Sammis & Hentz was a Hempstead, Long Island sarsaparilla and soda manufacturer that was active under that name for much if not all of the 1860’s and early 1870’s. It appears that throughout its history the business was closely associated with the Sammis Tavern.
The name Sammis in Hempstead dates back to the mid-1600’s when the family arrived on Long Island from England. A history of “The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609 to 1924” by Henry Isham Hazelton, published in 1925, made it clear that the Sammis family’s tavern had a long and rich history on Long Island.
The Sammis tavern at Hempstead was built in 1680 and at the time it closed its doors a few years ago it was the oldest inn in the United States. The first member of the Hempstead branch of the Sammis family came to this country from England in 1650, and bought land from the Indians. While his name is not known, his son, Nehemiah, built the inn…
Seven generations of the Sammis family were born in the place, and the very rafters spoke of Indians, of Dutch and English quarrels, of the days of British occupation of Long Island, of Washington as a guest; of the War of 1812, of the Mexican War and the day when Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers, and the boys of Hempstead went there to enlist. A. H. Sammis, the last owner of that name, was of the sixth generation. He was born in the room where his father and grandfather both first saw the light of day.
It stood laterally on Fulton Avenue near the railroad station. The original site was at Main Street and Fulton Avenue. The Avenue was the main coaching road between New York and the eastern end of Long Island.
The tavern, circa 1860, was the subject of this John Evers painting, a reproduction of which was found in the January 1, 2023 edition of Long Island’s “Newsday.”
Born in 1827, it was Lawrence Seaman Sammis who was the early proprietor and possibly founder of the sarsaparilla business. According to the “History of Long Island from its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time,” published in 1903, it was Lawrence Seaman, who:
after attaining manhood was engaged for a number of years in the manufacture of mineral waters.
Census records suggest this occurred as early as 1850 when Lawrence Seaman, then 23 years old, listed his occupation as “merchant.” His younger brother, Charles Augustus, then 18, also listed his occupation as “merchant” suggesting that the brothers may have been in business together at that point.
The 1903 “History of Long Island” goes on to say that Lawrence Seaman subsequently moved to Jamaica for a short time and later Brooklyn, before ultimately settling in Mineola, Long Island in 1877. He’s listed in the Brooklyn directories as early as 1856, suggesting he had vacated Hempstead by the mid-1850’s.
This apparently left the sarsaparilla business in the hands of Charles Augustus, who in the 1859 Long Island directory (the earliest I can find) was listed as a “sarsaparilla manufacturer,” with an address in the same general location as the Sammis Tavern at “Main Street, opposite the R.R. Depot.”
Sometime in the early 1860’s, Charles Augustus, having been appointed as a sheriff in Queens County, apparently formed a partnership with Henry Hentz to manage the sarsaparilla business. Long Island directories from the 1860’s that I’ve been able to find (1864-65, 1865-66, 1867-68, 1868-69) all list Sammis & Hentz as a “sarsaparilla manufacturer” with an address of Main St., opposite the R.R. Depot. That being said, in 1860, Henry Hentz listed his occupation as “manufacturer” in census records, so it’s possible, even likely, that the Sammis & Hentz partnership began as early as 1860.
Sammis & Hentz was still listed on Main St., opposite the R.R. Depot in the 1871 -72 Long Island directory.
The bottle I found is a mouth blown pony. Sadly it’s broken off at the neck and the finish is missing. It dates to the Sammis/Hentz partnership, sometime in the 1860’s or early 1870’s.
One final note of interest; the bottle’s actual embossing misspelled the name “Hempstead” as “Hemstead.”
I’ve chosen to spell it correctly in the title of this post.