The French phrase, “Huile D Olive,” translates to “Olive Oil,” so it’s apparent that the subject bottle contained olive oil produced in Grasse, France by the firm of Bertrand Freres (Bertrand Brothers).
Founded in 1858 by two brothers, Baptistin and Emelien Bertrand, this 19th century engraving of their factory found in the Municipal Archives of Grasse, described the business as:
Fabricants D’ Essences Fines & De Matieres Premieres Pour Parfumerie
or, courtesy of “Google Translate:”
Manufacturers Of Fine Essences & Raw Materials for Perfumery
The business would operate in Grasse under the Bertrand Freres name for well over 100 years.
Located in Southern France, an August 24, 1926 story found in a publication called “Drug Markets,” referred to Grasse as “the heart of the world’s perfume industry.” The story opened with this description of the town which serves to provide some context to the company’s history.
Located about 20 kilometers from Cannes, with an altitude of 692 feet, the town of Grasse is situated in the heart of the flower-growing district of France, and hence might very well be considered the center of France’s perfume industry. And to the extent that other countries depend on France for their oils, pomades and concentrates for their raw materials in manufacturing perfumes, this town of 19,700 inhabitants may be called the heart of the world’s perfume industry…
In this town are located such well-known French houses as Etablissement Antoine Chris, Charabot & Co., Lautier Fils, Pilar Freres, Roure-Bertrand Fils, Bertrand Freres, and others.
Plants are located in Grasse, and these houses either buy their flowers from the peasants, or grow them themselves, and here manufacture their oils, concentrates or pomades as the case may be.
An advertisement that appeared in the May 1, 1865 edition of a British publication called the “Pharmaceutical Journal & Transactions,” provided this menu of products the company manufactured during its first decade.
While the above menu fails to mention olive oil, Bertrand Freres was certainly producing it from the very beginning as evidenced by what is almost certainly the company’s initial directory listing found in the 1859 Industry Trade Directory-Almanac under the heading “District of Grasse.”
Translated, the listing reads as follows:
Bertrand Brothers, new improvements for the rectification of essences of mint, anise, etc., distilled waters of bitter orange blossoms, lemons from Portugal; olive oils and all the products of the South.
Sometime in the early 1870’s the Bertrand brothers turned control of the business over to a partnership headed by Hubert Schlienger. He, and later his son Emile Schlienger, would serve as senior partners in the firm up through at least 1940.
It appears that it was also in the 1870’s that the business began to focus their attention on the U. S. market as evidenced by this news item that appeared in the March 21. 1878 edition of the “Detroit Free Press.”.
Henry Fielding, representative of the essential oil house of Bertrand Freres, Grasse, France, was in the city yesterday. He received several large orders from some of the wholesale drug and perfumery establishments of the city.
It was also in the 1870’s that the company’s products began appearing in United States newspaper advertisements. An advertisement touting their “concentrated essences” appeared in the March 9, 1876 edition of the “Yorkville (York, S. C.) Enquirer.”
Another, this one headlining their olive oil, appeared in the March 25, 1878 edition of Connecticut’s Hartford Courant.
In 1898 and 1899, Fraser, Viger & Co., a self described “grocer and wine merchant” located in French speaking Montreal, Canada, advertised their olive oil using the French wording embossed on the subject bottle:”HUILE d OLIVE.”
A feature on the business published in the May 11, 1911 edition of the “American Perfumer,” depicted their turn of the century Grasse factory, and made it clear that by then their distribution was “world-wide,” specifically referring to the United States and Canada as two of their “chief markets.”
The house of Bertrand Freres, which has won such an enviable reputation in the perfumery trade, was founded in 1858 by two brothers named Baptistin and Emilien Bertrand, who laid the foundation upon which a world-wide trade of extensive proportions has since been built. The chief markets catered to however are Paris, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States…
The house has long had agents practically all over the world, and more recently has invaded South America, where headquarters for the continent have been established in Santiago de Chile…
The spacialties manufactured by the firm are extracts, solid and liquid concretes, floral ottos for confectioners and most of the high grade essential oils.
The company’s U. S. agent at the turn of the century was Clayton Rockhill who, according to his biography published in the 1918 edition of “The Cyclopedia of American Biography, Volume VIII, founded his business in 1884. In 1895, the New York City Copartnership and Corporation Directory identified Rockhill as the “agent for Bertrand Freres, Grasse, France.” The 1890 Copartnership and Corporation Directory simply referred to him as a merchant so it’s likely that their relationship began sometime in the early 1890’s.
This early advertisemt associating Rockhill with Bertrand Freres appeared in the April 1, 1897 edition of the “American Soap Journal & Perfume Gazette.
Originally located at 30 Platt Street, Rockhill’s business moved to 114 John Street around 1900. Then in 1906 he formed a partnership with Carl Louis Vietor. Their partnership notice appeared in the March 1, 1906 edition of the “Soap Gazette and Perfumer.”
A copartnership has been formed between Clayton Rockhill and Carl L. Vietor, both of this city, under the firm name of Rockhill & Vietor, to carry on the general shipping and commission business which has been carried on by Mr. Rockhill. Mr. Vietor, who is the son of George F. Vietor, a well-known dry goods merchant of this city, has been with Mr. Rockhill for two years.
An advertisement in the same March 1 edition of the “Soap Gazette and Perfumer” made it clear that their business relationship with Bertrand Feres remained unchanged.
Sometime in 1912 Rockhill & Vietor moved to 22 Cliff Street where the company was listed up through 1921. During this time, Bertrand Freres apparently managed a separate olive oil branch managed by importer Chandros Weddle at his office at 100 Hudson Street. This entry in the 1915 Copartnership and Corporation Directory associated Rockhill and Vietor with the perfume business and Weddle with olive oil, and was typically how Bertrand Freres was listed beginning in 1912.
In 1922 Rockhill & Vietor announced a move to new quarters in the February edition of the “American Perfumer.”
Rockhill and Vietor, established in John Street (actually 30 Platt) in 1884 by the late Clayton Rockhill and now at 22 Cliff Street, will move to new quarters in the near future, combining the oil department with its other branches at 62 Grand Street.
Two months later, Rockhill & Vietor was dissolved (Rockhill had passed away in 1918), and replaced by a new firm, P. R. Dreyer, located not on Grand Street but Beekman Street.
Confused? Hopefully this May 1, 1922 story in the “Soap Gazette and Perfumer” will serve to clarify.
Due to the liquidation of the firm of Rockhill & Vietor, New York, P. R. Dreyer, who has been manager of the essential oil department of the company for several years, has been appointed American and Canadian agent for Bertrand Freres, Grasse, France, and American agent for N. V. Chemische Fabric Naarden, Bussum, Holland, which firms Rockhill and Vietor represented heretofore.
Mr. Dreyer has been associated with the essential oil industry for more than twenty years and enjoys an extensive acquaintance among the members of the soap, perfume and allied trades, particularly in the East and Middle-West.
The new headquarters of Mr. Dreyer are located at 109-111 Beekman Street, New York City.
Up through 1925 and possibly longer, NYC directories continued to associate Chandros Weddle with Bertrand Freres at his 100 Hudson Street location so it appears that the olive oil business remained separate and distinct.
Meanwhile, back in Grasse at around the same time, the company was in the process of expanding their physical plant. According to the French “Ministre De La Culture” web site:
Like other perfumery companies the company Bertrand Freres had an annex site built in the early 1920’s dedicated to extraction by volatile solvents. There are two main reasons for the construction of this new site: to move the extraction workshops away from the inhabited areas and to avoid overloading the site of the parent plant with its already very dense buildings by adding new constructions. The annex establishment is built on a rose plantation that the company owned.
The new facility, constructed adjacent to their existing facility, was described in a December, 1922 feature published the American Perfumer.
Bertrand Frteres are now occupying their enlarged factory at Grasse, France, which was completed last Spring, thus adding with a modern concrete fire-proof structure, another fitting milestone in the history of this well known concern…
The new factory has three stories appropriately arranged to carry on manufacturing processes with the least waste of effort. Perhaps the most striking things to catch the eye of the visitor are the tiled walls, the abundance of natural light and the scrupulous cleanliness maintained throughout the factory. The most modern machinery and equipment have been installed, it is stated, and safety devices are freely employed. Above the third floor there is an oriental pavilion for entertaining guests. The boiler house occupies a unit by itself quite distinct from the factory proper and the fluted smoke stack rises far above the highest point in the factory where any manufacturing processes are conducted, preventing any possible damage by smoke.
The feature included several views of the newly enlarged factory.
Shown clockwise from the top left are: rectifying stills; general view of the plant; a group of stills; volatile solvent extracting apparatus; entrance to the offices and vacuum stills.
P.R Dreyer advertisements in several 1922 editions of the “American Perfumer” featured the enlarged facility.
Four years later, in 1926, the August 24th edition of “Drug Markets” announced that Bertrand Freres had established an American corporation with Dreyer serving as president.
Bertrand Freres, well known Grasse, France, essential oil house has formed an American branch with headquarters in New York. P. R. Dreyer, of P. R. Dreyer, New York, who has been representing the French company in this country is president of the new company. E. Schlienger, senior partner of the French house is vice president, A. Mueller, a member of the parent concern is secretary-treasurer, and O. C. Ispell is assistant secretary-treasurer. By this division of officers, the American company is able to function in this country with a certain degree of independence while actual control of the company is maintained by the parent concern in Grasse. A more active participation in the American essential oil market is anticipated by this step, and the French company looks for an increased and larger business following this active and aggressive step.
Whether Weddle continued his association with Bertrand Freres and their olive oil after the U. S. incorporation is unclear, however, he continued to be listed at 100 Hudson Street with the occupation of “food products” until he ultimately passed away in 1933. . That being said, I suspect, but can’t confirm, that by the end of the 1926 to 1933 time frame, the company was focused solely on perfumes and essential oils and the distribution of olive oil was all but forgotten in the United States.
Shortly after the incorporation, the November edition of “Drug Markets reported that a fire had forced P. R. Dreyer to move to a new location.
P. R. Dreyer, New York, whose place of business was damaged by fire recently, has leased a 3 – story building at 26 Cliff Street.
Sometime in the late 1930’s they apparently relocated to 12 East 12th Street before moving to 119 W 19th Street, where both Bertrand Freres and P. R. Dreyer were listed together throughout most of the early 1940’s. By the late 1940’s’s the companies were listed with separate addresses with Bertrand Freres located at 111 Broadway in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, and 443 Fourth Avenue in the late 1950’s up through at least 1960.
In 1973 the Bertrand Freres business moved across the Hudson River to Maywood, New Jersey to serve as the U. S. distributor for a Unilever company called Proprietary Perfumes Ltd.. The September 2, 1973 edition of “The (Hackensack, New Jersey) Record” told the story.
New Jersey alone has more than 50 perfume compounding companies. The state has become a center for the industry.
One of the latest entrants into the already crowded New Jersey field is Bertrand Freres Ltd., which moved from New York City to 17 Brook Ave. in Maywood earlier this year.
The firm is the American subsidiary of Bertrand Freres S. A. of Grasse, France – Grasse, north of Cannes, is in an area that has been the perfume center of the world for several centuries.
Bertrand Freres Ltd. moved to New Jersey after getting what its managers referred to as a new lease on life. That lease came in the form of U. S. distribution rights for Proprietary Perfumes Ltd (PPL) of Kent, England. PPL is the perfuming subsidiary of the giant multinational conglomerate Unilever, which is also the parent of Lever brothers, the soap and cosmetic company.
Subsequently Bertrand Freres merged with PPL and another Unilever subsidiary forming “PPF International.” The merger was reported in the February 2, 1982 edition of several U. S. newspapers.
A merger of two British companies and a French firm to form one of the world’s largest fragrance and flavor producers, with annual sales of $200 million was announced yesterday.
Gerald Landers, appointed director of fragrance operations of the company, to be called PPF, said “the U.S. market will be our key growth market,” although the new company’s headquarters will be in Ashford, Kent, England. Landers is marketing director of Ashford’s Proprietary Perfumes Ltd., one of the three merging companies and the fifth largest supplier of fragrance compounds in the world. The other two firms are Food Industries Ltd. of Bromborough, England, and Bertrand Freres of Grasse, France.
As far as I can tell this marked the end of the Bertrand Freres company name.
Later, in 1986, Unilever set it sights on another firm, Naarden International with the intent of merging it with PPF. According to an August 19, 1986 story in London’s “Daily Telegraph:”
Unilever, the Anglo Dutch consumer products group, aims to boost the international status of its specialty chemicals division with a 110 million pound bid for Naarden International, the major Dutch producer of industrial fragrances.
Unilever hopes to combine Naarden with PPF International, its own fragrance group formed in 1982…
The merger was finalized several months later and the following year Unilever combined Naarden and PPF under the name of “Quest International.” According to the the French “Ministre De La Culture,” web site, Quest continued to occupy the Grasse factory site until 1998.
The bottle I found is 10 ounces in size and was blown in a “turn mold.” It sports a blob seal on which the product and company information is presented.
This likely dates it sometime around the turn of the century. Strangely, newspaper advertisements for their olive oil make no mention of a 10 ounce size. In fact, there’s no mention of sizes smaller than a pint. The following is from 1897/1898,
The name “Burnett” embossed on the subject bottles is short for Joseph Burnett, a Boston druggist, who established an apothecary and later manufacturing business in Boston during the mid 1800’s. He’s generally credited with manufacturing and marketing the first commercially available flavoring extracts in the United States.
His chief product, Burnett’s Vanilla Extract, was still being offered for sale under his name in the late 1970’s.
A story in the November 1, 1881 edition of The Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel relayed this commonly held version of the product’s origin.
The extensive business of this house, which has extended to nearly every civilized country in the world, had its origin in what might be called an incident, or an accident some thirty years ago. At that time Mr. Joseph Burnett, the founder of the house was doing a large apothecary business on Tremont Street, opposite the Boston Museum.
A lady who had lived in France and had become accustomed to French methods of cookery, came into Mr. Burnett’s store one day and asked him if he could not make a decent Flavoring Extract for her, as she found those in common use abominable. She wanted an extract of vanilla. This was made which pleased the lady very much, and from this simple beginning has grown a business…
Likely some combination of both fact and legend, the above serves as a good background for Burnett’s story, a story that starts not with him, but another New England druggist named Theodore Metcalf, who gave Burnett his start in business.
Born in Dedham, Massachusetts on January 21, 1812, Metcalf began his career in the Hartford Connecticut apothecary of E. W. Bull where he initially served as an apprentice and later as Bull’s partner. That partnership was dissolved in January, 1836 with the dissolution notice appearing in the January 23, 1836 edition of the “Hartford Courant.”
According to Metcalf’s obituary, published in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record,” he subsequently moved to Boston and in the Spring of 1837 established an apothecary business at 33 Tremont Row (later called Tremont Street). Not long after he opened the doors Metcalf hired Burnett as a clerk, jump-starting what would ultimately be a long and successful career. A feature on Burnett, published in the October, 1894 edition of a publication called “The Spatula” provided some early details.
Mr. Burnett who was born in Southboro, Mass., in 1819, received as good an education as the schools of those days afforded, and began his career as a pharmacist in 1837 as a clerk in the store of Mr. Metcalf. It was not long before the latter saw the advisability of taking him into partnership which continued until Mr. Burnett became entire owner of the establishment
A notice announcing the transfer of ownership from Metcalf to Burnett, dated January 1, 1845, was published in several January editions of the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal.”
N0. 33 TREMONT ROW, JANUARY 1, 1845
The subscriber has disposed of his stock and place of business to Mr. Joseph Burnett, his principal assistant for the past six years.
To his regular customers no commendation of his successor is necessary, as his competency and accurateness are well known to them, and he respectfully solicits a continuance of their favors to the establishment.
To the medical profession he takes pleasure in saying that the duty of conducting the business could not fall into hands more capable.
JOSEPH BURNETT respectfully informs the medical profession, that he will endeavor, by close attention to business, to sustain the reputation of the old establishment, and to deserve their confidence and favor.
Over the course of the next ten years the business was listed in the Boston directories as simply “Joseph Burnett.” As far as I can tell Burnett operated the business as a sole proprietorship until 1853, at which time he admitted two partners, William W. Goodwin, and Peter J.Hassard. The partnership announcement, dated January 1, 1853, appeared in several January and February editions of Boston’s “Daily Evening Transcript.”
During this ten year period the business primarily served as an importer/wholesaler/retailer for a wide variety of items as evidenced by their advertisement that appeared within Boston’s 1851 Commercial Directory.
Several of the company’s late 1840’s to early 1850’s newspaper advertisements provide a sampling of the products they carried at the time.
The company also marketed a variety of items directly to the medical profession. According to the following 1853 advertisement that appeared in the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal” this included:
genuine drugs, pure chemicals, select powders, superior extracts (both solid and fluid), and other desirable pharmaceutical preparations
In fact, a story written years later in the October 13, 1946 edition of the “Boston Globe” credits Burnett with supplying the “pure sulphuric ether” used by W. T. G. Morton when he performed the first successful operation under anesthesia in 1846.
If that wasn’t enough, you could stop by his apothecary and have a flavored soda if you were so inclined.
Finally, their 1851 directory advertisement also mentioned “extracts for flavoring pies, jellies, etc.,” so they were certainly manufacturing them, though likely on a small scale, during the early 1850’s (some accounts say as early as 1847). That would all change on January 1, 1855 when, in an effort to focus on the manufacturing side of the business, Burnett sold the apothecary back to Theodore Metcalf. A notice announcing the sale appeared in the January 10, 1855 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript.”
Directly adjacent to the dissolution notice was an advertisement for Metcalf’s reacquired apothecary.
Soon after, Burnett partnered with William Otis Edmunds and established the firm of Joseph Burnett & Co. Within a year the company was manufacturing ten different varieties of flavoring extracts as evidenced by this December 20, 1855 advertisement in the “Boston Evening Transcript.”
FLAVORING EXTRACTS. Messrs. Joseph Burnett & Co., Tremont Street, manufacture very superior Flavoring Extracts of perfect purity, and great strength. The articles are guaranteed to be free from the poisonous oils and acids which enter so largely into the composition of many of the fruit flavors now so freely offered in the market. The varieties are Lemon, Orange, Nectarine, Peach, Celery, Vanilla, Bitter Almond, Rose, Nutmeg and Cinnamon. For family use in blanc mange, custards, pies, etc., or for confectioners and hotel keepers to use in ice creams, jellies, etc. They are not only true to their names but are prepared from fruits of the best quality, and are so highly concentrated that only a small quantity is required. They have all the freshness and delicate flavor of the choice fruits from which they are prepared.
A list published in a July, 2, 1859 “Boston Evening Transcript” advertisement, indicated that by then the menu had been upped to 12 by adding ginger and cloves.
More than just flavoring extracts, by the late 1850’s the company was also manufacturing several medicines and toiletries, all of which were advertised together as “Burnett’s Standard Preparations.”
In case you’re interested here’s an alphabetized list of uses that “Burnett’s Standard Preparations” were touted to address. The list appeared in the 1866 edition of their annual marketing publication called “Burnett’s Floral Handbook and Ladies Calendar.” .
Joseph Burnett & Co. was initially listed in 1856 and 1857 at 41 Tremont where they were literally next door to (or cohabitated with?) Metcalf’s apothecary. In fact, this early Burnett advertisement for “Kalliston,” that appeared in the April 14, 1856 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” named Metcalf as one of Burnett’s first retailers.
That being said, Burnett apparently outgrew his Tremont facilities rather quickly and by 1857 moved the company to 27 Central Street where, by 1881, a November 1st feature on the business in the “Fitchburg Sentinel” described a company whose production of vanilla extract alone consumed one fourth of the entire Mexican product. The feature went on to say:
Some fifty persons are now directly employed by the concern in the varied work of bottling, labeling, packing and boxing their various Flavoring Extracts and Toilet Preparations, all of which are of altogether superior nature.
By this time, Burnett’s sons Harry, and John M. were actively involved in the business and in fact as early as 1882 the Boston directories name them, not Joseph, as the company principals. This suggests that while it was likely that Joseph continued to oversee the business, by then it was his sons who were running its day to day operations.
Ultimately full authority passed to the brothers in 1894 when Joseph Burnett died in a tragic accident. The August 13, 1894 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” told the story.
Dr. Joseph Burnett of Southboro, well-known in Boston, was fatally injured at Marlboro yesterday afternoon. He was driving on Maple Street and when near the electric car station his horse became frightened by an electric car and Dr. Burnett was thrown out, striking upon his head. He was taken to his country home at Southboro in an unconscious condition and died at seven o’clock last evening.
That same year the business moved again, this time to 36 India Street, where, now incorporated, it was listed in the 1895 Boston directories with a new name; the Joseph Burnett Company. The directories named John M., president and Harry, treasurer, that first year.
It was also in the early 1890’s that the company began advertising a line of food coloring’s called “Burnett’s Color Pastes.”
For coloring Ice Creams, Frostings, Jellies, Custards and all kinds of confectionery.
This 1898 advertisement that appeared in the “Boston Cooking School Magazine” advertised their Extracts and Color Pastes side by side. The advertisement provided this menu of their colored pastes: Leaf Green, Fruit Red, Golden Yellow, Damask Rose, Carmel, Chestnut, Imperial Blue and Mandarin Orange.
By the turn of the century the business was emphasizing their extracts and color pastes at the expense of their medicines and toilet preparations, some of which were likely being scrutinized as a result of the food and drug laws being enacted around that time. One clue supporting this shift in focus is evident in the font size used in the company’s advertisement that appeared in Boston’s 1905 Commercial Directory. By this time the medicinal and toilet items appear in the advertisement as no more than afterthoughts.
Nine years later only their extracts are mentioned in the 1914 directory advertisement.
Although their line of extracts included many flavors, by the early 1920’s according to a feature on the Burnett business in the November 3, 1921 edition of an advertising trade magazine called “Printers Ink”
The company is chiefly known to advertisers as makers of Vanilla Extract. Vanilla has been the advertised leader for many years.
The “Printers Ink” feature went on to say:
The line includes, however, many other flavors as well as spices and color pastes. Burnett’s spices are a comparatively recent addition to the line and they are being featured in the advertising this fall.
As promised their fall advertising campaign included their new line of spices as evidenced by an advertisement that appeared in the December, 1921 edition of “The Ladies Home Journal.”
It was also in 1921 that the company moved again, this time to a new factory at 437 D Street in South Boston.
Later, in the mid 1930’s they added several products having to do with ice cream, “Burnetts Liquid Ice Cream” and “Burnett’s Ice Cream Mix.” The Ice Cream Mix was advertised in the “North Adams (Mass.) Transcript” on May 23, 1935.
Up through the mid-1940’s, the Burnett family continued to remain heavily involved in the management of the company. John T. Burnett succeeded his brother John M. Burnett as president in 1906, serving in that capacity until his death in 1929. He was succeeded as president by Henry P. Kidder, with a third generation of the Burnett family, George H. Burnett, serving as treasurer. This arrangement continued until 1946 when the company was sold to American Home products. The sale was reported in the May 2, 1946 edition of the Boston Globe.
Am. Home Products Acquires Burnett Co.
H. W. Roden, vice president of American Home Products Corporation, announced today acquisition of the Joseph Burnett Company of Boston, for 8,918 capital shares of American Home Products, parent of American Home Foods, Inc.
The newly acquired company was the outgrowth of a Boston drug store, founded by Joseph Burnett, who, in 1847, produced vanilla flavoring as an experiment.
Less than a year after the acquisition a fire caused significant damage to the company’s D Street factory. The fire was reported in the April 2, 1947 edition of the “Boston Globe.”
Seventy-five persons, many of them women were driven out of the building at 437 D St., South Boston, today when fire caused damage of more than $50,000 to the building and extract stores of the Joseph Burnett Company.
The fire started when a spark from an electric motor ignited alcohol fumes, fire officials said. It started on the fourth floor of the seven story brick building and spread along pipes down to the third floor.
It appears that the fire put an end to Burnett’s manufacturing operations in Boston. The following year, in 1948, the Joseph Burnett Co., was listed in the Boston directories as a division of American Foods with simply an office address at 43 Leon, Rm 310, in Roxbury. That same year their D Street factory was no longer listed.
On a side note, the structure apparently survived and today is called the Seaport Lofts. Here’s a recent photograph courtesy of Google Earth.
Where American Home Products moved Burnett’s manufacturing arm is not clear, but in the 1950’s they did put out several new products under the Burnett name. One advertised in the early 1950’s was Burnett’s Instant Puddings.
As far as I can tell, the Burnett brands were later acquired by the Doxsee Food Corporation. One last mention of the brand that I can find appeared in a July 29, 1987 “Boston Globe” feature entitled “Ask the Globe,” where one question/answer item made it clear that by then Burnett’s Vanilla Extract, and likely the entire Burnett brand, had been discontinued.
Q. My wife prefers to use Burnett’s Pure Vanilla Extract in her cooking but has been unable to find it in local stores. Can it be purchased anywhere? – C.C., Milton.
A. Ed Lindsay of the customer service department at Doxsee Food Corp. in Baltimore says his firm no longer produces Burnett’s, but instead makes an imitation vanilla extract.
The last newspaper advertisement for “Burnett’s Vanilla Extract” that I can find appeared in March, 1979, suggesting that the late 1970’s/early 1980’s is the product’s likely end date. The advertisement, for a grocery store called Warehouse Foods, listed it along with several other products under the heading “Baking Time.” The ad appeared in the March 19th edition of a Wisconsin newspaper called the “Oshkosh Northwestern.”
I’ve found two Burnett bottles. One is two ounces in size, the other four ounces. Each is mouth blown with a tooled finish, likely putting their manufacture date somewhere in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.
In the 1870 Floral Handbook and Ladies Calendar the company advertised that their flavored extracts were available in five sizes, one of which is two ounces.
Coupled with the fact that the smaller bottle matches almost exactly the vanilla extract bottle exhibited in this 1902 advertisement found in a publication called the “American Kitchen Magazine” leads me to believe it contained some variety of flavoring extract.
The four ounce bottle does not fit one of the advertised sizes so, assuming they didn’t add a four ounce size in the late 1800’s, it likely contained one of Burnett’s other “Standard Preparations.” The bottle closely resembles the size and shape of the bottle in this 1879 Kalliston advertisement found in their Floral Journal and Ladies Calendar so I’m leaning in that direction.
It certainly did not contain their Cocoaine or Cologne Water as both were sold in uniquely shaped bottles.
John J. Kane was a bottler in New York’s Far Rockaway during the first two decades of the 1900’s. During much of the same time he was also associated with hotels located in both Far Rockaway and nearby Arverne, Queens.
Kane’s bottling operation was first listed under the heading “Wine, Liquor and Lager Beer,” in the 1904 Trow Business Directory for the Borough of Queens. He was not listed in the 1903 directory, suggesting that the business was established at around that time. Up through 1907 he just bottled beer then, according to an item in the April 15, 1907 edition of the “American Bottler, he expanded his operation to include soda water as well.
John J. Kane, a beer bottler at Far Rockaway, is going to engage in the soda water and siphon trade as well.
Queens directories and New York State liquor tax records always listed the business with a White Street (now Beach 21st Street) address in Far Rockaway; typically “White Street 200 feet south of Mott.” Likely a saloon as well as a bottling operation, Queens telephone books between 1910 and 1920 described the business as both a “cafe” and bottling establishment. No longer listed in the early 1920’s, the business was likely a victim of prohibition.
New York State liquor tax records also name Kane’s wife, Minnie, the certificate holder for a Far Rockaway Hotel located at Remson and McNeil (now Redfern and McNeil) from 1911 to 1914.
In addition to his Far Rockaway business endeavors, a 1910 report prepared by the New York State Superintendent of Elections, named Kane as the proprietor of a hotel in nearby Arverne, located at the northwest corner of Bouker Place (now Beach 64th Street) and the Long Island Rail Road tracks.
Back in the day many hotels included a bottling operation so it wouldn’t surprise me if Kane was bottling beer in Arverne as part of his hotel operation there. At the very least, he was certainly supplying that location from Far Rockaway.
It’s possible (but I haven’t been able to confirm) that both the bottling and hotel businesses involved other members of the Kane family besides his wife. A bottle, similar in style to Kane’s, but embossed “Kane Brothers, Far Rockaway,” can be found in the collection of Mike AKA Chinchillaman1 at http://mikesbottleroom.weebly.com (no relation to this web site).
In further support of this supposition, liquor tax records for the Arverne hotel list other Kane’s as the certificate holders; namely James P. Kane in 1907 and later, Andrew Kane in 1913 through 1917.
It’s not clear exactly how long the Kane’s continued in the hotel business. Census records in 1920 named John J. Kane’s occupation as the: “Proprietor of Hotel,” but by 1930, census records indicate that he and his wife Minnie, were living in Miami Florida.
I’ve found two identical bottles, each with a blob finish and embossed with both a Far Rockaway and Arverne location. They could date as early as 1903 (when the bottling business began) but likely closer to 1907 (the date of the earliest liquor tax certificate I can find for the Arverne location). Anything much later and I would expect a crown finish.
The town of Bad Kissingen, located in the heart of Germany, has a reputation for its mineral waters that dates back to the mid-16th century. Over 170 years ago, the 1850 edition of the “Handbook for Travelers in Southern Germany” described Kissingen like this:
Kissingen is a town of about 1,500 inhabitants pleasantly situated on the Franconian Saale. It possesses 3 mineral springs. The Rackoczy and Pandur Brunnen furnish saline and chalybeate waters, which are tonic and aperient without flying to the head; the Rakoczy is used for drinking, the Pandur for baths: they are highly recommended as a remedy for chronic diseases, gout and complaints of the stomach; 40,000 bottles of Rakoczy are exported annually.
Around the same time that the above description was written, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Samuel Smith, who referred to himself by his middle name Hanbury, began to artificially reproduce the water from Kissingen’s Radoczy Spring. He would go on to artificially manufacture a host of other natural spring waters as well including the well known Vichy and Congress waters that, according to his advertisements, were:
Identical with the natural in composition and effects, more effervescent, and less liable to change.
The motivation for Smith’s endeavor was the medicinal properties that these waters were thought to possess. In a paper authored by Smith, published in the January, 1856 edition of the “Cincinnati Medical Observer” he explained:
Whenever a novelty is pressed upon his notice, the Anglo-Saxon instinctively puts the question, “Cui bono?” “What is the use and the value of the thing?” The question I will endeavor to answer in the following lines…
That there is a large series of chronic diseases, and anomalous disordered conditions, best cured by the use of mineral waters, and a similar series often incurable by any other known means is a postulate which will undoubtedly be granted by every practitioner of reputation throughout the whole continent of Europe . That, moreover, in another series of cases, mineral waters efficiently aid ordinary therapeutic measures, and that in a fourth the effects produced by their employment afford a valuable source of diagnosis, will be readily granted. The well established facts, the long catalogue of observations recorded by competent observers, leave no room for dispute or cavil about the truth of these propositions…
An April, 1858 editorial in the Cincinnati Lancet and Observer credited Smith with introducing this thinking, which was prevalent in Europe at the time, into the United States. Written several years after Smith established his business, the Lancet editorial opined:
Carlsbad. Spa – We take pleasure in calling the attention of our readers to the effort which has been persistently made for nearly two years, by Dr. S. Hanbury Smith, to introduce to the notice of the profession and the public the factitious Mineral Waters. We have always thought it strange that an art so important to the development of the therapeutics of chronic diseases, should have so long remained a terra incognita on this side of the Atlantic, awaiting the advent of some adventurous pioneer…
…At the “Carlsbad Spa,” as Dr. Smith has christened his establishment, the waters of the most celebrated springs of Continental Europe are reproduced with wonderful exactness. Many of our physicians have already prescribed them quite extensively, and they are on sale by most respectable apothecaries in this city, especially Kissingen, a water resembling Congress – tonic, alterative, aperient and depurative, but very much stronger.
One of Smith’s early advertisements listed several disorders that his mineral waters were specifically prescribed to address.
So, with that as background, here’s Hanbury Smith’s story which according to his obituary found in the September 15, 1894 edition of the “Brooklyn Citizen,” began “across the pond” in 1810.
He was born in England in 1810 and studied medicine in a London college, from which he graduated in 1831. He continued to study in a college in Stockholm, Sweden, and during the cholera epidemic in 1834 was senior physician of the cholera hospital in that city. He came to America in 1847…
In the United States he settled in the State of Ohio where he remained for the next 13 years. His time there included stays in Columbus, Hamilton and Cincinnati were, among other things he served as editor of the “Ohio Medical and Surgical Journal,” and superintendent of the Ohio State Lunatic Asylum. It was also in Ohio where Smith began to manufacture his artificial mineral waters
According to later advertisements, it was in 1855 that Smith established what he called the “Carlsbad Spa,” in Cincinnati. An introductory story on the business appeared in the July, 1856 edition of the Western Lancet.
We deem it an agreeable duty to call the attention of our readers to the establishment which, under this name, Dr. Hanbury Smith has opened at the N. E. corner of Walnut and Seventh Streets, in this city. Here, by ingenious processes, are reproduced in the laboratory exact imitations of the more active and valuable medicinal mineral waters of the known world; and thus an opportunity is afforded to the large class of sufferers in whose cases mineral waters are especially indicated, to avail themselves of them at comparatively very small cost of money, time or labor, – and to the physicians of the country to make themselves practically acquainted with a series of remedies heretofore out of their reach.
The story went on to present the spa’s varied menu of mineral waters.
The waters are drank at the Spa, as a rule, early in the morning, say between five o’clock and eight, directly out of the apparatus in which they are prepared and preserved. Among those to be procured are Carlsbad, Eurs, Marienbad, Pyrmont, Vichy, Ergs, Spa, Kissingen, Heilbrunn, Hombourg, Fachingen, Geilnau, Selters, Seydschutz, Pullna, etc. Some of these are purgative, others deobstruent, some tonic, others alterative; and yet others are possessed of two, three or more of these properties in a large series of varied combinations, thus affording advantages of choice and change unknown at any one watering place, and an inexhaustible store of therapeutic resources.
This initial story did not mention bottling so it’s not clear if Smith bottled his waters from the start. That being said, by the following year he was certainly bottling and distributing Kissingen Water locally, as evidenced by this August 16, 1857 advertisement in the Cincinnati Enquirer that listed several Cincinnati drugstores and one, across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky, where Hanbury Smith’s “Kissingen Water” was available.
Sometime in the late 1850’s the business moved from their original 7th Street location to the Burnet House on Third Street where they were listed in the 1858 Cincinnati directory. In late 1858 an item in the October edition of the Lancet announced that they moved again, this time to 128 West Fourth Street.
Dr. Hanbury Smith. – The Carlsbad Spa of Dr. Smith is removed from the Burnet House basement, on Third Street to rooms in Neaves’ building, corner 4th and Race. This is quite an improvement, giving our friend, Dr. Smith, the advantages of a much better location, and more pleasant rooms.
An advertisement featuring this new location appeared in the 1860 edition of Cincinnati’s city directory.
These physical moves implemented over a short period of time were likely necessitated by the growth in popularity of both their spa and bottling business; a fact made clear in the April, 1858 Lancet editorial.
We are agreeably surprised to learn that the quantity consumed last year, partly in bottles, and partly direct from the fountains, considerably exceeded 30,000 pints.
The editorial then went on to say:
This seems a large quantity, but at the low rate at which it is sold, and in view of the very heavy expense attending the enterprise a much larger consumption will be required to prove remunerative. Fifty thousand bottles per annum is a common sale at quite insignificant European establishments , exclusive of the quantity drank out of the apparatus, and we should not be so sorry to learn that the “Carlsbad Spa” rivals these already the coming year.
Sometime in 1859 the growth and economic realities mentioned in the editorial forced Smith to establish an operation in New York City. He apparently left Cincinnati’s “Carlsbad Spa” in the charge of a man named Alex M. Berger; a fact confirmed in this May 11, 1860 item found in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Who actually owned the Cincinnati spa at this point is unclear, however, what is clear is that Berger continued to advertise the Hanbury Smith mineral waters up through the end of the decade, as evidenced by this September 18, 1869 Cincinnati Enquirer advertisement.
Meanwhile, Smith was up and running in New York City in the summer of 1859; a fact confirmed in this August, 1859 announcement published in the “New York Monthly Review and Buffalo Medical Journal.”
The Spa. – Under this name, Dr. S. Hanbury Smith has established at 833 Broadway, near 13th Street, fountains of artificial mineral waters, several of the most valuable of the German springs being reproduced as regards chemical composition and temperature. Four springs, models of different classes, have been selected by Dr. Smith, and the waters exactly imitated. They are, first, the Carlsbad Spring, which is hot and alkaline, the sulphate of soda being the largest medicinal ingredient; second, the Manerbad, which is cold, and resembles closely, in other respects the Carlsbad; third, the Kissingen, in which the muriate of soda is the most prominent ingredient, resembling in this respect, the Saratoga waters; and fourth, the Pyrmont, a chalybeate spring.
Advertisements in the medical journals soon followed.
Not long after Smith had settled at 833 Broadway, he opened what he called a “Branch Spa” in Caswell, Mack & Co.’s Drug Store located in the Fifth Avenue Hotel.
At the time, the hotel was located on Broadway between 23rd and 24th Streets.
Not long at 833 Broadway, sometime in 1862 Smith moved his primary location to 808 Broadway where it remained listed through 1866.
A description of 808 Broadway, included in an 1860’s “tourist” publication called “American Travel,” revealed that it was as much a “destination” as it was a manufacturing facility.
To the citizens of New York, not less than to those visiting it during the spring and early summer months, mineral waters and baths have become a necessity. Dr. Hanbury Smith’s famous mineral water establishment, “The Spa,” is pleasantly and centrally located at 808 Broadway, near its intersection with Eleventh Street. Its health-giving waters, agreeable shade, and proximity to other objects of interest, combine to make it one of the pleasantest lounging-places of the metropolis.
During this time, Smith continued to operate branch locations as well. The 1867 N. Y. C. directory listed two; one at 32 Pine Street and the other at 83 Wall Street. Smith’s waters were also available, on draught or in bottles, at local drug stores around town. A May 9, 1865 Brooklyn Daily Eagle item highlighted a Williamsburg, Brooklyn drug store named Jenson’s as one such location.
By the late 1860’s and early 1870’s, its apparent that Smith’s distribution network had grown well beyond the New York metropolitan area with mention of his mineral waters now appearing in drug store advertisements of other major U. S. cities including Baltimore, Md., Washington D. C., Hartford Conn., Richmond Va., and even New Orleans, La.
In May, 1868 an item in the New York Medical Journal announced the business had moved again, this time to 35 Union Square.
Not long after he moved, Smith partnered with William S. Hazard changing the company name to Hanbury Smith & Hazard. The name change was reflected in both N. Y. C.’s 1870 directory and this early 1870’s advertisement that appeared in the The Pharmacist and Chemical Record.
The business operated as Hanbury Smith & Hazard for 15 years adding a second location at 309 Broadway in the early 1870’s and a third at 39 West 4th Street in 1882. It was during this time, they introduced the manufacture of their “granular effervescing salts to compliment the mineral water business. An advertisement announcing this addition appeared in the 1877 Vermont Medical Register.
Sometime in 1883 or 1884, the partnership with Hazard was apparently dissolved and the business was once again listed in the directories as simply Hanbury Smith. With Smith in his 80’s, the business was last listed in 1892 with only one address; 39 West 4th Street. At that point, Smith was living in Brooklyn, where he passed away in September, 1894.
The history of the business during the rest of the 1890’s is sketchy. According to a classified item appearing in the January 26, 1899 edition of The (New York) Sun, a man named John Morgan claimed to have acquired the rights to Smith’s formulas.
Then, less than two years later, in 1901, Moody’s reported that Hanbury Smith was one of several firms consolidated under the name John Matthews, Inc. The Mathews business was a long established soda water operation that dated back to 1832.
The consolidation was likely the end of “Hanbury Smith” as a company name but not as a brand name. Hanbury Smith’s mineral salts appear in a Fuller & Fuller Co. price list as late as 1906/1907. Both Matthews Inc. and John Morgan were still in business at that time but who actually had rights to the brand at that point is not clear, at least to me.
The subject bottle is mouth blown with a crudely applied finish. It’s embossed with both the “Hanbury Smith” name and the words “Kissingen Water.” It’s doesn’t have a pontil mark so I suspect it dates from the late 1860’s to the mid 1880’s, likely from the Hanbury Smith & Hazard era. (I’ve never seen an example that included the Hazard name in the embossing, so that’s no help.)
Typically supplied in two bottle sizes; half-pint and pint….
…this is certainly the half-pint size.
In addition to “Kissingen Water,” recent examples of Smith’s bottles, similar in shape and size, that are are embossed “Vichy Water” and the generic “Mineral Water,” have recently appeared for sale on the internet.
Finally, if I’m to believe this advertisement found in the August, 1868 edition of the Druggist Circular and Chemical Gazette, he also sold “Soda Water in a “torpedo” shaped bottle.
Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery, was the first of many proprietary medicines manufactured under the name Dr. R. V. Pierce. Thanks to a heavy dose of advertising, these products occupied millions of shelves and medicine cabinets for almost 100 years from the late 1860’s up through the early 1960’s. According to the September 4, 1901 edition of an advertising trade magazine called “Printers Ink:”
When Dr. Pierce made his first advertising contract, more than a third of a century ago, he with the J. C. Ayer Company, had the proprietary field practically entirely to himself. Since then he has spent many millions of dollars to secure publicity for the merits of his proprietary remedies, and his business has increased from year to year until it is now second to no other “patent medicine” company.
It was also this commitment to advertising that transformed a local country doctor into a well respected national figure on several fronts. In addition to being one of the largest patent medicine manufacturers of his time, Pierce went on to become proprietor of a world renowned medical facility, widely read medical author, hotel owner and prominent New York State political figure, serving a term as state senator in 1877 and U. S. Congressman in 1879.
Born in upstate New York in 1840, a year later his family moved to Western Pennsylvania. According to a feature on Pierce written years later in the March 31, 1960 edition of his hometown newspaper, the Titusville (Pa) Herald, that’s where his story begins.
When R. V., whose full name was Ray Vaughn Pierce, was about one year old, the family moved to Plum Township, settling in present Chapmanville…Before reaching adulthood, young Ray taught school for awhile. Being interested in medicine, he then borrowed money from an old gentleman northwest of Diamond named George Smith. He used this loan to enter medical school and in 1862 he received his M. D. degree from the Eclectic Medical College, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Titusville Herald went on to address the embryonic stage of Pierce’s “Golden Medical Discovery.”
Young Dr. Pierce began the practice of medicine in Titusville. He set up a small laboratory over the E. K. Thompson Drug Store, then located on Diamond Street…
Dr. Pierce experimented with various ingredients and came up with a remedy which he induced Mr. Thompson to put on his shelf to sell. After a few days a bottle was sold, and when Thompson reported this to Dr. Pierce, the latter gleefully exclaimed: My fortune is made!
It is said that the herbs and ingredients for this first preparation of the remedy was ground over the burrs of the old Grove gristmill, located between Diamond and Wallaceville.
For some time Dr. Pierce peddled his “Golden Medical Discovery” through the country and sold it from a wagon. He put up a number of kinds of proprietary medicines while in Titusville…
From the revenue derived from selling his tonics here, plus the fact that he borrowed $1,000, he departed Titusville in 1867 and moved to Buffalo, N. Y., where he more widely advertised his medicines.
According to a story in the July 20, 1922 edition of the Buffalo Commercial, his reason for leaving Buffalo had nothing to do with the goal of growing his patent medicine business.
If Dr. R. V. Pierce had been fond of horseback riding, the world would have lost one of its largest patent medicine factories.
Being one of the few physicians in that part of the country, Dr. Pierce was doing very well, but because of the aforementioned antipathy to riding a horse, which was his only means of transportation through the bushy trails that led from one community to another, Dr. Pierce moved to Buffalo.
We’ll probably never know how much of the above two stories is fact and how much is legend, but what we do know is that Pierce did arrive in Buffalo where he was first listed in the 1868 Buffalo city directory as an M. D. at 321 Main Street. That year his long time patent medicine business was apparently jump started, not with his “Golden Medical Discovery,” but with another proprietary medicine called “Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy.” This advertisement for the remedy appeared in the June 27, 1868 edition of the Buffalo Commercial.
A WONDERFUL MAN – Dr Sage has discovered a perfect specific which never fails to cure catarrh in any stage or form. Dr. Sage & Co., of Buffalo, the proprietors offer a reward of $500 for a case of catarrh that they cannot cure. Dr. Sage’s remedy is the cheapest and best remedy ever offered to the public. Ask the druggist for Dr. Sage’s Remedy and take no other.
Up through November 7, 1868, advertisements for “Dr Sage’s Catarrh Remedy” appearing in the Buffalo Commercial named the Proprietor as Dr. Sage & Co., of Buffalo N. Y. Then, less than a week later, on November 11, 1868, an advertisement for “Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy” in the same newspaper named Dr. R. V. Pierce, M. D., Buffalo N. Y., as the proprietor. So, it’s almost certain that Pierce obtained the rights to the remedy in early November, 1868.
Within several months, a July 30 1869 story in the Buffalo Morning Express announced that thanks to the catarrh remedy Pierce had just moved to new quarters and his business was booming.
Dr. R. V. PIERCE’S NEW AND ATTRACTIVE BUSINESS OFFICE, NO. 395 MAIN STREET. We noticed that at No. 395 Main Street (Arcade Block) the other day, the new and very tastefully fitted up store, laboratory and packing rooms of Dr. R. V. Pierce, the enterprising proprietor of Dr. Sage’s celebrated Catarrh Remedies…
The demand for the very valuable medicines of which Dr. Pierce is proprietor, has so largely and rapidly increased so as to necessitate this increase of his business facilities. His wholesale trade is very large and is constantly increasing, and his retail custom is also very large.
Not long after the move, in addition to the Dr. Sage remedy, Pierce began advertising his “Golden Medical Discovery.” According to a feature on his business published under the heading “Prominent Business Houses of Buffalo,” in the February 15, 1871 edition of the Buffalo Commercial.
His means were quite limited when he became the proprietor of Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy, but so sanguine was he that its effectiveness would, if properly set before the public, bring it into general use, that he embarked in it, afterwards adding to his business the manufacture and sale of his Golden Medical Discovery, a good companion remedy for the other.
It’s almost certain that Pierce was advertising his preparations from the very beginning. The September 4, 1901 edition of “Printers Ink,” described his initial approach.
He began advertising his Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery for blood disorders in a small way, using his Dr. Pierce’s Memorandum and Account Book, distributing and mailing it to homes of the people in the surrounding country. Very soon there became a demand for this book, which had white pages for memoranda, and it was distributed in larger and larger territory.This book remains today (1901) in exactly the same form and shape as it was printed thirty-five years ago, and farmers and mechanics and clerks find it very useful for memoranda.
As early as the summer/fall of 1869, advertisements for Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery, sounding introductory in nature, began appearing in northeast and upper midwest newspapers.
The 1871 Buffalo Commercial feature went on to say that thanks to a heavy dose of advertising, the business continued to grow over the next three years.
He now advertises in over 2,000 papers in the United States alone, and liberally at that…
As a natural result of the widespread advertising which we have above alluded the business is constantly increasing, and not only do the remedies have great sale in the more thickly populated parts of the country, but they are distributed all along the Pacific coast and in the newly organized states. California alone contributes many thousands dollars worth of trade…His advertising bills for the past year will amount to upward of $65,000, and he proposes in the ensuing year to double that amount.
Growth led to another move within a year, this time to a four-story brick building at 133 Seneca Street. Now combining his medical practice and patent medicine business under one roof, the 1871 Buffalo Commercial feature was nice enough to give us a tour!
Let the reader take a walk through the place with us, and join us in the expression of surprise at the extent to which an establishment of but three years existence has grown.
THE BUSINESS OFFICE
is on the ground floor entrance from the street, and here general matters are handled by a competent force.
THE PACKING ROOM
is in the rear, and there all stamping, packing, labeling and shipping is done, the remedies being packed in different conveniently sized boxes of dozen, or gross, as the case may be, while the catarrh remedy is also, in the form of a powder, to which pure water is afterward to be added, packed in tin foil for shipment by mail.
IN THE BASEMENT
the bottling is done and more rapidly than the uninitiated would suppose it could be done, by means of what is known as the “Automatic Bottle Filler,” so contrived that a half dozen bottles can be filled at one time, and by the means of a “float”to only the capacity of the bottle; an expert can fill from forty to fifty bottles per minute by the aid of this contrivance. The bottles are made purposely for this establishment, and the title is blown on the glass. A steam engine pumps the water for washing the bottles, and also drives a mill stone for grinding the herbs and extracts used. The boilers furnish the steam for heating the building.
THE CONSULTATION ROOMS
Upon the second floor, entrance by a stairway that leads from the street, are Dr. PIERCE’S sanctum and rooms for consultation; for, be it known, that he is a regular practicing physician, and has many patients who come to him for treatment of chronic diseases.
THE UPPER FLOORS
are used for storeroom and for drying and preparing the medicated roots, herbs, etc., used in compounding the remedies, and it is unnecessary to say that although large quantities are used, the utmost nicety and uniformity is manifest in the mixture of the remedial agents.
THE ADVERTISING ROOM
In this room a Gordon press is kept in constant use.
It wasn’t long before the business apparently moved again and by 1873 their address was listed as 80 to 86 West Seneca Street.
That first year in new quarters, Pierce’s advertisement in Buffalo’s city directory now referred to his facility as the “World’s Dispensary.”
The ad certainly suggested that the medical consultation aspect of the business had grown considerably; a point further emphasized in a full page advertisement found in an 1876 publication associated with the dedication of Buffalo’s new City and Town Hall.
Established for the cure of all Chronic (or lingering) Diseases of either Sex, particularly those of a Delicate, Obscure, Complicated or Obstinate Character, also for the skillful performance of all Surgical Operations, and as a headquarters for Dr. Pierce’s Family Medicines, it is the largest establishment of its kind in the world. It is organized with an eminent corps of Physicians and Surgeons, each devoting his whole time and attention to some particular branch of practice, by which the greatest skill is attained, while Dr. R. V. Pierce, M. D., is the Physician and Surgeon in-chief, and is consulted in all important cases. Thousands of cases are annually treated, and each has the advantage of an educated and eminent Council of Physicians.
A May 9, 1875 feature on Pierce in the Buffalo Sunday Morning News actually included this sketch of a patient consultation room…
…and in case you’re interested, here’s a look at Dr. Pierce’s private office.
Thats not to say that the manufacturing aspect of the business had taken a back seat. In fact, the 1876 advertisement goes on to provide this description of their expanded menu of patent medicines, now referred to as “Dr. Pierce’s Family Medicines.”
If you would patronize medicines, scientifically prepared by a skilled physician and chemist – use Dr. Pierce’s Family Medicines. Golden Medical Discovery is nutritious, tonic, alterative, or blood cleansing and an unequalled cough remedy; Pleasant Purgative Pellets, scarcely larger than mustard seed, constitute an agreeable and reliable physic; Favorite Prescription – a remedy for debilitated females; Extract of Smart-Weed, a magical remedy for pain, bowel complaints and an unequalled liniment for both human and horse flesh; while his Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy is known the world over as the greatest specific for Catarrh and “cold in head,” ever given to the public.
The Sunday Morning News feature included this view of their packing and shipping department.
As if manufacturing and consulting weren’t enough, in 1874, a June 27th item in the Springville (N. Y.) Journal announced that Pierce was getting ready to publish a book entitled “The Common Sense Medical Advisor.”
The Common Sense Medical Advisor, in Plain English for All People, or Medicine Simplified, is the comprehensive and expressive title of a forthcoming work of from seven to nine hundred pages, bound in cloth, from the pen of Dr. R. V. Pierce of the World’s Dispensary, Buffalo N. Y. Price, $1.50, post paid, to any address within the United States…
The book will be illustrated with numerous original wood engravings, will contain a fine steel portrait and autograph of the author, and altogether will be the most comprehensive, plainly written, and practical medical advisor for both young and old, male and female, single and married, ever published.
First appearing in the spring of 1875, the book included over 900 pages and 280 illustrations and quickly became the center piece of his advertising effort. In just over three years, a December 23, 1877 item in the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News announced he had sold over 100,000 copies.
Remarkably, Pierce did most, if not all, the printing, of both the book and his other advertising materials in house. A September 3, 1876 item in the Buffalo Sunday Morning News mentioned that by then his printing facilities included eight printing presses and 50 employees. The story went on to say:
…5,500 reams book paper and 1,000 reams print and other paper being consumed annually; 600 pounds of printing ink used monthly. How’s that for a medical man?
The sale of his book, coupled with his passion for advertising was drawing people to the “World’s Dispensary,” from all over the country, such that by 1876, Pierce was planning a new hotel in Buffalo to accommodate them.
According to the advertisement in the 1876 City Hall dedication:
…We understand that it is the intention of Dr. Pierce to erect a hotel at the cost of at least two hundred thousand dollars, where those who come to enjoy the benefit of his treatment may find all desired accommodations under one roof, instead of being scattered over the city, as at present.
Designed to accommodate non-patients as well, it was called the “Invalids and Tourists Hotel.” Built in what the newspapers called the “Modern French” style of architecture, the building encompassed the entire block bounded by Prospect Avenue, Connecticut Street, Fargo Avenue and Peter Avenue.
Here’s the May 1, 1878 New York Times story that covered its opening. (As you read the story, note that, not unlike today, the construction cost estimated at $200,000 in 1876 had ballooned to $500,000.)
THE INVALIDS HOME IN BUFFALO
Dr. R. V. Pierce’s Invalids and Tourists’ Hotel, in Buffalo N. Y., was formally opened on Monday evening last. Patients will be admitted there on Friday, and thereafter. It is said that the building was erected at a cost of nearly $500,000. The site is healthful and agreeable, and the plazas of the house command fine views of Lake Erie and Niagra River. The hospital department is distinct from the hotel proper, and it is the desire of the founder of the institution that the place shall be patronized by summer tourists as well as by invalids. Chronic diseases of every description will be treated in the sanitarium. The house is tastefully furnished throughout, the furniture being of antique and Oriental design, and the carpeting and upholstery of rich materials and patterns…A steam elevator conveys inmates to the upper floors, and the house is provided with bath appliances of all sorts and a well-furnished gymnasium.
This early advertisement listed their rates between $2.50 and $3.50 per day.
The tourist business apparently took off because shortly after the hotel opened, Pierce built an extension for the sick, completely separating them from the tourists, and renamed the hotel “Pierce’s Palace.” The new name was reflected in this August 30, 1879 advertisement.
It was around the same time that newspapers all over the country reported that Pierce had incorporated his entire business under the name: “World’s Medical Dispensary Association.”
Dr. R. V. Pierce, having acquired a reputation in the treatment of Chronic Diseases resulting in a business far exceeding his individual ability to conduct, some years ago induced several medical gentlemen to associate themselves with him, as the Faculty of the World’s Dispensary, the Consulting Department, of which has since been merged with the Invalid’s Hotel. The organization has now been completed and incorporated under statute enacted by the Legislature of the State of New York, under the name and style of the “World’s Dispensary Medical Association.”
The story went on to say that the business was establishing a branch overseas in London.
A branch of the “World’s Dispensary Medical Association” is to be established in London, Eng., a step which the continually increasing European business of the Dispensary has been found to warrant, and next week Dr. B. T. Bedortha will sail for the great metropolis named, to superintend the organization of the new institution…Heretofore the foreign business of the World’s Dispensary has been transacted through the agency of prominent druggists, but it has assumed such proportions as to require more direct care.
Tragically, on February 16, 1881, less than three years after it opened, Pierce’s Palace Hotel, including the invalid’s extension, was destroyed by fire; thankfully with no loss of life. A lengthy story describing the fire in the February 17, 1881 edition of the Buffalo Morning Express opened like this:
A storm of wind and snow, with severe cold, reached and swept over the city early yesterday afternoon as if a designed accompaniment for the work of the more destructive element of fire. An alarm sounded shortly after two o’clock and soon news flew through the streets and into people’s homes that one of the most splendid elements of Buffalo, Pierce’s Palace Hotel… was in flames and its rescue hopeless.
The same story concluded like this:
Thus stood the Palace Hotel yesterday forenoon, proud and beautiful, the admiration alike of resident and stranger, a magnificent monument to the broad enterprise and public spirit of an honored citizen. By its destruction the most attractive to the eye of all the buildings of Buffalo has disappeared and our people will not only sympathize with Dr. Pierce for his misfortune, but each will feel that a part of the loss is his or her own. The loss of hardly any other edifice within our city’s limits could cause such a general feeling of regret.
After the fire, ads in Feb/March, 1881 made it clear that Pierce remained in business at the World’s Dispensary’s 80 W Seneca location, apparently making hotel accommodations “catch as catch can.”
Subsequently on May 19, 1882 a Buffalo Commercial story announced that Pierce had consolidated the business in two newly erected buildings. The buildings were situated back to back with the Invalids Hotel and Surgical Institute located at 663 Main Street. Behind it, the World’s Dispensary was located at 660 to 670 Washington Street. A view of the Invalids Hotel with the World’s Dispensary visible in the background was included in later editions of Pierce’s Medical Advisor.
The hotel building was described in the following advertisement as:
Not a Hospital But a Pleasant Remedial Home.
Sketches in the Medical Advisor reveal that not only was the facility pleasant but high end as well. The grand main entrance was described like this:
The entrance to the Invalid’s Hotel and Surgical Institute is covered by a lofty porch of beautiful design, the roof of which is supported upon heavy iron columns. Above the massive double doors, through which the visitor enters, are large heavy panels of stained glass, on which the words “Invalids Hotel and Surgical Institute” stand out conspicuously.
Inside, the first floor included, among other rooms, ladies’ and mens’ parlors, described like this:
The wood-work is mainly of hard woods, oak and cherry predominating. In a large part of the house the floors are of oak, with a cherry border, neatly finished in oil and shellac, and covered with rich rugs and elegant carpets of the very best quality.
Here’s a sketch of the ladies’ parlor.
Upstairs, the patient rooms appear just as ornate.
The third floor accommodated the treatment rooms which according to the Medical Advisor contained “apparatus and appliances for the successful management of every chronic malady incident to mankind.”
Electrical apparatus of the latest and most approved kinds some of it driven and operated by steam power, dry-cupping and equalizing treatment apparatus, “vitalization” apparatus, numerous and most ingenious rubbing and manipulating apparatus and machinery, driven by steam power….
Another floor accommodated the Surgical Department, which thankfully they don’t describe in any detail!
Not only did Pierce treat patients in person at the Institute but if you couldn’t make it to Buffalo he’d treat you by mail. (Tele – medicine 150 years before its time?) That operation, performed by what Pierce called their Bureau of Medical Correspondence, was also housed in the hotel and was described like this:
…From ten to twelve physicians, with their stenographers or short-hand writers are constantly employed in attending to the vast correspondence received from invalids residing in all parts of the United States and Canada. Every important case receives the careful consideration of a council composed of three to five of these expert specialists before finally being passed upon and prescribed for.
Fronting on Washington Street and connected to the hotel via a main floor corridor was the World’s Dispensary.
According to the Medical Advisor it was here that:
wherein are manufactured our Dr. Pierce’s Family Medicines, as well as all the various tinctures, fluid extracts and other pharmaceutical preparations used by the staff of the Invalids’ Hotel and Surgical Institute in their practice…
The extent of the operation might best be judged by this sketch of their wrapping and mailing room.
Just as important, if not more so, was their printing department, a sketch of which is included below. It had certainly come a long way since the single Gordon printing press they operated at 133 Seneca Street.
On this (third) floor are the Association’s extensive printing and binding works. Thirteen large presses, driven by power, with numerous folding machines, trimming, cutting, and stitching machinery, are constantly running in this department. Here is printed and bound Dr. Pierce’s popular work of over 1,000 pages, denominated “The People’s Common Sense Medical Advisor,” over 250,000 copies of which have been sold. Millions of pocket memorandum books, pamphlets, circulars and cards are also issued from this department and scattered broadcast to every corner of the globe.
The importance Pierce continued to place on print advertising can be gauged by the fact that the printing and mailing operation consumed well over one entire floor of his new building, and by then even that wasn’t enough, a fact Dr. Pierce’s son, Valentine, made clear in an interview with “Printers’ Ink” that was published in their November 16, 1898 edition.
But even with these facilities we cannot do all our own printing. Some of it is done in Chicago and some in Philadelphia. Every day we use about $300 worth of one cent stamps for mailing memorandum books and ladies note books. To this you may add a force varying from 20 to 25 of our own distributors, who are traveling, and who put out about 20,000 more books daily in different states.
Around the turn of the century Pierce added another facet to the business when he decided that instead of just filling medicine bottles, he’d manufacture the bottles as well. So, in 1905 he established and incorporated the Pierce Glass Company. The incorporation notice was published in the August 8, 1905 edition of the Buffalo Commercial.
According to a May 4, 1906 story in the Buffalo Evening News, Pierce had leased the bankrupt “Mansfield Glass Company,” in nearby St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania. Another story, this one published under the heading “Of Interest to Glassworkers,” in the September 19, 1906 edition of the Independence (Kansas) Daily, announced that Pierce was scheduled to “put his plant in operation” sometime around October 15, 1906, “to manufacture bottles exclusively.”
Later it was destroyed by fire after which, the June 11, 1911 edition of the Buffalo Times reported that Pierce was to rebuild his factory in Hamburg, New York.
The company’s plant at St Mary’s Pa., was recently destroyed by fire and after looking over various places Dr. Pierce decided on Hamburg. The Business Men’s Club took the matter up and procured a site adjacent to the Susquehanna Station and here the new plant of the Pierce Glass Company will be erected. It will cover four acres of ground and have switches running into the plant from the B&S Railroad.
This photograph of their Hamburg plant appeared years later in a story headlined “Out of the Past” in the July 24, 1986 edition of the Hamburg Sun and Erie County Independent.
The June, 1911 story went on to say that Pierce wasn’t just making bottles for his own purposes.
The glass works make bottles for Dr. Pierce’s World’s Dispensary and for many other proprietary medicine concerns, including Dr. Kilmer, Lydia Pinkham, Omega Oil, Pond’s Extract and Dr. Tenner and, will ship many carloads every week to various parts of the United States. The factory buildings will be completed in August and glass blowing will start September 1st. The company will employ 130 people and the payroll will amount to $3,000 a week, as blowers receive $10 to $15 a day.
Subsequently, the March 17, 1917 edition of the Buffalo Commercial announced that the factory had moved again, this time to Port Alleghany, Pennsylvania.
The Pierce Glass Company have dismantled the plant and moved to Port Alleghany…The factory was located on the Buffalo & Wellsville railroad line and was closed because the railroad was closed.
Meanwhile, back in Buffalo, R. V. Pierce passed away in 1914 and his son, Valentine Mott Pierce, who had apparently been running the show for a while, assumed the presidency.
He continued to operate the Invalids’ Hotel and Surgical Institute at its Main Street location for several decades, sometimes referring to it as a “Clinic.”
In 1934 they celebrated their 60th anniversary.
Advertisements commemorating the event touted a couple of new features.
A new department in which sun treatment is given has recently been opened. This is used in nearly all cases and helps in restoring health.
There is a complete X-ray laboratory, as well as a clinical laboratory for microscopic examinations, where many otherwise obscure cases are made perfectly clear for accurate diagnosis.
The beginning of the end for Pierce’s Invalids Hotel and Surgical Institute likely came on December 13, 1939 when the Federal Trade Commission included this “cease and desist” order in a stipulation (No. 02482) dated December 13, 1939 .
It is further agreed that the World’s Dispensary Medical Association in connection with the dissemination of advertising by the means or in the manner above set out will cease and desist from representing –
By use of the word “association” or word or words of similar import or meaning in its corporate title or otherwise that it is an association of doctors or medical men;
that complete medical advice is given those persons who write for the same.
Not being able to call themselves doctors or call their advice “medical advice” must have been a lethal blow, and a little over a year later, on August 1, 1941, the Invalids’ Hotel and Surgical Institute discontinued operations.
Valentine Mott Pierce passed away in 1942 and two years later, the July 21, 1944 edition of the Kane (Pa.) Republican announced that Pierce’s estate had jettisoned the glass works.
A deal was closed in Port Alleghany whereby Howard C. Herger, superintendent of the Pierce Glass Company, purchased the common stock of the V. M. Pierce estate in the company. As a considerable majority of the stock had been owned by the Pierce interests, the transaction is said to involve the transfer of a large amount of money.
The Dispensary on the other hand continued in business until sometime in the early 1960’s under the direction of R. V. Pierce’s grandson, also named Ray Vaughn Pierce. Sometime around 1950 the business changed its name to “Pierce’s Proprietaries,” and by 1951, they were no longer located at their long time Washington Street home, now listing their address as 127 Kehr Street.
A labeled example of “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” that dates to this era recently appeared for sale on the internet.
As late as March 31, 1960, the feature on Dr. Pierce published in his home town newspaper, the Titusville (Pa.) Herald, stated that Pierce’s Proprietaries was still in business on Kehr Street, Buffalo and that Pierce’s grandson Ray Vaughn Pierce was still serving as president.
It’s not exactly clear when the manufacturing piece of the business came to an end. As late as January 22, 1965, a pharmacy called Nitzel’s in Muscatine, Iowa was still advertising both Pierce’s Favorite Prescription and Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery under the heading “Do You Remember These Family Remedies”(listed on the left side – 4th and 5th from the top). While still in stock there, the headline certainly suggested that if they were still being manufactured at that point, it was just barely.
Like the Pierce business, their first preparation, “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery,” underwent numerous changes over the course of its near century life span. Initially, late 1860’s advertisements primarily touted it specifically for lung related diseases.
For the cure of all Bronchial and Throat diseases and consumption in its early stage nothing equals Dr. Pierce’s Alterative Extract or Golden Medical Discovery.
Less than a decade later, advertisements, circa 1878, claimed it cured just about everything under the sun.
By reason of its Alterative properties, cures diseases of the Blood and Skin, as Scrofula, or King’s Evil; Tumors; Ulcers, or old Sores; Blotches; Pimples; and Eruptions.
By virtue of its Pectoral properties, it cures Bronchial, Throat and Lung Affections; Incipient Consumption; Lingering Coughs; and Chronic Laryngitis.
Its Cholagogue properties render it an unequalled remedy for Billousness, Torpid Liver or “Liver Complaint;” and its
Tonic properties make it equally efficacious in curing Indigestion, Loss of Appetite and Dyspepsia.
Sometime in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s the ingredients of this so-called “miracle” drug came into question when published formulas for both “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” and “Pierce’s Favorite Prescription,” indicated that they contained opium and alcohol. Over the next two decades these formulas would occasionally appear in publications with names like “An Encyclopedia of Practical Information,” and “Dr. Chase’s Book of Recpies.”
Pierce typically denied the accusation, usually with a sworn statement to the contrary. However, when the more widely read Ladies Home Journal published the formula for “Pierce’s Favorite Prescription,” Pierce sued the magazine’s editor and ultimately forced a retraction. The suit focused on “Pierce’s Favorite Prescription” but was certainly applicable to his “Golden Medical Discovery” as well. According to the May, 1905 Merck Report:
It will be recalled that some months ago, Dr. Pierce brought suit against Editor Bok, of the “Ladies Home Journal,” for publishing what purported to be the results of an analysis by the German chemist, Hager, of Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription, which analysis made it appear that it contained certain harmful ingredients. As a result of this suit, Editor Bok’s journal later published a retraction, stating that Hager’s analysis had been made twenty-five years before, and that analyses made by three leading chemists employed by defendants showed conclusively that no digitalis, opium or alcohol is contained in Dr. Pierce’s Prescription.
The Editorial Board of a publication called “The Medico-Pharmaceutical Critic & Guide” wasn’t convinced. They wrote:
Suppose Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription does not contain any opium, digitalis, opium or alcohol. First, this does not mean that it never contained any. It is more than probable that when the original report, from which Mr. Bok quoted, was printed, the preparation did contain those ingredients. That is just the curse of the secret nostrum business, that the manufacturers can change the composition at their will and pleasure. “There is an outcry against alcohol – well, we will leave it out, or diminish the proportion in our next batch. There is an outcry against morphine and cocaine, let us leave out those alkaloids for a while. Quinine is too high now – we will put in half the amount.” And so on, and so on. I therefore say that its more than likely that “Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription” did originally contain the poisonous ingredients.”
…In fighting humbug and quackery we need aid from all quarters and the Ladies Home Journal is an extremely welcome, because an extremely useful, ally. Mr. Bok, the Critic & Guide welcomes you into its ranks.
Pierce responded by releasing the formulas in, you guessed it, a series of newspaper advertisements with eye catching headlines.
To refute the many false and malicious attacks, bogus formulas and other untruthful statements published concerning Doctor Pierce’s World-famed Family Medicines the Doctor has decided to publish all the ingredients entering into his “Favorite Prescription” for women and his equally popular tonic alterative known as Dr. Pierces Golden Medical Discovery. Hereafter every bottle of these medicines, leaving the great laboratory at Buffalo, N. Y., will bear upon it a full list of all the ingredients entering into the compound. Both are made entirely from native roots, barks and herbs.
Many advertisements went on to list the “1905” ingredients for both preparations. The purported ingredients of “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” were described like this:
Briefly then let us say that the ‘Golden Medical Discovery” was named from the sturdy little plant Golden Seal, the root of which enters largely into its composition. Besides this most valuable ingredient, it contains glyceric extracts of Stone root, Black Cherrybark, Bloodroot and Mandrake root.
Several years later, a 1912 analysis by the State of Connecticut confirmed there was no alcohol or opium present, however what they went on to say in their report couldn’t have pleased Dr. Pierce.
While it was impossible to determine the presence of the various alterative vegetable drugs claimed in the preparation, the total amount of vegetable extractives found was 11.2 per cent, hardly entitling it to be called “a very concentrated, vegetable extract.” The constituent drugs claimed to be present have a recognized therapeutic value, but hardly entitle it to the “cure all” properties claimed for it in its advertising literature. That these well known drugs by a mysterious combination, the result of ” a tedious course of study and experiment, extending over several years,” can become a “superior remedy” for coughs, bronchitis, laryngitis, weak lungs, sore throat, biliousness, dyspepsia, general debility, nervous prostration, blood diseases, skin diseases, catarrhal affections of all organs, heart diseases, malaria, constipation, kidney and bladder affections, etc., etc. is certainly a strain on one’s credibility.
It wasn’t just his ingredients that were under fire. As early as 1906, the American Medical Association was challenging some of his more outrageous curative claims. That year, their January 20th Journal included this item regarding the ability of the Golden Medical Discovery to cure consumption (Tuberculosis).
From the imposing book published by the R. V. Pierce Company of Buffalo I took a number of testimonials for investigation; not a large number, for I found the consumption testimonials very scarce. From fifteen letters I got results in nine cases. Seven of the letters were returned to me marked “unclaimed,” of which one was marked “Name not in the directory,” another “No such post office in the state,” and a third “Deceased.” The eighth man wrote that the Golden Medical Discovery had cured his cough and blood-spitting, adding: “It is the best medicine I ever used for lung trouble.” The last man said he took twenty-five bottles and was cured! Two out of nine seems to me a suspiciously small percentage of traceable recoveries… In the full appreciation of Dr. Pierce’s attitude in the matter of libel, I wish to state that in so far as its claim of curing consumption is concerned his Golden Medical Discovery is an unqualified fraud.
Apparently bowing to pressure from the medical community and the court of public opinion, not to mention food and drug legislation, by the 1920’s advertisements for the Golden Medical Discovery, while still stressing it was made from native roots and alcohol free, now touted it as a tonic, not a “cure-all.” This toned down approach is evident in this 1922 advertisement.
That being said, the Federal Trade Commission’s December 13, 1939 stipulations, also addressed the World’s Dispensary’s advertising of the “Golden Medical Discovery.”
World’s Dispensary Medical Association, a corporation, 665 Main Street Buffalo, N. Y., vendor-advertiser, was engaged in selling medicinal preparations designated Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery and Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription and agreed, in connection with the dissemination of future advertising to cease and desist from representing directly or by implication – that a medicinal preparation now designated “Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” or any other medicinal preparation containing substantially the same ingredients or possessing the same properties, whether sold under that name or any other name –
Will keep the digestive system in tune regardless of the system’s requirements; is an anti-acid or will counteract excess acidity of the stomach; will of itself build up the human system, relieve a weakened condition, tired run-down feeling, increase weight, pep, energy, vigor or vitality; or is the one and only recognized tonic.
Nonetheless, using phrases like “Promotes more normal stomach activity,” and “helps you avoid gas pains, heartburn and sour stomach,” they continued to advertise their “Golden Medical Discovery” up through the late 1950’s, as evidenced by this 1958 advertisement.
The bottle I found is mouth blown with a tooled finish and approximately 10 ounces in size. The bottle does not exhibit the Pierce Glass Company’s makers mark of a circled “P” on its base, suggesting that it was blown prior to 1906 when that company began operations.
The front panel is embossed: “Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery,” while one side panel is embossed: “R. V. Pierce, M. D.” and the other: “Buffalo, N. Y.” The embossing is very faint so you’ll need to take my word for it.
This labeled example of a similar bottle is courtesy of the New York Heritage Digital Collection.
At some point “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” also became available in pill form as well. Based on an unscientific review of their advertisements, I suspect this occurred sometime in the early teens, but don’t hold me to it.
The initials “B-B” embossed on the subject bottle represent the last name of proprietors Aaron Bluthenthal and Monroe L. Bickart. Their business, Bluthenthal and Bickart, was established in Atlanta, Georgia sometime in the 1880’s. First listed in the 1887 edition of the Atlanta city directory with an address of 46 Marietta Street, the entry was included under the heading “Changes, Corrections and New Names Received Too Late for Regular Insertion.” This leads me to believe that 1887 was likely their first year of operation. In further support of this assumption, the earliest newspaper advertisements that I can find began appearing the following year in several October, November and December, 1888 editions of the Atlanta Constitution. Calling themselves “wholesale liquors and direct importers,” this initial advertisement included a second Atlanta address, possibly a retail location, on South Forsyth Street.
Another early Constitution advertisement, this one in their November 12, 1889 edition, pointed out that you could pick up your Cuban cigars there as well.
What put B & B on the map however was certainly their liquor business. This full page advertisement that appeared in the Georgia Pharmaceutical Association’s 1892 Annual Meeting Report, mentioned that they were associated with three distilleries at the time; two in Kentucky and one in Georgia.
The advertisement went on to mention whiskey brands Canadian Club, Old Oscar Pepper and Four Aces, all of which were advertised in the Atlanta Constitution during the 1890’s. Typical advertisements for “Canadian Club,” and “Old Oscar Pepper,” are shown below.
The company’s “Four Aces” brand made its appearance sometime in the early 1890’s. While it didn’t mention “Four Aces” by name, this initial advertisement that appeared in several March, 1891 editions of the Atlanta Constitution, left little doubt as to what image they wanted you to associate with their “Extra Superior Whiskey.”.
Within a year or so they were referring to it as “Four Aces” whiskey in their Atlanta Constitution advertisements.
More than just liquor dealers, the growth of B & B’s business through the early 1890’s is evidenced by two items that appeared in the Atlanta Constitution in the late spring of 1892. The first, published on May 19th discussed their import business.
One of the largest packages of sherry wine that was ever brought to the south, was landed through the Atlanta custom house yesterday. It is a “double butt” of extra pale, dry Manzanilla, coming direct from Cadiz, Spain to the Messrs. Bluthenthal & Bickart of this city. The capacity of the cask is over three hundred gallons, and its weight is about three thousand seven hundred pounds. It took a large double wagon to haul it from the car. The package is so enormous that it is quite an object of interest to everybody, nothing like it having been seen heretofore.
The Messrs. B & B are very enterprising merchants, and in their thrift and energy, have achieved a brilliant success in the wine and spirit trade. The importing business is one of the most important branches of their line, and they have a great many foreign connections, and buy all their European wines, gins, brandies, etc., direct from the first hands. Messrs.B & B have done a great deal to enhance the receipts of the Atlanta custom house, and to place this port in a good comparative position with the other southern ports of entry.
The second item, published a month later on June 15th, announced that they were in the beer business as well. It also suggests they likely had some influence on the Constitution’s copy writer.
Messrs. Bluthenthal & Bickart familiarly known as “B & B.,” have just received the agency of Schlitz’s famous Milwaukee beer, and are making arrangements to supply the people with it throughout this part of the country.
These gentlemen are pushing, energetic and active, and since coming to Atlanta have made a splendid business record. Now that they have absolute control of this brand of beer, it is reasonable to suppose, and is confidently predicted, that the sale of the Schlitz goods will be greatly increased.
That same month Bluthenthal & Bickart’s name was prominent in this June 19, 1892 Schlitz advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution.
Sometime in the early 1890’s they also established an Ohio branch located at 220 E. Front Street in Cincinnati.
By the turn of the century B & B was the largest dealer of its kind in Georgia, with its business extending throughout the south and as far north as Washington D. C. Notwithstanding, by 1907 the business was being threatened by Georgia’s upcoming prohibition legislation. The situation at the time was succinctly summed up in this quote by Bluthenthal’s son, Felix, that appeared in an August 3, 1907 Baltimore Sun story.
The law is so drastic and sweeping that there is no possible escape for the liquor dealer but to leave the State. While there had been local opposition in several counties of the State for some time, no one dreamed a few months ago that there was any strong sentiment throughout the State for prohibition. However, during the past few months such a temperance wave has swept over the State that it could not be counteracted.
At the time, Felix Bluthenthal was in Baltimore scouting out a new location for the business. Within two weeks, an August 20, 1907 story in the Atlanta Constitution announced that the firm had selected a site and was fully committed to Baltimore.
Driven from its home by the prohibition legislation in the State of Georgia, the large wholesale liquor house of Bluthenthal & Bickart, of Atlanta, Ga., has decided to move to Baltimore, and has made a long term lease with the trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital for the large building in course of construction at the corner of Exchange Place and South Street…
It will be occupied in its entirety by the liquor firm, which will make the building the largest whisky warehouse in the city…All of the heads of the departments are to be moved to Baltimore, with their families, making about forty people in all. The company will need 100 local employees, most of whom will be women and girls.
The importance of the acquisition to Baltimore cannot be overestimated. Last year the products of the firm exceeded $1,000,000 and indications this year are that this figure will be surpassed. Baltimore is now to be the distributing point for this immense production and the effect will be felt in all branches of trade.
In January they were in the process of moving when a January 11, 1908 story in the Baltimore Sun provided this description of their new home.
Messrs. Bluthenthal & Bickart, the wholesale whisky dealers, who were compelled to leave Atlanta Ga., because of the passage of the prohibition law, are occupying their new quarters at the southeast corner of Lombard and South Streets.
While some finishing touches are to be made to the handsome structure which has just been built, Mr. Monroe L. Bickart, of the firm says the firm is now ready to take care of all orders…
The building is six stories, of fire-proof material, and contains 50,000 square feet. The main offices of the firm are on the first floor. They will be fitted in handsome quartered oak. The bottling department is on the second floor. It is supplied with every modern device needed for the business. The third and fourth floors contain 32 large tanks in which whiskies are put through the blending processes. The tanks vary in size from 1,000 to 2,000 gallons each. All mixing is done with filtered air. The air is pumped through water and is free from impurities before it reaches the blending tanks.
The storage room and the room for aging whiskies will be on the top floor. The basement has been planned so that it can easily be transformed into a wine vault. The finest wines carried in stock by the firm will be placed in this vault…The firm will employ in all departments about 150 persons.
Around the same time, their Cincinnati branch disappeared from the Ohio directories so it appears that the company opted to consolidate both operations in Baltimore. That year the Baltimore directory listed Aaron Bluthenthal as president and his son Felix as vice-president. Monroe Bickart was named secretary and treasurer.
This photograph of their Baltimore home, circa 1910, is courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.
Almost immediately after they were settled, B & B newspaper advertisements for their “Mark Rogers” brand began appearing in the Baltimore Sun. The ads referred to the address of their new building as simply “the great big house,” Baltimore.
Over the next several years, an unscientific review of their newspaper advertisements suggests that their market had expanded up the east coast, reaching as far north as the New England states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.
In 1910 the company made what the Washington Post described as:
One of the biggest whisky deals ever made in America.
The July 30, 1910 edition of the Baltimore Sun described the deal like this.
The conditional sale of about 15,000 barrels of whisky by Messrs. Charles A. Webb, Sullivan Pitts and S. Johnson Poe, receivers of the Roxbury Company, to Bluthenthal & Bickart, the well known liquor dealers for about $345,000 is said to be the largest sale of its kind yet made in this city. The whisky is to be paid for in cash upon the ratification of the sale by the United States Court.
The purchasers are to have the right to use the name of the Roxbury Distilling Company and the brand Roxbury in bottling the whisky in bond.
Shortly afterwards, newspaper advertisements for Roxbury Rye can be found along the entire east coast and throughout much of the midwest. Remaining optimistic with regard to prohibition, as late as May 31, 1914 the company was advertising for a salesman in the Boston Globe.
Nevertheless, by the late teens the ads had dried up and Bluthenthal & Bickart was no longer listed in the Baltimore directories, a victim of national prohibition.
While prohibition put an end to Bluthenthal & Bickart, the “Four Aces” brand managed to survive when Canada’s British Columbia Distillery Company acquired rights to the name sometime in the late 1920’s.
Not surprisingly, by the early 1930’s the brand was making its way back into the United States, albeit illegally, as evidenced by this dramatic episode described in an April 11, 1931 Chicago Tribune story.
Boston Mass.. April 10. – Five men on a scuttled speed boat were captured under machine gun fire in Nantucket Sound, it was revealed today when coast guard patrol boat S-13 brought captives and liquor to the Woods Hole coast guard house.
The capture followed a mile chase during which two rounds, 78 shots, were sent by the pursuing guardsmen, disabling the fleeing craft. The scuttling followed.
The five were on the speed boat Hit Her, a twin screw craft that was a sister ship of her captor, the former rum runner Tramp.
More than 800 cases of Four Aces whisky and a quantity of other liquor valued at $25,000 were aboard the craft, coastguardsmen reported.
As prohibition came to an end the British Columbia Distillery Company registered the “Four Aces” name with the U. S. Patent office and they began distribution legally in the United States.
According to court documents (California Wine & Liquor Corporation vs. William Zakon & Sons, Inc., Supreme Jusicial Court of Massachusetts) U. S. distribution was originally split between two companies. Much of the country was handled by the Standard Wine and Liquor Company who was described in one 1940 news item as “one of the largest liquor distributers in the middle west.” The exception was the New England States, whose rights were held by the California Wine & Liquor Corporation. In spite of their name, they were located at 43 – 47 Lansdowne Street in Boston as evidenced by this November 23, 1934 advertisement in the Boston Globe.
Bottles produced during this time appear for sale quite regularly on the internet.
Two years later, still located on Lansdowne Street, this May 5, 1937 advertisement suggested that the California Wine & Liquor Corporation had reorganized under the name of the “Four Aces Liquor Corporation.”
Soon after, a September 14, 1937 story in the Boston Globe announced the Four Aces Liquor Corporation had just introduced a blended whisky under the “Four Aces” name to go along with the bonded whiskey.
INTRODUCE FOUR ACES BLENDED WHISKY HERE
George Kravit, treasurer of the Four Aces Liquor Corporation, said yesterday that in addition to Four Aces bonded whisky, it has placed on the market Four Aces blended whisky, a blend of straight whisky. The blend is aged in the wood and is all whisky. It is on sale at leading package stores, clubs, taverns and restaurants…The Four Aces Liquor Corporation is at 43 Lansdowne St., Boston.
Bottles associated with their blended whisky have also recently appeared for sale on the internet.
After this I completely lose track. Sometime in the late 1930’s the Four Aces Liquor Corporation disappeared from the Boston directories and was replaced at the Lansdowne address with another liquor business called United Liquors, Ltd. While it’s possible that United Liquors took over distribution of the “Four Aces” brands in New England, I’ve been unable to make a definite connection.
Similarly, I’ve been unable to definitively connect the Standard Wine and Liquor Company with the “Four Aces” brands in other parts of the country. That being said, the “Four Aces” name continued to appear in liquor store sponsored newspaper advertisements up through the early 1970’s. In fact, this 1972 advertisement in Troy, New York’s Times Record indicated that at some point the brand name was expanded to include Vodka and Gin as well as Whiskey.
The bottle I found is mouth blown with a tooled brandy (or mineral?) finish. The embossed insignia just below the shoulder matches exactly the insignia displayed in the March 1891 Atlanta Constitution advertisement.
A labeled example of the bottle is displayed on a tin advertising sign recently offered for sale on the internet.
On a final note: Unlike others presented on this site, this bottle was not found in the Long Island bays. Instead, it belonged to John, the brother of one of my wife’s life long friends. An avid collector, John passed away several years ago. This post is dedicated to his memory…God Bless.
The Dundee Marmalade story begins in the late 1700’s with a small grocery business in Scotland that by the mid-1860’s had grown into a world-wide enterprise. According to a feature on James Keiller & Sons included in “The Industries of Scotland, Their Rise Progress and Present Condition,” by David Bremner, published in 1869:
The most extensive confectionery establishment in Britain is that of Messrs James Keiller & Son, Dundee. The firm have a specialty in marmalade – a conserve which they have been chiefly instrumental in bringing into general use. The history of the firm is brief, but it records a brilliant success. About the beginning of the present century, Dundee, which stands in the neighborhood of a famous fruit producing district, was pretty extensively engaged in the manufacture of “preserves,” and the late James Keiller was among those engaged in the trade. By way of increasing the variety of his productions, Mr. Keiller began to make marmalade, and was the first in the country to produce it as an article of commerce.
Called “chip marmalade,” it was the first commercially available marmalade to contain the rind of the fruit. Developed by James Keiller’s mother, Janet, most versions of the brand’s origin run along the same lines as the one found in “Dundee at Work, Popular Industries Through the Years,” by Gregor Stewart, published in 2017.
Born in 1737, Janet Keiller ran a successful small shop in Dundee along with her husband John, selling cakes, sweets and fresh fruit. There are varying stories regarding how their brand of marmalade came about, the most common being that a Spanish ship had sailed into Tay estuary seeking shelter from stormy weather. Within the cargo was a batch of Seville oranges, which were already starting to go off due to the long journey. Knowing that the long delay would almost certainly result in the oranges being worthless, the ship’s captain offered them for sale, and they were bought by John Keiller. Knowing the fruit was already bitter, the captain no doubt was happy to have offloaded the effectively worthless consignment, but John knew a bargain when he saw one. He gave the oranges to Janet to see what she could do with them and she set about trying different recipes to make an orange preserve. What was different about her blend, and set it apart from other marmalades of the time, was that she included orange peel in her mix.
I’ll leave open to speculation as to whether this story is a legend based loosely on fact; created years later by an advertising agency or a little of both. What we do know is that in 1797 their son James established a business named James Keiller that served the l0cal community out of a small house near High Street in Dundee. Then, at some point, likely in the late 1820’s, they began expanding their reach to London, England. According to Bremner’s “Industries of Scotland” feature:
For some years the demand was limited to the town and district; but in the course of time the new conserve worked its way into the more important towns of Scotland , and subsequently crossed the border into England. Between thirty and forty years ago, one of the principal grocery firms in London gave marmalade a trial, and soon secured a steadily increasing demand for it. A new market was thus opened up; and from being a subordinate part of Mr.Keiller’s business, the manufacture of marmalade took precedence.
Early evidence of this geographic expansion is a March 15, 1829 newspaper advertisement for Stokes Tea Warehouse in the (London) Observer.
Whether Stoke’s was the grocer referenced in the above quote is unclear, but the time frame fits, and by the 1830’s, other London grocers including Fraser and Wood at 63 New Bond Street and J Garnett & Co’s Italian Warehouse at 38 Wigmore Street were mentioning Dundee Marmalade in their advertising as well. That being said, throughout the 1830’s and early 1840’s growth was apparently slow and the Keiller business continued to operate out of their original High Street location where I found them listed in the 1837 edition of Pigot and Co.s Commercial Directory of Scotland. Now called James Keiller & Son, they were one of 13 confectioners operating in Dundee at the time.
It wasn’t until 1845 that the company, now under the management of James’ son Alexander, in an effort to address increased demand acquired additional space at nearby 2 Castle Street. Located below the Royal British Hotel the space allowed for, among other things, additional back space as well as a large street level shop. This undated photograph likely taken around the turn of the century, clearly shows the Keiller shop located below the hotel.
Over the next 25 years James Keiller & Son continued to expand such that in 1869, Bremner’s “Industries of Scotland” feature described their facilities like this:
The establishment, which occupies several blocks of three story buildings, is the largest of the kind in the country.
By then the business employed about 300 people producing marmalade, jams, jellies and general confectionery that included lozenges, candies and gum goods. That being said, Bremner made it clear that by then the production of marmalade had achieved prime importance.
Oranges are usually in season from the beginning of December till the end of March, and the years’s supply of marmalade must be made in that time. The oranges used are the bitter variety obtained from Seville in Spain. They are imported in chests containing 2 cwt. each. Messrs Keiller consume 3,ooo chests annually from which they produce about 1000 tons of marmalade…In the course of the season, about a million and a half of pound pots of marmalade, besides a considerable number of jars containing from seven to fourteen pounds, are turned out.
In support of their Dundee facility, by the early 1860’s the company was also operating another facility in the Channel Islands at St. Peter Port, Guernsey. Under the direction of Alexander’s brother William, the Channel Island facilities accounted for one-third of Keiller’s yearly 1,000 ton production during the 1860’s and 1870’s.
The reasoning behind this locale was explained in Amanda Bennett’s book, “Secret Guernsey,” published in 2015.
In the 1860’s and ’70’s, Guernsey was one of the largest centers for marmalade production in Europe. Sugar tax in Guernsey amounted to around 2s per 2,000 pounds of sugar – a fraction of what it was in Britain. In seeking a better share of the market, the Dundee marmalade manufacturer James Keiller & Son moved their center of operations from Scotland to Guernsey and, as a result, were able to undercut all their rivals and make a huge profit. Their factory in Park Street employed around 200 local people. In 1879, after 20 years of production, the reduction in sugar duty in Britain signalled an end to the Guernsey branch of operations, and the company disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived.
By the late 1870’s the company had replaced the Guernsey operation with a factory east of London in Silvertown. A January 6, 1899 story in Dundee’s “Courier and Argus” described it like this:
Their mammoth works there cover more than five acres of ground, with extensive frontage to the Thames, and having a specially constructed jetty projecting into the river, at which steamers arrive bearing the fruits of Spain, the Madeiras, Palmer, Corsica, etc.
A post card recently offered for sale on the internet provided this partial glimpse of the Silvertown operation, which I suspect included the buildings on the left along with the railroad siding.
By the early 1880’s Keiller had also expanded the Dundee operation, building a new factory at 9 Albert Square. A May 11, 1900 story in the “Courier and Argus” provided this description of the Dundee operation which by the turn of the century, probably had the appearance of a small campus.
The firm are wholesale confectioners, fruit preservers, and cocoa and chocolate makers, and the factory is one of the largest of its kind in Scotland, employing about 600 hands. The works are of large proportions, and are situated in the center of the city. They occupy the square formed by Commercial Street, High Street, New Inn Entry and Albert Square, with the exception of a line of tenement property on the west side of Commercial Street.
The business registered as a joint stock company in 1893. The registration notice was published in the September 2, 1893 edition of the Glasgow Herald.
At this point, Alexander’s son, John Mitchell Keiller, was made chairman of the company. He had been heading the company since his father’s death in 1877. He continued in this capacity until his death in 1899 at which point long time employee James Boyd took control. Boyd was the first company head to not be a member of the Keiller family.
Around the time Boyd took control, both the Dundee and Silvertown facilities would experience devastating fires.
The Dundee fire was described in the May 11, 1900 edition of the “Birmingham Daily Post” and a pictorial representation of the tragic event appeared in the same day’s issue of the “Courier and Argus.”
A great fire broke out yesterday afternoon at the works of Messrs. James Keiller & Sons, marmalade and confectionery manufacturers, Dundee. The outbreak occurred through a bursting of a refrigerator in the chocolate department, which is situated in the center of the colossal establishment. Work was in full swing at the time, but fortunately all the female operatives managed to escape by the windows and by means of a fire escape. A later telegram says the fire burned for over three hours, the melting sugar and syrup all the while sending forth pungent odors. A large store and the firm’s offices alone were saved.
A day after the fire, the “Courier and Argus” ran a notice that the store on Castle Street was not affected and remained open.
…and six months later a December 5, 1900 “Courier and Argus” story made it clear that not only was the facility being rebuilt but in the meantime it was business as usual.
The War Office have placed with Messrs. James Keiller & Co., Limited, Dundee and London, an order to supply 216,000 packages of jam for the use of troops in South Africa. This is the sixth government order which Messrs. Keiller have obtained within the past few months, the number of packages of jam supplied now standing at the huge total 1,800,000. It is also satisfactory to learn that this firm is about to reconstruct their working premises in Albert Square, Dundee. The works were partially destroyed by fire several months ago, and since that time temporary arrangements have been made and no stoppage of the work was necessary. The portion of the works burned down, along with other parts left standing, but which will be demolished in order to allow for a complete job being made, will be rebuilt. The machinery will be of the most modern description, and will be driven by electric power. The works will be lighted throughout by electricity…
The rebuilt factory, described like this in a 1907 feature, had all the bells and whistles of the day.
This factory, like its prototype at Silvertown, has recently been rebuilt after a fire. It stands in the heart of the city, and on the site of the original premises where James Keiller first started making marmalade, being in close proximity to the harbor and railway stations. The factory is of substantial erection, being built from stone from the famous Camperdown query. It is four stories high and covers about an acre and a half of ground. In addition to jam, jelly, peel, chocolate and confectionery departments, the factory includes a modern bakehouse for the production of wedding and birthday cakes, shortbread, etc. The departments are connected with each other by automatic telephones and there is a chemical laboratory where the goods are tested before being dispatched. The whole of the place is lighted by electricity generated on the premises, and the same power is used for driving the machinery and lifts.
As the above story states, the Silvertown facility survived the fire there as well and subsequently, a June 8, 1914 story in “The Times” of London described the two operations like this:
Today the works of James Keiller and Sons (Limited) in Dundee employ some 500 workers. In London, at Silvertown, the firm has another works employing 1,100 workers.
By then, the company had also added a third factory in Tangermuende, Germany, which opened in 1906.
In 1919 the entire James Keiller operation was acquired by Crosse & Blackwell. The deal was announced in the January 12,1919 edition of “The Times” of London.
A trade fusion of distinct domestic interest is announced today, for the firths of Crosse and Blackwell. James Keiller and Son, of Dundee, and E. Lazenby and Son have long been household words for jam, marmalade, pickles, sauces, and potted meat. We are officially informed that an agreement has been entered into between them, by which, each company will retain its individuality and continue to manufacture its own specialties independently. The capital of Messrs. Crosse and Blackwell is to be largely increased, so that it may acquire a controlling interest in the other two companies. There is to be an interchange of directors, and Mr. Robert Just Boyd, now managing director of James Keiller and Son (Limited ) will become chairman of Cross and Blackwell (Limited), while Frank S. Blackwell will be vice-chairman.
James Keiller & Son continued to operate under the Crosse & Blackwell umbrella for the next 40 years. Then, in late December, 1959, Cross & Blackwell became the prize in a takeover battle. According to the December 22, 1959 edition of London’s “Evening Standard.”
In this year-end tussle, the rivals are the Nestles chocolate giant and Sir Clavering Fison’s fertilizer combine, which has important food interests as well.
Nestles opened the bidding at 9,700,000 (pounds). Sir Clavering has topped it with an 11,000,000 (pounds) offer.
A little over a month later, the February 6, 1960 edition of the “Evening Standard” reported that Nestles had ultimately won the “tussle.”
Pay day comes next Friday for stockholders in Cross and Blackwell who accepted the 84s a share bid from Nestles.
Through their letter boxes will go cheques totaling 11, 500,000 (pounds). And you can be sure that by around midday they will be busily ringing their stockbrokers seeking new homes for their money.
Nestle retained ownership for over twenty years before selling to the Okhai Group in 1981. Okahi sold it to Barker & Dobson in 1985 who in turn sold it to Ranks Hovis McDougall in 1988. According to a story in the June 21, 1988 edition of London’s “The Guardian,” this marked the end of the Dundee plant as a marmalade maker.
Supermarkets and sweets group Barker & Dobson has sold its James Keiller marmalades and jams to Ranks Hovis McDougall in a deal worth just over 4 million (pounds).
But it is retaining Keiller’s Dundee plant and the butterscotch business and will use the factory space freed by the sale of the preserves machinery and stocks to expand sugar confectionery production. The sale to RHM also includes the Keiller preserves trademarks and goodwill.
B&D acquired James Keiller at the end of 1985 for just under 5 million (pounds). The assets being sold yesterday account for about a quarter of the original business, according to B&D chairman and chief executive John Fletcher.
Yesterday Mr. Fletcher said his group had decided to sell the preserves interests because “there was not sufficient critical mass in the business.” Under RHM’s ownership they would be part of a much larger jams operation, he said.
James Keiller and Son, Orange Marmalade is still available today on Amazon. Who exactly makes it is not clear to me.
So the question still remains…when did Dundee Marmalade make its way to the United States?
It appears this occurred shortly after the business began to expand in 1845. It was around that time Dundee Marmalade began to appear in advertisements run by the firm of John Duncan & Son, who would go on to serve as Keiller’s long time U. S. agent. A July 28, 1911 feature on Duncan in the “Retail Grocer’s Advocate,” described Duncan as:
a thrifty son of Scotland who in 1819 established in New York City a business in rare and fine groceries
In 1840 he partnered with his son, David Duncan, and established John Duncan & Son. Their co-partnership announcement, published in the February 27, 1840 edition of New York’s “Evening Post,” mentioned that:
They offered for sale a general assortment of wines, teas and groceries selected with care expressly for families.
As early as 1845 the company was offering “to dealers,” an item for “Scotch Marmalade in pots,” as evidenced by this advertisement that appeared in the December 10, 1845 edition of the “Evening World.”
Likely Keiller’s, by November 15, 1848 Duncan was calling it Dundee Marmalade in their ads.
Though more well known for their association with Lea & Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce, John Duncan & Son, and later John Duncan’s Sons, continued to name themselves as an agent for James Keiller & Son in their advertising up through the early 1900’s. The following advertisement, primarily focused on Lea & Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce, mentioned “John Keiller’s Celebrated Dundee Marmalade” in the last paragraph. The ad appeared in the July 15, 1869 edition of the Buffalo (N.Y.) Commercial.
Here’s another advertisement, this one from 1886, that features both Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and Dundee Marmalade among other products touted by John Duncan’s Sons.
As far as I can tell, their relationship with the Duncan business ended when James Keiller & Son joined with Cross & Blackwell. A 1922 advertisement in the Boston, Massachusetts City Directory certainly suggests that, by then, Cross & Blackwell had assumed distribution responsibilities for Keiller products in the United States.
At times the two also shared advertisements as evidenced by this 1952 advertisement that appeared in a Virginia newspaper.
Cross & Blackwell continued to maintain a U.S. presence up through the time of the Nestle acquisition. In New York City, they were initially located at 105 Hudson Street and later at 146 West 22nd Street. Then, sometime in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, they moved across the East River to Long Island City where they were listed at 22-22 Jackson Avenue.
Over the years I’ve found three small earthenware pots. Embossing on the base of each indicates they were made by Maling Pottery in Newcastle.
All three pots bear the same two prize related inscriptions:
Only Prize Medal for Marmalade London, 1862
Grand Medal of Merit Vienna 1873
This dates them subsequent to the Vienna award; no earlier than 1874. A syndicated “question and answer” newspaper item in 1950 mentioned that this style pot was used until 1914. (I’ve been unable to confirm this end date so please take it with a grain of salt.)
Each of the three pots exhibits a different small letter; “P” “R,” and “C” located below the central wreath that encircles the product and company name.
An article in the Maling Collectors’ Society Newsletter, dated September 2000, suggests that these letters likely indicate batch codes but there’s no logic yet detected associating the letter designation with a specific manufacture date.
According to Bremner’s 1869 “Industries of Scotland” feature, one and a half million of these pots were required every year at a cost of 6,500 (pounds). He went on to describe the process of filling and covering these pots back in the day.
…The boilers are so worked as to be ready in rotation; and when the contents of one are sufficiently boiled the marmalade is emptied into a pan fixed on a small truck and conveyed to the filling room. This is a large apartment, with tables arranged longitudinally, on which thousands of pots and jars are piled. Adjoining the filling room is a sort of scullery in which the pots are washed by a steam machine. The jars, which contain from 7 to 14 lb. each, are filled on a set of scales ; but as the pots are made of a uniform size, holding 1 lb. each, they are not weighed. When the contents have sufficiently cooled, the pots are raised by a steam-elevator to an upper room, where they are covered. About fifty women and girls are employed in this department. A circular piece of tissue paper is first laid on the surface of the marmalade and then a piece of vegetable parchment is tied over all. Formerly animal tissue was used for covering the pots; but now vegetable parchment, a much more cleanly and equally effective material, is being employed.
The pots I found are roughly 4 1/2 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter and are certainly of the 1 lb. variety. Rimmed at the top, this feature was likely required to accommodate the tied covers described above.
On a final note…
The building that housed Keiller’s original 2 Castle Street retail store in Dundee remains to this day. The modern version below is courtesy of Google Earth.
Although there’s no location embossed on the bottle, I’m quite sure Marshall & Co. was a short-lived New York City soda water manufacturer. In fact, the year 1866 embossed on the bottle could be the only year that the business was in existence.
There are only two directory listings that I can find for the business. The first was found in the 1866/1867 N.Y.C. Copartnership and Corporation Directory; the other in the 1867 New York State Business Directory (likely compiled in 1866). Both listings include the same address in lower Manhattan, 182 Thompson Street.
In further support of this supposition, the only advertisements I’ve been able to find for the business were all published in the New York City newspapers during July, 1866. One ad, found in the July 20, 1866 edition of the New York Daily Herald, was a collection of three adjacent items, each touting their Sarsaparilla as well as something called Mingo Beer.
Another, published in the July 12, 1866 edition of the Herald, identified hotels, saloons, fruit stores and the family trade as their targeted market.
Similar July, 1866 advertisements also appeared in the New York Times and New York Tribune.
The subject bottle is a pony with an applied blob finish that almost certainly dates to 1866.
Duhme & Meyer was a New York City mineral water manufacturer and a bottler of soda and beer that operated in lower Manhattan during much of the 1870’s and 1880’s. The proprietors were German immigrants Henry Duhme and Wiliam Meyer.
Census records indicate that Duhme arrived in the United States from Hanover, Germany in 1848. By the early 1850’s he had apparently joined his brother Martin in the grocery business under the name “Duhme & Brother.” The 1851 N.Y.C. directory listed the business in lower Manhattan with an address of 17 Grand Street. By the mid-1850’s the name “Duhme & Brother” had disappeared from the directories however, both Duhme’s continued to be listed as grocers at several lower Manhattan locations up through the mid-1860’s.
It was around this time that Henry Duhme opened a saloon at 198 Bleeker Street as evidenced by the occupation he listed in the 1870 census records: “Lagerbier Saloon.” This likely occurred in 1868 when his occupation in the directories changed from “grocer” to “liquor.”
Sometime in the early 1870’s Duhme partnered with William Meyer and together they established Duhme & Meyer. Meyer had immigrated to the United States from Prussia and I suspect he had recently arrived in New York City after first settling in New Jersey.
The business of Duhme and Meyer was initially listed in the 1871 N.Y.C directory at 112 Prince Street where they remained for over ten years. Early directories (1871 to 1875) referenced the company as a “soda” business while later directories called them “bottlers.” They were certainly bottling beer as well as soda in 1875 as evidenced by a Duhme & Meyer bottle found in a collection presented on brucemobley.com. The bottle is embossed “Lager Beer” on the front, with the year 1875 embossed on the back.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the bottling business was actually an outgrowth of Duhme’s saloon business and they were bottling beer from the start but that’s entirely conjecture on my part.
Sometime in 1883 Duhme & Meyer moved to 115 Christopher Street where they were listed in the N.Y.C. directories until 1886 when Duhme apparently left the business. He ultimately moved to Brooklyn where 1900 census records listed his occupation as a real estate agent. He passed away in March 1909.
The bottling business continued to operate under the management of the Meyer family after Duhme’s departure. In 1887, both William Meyer and Henry W. Meyer, were listed with the occupation “waters,” at 115 Christopher Street. Henry was almost certainly William’s son, who, according to 1880 census records, was born in 1871.
The following year William Meyer was no longer listed, apparently leaving the business in the hands of his son who continued to operate it at 115 Christopher Street up until 1898.
A bottle embossed Henry W. Meyer exhibiting the 115 Christopher Street address was found in the collection of Mike AKA Chinchillaman1 at http://mikesbottleroom.weebly.com (no relation to this web site).
Sometime in 1898 Meyer moved the business to 218 West 22nd Street. The move was almost certainly associated with a reduction in business due to New York State’s enactment of their 1896 liquor tax law, popularly referred to as Raines Law. Among other things, the law included an $800 license fee making it difficult for much of Meyer’s small business clientele to remain in business.
Shortly after the move the business came to a tragic end when Henry W, Meyer committed suicide. A story in the May 21, 1899 edition of the New York Tribune provided the sad details.
Henry W. Meyer, head of the firm Henry W. Meyer & Co., manufacturers of soda water, committed suicide yesterday afternoon at his home, No. 215 Tenth Ave., by taking muriatic acid. The shrinking of his extensive business to a condition of poor trade by the closing up of many small dealers with whom he had a monopoly of trade is thought to have caused Myer’s act. Myer lived with his wife and four children on the second floor of the Tenth Ave. house. His factory is in Twenty second Street between Tenth and Eleventh Aves. The man had built up a large business among the small saloons in the city, especially on the East Side. The Raines Law license drove a great many of these dealers out of business, and Meyer’s trade suffered, as he found himself unable to compete with the larger dealers.
The bottle I found is a pony with an applied blob finish that includes the embossed Christopher Street address. The monogramed back includes the embossed year 1883, suggesting it was manufactured specifically to reflect Duhme & Meyer’s move to new quarters that year.
Streeteasy.com reports that today the building at 115 Christopher Street was built in 1904, so it does not date back to the time frame of the business.
Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer was a patent medicine manufactured in Woonsocket, Rhode Island that was popular in the latter half of the 19th century.
It’s name alone touted it as a cure for just about all chest and lung related diseases but, by the time you were finished reading the fine print in this 1865 advertisement, you’d think it also cured everything from a headache to urinary tract issues. The advertisement appeared in the 1865 Woonsocket city directory.
Described as “A Pleasantly Flavored Syrup for Children or Adults,” the ad made no mention of the fact that the medicine contained the addictive drug morphine along with ethyl alcohol and chloroform. As you’d expect, this resulted in unintended and sometimes drastic consequences, an example of which was poignantly documented in the May 3, 1878 edition of the (Darlington, Wisconsin) Republican-Journal.
On Thursday of last week Elsie, youngest daughter of T. J. Law, aged 17 months, met her death under the following sad circumstances: Her parents had procured a bottle of Arnold’s Cough Killer and, after administering the proper dose, put it away; the little child, unnoticed by her parents, got a chair, and, reaching the bottle, drank about three ounces of the mixture. The doctors were called and did all in their power to save her life, but in less than four hours after taking the medicine, the little child was a corpse.
Unfortunately individual stories like this were completely obscured by the plethora of “Cough Killer” advertisements, chock full of testimonials, found in newspapers and reputable magazines like Good Housekeeping (top) and Lippincott’s (bottom).
Not to mention artistically done trading cards .
The back of this card described the “Cough Killer” as a family medicine.
Every family should keep some reliable cough medicine in their house, and for this special purpose we have prepared and confidently recommend Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer. The constantly increasing sale and the satisfaction it gives demonstrates its absolute merit. A single trial is sufficient to secure for it your commendation. Buy and keep a bottle on hand. We are all liable to catch a cold at any moment.
So it’s no surprise the medicine remained popular up through the turn of the century.
Originally I was skeptical that a Dr. Seth Arnold actually existed, figuring that, like many patent medicines back in the day, he was simply a fictional character under whose name the product was manufactured and sold. As it turns out, not only did he exist, but his family was intimately involved with the founding of Woonsocket, Rhode Island and, in fact, their presence in that State dated back to the days of Roger Williams. According to the Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Rhode Island, published in 1881:
Arnold, Dr. Seth, son of Nathan and Esther (Darling) Arnold, was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, February 26, 1799, and is a descendant of William Arnold, who came in a canoe with Roger Williams to Providence. William Arnold’s son Thomas settled in Smithfield, Rhode Island, and had several children, one of whom, Richard, was the first settler of Woonsocket, and an officer in the English government most of his life. His son John built the first frame house in Woonsocket in 1711…
A 6th generation Rhode Islander, Seth Arnold spent his early years occupied in a wide variety of endeavors that included cotton mill worker and hotel keeper. His youth even included a five year stint as a traveling showman, described like this in the Biographical Cyclopedia of Rhode Island:
He travelled in various states with an exhibition of natural and artificial curiosities.
With this background it’s no surprise that his medical qualifications, as listed in the 1878/1879 New England Official Directory and Handbook, were quite thin by today’s standards.
…attending two courses of medical lectures at Woonsocket, R. I., in 1842; one course in Worcester, Mass., in 1843; and two entire courses in New York City during the year 1844.
Exactly when Arnold began manufacturing and selling patent medicines is not clear, however an early advertisement for Dr S. Arnold’s Balsam that appeared in several June/July, 1851 editions of the Hartford Courant suggested that it occurred approximately six years prior to the ad being published, making it sometime in the mid 1840’s.
This balsam has been sold in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut for six years and is now sold in almost every village of these states.
The advertisement went on to describe what were likely Arnold’s first two concoctions, his Balsam and another called “Compound Vegetable Sudorific Physical Pills.”
DR. S. ARNOLD’S BALSAM
A SURE and safe remedy, and is warranted to cure in less than ONE HOUR, in their first stages, and in a short time after all other remedies have failed, if the patient has not mortified, or the money will be refunded, Cholera Morbus, Asiatic or Spasmodic Cholera, Dysentery and Diarrhea. My agents stand ready at all times to make good these assertions. It is also used with entire success for Tooth Ache and Burns, the pain of which it soon relieves, and heals the burn in a short time without leaving a scar.
Also the Compound Vegetable Sudorific Physical Pills. They are a pleasant, efficient, aperient, mild, gentle, efficacious cathartic, safe at all times and under all circumstances. They will be found to excel in Jaundice, Costiveness, Head-Ache, and all bilious and feverish habits, operating without pain or sickness to the stomach. The above medicine is worthy the notice of travelers and seafaring people.
It wasn’t until 1857 that his “Cough Killer” began to appear in newspaper published drug store advertisements, so I suspect he added this medicine to his menu a little later, likely sometime in the mid-1850’s.
In 1869 Arnold sold the rights to his Balsam to Gillman Brothers, a Boston wholesale druggist, for $12,500. Gilman Brothers continued to market the Balsam under Arnold’s name well into the 1900’s.
After the sale of the Balsam, Arnold continued to manufacture and sell his “Cough Killer” and “Compound Vegetable Sudorific Physical Pills,” whose name was ultimately shortened to simply “Bilious Pills.”
Three years later, in 1872, he established the Doctor Seth Arnold Medical Corporation. According to the History of Providence County, R. I. Vol. II, published in 1891:
The Doctor Seth Arnold Medical Corporation was formed August 13, 1872, with a capital of $100,000, to succeed to the business of Doctor Seth Arnold, as manufacturers of proprietary medicines. The corporators were Doctor Seth Arnold, L. W. Ballou, James M. Cook, William G. Arnold, William M. Weeks. Doctor Seth Arnold remained at the head of the corporation until his death, October 31, 1883.
The History of Providence goes on to describe their Woonsocket facilities.
The first place of business was on Greene Street, but since 1875 the fine laboratory on Park Avenue has been occupied. The building has a fine site and is attractive in its appearance and surroundings. It is a frame 40 by 60 feet and contains fine offices and store rooms, in addition to the manufacturing departments.
A full page advertisement published in several editions of the Woonsocket city directory during the early 1880’s prominently featured their new building.
The building was listed with several different addresses over the years. Between 1877 and 1886 it was listed in the Woonsocket directory as 72 (sometimes 64) Sullivan Street, then sometime in the late 1880’s Sullivan Street was apparently renamed Park Avenue and between 1888 and 1891 it was listed as 72 Park Avenue. Later it would be listed as 158 Park Avenue (1892 to 1901) and 358 Park Avenue (1902 to 1905). The last two adress changes were likely due to changes in Park Avenue’s numbering system as opposed to a physical move by the company.
After the death of Seth Arnold the business remained under the control of the Arnold family with Seth’s sons Olney Arnold and later Alexander Streeter Arnold serving stints as president. According to Alexander Streeter’s biography published in “Representative Men & Old Families of Rhode Island,” Vol III, published in 1908, he was serving as president when the company was sold in 1905.
In 1900 he returned to Woonsocket and became the president of the Dr. Seth Arnold Medical Corporation, also holding the position of treasurer, and continued at the head of that concern until 1905, when they sold out to the Boston Drug Company.
The Dr. Seth Arnold Medical Company listing in the 1906 Woonsocket directory indicated that, by then, the business had “removed to Boston, Mass,” but who actually bought them is not clear. There’s no Boston Drug Company listed in the directories, but there is a Boston Chemical Company so that’s a possibility. It’s also possible that Gilman Bros, the company that bought Seth Arnold’s “Balsam” back in 1869 bought them and simply was referenced as “the Boston Drug Company” in Alexander Streeter Arnold’s biography.
Regardless of who bought them, by March 5, 1905 they had left Boston and their long-time headquarters on Park Avenue had been sold. According to the Fall River (Mass) Daily Evening News:
Frank Prue & Co., who operate a knitting factory in leased quarters on South Main Street, Woonsocket, have purchased the three-story Dr. Seth Arnold laboratory building on Park Avenue, Woonsocket, from the Dr. Seth Arnold Medical Corporation. Prue & Co will remodel the three-story wooden building into a knitting factory and will increase the scope of that plant.
After the move to Boston, “Arnold’s Cough Killer continued to appear, all but sporadically, in drug store advertisements up through the early 1920’s after which it vanishes.
The sale of the business and the subsequent disappearance of Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer occurred around the same time that public awareness was generating investigations into the patent medicine industry. One result of these investigations was the 1906 Food and Drug Act that required, among other things, that the presence of habit forming drugs be declared on the labels of drug products. It certainly appears resistance to this legislation was a major contributor to the product’s downfall. While I can’t definitely prove this hypothesis, there are clues in the newspapers.
One is a June 1, 1911 story in the Selma (California) Enterprise:
The State Board of Health last week gave out a list of more than 100 alleged violates of the pure food law whom the district attorneys of the various counties will be asked to prosecute.
Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer was on the list of offenders.
Another was found in the L. A. Times on April 1st, that same year.
George A. Tilt of Gardena was said to have sold Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer without a label showing it to contain morphine, ethyl alcohol and chloroform.
Tilt was fined $25.
The bottle I found is a mouth blown medicine with a contents of less than 2 oz. Sold over the years in three sizes; small, medium and large, this is almost certainly the small size. Throughout most of the product’s history, this size was yours for 25 cents.
The bottle’s finish does not appear tooled so I suspect it dates to the late 1800’s.