Sparklene (Charles H. Smith & Co.)

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“Sparklene” was the name of a polish manufactured from the late 1890’s up through the 1950’s by Charles H. Smith & Co. of Boston, Massachusettes and later by J. A. Wright & Co. of Keene, New Hampshire. Newspaper advertisements for the polish were still appearing as late as the mid-1980’s.

Although generally referred to as a “silver polish,” over the years it was advertised as a polish for anything from metals to marble to glass.

One early advertisement, found in the June 3, 1897 edition of Hartford Connecticut’s “Daily Morning Journal and Courier,” summed up Sparklene’s marketing pitch in one sentence.

SPARKLENE!

It will brighten anything which ought to be bright.

On Jul7 17, 1905, Charles H. Smith & Co. filed an Application (No. 10,468)  to register the “Sparklene” trademark in accordance with the then recently enacted Trademark Act of February 20, 1905.

There was no public opposition to their application and the trademark was ultimately registered on January 30, 1906 (No. 49,242).

The patent records indicated that the Sparklene trademark had been in use for ten years prior, likely establishing a start date for its manufacture sometime in the mid-1890’s. The prequel to the Sparklene story however begins several years earlier with the originating company’s namesake, Charles H. Smith.

Census records indicate that he was born in New Hampshire in 1854. Boston city directories suggest that he arrived in Boston sometime in the late 1880’s, where he was first listed with the occupation “agent for the “Dam’s Remedy Company.”

A patent medicine business run by a so called physician named Alvah Dam, in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s, the company manufactured and sold several patent medicines that prominently featured the Dam name. One, called Dr. Dam’s Nerve-Aid, was featured in this November 12, 1893 “Boston Globe advertisement.

The Boston directories continued to associate Smith with the “Dam Remedy Company” up through 1895 at which point Alvah Dam, in severe financial trouble, filed for bankruptcy. According to the December 1, 1895 edition of “Merck’s Market Report,” Smith was one of Dam’s two largest creditors.

Dr. Alvah M. F. Dam, 212 Columbus Avenue, Boston, well known through his connection with the Dam Remedy Company, whose insolvency petition was filed recently, has debts amounting to $69,814. Among the largest creditors are the National Traders’ Bank of Portland, Me., $10,000 and Charles H. Smith, who has $7,834 charged against him.

In fact, a notice published in the December 24, 1895 edition of the Boston Post, announced that Smith had actually been appointed as the “assignee” in the case.

Apparently, at the same time Smith was involved in the bankruptcy proceedings of his former boss, he was also establishing Charles H. Smith & Company. As early as November 24, 1895, he was running this want ad in the “Boston Globe” classifieds..

While there’s no way of knowing, it certainly makes sense that the “quick seller” mentioned in the above ad was Sparklene. This supposition is bolstered by the fact that department stores were stocking Sparklene and offering free demonstrations as early as 1897. One such department store was Hochschild, Kohn & Co., of Baltimore Md., who included this item in their April 22, 1899 advertisement published in the “Baltimore Sun.”

In their home town of Boston, the October 25, 1905 edition of the “Globe,” announced that the department store of Henry Siegel Co. had taken it a step further, actually maintaining a “demonstration booth” in their basement.

Charles H Smith & Co.remained listed in Boston up through 1957 listing several addresses over that period; 8 Bromfield (1896-1897), 10 Federal (1898), 79 Milk (1899-1904), 220 Devonshire (1905-1922), 85 Purchase (1923-1945) and 103 Broad (1948-1957). I suspect that each of these addresses referenced their office location. It’s likely that their manufacturing facilities were also situated in Boston but where is unknown.

Over the course of this roughly 60 year period the company was apparently closely held by the Smith family. The Boston directories named Charles as proprietor up through the time of his death on November 10, 1929, after which his wife, Annie, continued to be listed in that role. Annie went on to renew the Sparklene trademark (No. 49242) in 1946.

Charles H. Smith & Co. disappeared from the Boston directories sometime in the late 1950’s. Around that time it appears that Annie transferred control of the business to one of their competitors, J. A. Wright & Co. of Keene New Hampshire. Trademark renewal records from 1966 reveal that the transfer had certainly occurred by then.

J. A. Wright & Co. renewed the Sparklene trademark again in 1985 however, how long they continued to market the polish is not clear. The last mention of Sparklene polish that I can find appeared in the April 8, 1984 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” where it was included within a menu of items (2nd from the bottom) advertised by a company called “Shop-In-Bag.”

The trademark expired when it was not renewed in 2006.

The style of our subject bottle was utilized by the company throughout much of their history, as evidenced by the following two advertisements. The first was published in 1910 and the second in 1943.

   

Our subject bottle is machine made and certainly the 5-1/2 ounce size. The base of the bottle exhibits the Illinois Glass Co.’s maker’s mark of an I enclosed in a diamond shape, dating the bottle between 1915 and 1929.

Sparklene advertisements in later years suggest that sometime in the 1940’s they began to package the polish in wide mouthed jars. The first, exhibiting a 32 oz sized jar, was published in a 1944 edition of the Pittsburgh “Sun-Telegraph.” The second, a pint jar, was found in a 1964 edition of Allentown Pennsylvania’s “Morning Call.”