The American Apothecaries Company manufactured the patent medicine “Salvitae” during the first half of the 20th Century.
The first mention of the American Apothecaries Company that I can find was in 1904 when the business incorporated in the State New York. Their incorporation notice was published in the New York Times on November 30, 1904.
American Apothecaries, New York (medicines) capital, $150,000. Directors W. F. Grier, T. F. Kelleghan, A. S Grier, New York.
The company was always located in the Long Island City/Astoria sections of New York City’s Borough of Queens. Initially located at 272 Flushing Avenue (1904 to circa 1926), later (1926 through much of the 1940’s) they would list two addresses; 299 Ely Avenue and 35-08 Astoria Avenue. I suspect, one was their office, the other their manufacturing facility.
Not long after incorporating American Apothecaries Company was advertising several different proprietary medicines to the medical profession as evidenced by this 1908 business card found in the Pharmaceutical Era’s 1908 “Drug Trade Directory.”
That being said, almost all of their advertising focused on “Salvitae,” whose purported curative properties were described in the following 1908 advertisement found in the “California Medical Journal.”
Gout, rheumatism, constipation, biliousness, recurrent headache, mental depression, subnormal metabolism, languor and in fact, innumerable local and general deviations from the normal state are frequently the direct effect of excrementitious materials.
Immediate and durable relief of such disturbances is best achieved by the administration of an agent that is capable of normalizing combustion, promoting elimination and augmenting the constructive processes. Salvitae, which is an effervescent salt embracing uric-solvent, waste-dispelling, laxative and diuretic agents, is unquestionably the most potent product evolved for the relief of systemic disturbances arising from the excessive production or inadequate elimination of waste materials. Its antirheumatic, laxative, diuretic properties and stimulating action upon the excretory apparatus is unequalled.
According to another advertisement, this one found in a 1907 publication called “Dental Items of Interest,” Salvitae was of great benefit to the dental profession as well.
The deposit of serumal or salivary calculi in or about the alveoli is a common cause of Soft, Flabby, Bleeding and Receding Gums.
In conjunction with mechanical treatment, it is distinctly advantageous to administer an agent that will bring about the disintegration of these deposits and prevent their recurrence.
In as much as these deposits are, in the main, due to the systemic retention of an excess of uric acid, it is markedly wise to employ a uric-solvent and eliminant. By increasing the uric-solvent power of the blood and raising its alkalinity to a normal degree, such an agent affects the dissolution of calico concretions and precludes their reformation. Salvitae is unquestionably the most powerful uric-solvent extant. It arrests the over-production of uric acid, disintegrates uratic concretions, promotes metabolism and renders the blood normally alkaline.
Needless to say the product’s claims caught the attention of the authorities and on at least three occasions, (1908, 1919 and 1941) the product was declared mis-branded. Partial documentation from the 1919 incident follows:
7293. Misbranding of Salvitae. U.S. v. The American Apothecaries Co. Plea of Guilty. Fine $200.
On July 17, 1919, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, acting upon a report by the Secretary of Agriculture, filed in the District Court of the United States for said district an information against the American Apothecaries Co., a corporation, Astoria, N.Y., alleging shipment by said company, in violation of the Food and Drugs Act, as amended on May 25, 1918, from the State of New York into the Island of Porto Rico, of a quantity of an article, labeled in part “Salvitae.” which was mis-branded…
…It was alleged in substance in the information that the article was misbranded for the reason that certain statements appearing on the labels of the bottles containing the article and on the wrapper around said bottles, falsely and fraudulently represented it to be effective as a treatment, remedy and cure for gout, rheumatism, Bright’s disease, Rigg’s disease, stomatitis, recession of the gums, urethritis, cystitis, gravel, inflammatory affections of the urinary passages and diseases that are produced by uric acid, inactivity of the kidneys, renal or hepatic calcull or incontinence and gingivitis, as a uric acid solvent, urinary antiseptic and diuretic and intestinal antiseptic, to fortify the system against the millions of dangerous microbes, and to restore lost health and preserve one from disease, when, in fact, it was not.
This attention from the government authorities doesn’t appear to have had much impact on business. As early as the mid-teens, in addition to marketing Salvitae to the medical and dental professions, the company was going directly to the public as well, with the product appearing sporadically in the price lists of drug store advertisements published in local U. S. and Canadian newspapers. This Salvitae mention was included in a full page “Owl Drug Company” advertisement found in the April 7, 1914 edition of the “Los Angele Evening Express.”
Around the same time the company was also extending their reach south of the border, where Salvitae was being sold with a Spanish language label. This advertisement, exhibiting the Spanish label appeared in a 1915 publication called “”Puerto Rico Illustrado.”
When the manufacture of Salvitae was discontinued is not exactly clear. A specific advertisement for its use was still appearing as late as 1951 in Binghamton New York’s “Press & Sun.” Although the advertisement’s language was toned down quite a bit, its theme remained consistent with that of the company’s earliest ads.
By the mid 1950’s Salvitae had disappeared from drug store advertisements in U.S. newspapers, however, in Canada, it was still being sporadically listed in ads up through the mid 1960’s. According to a July 28, 1966 advertisement in the “Montreal Star,” at the time you could still buy a large bottle of Salvitae for $1.52 at the Montreal Pharmacy on St Catherine St. East.
The bottle I found is 5-3/4 inches tall and 2 inches in diameter at the base. It’s machine made and cobalt blue. Its only embossing is on the base and consists of “American Apothecaries Co. New York” embossed in circular fashion along the base perimeter. In addition, “Salvitae” is prominently embossed across the base diameter. I apologize for the lack of a photograph, but all attempts proved absolutely useless.