E. Hartshorn & Sons manufactured both patent medicines and flavoring extracts in Boston, Massachusetts from 1870 up through 1930. The roots of the business however date back to the 1850’s and a physician named Edward Hartshorn.
Born in 1817 in New Hampshire, by the late 1830’s Hartshorn was living in Reading, Massachusetts where, according to his biographical entry in the “History of the Town of Berlin, Worcester County, Mass., from 1784 to 1895”
Edward walked back and forth from there to the Medical College of Harvard University; graduating there in 1840. He settled in Berlin the same year, being 23 years of age, the youngest physician in the county.
Embossing on the subject bottle suggests that 10 years later, in 1850, he established his manufacturing business. That being said, I suspect that any manufacturing done during the early 1850’s was quite limited and simply done in connection with Hartshorn’s medical practice.
That apparently changed sometime in 1854 when Hartshorn went into a short-lived partnership with another Harvard educated physician, Dr. Lemuel Gott. According to Gott’s biographical entry in the “History of Berlin:”
…He practiced in Rockport from 1836 to 1854; at the latter date he removed to Berlin and went into partnership with Dr. E. Hartshorn in the manufacture of medicines and family extracts, and also in medical practice. They soon dissolved the copartnership and (Gott) continued as the sole resident physician (in Berlin) to the time of his death.
While Gott continued as Berlin’s sole resident physician, Hartshorn also remained in Berlin and continued to manufacture medicines and extracts. Then, sometime in 1866 or 1867, Hartshorn opened what appears to be a retail store at 132 Water Street in Boston Massachusetts. This advertisement in the 1867 Boston city directory named him the “proprietor” of “Hartshorn’s Family Medicines.”
Around the same time that that he opened up shop in Boston advertisements for one of his family medicines, ” Hartshorn’s Bitters,” began appearing in several New England newspapers. Touting the bitters as the “Key to Health, the ads appeared in several local newspapers in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and Vermont. The following was found in the June 19, 1868 edition of Bedford, Maine’s “Union and Journal.”
At this point, Hartshorn’s sons, Edward H. Hartshorn, Jr., and William H. Hartshorn, were also involved in the business; both listed with the occupation “clerk” at the 132 Water Street address.
Three years later, “Dr. E Hartshorn & Sons,”was established with sons Edward H., Jr. and William H. named as partners. Located at 18 Blackstone Street in Boston, the partnership was listed for the first time in Boston’s 1870 city directory. That year their directory advertisement no longer mentioned a Berlin laboratory so it appears by then the entire operation had been consolidated in Boston.
In the early 1870’s the company’s menu of “Family Medicines” included products with names that included “Dr. Hartshorn’s Cough Balsam,” for all pulmonary complaints; “Dr. Hartshorn’s Never Failing,” for every pain…
…and “Dr. Hartshorn’s Peristaltic Lozenges,” the most perfect, agreeable and effective cure for every form of Indigestion and the only cure for the Piles, either bleeding or otherwise.
That being said, an advertisement that appeared in the 1871 Boston Almanac suggested that their bitters was at the top of the “Family Medicine” list.
In case you’re interested, the advertisement followed up their sales pitch with this list of ingredients. (What’s not mentioned is the fact that the bitters also contained over 22% alcohol by volume.)
The company only remained at the 18 Blackstone Street address for several years, moving to 71 Blackstone Street, sometime in the mid-1870’s where they shared a building with a brewery. A description of the building appeared under the heading “Real Estate Matters,” in the June 16, 1891 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript.” The building’s size suggests that Hartshorn’s operation was not all that large.
The building is a four-story brick store with granite front, and is numbered 69 and 71 Blackstone Street, and extends through to North Centre Street. Its measurement front and rear is practically twenty feet, while the building extends back about seventy-two feet. It is now occupied by the Norfolk Brewing Company and Edward Hartshorn & Sons, manufacturers of medicines and flavoring extracts, the annual rental paid on the building being $2,575.
By the 1890’s newspaper advertisements for “Hartshorn’s Bitters” had pretty much vanished (likely due to pressure from the temperance movement), while advertisements for “Hartshorn’s Cough Balsam” were beginning to gain traction. This ‘Hartshorn’s Cough Balsam” ad touting the company’s 40 year history appeared in several December, 1892 editions of the “Fall River (Mass) Daily Herald.”
A Tree Planted Forty Years Ago!
Is Now Bearing Wonderful Fruit.
The company also continued to manufacture extracts as evidenced by this 1892 advertisement that appeared in the The Somerville Journal’s Semi-Centennial Souvenir edition.
Around 1910 the company moved from its long time home on Blackstone Street to 220 Milk Street, where they were first listed in the 1911 Boston city directory. This advertisement exhibiting their Milk Street address appeared in the 1914 “ETA Cook Book.”
Up through the mid-1920’s the company remained closely held by the Hartshorn family. Edward, Jr. had passed away in 1887, leaving William as the sole surviving partner. Edward, Sr., apparently semi-retired, continued to be listed at the 71 Blackstone Street address as a physician through much of the 1890’s. He ultimately passed away in 1906.
William H. Hartshorn remained at the head of the firm until he passed away on February 3, 1926. That same year, likely as a result of his death, the business incorporated under the name E. Hartshorn & Sons, Inc. The 1926 Boston city directory named William’s son, James H. Hartshorn, as the corporation’s treasurer. He had joined the business as a clerk sometime in the mid-1890’s; the third generation of Hartshorn’s to be involved with the business.
A list of Hartshorn products on the market at around the time the business incorporated appeared in Randolph, Vermont’s “Herald & News.” They could be purchased at W. F. Blood’s North Main Grocery Store in Randolph.
As far as I can tell, the great depression put an end to the Hartshorn business. Hartshorn advertisements, as well as their product listings in local drug and grocery store newspaper advertisements, completely disappear in 1930 and by 1931, a June 13 item in the “Boston Globe” indicated that the business was in receivership.
In 1932 and up through 1935, the business did continue to be listed in the Boston city directories at 220 Milk Street with J. Gordon MacLeod then named as both president and treasurer. That being said, I can’t find any evidence that the business was active during this period. By 1936 the company’s no longer listed in Boston.
The bottle I found is a small pharmacy bottle. Mouth blown it likely dates to the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. Newspaper advertising for Hartshorn’s Cough Balsam was increasing at that time so it’s certainly one possibility for its use. It could also have contained one of their flavoring extracts.