Invention of “The A 1 Sauce” is credited to English chef, grocer and author, Henderson William Brand. According to A 1 advertisements published by Brand in the British newspapers during the early 1880’s, the story went like this:
This Celebrated Sauce was invented by Mr. H.W. Brand (Formerly of the Royal Household) in 1862, when he was cook and co-manger of the cuisine at the International Exhibition in Hyde Park. It was submitted by him among other sauces to the Royal Commissioners for approval for use at the restaurants in the Exhibition, and pronounced by the Chief Commissioner to be “A 1”- a designation which was immediately adopted, and by which it has been known ever since. This is an incontestable proof of its excellence and superiority.
BRAND’S…TRY a Bottle to see if you do not agree with THE CHIEF COMMISSIONER.
Another early advertisement for A 1, this one published in the October 5, 1872 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Journal and Transactions Advertiser” suggested its use with just about any type of food.
The A 1 OF 1862, LONDON AND 1867 PARIS
Most Wholesome and Excellent, is most exquisite and excels with plain Hot or Cold Meats, Chops, Steaks. Poultry, Fried or Boiled Fish, Bacon Eggs or Cheese. Patronized and in general use at the ROYAL HOUSEHOLD, the Principal Courts on the Continent, the London Clubs and large Hotels, and nearly all first-class Restaurants and Refreshment Rooms.
Today the brand is manufactured in the U.S. by Kraft-Heinz and their message is still pretty much the same.
A1 Sauce is great for pork, chicken, fish and vegetables.
While the A 1 brand itself dates to the early 1860’s, the story of Henderson William Brand gets its start back in the 1820’s when he served in the royal kitchen of England’s King George IV. According to “Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History:”
King George IV’s flagging health inspired royal chef Mr. H.W. Brand, to develop an essence of chicken beverage to boost his Majesty’s physical condition.
After leaving the royal kitchen, Brand served as the private chef for various celebrities and noblemen of his era. A feature on Brand & Co., published in the May, 1914 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era” provided some details.
In due time the chef left the royal kitchens and became in turn chef for various celebrated gourmands and hosts, including T.W. Coke, of Holkham (the “Coke of Norfolk,” at whose table Charles James Fox was a frequent visitor), and afterward to Earl Manvers; then to His Grace the Duke of Norfolk; the Marquis of Ailsa; Lord Rolle, and others.
In 1834 Brand followed this up by publishing a collection of recipes entitled “The Complete Modern Cook,” a work that ‘Blackwoods Lady Magazine & Gazette” reviewed like this in 1841.
The design of Mr. Brand, in the production of the “Modern Cook,” is praisworthy, his object being evidently to furnish the practiced cook with modern novelties, and the inexperienced with every kind of information relative to cookery, written in so clear and concise a style, that to peruse somewhat 400 pages is rendered a pleasure, instead of hard study, as is with some works which have come under our notice…We recommend every noblemen’s and other family to possess a copy, feeling confident that the author, who for distinction sake we shall say was many years in the kitchen of his late Majesty George the Fourth, has done justice in the production.
In 1835, a year after publishing “The Modern Cook,” Brand established Brand & Co. and went into business for himself. The 1843 “Post Office London Directory” (the earliest I can find) described Brand & Co. as:
manufacturers & importers of preserves & preserved fresh & salt provisions & solid milk, beef tea, etc.”
The company listing included two addresses; 61 King William Street in the city, and 11 Little Stanhope Street in Mayfair but it was the Mayfair address that the business was almost exclusively associated with.
As early as the Spring of 1835 advertisements for H.W. Brand began appearing in the London newspapers. The earliest one I can find, published in the May 23, 1835 edition of London’s “Morning Post,” provides evidence that Brand was producing sauces from the very beginning. The advertisement also mentioned among other things his “chicken broth for invalids,” which could be what he served King George IV in his waning years.
Another advertisement, this one published on March 16, 1841 in the “Morning Post,” was addressed directly: “To INVALIDS and to all Persons of Delicate Constitution,” and mentioned specialties that included: “CONCENTRATED BEEF TEA, CHICKEN and MUTTON BROTH.”
A more extensive menu of Brand’s specialties as well as imported items he offered can be found at the end of a second book he wrote in 1838 called “The Modern Process for the Preservation of all Alimentary Substances.”
Certainly a noted chef and author, Brand was apparently not as adept in business and in August, 1843 the “London Gazette” included him on a list of “BANKRUPTS.”
A story in the January 1, 1855 edition of London’s “Daily News” suggests that Brand’s business survived the bankruptcy and was still up and running on Stanhope Street at that time.
Mrs. Jane Brand was summoned by the police, under the authority of Lord Palmerston, and pursuant to provision of the new act for abating the smoke nuisance, for using a furnace not so constructed as to consume its own smoke.
The defendant is a preserved provision and meat compressor, No. 11 Little Stanhope-street, near Newport Market…
That same year Brand sold the business and over the next eighteen years it would change hands twice. The weekly notes of an 1877 court case “heard and determined by the House of Lords” entitled “Dence vs Mason,” provided the basics.
The facts of this case were that the plaintiffs firm originated about forty five years ago, when it was conducted by Henderson William Brand, and was about the year 1855 acquired by Mr. Withall, who, on the 29th of September, 1873, sold the same to Thomas Dence for the sum of 5,000 (pounds). The business has always been carried under the name of Brand & Co.
After selling the business Brand apparently served as a chef in several different capacities during the late 1850’s and 1860’s. It was during this time, while serving as cook and co-manger at the International Exhibition in Hyde Park that he developed his A 1 Sauce.
Later in the decade he would also serve as manager of the “Jersey Imperial Hotel,” as evidenced by an August 31, 1867 story in the “Gloucestershire Chronicle.”
THE JERSEY IMPERIAL HOTEL. – The Jersey Imperial Hotel, at the opening of which we gave an account some months ago, has just been seen to perfection in connection with a splendid ball and supper given by officers of the 66th Regiment. “Seen from the road,” we are told, “the hotel, being most tastefully illuminated with gas, had a fairy-like appearance, and hundreds of persons had gathered there to admire it. The hall and dining rooms, profusely decorated with flowers, and presenting a very elegant appearance, were very much admired by those who had received invitations.” The company numbered 270. The supper was perfect, and the arrangements were ably carried out by Mr. H.W. Brand, the manager.
Shortly after, likely sometime in the early 1870’s, Brand went into business for himself again, this time as H.W. Brand & Co. and, as early as 1872 was advertising Brand’s International Sauce, “The A 1 of 1862,” along with many of his former products. Two, “Essence of Beef” and “Concentrated Beef Tea,” are specifically mentioned in this October 5, 1872 advertisement found in the “Pharmaceutical Journal and Transactions Advertiser.”
His newly established business was initially located at 4a, Villa Road, Brixton,S.W., where it remained until 1880 at which time the May 25th edition of London’s “The Standard” announced that he had moved the business to 21 Sackville Street, Piccadilly
One year later, an item published in the June 27, 1881 edition of “The London Times” announced that H.W.Brand had moved again, this time to 6 Vere Street, Oxford Street.
All the while, his former business, Brand & Co., now owned by Thomas Dence and managed by a man named John James Mason, continued to operate at 11 Little Stanhope Street and with the exception of A 1 Sauce was selling many of the same named products as H.W. Brand. This advertisement for Brand & Co. that appeared in the February 21, 1877 edition of the “The Medical Press and Circular Advertiser” specifically mentioned “Essence of Beef” and “Concentrated Beef Tea,” among others.
Competition between the two firms led to a High Court ruling restricting H.W. Brand from including the word “Company” in the name of his business. Consequently, Brand operated under the name “H.W. Brand,” while Dence continued under the original name of “Brand & Co.” The decision was highlighted in this H.W. Brand advertisement published in the June 18, 1880 edition of London’s “Daily News.”
The competition between H.W. Brand and Brand & Co. continued for the next several years; a competition that might be best illustrated by the presence of each in London’s 1884 “International Health Exhibition” where the Official Catalog listed them right next to each other in the index.
and their product information was strikingly similar.
By the early 1880’s, Brand & Co., in an obvious effort to compete with H.W. Brands A 1 Sauce, was advertising what they called “Brand & Co.’s “Own Sauce.”
The competition between the two firms came to an end sometime in the mid 1880’s, when it appears that Brand & Co. bought out H. W. Brand. While I can’t find specific documentation, this supposition is supported by the following: First, H.W. Brand newspaper advertisements disappear sometime in 1884. Secondly, by 1887 Brand & Co. newspaper advertisements had substituted “A 1 Sauce” for “Own Sauce” in their advertisements…
…and this March 9, 1889 advertisement found in “The Freemason,” calls out 11 Little Stanhope as the product’s “sole address.
Last but not least, born in 1805, Henderson William Brand was in his 80’s by this time. (He ultimately passed away in 1893.)
In 1887 Brand & Co. constructed a new factory in Vauxhall, London at 74-84 South Lambeth Road. According to an article featuring Brand & Co. published in the May, 1914 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era:”
The business had grown to such proportions that the factory in Mayfair was not large enough to cope with the orders. It became necessary to find a suitable site for the erection of premises on a much vaster scale and the site on which the present establishment stands was selected. This is situated in historical surroundings in Vauxhall in close proximity to the river Thames and only a few minutes’ train ride from Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, and within a few minutes walk of Lambeth Palace, the residence of the Bishop of London.
A tour through the buildings is both instructive and interesting. One is especially struck by the spaciousness, loftiness and ariness of the various departments. The great “kitchen,” the vast hall in which, at the time of your representative’s visit, the “cooks” were at work carving the finest meat procurable and transferring it to huge steam-jacketed “coppers” in which the processes of extraction are carried on, is a model of cleanliness. It is shown in the illustration herewith.
The business incorporated in 1897 with Thomas Dence named as “permanent managing director.” The incorporation notice was published in the October 9, 1897 edition of “The Chemist and Druggist.”
Over half a century later an item in the November 3, 1949 edition of the South Wales “Western Mail” announced that the company had gone public.
For the first time in the company’s 114 years’ history the public will be able to acquire an interest in Brand & Co., makers of “Brand’s Essence’ and “A1 Sauce.” Arrangements are being made by British Trusts Association for the placing of the 150,000 5% Redeemable preference 1 (pound) shares, and a quotation is being sought.
Ten years later, Brand & Co. became a target for acquisition. An item in the July 4, 1959 edition of London’s “Daily Telegraph and Morning Post” told the story.
Cerebos, the salt company which also owns “Bits” and “Sifta” salt, has made a counter take-over offer worth about 4 million (pounds), for Brand & Co., the “A 1” sauce firm. Earlier this week a 3 million (pound) bid was made by an unnamed company.
Lt.-Col. J.E. Ridley, chairman of Brand, and his co-directors are recommending the Cerebos offer.
Later that month, on August 25th, Nottingham’s “Guardian Journal” reported that the Cerebos take-over had succeeded.
In Britain, Brand & Company was still advertising both Brand’s Essence of Beef and A1 Sauce right up to the time of acquisition. The following ads published in the early 1950’s were typical of the time period.
As a member of the Cerebos Group of Companies, the business continued to operate under the Brand & Co. name and while newspaper ads for their their A 1 Sauce were becoming less frequent the product was still available in British grocery stores, as evidenced by this item that appeared in the financial pages of the “Evening Post” on December 28, 1967.
That being said, their Vauxhall factory was lost to a consolidation sometime in 1967; a fact mentioned by the Cerebo chairman in a statement made in advance of the company’s sixty third annual general meeting. The statement was published in the May 8, 1967 edition of “The Guardian.”
…We have made further progress in our program to consolidate production within the larger units of the Group….The transfer of production to our Greatham factory has been successfully completed and during the current year the Brand’s factory at Vauxhall will be closed and the production transferred to Greatham…
A year later, The July 3, 1968 edition of “The Guardian” announced that Cerebos had been acquired by Rank Hovis McDougall.
Rank Hovis McDiugall, the giant flour milling, baking, and food manufacturing group is merging with Cerebos, the salt (Cerebos and Saxa), Bisto and Scott’s Porage Oats combine. The deal will create a group worth 180 million (pounds).
Shortly after the merger there’s little, if any, mention of Brand’s A 1 Sauce or Brand’s Essence in British newspapers.
Today, Brand’s Essence of Chicken is manufactured by “Suntory Beverage and Food.” According the their web site the product is only available in Asia but apparently its also available on Amazon.
How close it comes to the beverage Henderson William Brand served King George IV almost 200 years ago is anybody’s guess!
In the United States, the introduction of A 1 Sauce dates back to the 1890’s and is generally credited to the Hartford Connecticut firm of G.F. Heubling & Brother. According to a 75th anniversary feature on the company published in the April 30, 1950 edition of the “Hartford Courant,” the company got its start in 1862 when Andrew Heublein established a small hotel that served both fine food and liquors. The feature went on to say:
In 1875, Andrew stepped aside and let his two sons, Gilbert and Louis. take control of the organization. The two brothers began importing choice viands, vintage wines and liquors from France, Spain and Italy, and it wasn’t too long before “The House of Heublein” had established a name for fine products.
Later, 1n 1892 the company added another line of business bottling pre-made cocktails they called “Club Cocktails.”
As early as the Spring of 1895 an advertisement for their “Club Cocktails” also included a reference to Brand & Co.’s A1 Sauce, naming G. F. Heublein & Bro. as “sole agents for the United States.” The advertisement, offering a sample bottle of A 1 Sauce for 15 cents, appeared in both an April, 1895 issue of “Life” and May, 1895 issue of “Puck”magazines.
Over the next 20 years or so “A 1” advertisements in the U.S. named Hueblein as the “sole importer” of the sauce. Advertisements from 1905 published in the “Bulletin of the Hartford Public Library” and 1912 in the “American Federalist” bear this out.
Sometime in the late teens Heublein began manufacturing Brand’s A 1 Sauce in the United States. According to the 75th anniversary feature on Heublein in the “Hartford Courant,” it was World War I that served as the catalyst for this change.
At the start of World War I, shipments of A1 Sauce from England became increasingly sporadic. Heublein made a satisfactory agreement with the Brand organization and began manufacture of the condiment in Hartford.
Several rears later, that agreement turned out to be a blessing for Heublein.
When the National Prohibition Act was passed in 1919, Heublein’s liquor plant closed down. Fortunately the A 1 business continued good and key personnel were transferred there.
By the early 1930’s, not only was it being manufactured in the U.S. but it was being advertised and sold there on a national scale, a fact that was emphasized to grocers in this October, 1931 advertisement published in the “National Grocers Bulletin.”
It’s surprising how easily grocers can add this extra sale of flavor… this flavor that goes with nearly every food they sell. Millions of housewives know A.1. Sauce…National advertising is reminding them of it every month. There are lots of easy profits in suggesting A.1. Sauce. Try this…and see! G.F. Heublein & Brother, Hartford, Conn.
Sometime in the 1960’s A 1 advertisements began to focus almost exclusively on beef and as such it was rebranded “A 1 Steak Sauce.”
By the 1980’s, Heublein had grown from a small 1860’s hotel that served wine and liquors into a $2 billion a year corporation that in addition to A 1 included brands like Smirnoff Vodka and Kentucky Fried Chicken. An early 1980’s breakdown of their products and sales was published in the June 2, 1982 edition of the “Miami Herald.”
It was around this time that Heublein was acquired by R.J Reynolds Industries. The acquisition was reported in the July 30, 1982 edition of the “Hartford Courant.”.
Saying it was unlikely the company could have remained independent much longer, Hicks B. Waldron, chairman of Heublein Inc., announced Thursday that the longtime Connecticut food and beverage company will be merged into R.J. Reynolds Industries Inc., the giant tobacco, shipping and canning conglomerate.
The merger would create a $14 billion concern that will rank 26th at the Fortune 500 list ahead of Chrysler Corp. and closing in on Proctor & Gamble Co. It will rival Hartford’s United Technologies Corp. in size.
The companies made the announcement separately Thursday afternoon, confirming rumors of a merger between the two that had existed for about six months and which grew to a feverish pitch early this week. The transaction is valued at about $1.3 billion.
R.J. Reynolds is a $12 billion company, about six times Heublein’s size.
A 1 is now manufactured in the U.S. by Kraft-Heinz who in 2014 revived the original “A 1 Sauce” name. According to a May 15, 2014 Kraft-Heinz press release:
In the 1960’s, the brand shifted focus to beef and the product was renamed A1 Steak Sauce. Now, with the original product formula remained unchanged, the brand is removing “Steak” from its name and launching a new creative campaign that shows A 1 Sauce is great for pork, chicken, fish and vegetables.
Today, both the “original” and “Steak Sauce” names are utilized by the company as evidenced by this recent Amazon ad.
The bottle I found is 7-1/2 inches tall and roughly 1-1/2 inches square. Machine made, it’s embossed “Brand & Co., Ltd., Mayfair” on the base.
That being said the Illinois Glass Company’s makers mark of an “I” inside a diamond is also faintly visible on the base, indicating that the bottle was American made. The Illinois Glass Company used this mark between 1915 and 1929, indicating that the bottle was more than likely ordered by Heublein & Co., after they began manufacturing “The A 1 Sauce,” say late teens through 1929.