed to have acquired the rights to Smith’s formulas.
Then, less than two years later, in 1901, Moody’s reported that Hanbury Smith was one of several firms consolidated under the name John Matthews, Inc. The Mathews business was a long established soda water operation that dated back to 1832.
The consolidation was likely the end of “Hanbury Smith” as a company name but not as a brand name. Hanbury Smith’s mineral salts appear in a Fuller & Fuller Co. price list as late as 1906/1907. Both Matthews Inc. and John Morgan were still in business at that time but who actually had rights to the brand at that point is not clear, at least to me.
The subject bottle is mouth blown with a crudely applied finish. It’s embossed with both the “Hanbury Smith” name and the words “Kissingen Water.” It’s doesn’t have a pontil mark so I suspect it dates from the late 1860’s to the mid 1880’s, likely from the Hanbury Smith & Hazard era. (I’ve never seen an example that included the Hazard name in the embossing, so that’s no help.)
Typically supplied in two bottle sizes; half-pint and pint….
…this is certainly the half-pint size.
In addition to “Kissingen Water,” recent examples of Smith’s bottles, similar in shape and size, that are are embossed “Vichy Water” and the generic “Mineral Water,” have recently appeared for sale on the internet.
Finally, if I’m to believe this advertisement found in the August, 1868 edition of the Druggist Circular and Chemical Gazette, he also sold “Soda Water in a “torpedo” shaped bottle.