W. B. Riker & Son, Co., Druggist, 353 6th Ave., N. Y. C.

Prior to 1850, William B. Riker established a drug store on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan’s Flatiron District that he, and later, his son, William H. Riker, operated up through the early 1890’s. Subsequently, under several different management teams it would morph into the largest retail drug chain in the country all while continuing to exhibit the Riker name.

The senior Riker was a native of New York City who, according to his February 23, 1906 “New York Times” obituary was born in 1821 on Duane Street in lower Manhattan. Another obituary, this one published in the “New York Herald,” gets the story of his career started.

He entered the drug business early in life with John Meakin, then was associated with Dr. Hunter.

Riker likely served as a clerk for druggist Meakin, whose business was listed with an address of 511 Broadway during the early to mid-1840’s. His association with “Dr. Hunter” is less  clear. There were two physicians named Hunter listed in Manhattan during the early to mid-1840’s. One, Adam T. Hunter, listed an address of 161 Hudson Street. The other, Galen Hunter, was located at 116 Sixth Avenue about a block or so from Meakin’s drug store, so I suspect he’s our Dr. Hunter.

According to most accounts, it was sometime in 1846 that Riker established his own drug store on Sixth Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets. That being said, he’s not mentioned in the NYC directories until 1848/1849 when he was listed as:

William B. Riker, apothecary, 353 Ave. 6.

So suffice to say, he was certainly in business by the late 1840’s.

Not long after, in 1850, Riker partnered with a man named George W. Berrian, Jr. and the business operated under the name “Riker & Berrian” for the next 10 years. This April 13, 1854 “New York Times” advertisement named Riker & Berrian’s drug store as the Manhattan depot for a proprietary product called “Lyon’s Magnetic Powder and Pills.”

Sometime in 1860 or 1861 the Berrian name was dropped and throughout the 1860’s the business was simply listed as William B. Riker. Then sometime around 1870 he added his son’s name to the listing, calling it W. B. Riker & Son. To the best of my knowledge it was first listed this way in the 1871 Goulding’s Business Directory.

Late in the 1870’s the Riker’s began to manufacture their own proprietary products (or at least products that included the Riker name in the title). The first Riker named product I can find advertised was “Riker’s American Face Powder.” The ad appeared in the September 1, 1878 edition of the “New York Herald.”

The ad made the point that their face powder was “endorsed by the leading dramatic artists.” Several years later another advertisement, this one in the November 7, 1882 edition of the “New York Tribune,” went on to name several  of these artists.

By the early to mid 1880’s the company had added a few more products sporting the Riker name as evidenced by this October 21, 1883 “New York Sun” advertisement.

Although their list of proprietary products was growing, up through the mid-1880’s company advertisements continued to refer to the business as simply “druggists” with the single address of 353 Sixth Avenue. This suggests that any manufacturing was done on a limited scale and the operation was conducted at the retail location on Sixth Avenue.  That changed in 1887 when, now calling themselves “druggists and manufacturing chemists,” the company began listing  laboratory/factories on Manhatan’s Clarkson Street and Washington Street. Located at the intersection of Clarkson and Washington, i suspect it was actually one location with addresses on both streets.

A November 11, 1887 advertisement in New York’s “Evening World” made it clear that by then their “American Face Powder” was one of many “Riker Preparations.”

The same advertisement went on to list several perfumes manufactured by the company as well.

It was around this time that the senior Riker turned the business over to his son as evidenced by his own testimony in a court case (William Comyns against William H. Riker, William B. Riker & Son Company and William B. Riker).

Q. When did you dispose of or withdraw from the business?

Witness: I gave a bill of sale; I sold my business out in 1887, December 15th; but I had been previously out of business; I had nothing to do, my son did everything, and took the entire profits for at least a year previous to my giving the bill of sale, and a formal bill of sale was drawn up.

According to testimony in the above court case, sometime in 1891, with William H. Riker now running the business, he leased the adjacent store on the corner of 22nd Street (355 Sixth Avenue) and altered the two properties into “one large gigantic drug store” where he added a soda fountain. An announcement to that effect appeared in the April 24, 1891 edition of the “Evening World.”

The new soda fountain aside, the business was almost certainly mismanaged by the son and, in 1892, he sold it to a syndicate of four individuals, one of which was an employee. The sale was documented in the “Findings of Fact” associated with the above court case.

That on said 12th day of February, 1892, said William H. Riker…made and executed a bill of sale of his said business so carried out at No.s 353 and 355 Sixth Avenue, and at 588 Washington Street, and of his stock and fixtures and other assets, and transferred it to Edward D. Cahoon, at the time, and for some years prior thereto, one of his clerks, and to Joseph H. Marshall, William C. Bolton and Daniel K. Runyon…

The “Findings of Fact” went on to say:

That on said 12th day of February, 1892, and for a long time prior thereto, the said William H. Riker was hopelessly and wholly insolvent and unable to pay his debts in full.

On a side note: In lieu of paying off his creditors with proceeds from the sale, William H. Riker signed the money over to his father who paid down mortgage debt he held on the Sixth Avenue property. This resulted in several court cases, including the one referenced above.

All that aside, it’s clear that the Riker name continued to hold value within the drug community because the new syndicate retained it, subsequently incorporating the business as the “W. B. Riker & Son, Co;” simply adding “Co.” to the former name. The incorporation notice was published in the March 23, 1892 edition of a publication called the “Chemist & Druggist.”

In 1897 the company moved their Sixth Avenue store approximately one block north to the corner of 23rd street where it was then listed with an address of 373 Sixth Avenue. The move was reported in the August 1, 1897 edition of the “Merck Report.”

Rikers drug store, which for half a century occupied the same site on Sixth Avenue below Twenty-second Street, has been removed to the reconstructed  store at the southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Twenty-third Street…

An early 20th century advertisement described the store like this:

Here five floors, devoted to the various departments of the Drug Store business, have probably accomodated more customers than have ever been served in a similar drug store space elsewhere in the same length of time.

In June, 1904 the company opened a second drug store in Manhattan, this one at Broadway and Ninth Street. Around the same time they also added five stores across the East River in Brooklyn when they consolidated their operation with that of the Bolton Drug Company. The consolidation was reported in the June 7th edition of Brooklyn’s “Times Union.”

The Riker drug stores of Manhattan and the Bolton drug stores of Brooklyn, have been consolidated. The change took place on Monday and was effected at a meeting of the Bolton Drug Company.

The combination made yesterday is enterprising and progressive, and a chain of fine establishments in Brooklyn will be one of the results. The main store of the Bolton Company is at 450-454 Fulton Street, and there are four other stores, each of which will be thoroughly remodeled and then operated along the lines of the Riker stores.

As promised, on November 12, 1904 the first remodeled Bolton store reopened under the management of the Riker Company. The public invitation appeared in the November 10th and 11th editions of several Brooklyn newspapers. It read in part:

We extend a cordial invitation to Brooklyn people – and to our Manhattan friends also – to visit the old Bolton Drug Store at 456 Fulton Street next Saturday, when it will be opened under the new Riker management.

The remodeled store will be beautifully decorated with flowers, an excellent orchestra will be in attendance all day, and there will be gifts worth coming from the ends of the town after. This opening is the first of several that are to take place in Brooklyn in the near future. The Bolton Drug Stores are now under the management of the Riker Drug Company, and are being remodeled and rearranged as rapidly as possible to conform to the Riker standards.

Don’t fail to call in at 456 Fulton Street on Saturday.

Beginning in 1907 the company also opened several additional stores in Manhattan: The locations and opening dates were summarized in a November 17, 1908 advertisement published in New York’s ” Evening World.” They were: 159 West 14th Street (May, 1907), 13 West 34th Street (Nov. 1907), 2 West 14th Street (Sept. 1908) and 6th Avenue and 42nd Street (Nov. 1908)

The lease of their 34th Street location set a record for rental prices on Manhattan’s 34th Street at the time. According to a May 8, 1907 story in the “New York Sun:”

RECORD LEASE NEAR WALDORF

RIKER COMPANY TO PAY $903,000 FOR WEST 34TH STREET STORE

Frank M. Winner, of the office of Alvan W. Perry, has leased for Bonwit Teller & Co. the first floor and basement of the building being erected at Nos. 13 and 15 West 34th St. to the William B. Riker & Son Company for a term of 21 years, beginning September 1, at a rental of $43,000. a year.

The building, which has been designed as a six story building for Bonwit, Teller & Co., will be altered to an eight story loft and office building, and the store, which is 40 feet in width by 125 feet in depth, is to have, in addition to this floor space, a mezzanine gallery throughout. The interior of the store is now in the hands of an architect, whose plans contemplate one of the largest and finest drug stores in the United States. The floors will be of mosaic, and the soda fountain, which will be the largest in the city, will cost $20,000 being finished in imported onyx.

Bonwit, Teller & Co. intended this building for their own use, but owing to the rapid increase in 34th Street values and the large rental offered by the Riker company they determined to turn the building into an investment.

This lease marks a still higher record price for stores in 34th St., being at the rate of about $1,100 a front foot, while the store at No. 1 West 34th St. recently rented by the same real estate office to the Mirror Candy Company, was at a rental of $1,000 a front foot.

An advertisement announcing the opening of the 34th Street store appeared in the November 1, 1907 edition of the “New York Times.” It serves to make the point that the Riker business offered much more than just drug prescriptions and cosmetics.

Among the features that make the new Riker Store the most complete and finest drug store ever operated are: a Soda Fountain that will be the handsomest and costliest in America; a complete Stationery and Engraving Dept. unsurpassed anywhere; an extensive Photo Supplies Dept., including expert developing and printing; a Hair Goods Dept. that will carry the most complete and finest line of human hair goods; a Cigar Dept. where all the best known brands will be sold at the lowest prices; a Candy Dept. where the finest confections will be sold at Riker prices; a Sub-Station of the Post Office, Telephone Books, and a Ladies Writing Room for the convenience of lady customers. Another feature will be the department of wines and liquors for home and medicinal purposes. The line of Toilet Goods will be unexcelled; the Prescription and Drug Dept. will be up to the high Riker standard; and a full line of rubber goods will be carried.

Integral to most, if not all of their stores, was the soda fountain. In 1906 a new fountain, called the “Innovation,” was constructed at their 23rd Street location, a description of which appeared in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record.” If anything, its clear that the fountain was certainly ornate!

This magnificent apparatus will cost $20,000. The dispensing counter will be 36 feet long, built of Pavonazzo or Rose Sienna Marble, trimmed with onyx, and with onyx pilasters having solid bronze bases and bronze capitals.The slabs of both the dispensing counter and of the display section are to be of Mexican onyx from the quarries of the New Pedrara Onyx Company, from which come large blocks of the choicest onyx of wonderful coloring and perfect soundness.

The display, or wall section, with its large French plate beveled mirrors, its gleaming onyx, with electrical illumination revealing the rich colors of the art glass and of the fine paintings above the mirrors, will be indeed a marvel of beauty. The refrigerator at the base of the wall section is to be of white Italian and Pavonazzo marble, relieved by onyx trimmings, and with silver-plated door frames enclosing panels of the French plate glass. The refrigerator is thoroughly insulated and equipped for cooling and storage purposes.

The mechanism of the fountain – its working parts – of draft tubes, coolers, syrup jars, work boards, etc., embody all that is latest and best in the soda fountain construction of the American Soda Fountain Company.

This photograph of the soda fountain appeared in a 1907 advertisement for the American Soda Fountain Company.

In 1907, at about the same time that the Riker Company was opening their new soda fountain, they acquired the Boston, Massachusetts business of Charles P. Jaynes & Company. The March 18th edition of the  “Boston Evening Transcript” covered the announcement.

General Manager A. H. Cosden announces that the Riker Drug Company of New York has bought out the great Boston business of Charles P. Jaynes & Company, including all interests, assets, and retail drug stores. The corporate name of the new concern, it is announced, will be William B. Riker & Son Company.

The present retail business of the two companies is said to be in the neighborhood of $3,000,000 a year.

After the acquisition, the Riker company continued to open new stores in both New York and Boston. This advertisement announcing the opening of a new Brooklyn store appeared in the December 19, 1908 edition of the “Brooklyn Chat.”

In Boston, Riker advertisements continued to employ the locally familiar “Jaynes” name as evidenced by this May 18, 1909 “Boston Globe” advertisement that announced the opening of a new “Riker-Jaynes” drug store on Tremont Street. Not surprisingly, the new store included an onyx soda fountain.

The above advertisement put the mid-1909 Riker store count at 21; eight in Boston, seven in Manhattan and six in Brooklyn.

In 1910, the Riker business merged with a competing drug store chain called Hegeman & Co. The new company, called the “Riker-Hegeman Company” officially put an end to the “W. B. Riker & Son Company” name.

The merger announcement was included in the September, 1910 edition of the “Druggist Circular.”

The oft discussed and several times reported merger of the interests of Hegeman & Co. and the W. B. Riker & Son Company, both of this city, and the largest operators of chains of retail drug stores in the country, was consummated early in August. The new company formed by the union is known as the Riker-Hegeman Company. It is incorporated in this State with a capital of $15,000,000…

Competition between the two chains was most often suggested as the reason for the amalgamation. By then, according to an August 5th story in Patterson New Jersey’s “Morning Call,” the Riker chain included 25 stores in the Greater New York area alone, with 23 in Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as individual stores in the surrounding locales of Newark, New Jersey and Mt. Vernon, New York (Westchester County). At the same time, Hegeman operated 20 stores in the same area, many in close proximity to Riker stores.

This advertisement touting the drug chain appeared in the April 9, 1912 edition of the “Evening World.”

In 1916, the Riker-Hegeman stores were acquired by a newly formed company called the Liggett Company which in turn was owned by the United Drug Company. A cooperative controlled by over 7,000 retail druggists, the United Drug Company was the manufacturer of the “Rexall” product line.

The official announcement was published in the March 1916 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era.”

In the offices of the United Drug Company in Boston on Saturday February 12th, was completed the formation of the new L. K. Liggett Company, operating the Riker-Hegeman, Riker-Jaynes, and the Liggett drug stores in the United States and Canada.

The new Liggett Company will operate stores in New York, Boston, and all other leading cities from Bangor, Me., to Detroit, Mich.

The Riker-Hegeman and Riker-Jaynes stores number 107 and the Liggett stores 45; the total of 152 stores making it the largest retail drug association in America today.

The Liggett Company is owned by the United Drug Company of Boston, at the head of which is Mr. Louis K. Liggett, the newly elected president of the Boston Chamber of Commerce.

The United Drug Company in turn is owned and controlled by 7,000 retail druggists throughout the United States and Canada, now operating stores as the “Rexall Stores.”

The 53 stores in Greater New York and all others bearing the Riker-Hegeman name will be known as the LIGGETTS-RIKER-HEGEMAN DRUG STORES. The 20 stores in Boston bearing the Riker-Jaynes name will be called LIGGETT’S-RIKER-JAYNES DRUG STORES. The Liggett stores in cities in which no Riker stores are present will continue under the original name.

The Pharmaceutical Era story went on to say:

The Riker & Hegeman and the Riker-Jaynes stores will sell Rexall goods whenever this can be done without infringing on the right of an established Rexall store. All the Riker stores of New York and Boston will of course, carry Rexall goods. There are, however, some towns where Riker stores have been established in competition with existing Rexall stores. In such cases the Riker store would not carry the Rexall remedies.

Early on Liggett’s continued to use the Riker-Hegeman name as evidenced by this July 7, 1916 “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” advertisement. Also note that the soda fountain business was still alive and well!

By the early 1920’s any mention of Riker-Hegeman in Liggett’s advertisements was a simple reminder that some of their locations were “former Riker-Hegeman stores.”

Not long after, the Riker-Hegeman name disappeared completely from their drug store ads.

The company grew under Liggett as evidenced by this assessment that appeared 15 years later in a June 17, 1937 “Pittsburgh Sun” story. By then the number of Liggett owned stores had grown from 152 to 450 and the Rexall retailers from 7,000 to 10,000.

From a small beginning the Liggett Drug Company, has grown into one of the largest institutions of its kind. It is an integral part of the United Drug Company of Boston, which distributes merchandise of its own manufacture to 10,000 Rexall agents and to 450 Liggett drug stores in practically every state in the union.

The great business is headed by Louis K. Liggett, founder of the original Liggett Company and now president of the United Drug Company.The 450 Liggett stores are under the executive direction of George M. Gales, who is president of the Liggett Drug Company. It is estimated that approximately 150,000,000 people are served annually by the 450 Liggett stores.

In 1941, a man named Justin Dart took control of the organization. Prior to that Dart had been general manager of the Chicago-based Walgreen drug chain. A story in the March 19, 1977 edition of the Muscatine (Iowa) Journal picks up the story from there.

In 1941, Justin Dart…left Chicago and Walgreen for Boston and United Drug, where he took command of what was then the largest retail drug chain in the country.

Dart brought order and direction to United Drug, which was a losely organized holding company that included manufacturing, franchising and retailing through wholly owned stores operating under various names – Rexall, Liggett, Owl and Sontag were some of them.

Dart centralized operations around the Rexall name. He made Rexall a national advertiser. Then, in 1945, he moved himself – and the company’s headquarters – to Los Angeles. The corporate name was changed to Rexall Drug in 1947. Dart once ensconced in Los Angeles, proceeded to build an entirely different company.

Wheeling and dealing at a furious pace, he bought and sold companies, acquired others, disposed of others, merged others. He entered chemicals, plastics, cosmetics, glass containers and resort development.

It appears that the last vestige of the “Riker” name was one of the casualties of Dart’s “wheeling and dealing” when, in 1969, the company, now referred to as Dart Industries, sold their ethical drug division called Riker Laboratories to the 3M Company. The sale was reported in the July 9th edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”

Dart Industries and Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. officials have agreed in principle to purchase by Minnesota Mining of Riker Laboratories, Ethical Drug Division of Dart Industries, for 1,500,000 common shares of Minnesota Mining. The transaction has a value of slightly over $156 million…

Dart said the proposed sale of Riker would not materially affect 1969 earnings of Dart Industries and should contribute importantly to the company’s capital resources.

The 1977 “Muscatine Journal” feature went on to chronicle the last chapter of the story.

Rexall was dropped as a corporate name in 1969, replaced by Dart Industries

In 1972, 50 company owned Liggett drug stores were sold.

In 1973, 12 company owned Drug King stores in California and Oregon were sold.

In 1976, all of Rexall’s Canadian operations were sold.

And in 1977, the last of the lot went. Rexall’s manufacturing facilities in St. Louis, its franchise drug division and its contract manufacturing operations were all sold. They had sales of $50 million last year.

Justin Dart heads a company that will do better than $1.5 billion of business this year, none of it under the Rexall name.

While the Riker name is long gone, signs of the company’s existence still remain in the form of several current  Manhattan buildings that once housed Riker stores.

Unfortunately, the building that housed Riker’s original location at 353 Sixth Avenue (now 675 Avenue of the Americas) is not one of them. Construction of the building located there today, called the “Mattel Building,” began in 1900, so it’s possible that its planned construction facilitated Riker’s 1897 move up Sixth Avenue to 373 Sixth Avenue (now 711 Avenue of the Americas). Located at the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue, the building there now almost certainly dates back to Riker. This rendering of it appeared in an 1899 publication called “A Pictorial Description of Broadway,” found in the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org

…and this description of it appeared in a 1907 advertisement:

Here five floors, devoted to the various departments of the Drug Store business, have probably accomodated more customers than have ever been served in a similar drug store space elsewhere in the same length of time.

This building located there today, sans a few architectural modifications at the roof level and a fire escape added on the 23rd Street side, certainly fits the bill.

 

It appears that at least two other Manhattan buildings that housed Riker stores remain to this day as well.

The building at 15 West 34th Street, expanded from six to eight stories by Bonwit Teller to accommodate the Riker store, was sometimes referred to in newspaper articles as the “Riker Building,” A sketch of the store front was included in this November 1, 1908 advertisement that announced its opening.

Below is a current view of the building courtesy of “Google Earth.”  The only thing missing is the “Riker” sign above the store front.

Finally, here’s the September 18, 1908 advertisement announcing the opening of the store at 2 West 14th Street.

I’m pretty certain it was located somewhere in this row of stores that occupy the current building located on the south side of 14th Street just west of Fifth Avenue (possibly a combination of the 3rd and 4th store fronts from the corner).

The bottle I found is mouth blown and about three inches tall. The main body is two inches in diameter and it abruptly narrows to one inch near the lip. It’s embossing includes the name “W. B. Riker & Co.” as well as the original 353 Sixth Avenue address. This results in a very narrow date range for the bottle.

The presence of “Co.”in the embossed name dates it no earlier than 1892 when William H. Riker sold the business and the initial address of 353 Sixth Avenue dates it no later than their 1897 move to 23rd Street (373 Sixth Avenue).

Fraser & Co.

Fraser & Co. was a New York City based business that maintained both a drug manufacturing facility and a retail pharmacy. They were pioneers in the manufacture of measured doses of medicines in tablet form.

The founder, Horation Nelson Fraser, was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1851.

After spending much of his childhood in Davenport, Iowa, he returned to Providence where soon after he entered the pharmacy business. His early education, along with his early work history were summarized in a March 9, 1903 feature published in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record.”

…he was apprenticed to the drug business, engaging with W. R. Blanding, at that time one of the foremost and most respected pharmacists in New England. When his term of apprenticeship ended he continued his studies and soon after matriculated at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. Immediately after obtaining his diploma he went to Chicago and became connected with the firm of E. H. Sargent & Co., then, as now, the leading firm of retailers in the West. After a brief experience in the Western metropolis he moved East and entered the employment of Caswell, Hazzard & Co.

It was while working for Caswell & Hazzard that the seeds of his future were sown when he met Dr.Robert M. Fuller  who, at the time, was working on the idea of administering medicines in tablet form.

According to Fraser’s own words found in the May 11, 1899 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era.”

I think it was in the year 1879 that Dr. Robert M. Fuller invited me to call at his office at 136 West 42nd Street. On my arrival he told me that for sometime past he had been working on the subject of dividing medicines into quantities of desired size for exact and practical dispensing and administration.

For some reason, which I have never considered it proper to ask him, he confined himself in his conversation entirely to the mechanical part of the invention (for clearly it was an original idea) and thoroughly described to me the process and application of his method. It consisted first in thoroughly triturating the substances together, and second, in moulding this trituration into divisions to which he had already given the name “Tablet Triturates.”

The 1903 “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record” feature went on to explain that it was Fraser who was credited with manufacturing them in such a manner as to make their production commercially viable.

Mr. Fraser assisted him in the mechanical part of the work, and put the method into practical operation. After vainly endeavoring to get his employer, Mr. Hazzard, interested in the development of Dr. Fuller’s idea, Mr. Fraser decided to branch out into business for himself and start the manufacture of tablets by the Fuller process in connection with the conduct of a retail pharmacy. Leaving Caswell & Hazzard & Co. on July 21, 1881, he engaged in business by opening the pharmacy at 208 Fifth Avenue, and with a plant consisting of a mortar and pestle and twenty hard rubber molds he commenced the manufacture of tablet triturates, besides making a bid for such prescription business that might come his way.

An advertisement for Fraser’s Tablet Triturates found in the 1889 “Medical Directory of the City of New York” included his sales pitch to the medical profession:

According to this circa 1886 advertisement, the tablets were originally sold

in four ounce glass stop bottles each containing 1,000 tablets. They are all the same size but contain different doses.

For several years Fraser both manufactured tablet triturates and operated his pharmacy business out of the basement at 208 Fifth Avenue under the name Fraser & Co. This circa 1886 advertisement described the business as:

Manufacturers, Importers and Wholesale Dealers in Medicines and Physicians Supplies

Sometime in late 1887 or 1888 Fraser moved the tablet manufacturing operation to 311 West 40th Street and by 1890 had incorporated that piece of the business under the name of the “Fraser Tablet Triturate Mfg. Co.” That year, the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory named Fraser, president and Giles A. Manwaring, secretary of the newly formed corporation. Shortly afterwards the manufacturing operation moved again, this time to 23 Vandewater Street. By 1890, a wholesaler named Chas. Truax & Co. needed 15 pages in their catalog to cover the menu of Fraser’s Tablet Truturates. Here’s the first of the 15 pages:

Continued growth dictated another factory expansion in 1895, this time across the East River in Brooklyn. An April 10th story in the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” provided the details.

…The transaction which has just been completed is with the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Company, whose present place of manufacture is on Vandewater Street and which will within a few days take possession of the Brasher property on Ninth Avenue between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets. The property has a frontage of 200 feet on Ninth Avenue and a depth of 325 feet on Nineteenth Street and 275 feet on Eighteenth Street. The three story brick buildings and engine house will be put in order by the new owner for immediate use. The consideration is placed at $200,000.

Horatio N. Fraser, president of the manufacturing company, says in regard to his purchase: “I have sought Brooklyn as the scene of our industry as the most desirable within a reasonable distance from New York City. We will start work as soon as possible and will give employment to about two hundred and fifty Brooklyn people on an average. Our present place in New York is entirely inadequate for our business and, in my judgement, Brooklyn presents the most desirable attractions for manufacturing industries hereabouts. I feel that it will be only a very short time before many other New York concerns will do as we have done and secure a site in Brooklyn while they may.”

According to an item in the December 10, 1895 edition of the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record,” Fraser was up and running there by the end of the year. The story mentioned that their facility occupied 30 city lots and was three times the size of their Vandewater Street location.

Meanwhile, back in Manhattan the pharmacy portion of the business continued at 208 Fifth Avenue where it was listed under the name Fraser & Co. It remained there until the early 1890’s when the company leased an entire building further north at 262 Fifth Avenue.

In 1901 the Fraser Tablet Company was incorporated to take over both the pharmacy interests of Fraser & Co. and the manufacturing operations of the Fraser Tablet Triturate Mfg. Company. The September 14, 1901 edition of a publication entitled the “United States Investor” described Fraser’s operation at the time of incorporation.

The company was recently incorporated by Horatio N. Fraser, under New York state laws, his object being to unite the different branches of his business. These interests conducted under the names Fraser & Co., and the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Co., have been taken over by the new company. The company’s business not only includes the manufacture of drugs and medicines, as might be inferred from its name, but in addition, it engages in the preparation and sale of bags, chests, show cases, books, catalogues, sick room and medical supplies, etc.

New York City’s 1902 Copartnership and Corporation Directory  listed the new company with capital of $1,500,000 and named Horatio N Fraser as president. The listing named “Fraser & Co.” as the Registered Trade Name (RTN) of the corporation.

Their retail pharmacy at 262 Fifth Avenue, which included both a prescription department and analytical department/laboratory was described  in the 1903 “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record” feature.

Besides prescription compounding proper, which calls for the services of nine licensed pharmacists, an extensive department of analytical and bacteriological examination is conducted. The average monthly  receipts from this department alone amount to $1,500.

The feature included this view of their laboratory…

…and the March, 1902 edition of a publication called the “Medical Examiner and Practitioner” laid out the services it provided.

The 1903 feature went on to say:

…the income from all departments of the retail pharmacy amounted to $85,000… The store is unique, original and complete – a prescription work shop, with all counters and work open to inspection: no fancy goods, no perfumes, no confectionary, no soda water, no trade sundries, but everything in the way of medicines and sick room comforts that a physician wants.

The feature also included this view of their prescription department…

In 1901 the company also established another pharmacy location, this one in Chicago, Illinois at 28 E. Washington Street.

The 1901 “United States Investor” story summed up their turn of the century operation like this.

The company states the assets are about $489,000. It also says that there is a $40,000 mortgage, but there has always been sufficient stock sold to clear it off. From what we can learn, the company appears to be in a prosperous condition, and is well thought of. The company is well known among the wholesale druggists, and the trade speaks well of Mr. Fraser and the company, of which he is the head.

The above turn of the century assessment appears to have been made around the time that the company was at its peak. Several years later a fire in their Brooklyn factory may have served as the catalyst for a downturn. The fire was reported in the February 22, 1904 edition of the “New York Sun.”

The three story brick factory building of the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Company on Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, Brooklyn was entirely destroyed last night by fire, which caused $350,000 damage, on which there is insurance for about $250,000. The damage to a large extent was due to the fact that there was an extremely small pressure of water. The property was on the highest point in Brooklyn and the water pressure was low anyway…

Mr. Fraser said that there were over 2,000,000 tablets in the factory. Two hundred persons are out of employment as the result of the fire.

Afterwards the company continued to list their address on 19th Street in the directories so they apparently rebuilt at either the same or an adjacent location. That being said, the fire certainly had an impact on the business as evidenced by this item that appeared in the September 15, 1905 edition of the “Wall Street Journal” under the heading “Answers to Inquiries”

Is there any market value for the stock of the Fraser Tablet Co., of New York? – F.N.C., Omaha

Answer – An official of the Fraser Tablet Company states that since their fire, which has put them back somewhat, there has scarcely been any demand for their stock, non of which however, has been sold by them below par. The company is making money but it will be impossible for them to pay dividends until some of their fire loss is paid up.

By 1908 their New York pharmacy business had moved out of 262 Fifth Avenue after which they moved around quite a bit, listing Manhattan locations at 563 Fifth Avenue (1908 to 1910), 583 Fifth Avenue (1911 to 1916) and 5 East 47th Street (1918 to 1919).  This advertisement referencing their 583 Fifth Avenue location appeared in the December, 1916 edition of a publication called “Military Medicine.”

Throughout that period they continued to maintain their Brooklyn manufacturing site usually with the address of 453 19th St.

Sometime in the early 1920’s the company was sold to a cooperative concern of pharmacists called the Ruth-Patrick Drug Company. The sale was mentioned in a December 8, 1921 feature on Ruth-Patrick in “The Buffalo (N.Y.) American.”

A company started five years ago in San Francisco in a very small laboratory without a large capital. Today it is a $10,000,000 corporation, the third largest manufacturing drug concern in the world. It is now operating the largest pharmaceutical laboratory on the Pacific coast and another one in Chicago, besides the one in New York City. It has just purchased the Fraser tablet company one of the oldest and largest tablet concerns in the world.

At this point Fraser, according to his November 9, 1942 obituary published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, retired. He would live in retirement to the age of 90. The new management team listed in the 1922 Brooklyn and Queens Copartnership and Corporation directory consisted of H. Lees Smith as president and S. R. Break as secretary-treasurer.

Three years later, the company was declared bankrupt and sold at public auction. By then, the company’s menu of medical preparations had been reduced to medicated candies and mints. The December 2, 1925 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle”provided the details.

FRASER TABLET CO. SOLD AS BANKRUPT.

At a public sale before Bankruptcy referee Theodore Stitt, the Fraser Tablet Company, manufacturers of domino mints and medicated candies at 453 19th St., this boro, has been bid in for $111,000 by John J. McCue of west Orange N. J. The purchase price represented $40,000 cash and an assumption of $71,000 of obligations not dischargeable in bankruptcy…The Fraser Company was adjudicated bankrupt on Nov. 10 last.

Another December 2, 1925 story, this one in the Brooklyn “Times Union,” included this vague reasoning for the bankruptcy, which suggested mismanagement by the cooperative.

The Fraser Tablet Company was petitioned into bankruptcy about two months ago when its managers discovered that the working capital was insufficient to maintain it as a going concern. It has recently suffered somewhat from financial manipulation which had depleted its capital.

The next year McCue took out a mortgage on the Brooklyn factory as evidenced by this June 17, 1926 story in the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle.”

MORTGAGE ON SOUTH BROOKLYN PLANT

Robert A. Martin Company, Inc., has procured for Fraser Tablet Company, a first mortgage loan of $85,000 on the borrower’s chemical manufacturing plant located on 18th and 19th Sts., between Prospect Park West and 9th Ave., this boro, a plot fronting about 200 feet on each street.

Four years later, a notice published in several November, 1930 editions of the “Times Union” announced that a judgement of foreclosure had been issued on the property and it was being offered for sale on November 28, 1930.

The Fraser Tablet Company apparently survived and according to N.Y.S. Supreme Court records (Dr. Miles Laboratories, Inc. against American Pharmaceuticals Company, Inc. and Philip Kachurin), sometime in 1930 the company moved its plant and business to Manhattan, where they were listed under the heading “patent medicines” at 11 Park Place in 1932 and 1933. Later the company moved the plant to Queens where, throughout most of the 1940’s they’re listed in Richmond Hill with an address of 84-40 101st St. By the early 1950’s I don’t  see them listed.

As far as I can tell the company continued to maintain a Manhattan pharmacy now listed again under the Fraser & Co. name, up through at least 1960. The location in the 1930’s was 251 4th Avenue and later from the 1940’s up through 1960 it was 502 Park Ave (59th St.and Park Ave).

Their long time pharmacy location at 262 Fifth Avenue was recently a vacant lot, this view of which is courtesy of Google Earth (on the right). The adjacent building (on the left) is clearly visible in both today’s photo as well as the 1903 Pharmaceutical Era photo.

In the future the site will accommodate one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan, a 1,043 foot residential tower currently under construction.

As far as I can tell, their Brooklyn factory site was ultimately incorporated within the right-of-way of the Prospect Expressway which was built in the late 1940’s and 1950’s so it was likely acquired and condemned by New York State around that time.

The bottle I found is mouth blown, no more than 2-1/2 inches tall and is embossed on one side “FRASER & CO.” Advertisements as early as 1886 were illustrating this type of bottle.

That being said, these early ads only mentioned a four ounce size containing 1,000 tablets. Later, according to this May 11, 1899 advertisement in the “Pharmaceutical Era,” they were packaging them in amounts as low as 100.

A labeled example containing 100 tablets that recently appeared on the internet appears to closely match our bottle.

 

 

 

 

 

Bromo Caffeine (Keasbey and Mattison)

 

“Bromo Caffeine” was a headache remedy manufactured by the firm of Keasbey and Mattison from the early 1880’s up through at least the late 1930’s.

Keasbey & Mattison opened its doors as a patent medicine manufacturer in Philadelphia, Pennslvania sometime in 1873. According to a feature on the business published in the October 10, 1899 edition of the “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record:”

An unusual combination of commercial sagacity and technical skill was brought together when Henry G. Keasbey and Richard V. Mattison both of whom graduated in the class of 1872 of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, entered into a partnership and opened a laboratory on North Juniper Street, above Arch, shortly after graduation.  Dr. Mattison (he later earned a medical degree in 1879) undertook the introduction of their granulated effervescent salts to the medical profession, and traveled all over the United States interviewing physicians and druggists.

One of their granular effervescent salts, Citrate of Caffeine, was apparently the predecessor to Bromo Caffeine. As early as 1875, Citrate of Caffeine was promoted in medical publications with names like the “Baltimore Physician and Surgeon,” where advertisements began appearing in May of that year.

The small print went on to say:

We ask the special attention of our medical friends to our Granular Effervescent preparation of Citrate of Caffeine. Its recent and extensive usage in cases of Neuralgic and Sick Headaches has caused us to place it upon our list and direct special attention to it. A teaspoon full, containing one grain of the Citrate of Caffeine, in half a glass of water, should be given in Neuralgic and Sick Headaches, and repeated, if necessary during the paroxysm. The satisfaction found attending its use is so general, and the many favorable reports from the Physicians who have prescribed it, warrants us to strongly recommend it to the notice of the Profession.

Very respectfully, KEASBEY & MATTISON, Chemists, Philadelphia.

As far as I can tell, sometime in the early 1880’s Keasbey & Mattison combined their citrate of caffeine with potassium bromide and sodium carbonate and began advertising it under its long time and more marketing friendly name, “Bromo Caffeine.” This April 1, 1884 advertisement in the “Leavenworth (Kansas) Times” is one of the earliest newspaper advertisements for “Bromo Caffeine” that I can find.

A more detailed description of its supposed benefits can be found in a feature on Keasbey & Mattison published in the December 31, 1896 edition of “The Pharmaceutical Era.” It referred to “Bromo Caffeine” as “the best general remedy for nervous headaches ever devised,” and went on to say:

It has had, as it now enjoys, an immense sale through the channels of its employment by the most renowned medical men upon this continent, and is today the most universally used remedy for nervous headaches. For overworked brain-workers it is almost indispensable, its physiological action being that of a primary and direct stimulant to the nerve centers, and, through these, a stimulant in the entire muscular and vascular system and upon the brain. While not a hypnotic in the true sense of the word, it produces a calming effect on the nervous system and produces and maintains that tranquillizing condition most favorable for quiet rest and refreshing sleep. In the countries of the East it is the remedy most depended opon by Europeans, and is widely used in cases of heat exhaustion, sunstroke, etc.

The 1901 “Spatula Soda Water Guide” suggested that you could administer it by mixing it with soda water.

as a medicinal drink for headache; “put a tablespoon full of bromo caffeine granules in mineral glass. Fill another half full with soda and mix by pouring.”

Or,  you could just head down to the local drug store as this July 18, 1886 advertisement in the Wilmington (N. C.) Morning Star suggested, where it was available on draught at the soda fountain.

Originally manufactured in Philadelphia, Keasbey & Mattison maintained facilities there for 15 years, where expansion forced them to relocate several times. Philadelphia directories listed them at 117 Filbert in 1875 and 332 N. Front Street between 1876 and 1885. Sometime in the early 1880’s, the company added the adjoining properties at 328 and 330 Front Street and established a factory for the manufacture of quinine, where by 1883, according to an August 1oth story in the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” they were one of only four quinine manufacturers in the United States. The company was last listed in Philadelphia directories at 9 North 5th Street from 1886 to 1888.

Sometime in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s the company began migrating  to what would become their long-time home in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The following excerpt from a story published in the January 27, 1915 edition of “The (Perkasie Pa.) Central News” suggested that the migration started in 1879 when they built a factory there to manufacture magnesia, an ingredient found in many medicines.

The Keaseby & Mattison Co., located in Ambler in 1879 building a branch factory at the start for the manufacture of magnesia. Dr. Mattison himself selected Ambler as the location for for the firm’s future operations because of the water, free from iron salts which would injure the magnesia product.

The manufacture at Ambler proved to be so satisfactory that other departments of the Philadelphia laboratory were moved from time to time to the Montgomery County works until finally all of the manufacture was centered in Ambler…

Their move to Ambler was accomplished in its entirety by 1888 after which the business can no longer be found in the Philadelphia directories.

Around the turn of the century, the company was certainly well established in the pharmaceutical industry and advertising a wide variety of effervescent salts as evidenced by this 1903 price list, published by the Stein-Gray Drug Co., of Cincinnati.

In addition to “Bromo Caffeine,” several other effervescent salts were also marketed under proprietary names. They included “Alkalithia,” “Cafetonique” and “Salaperient.”

It was “Bromo Caffein” however, that was, according to an October 10, 1899 feature in the “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record,” their signature pharmaceutical product.

It is as the manufacturer of Bromo Caffeine, that the Keasbey & Mattison Co. have become most widely known among the trade. There is probably no other preparation which has been so widely imitated as has been Bromo Caffeine. In the line of pharmaceuticals the Keasbey & Mattison granulated effervescent salts are probably more widely known than those of any other makers.

Another “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record” story, this one in their December 31, 1896 edition, made it clear that by then the remedy was available world-wide. The message however, was delivered with a little more flair.

We say world-renowned for the reason that “Bromo-Caffeine” can be found under the burning rays of an Egyptian sun, upon India’s coral strand, among the ruins of the ancient capital of the Roman Empire, or in the gayest city of modern civilization, as well as in the country doctor’s modest office.

That being said, by the turn of the century, the manufacture of pharmaceuticals was only half of the Keasbey & Mattison story.  It was in Ambler that the company established another completely distinct line of business. A story published  years later in the September 8, 1986 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” tells the story.

In 1886, Mattison discovered the insulating properties of magnesium carbonate and began to manufacture insulated pipes.

Mattison experimented with magnesium carbonate, from which he developed asbestos, a fire-retardant. He discovered that asbestos could be used for various products, including paper and millboard, textiles and shingles that can still be seen on Ambler homes built during that era.

According to the 1896 “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record” feature, with quinine in decline the decision was made to repurpose their quinine plant to focus on this new line of business.

However,the future course of acting having been decided upon, the manufacture of alkaloids was abandoned and the splendid plant ruthlessly dismantled, to be as promptly replaced with vats and tanks, engines and pumps, condensers and motors and other machinery, which now contribute toward making up the largest plant in the world for the manufacture of non-heat conducting products for technical purposes.

The feature went on to say:

The decision marked an epoch in the history of the business and the art of preserving heat and the economical distribution of it, has since had that close attention formerly given to the manufacture of chemical products.

In 1892, Keasbey retired and the business incorporated. By the late 1800’s, with Mattison now president, the company was well on its way to becoming one of the largest asbestos manufacturing operations in the world. The extent of their growth can be gauged by this description of their clientele which included all the major railroads. The description appeared in the December 31, 1896 “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record” feature.

The Keasbey & Mattison Company’s magnesia products for the drug trade are doubtless well known to and sold by every reader of this sketch, but it is probably not generally known to apothecaries that a large number of the locomotives running on such representative roads as the Pennsylvania Railroad, Lehigh Valley, Grand Trunk, Rock Island, Illinois Central, Union Pacific, etc., etc., are covered with magnesia lagging, which is a commercial product made of about ninety parts of carbonate of magnesium and ten parts of fine, silky asbestos fiber. This mixture is pressed into blocks, and these are fashioned to fit the boilers of the ordinary locomotives, instead of the wood lagging formerly used, and the magnesia after being applied, is then covered with planished sheet iron.

The story went on to include the U.S. Navy as a client as well.

The war vessels of the United States Navy, the Philadelphia, New York, Yorktown, Bennington, Miantonomah, Charleston, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Newark, Massachusetts, the so called “pirate,” the armored Columbia, and its sister ship, the Minneapolis, etc., etc., as well as the dynamic cruiser Vesuvius, all have their boilers, steam pipes and other radiating surfaces covered with magnesia from this Ambler plant.

At this juncture the company’s Ambler complex encompassed three and a half acres whose buildings totaled over 15 acres of floor space. The feature provided this view of the main building which was 625 feet long by 75 feet wide.

In case you’re interested, it also included a view of Mattison’s office.

The company’s menu of asbestos products was certainly expanding during the first decade of the 1900’s, as evidenced by this December 17, 1904 item in the (Duluth Minnesota) “Labor World.”

The firm of Keasbey & Matron company are manufacturers of the only pure and genuine magnesia pipe coverings, containing 85 percent of pure carbonate of magnesia, Ambler asbestos air cell sectional covering, asbestos air cell fire board, asbestos corrugated paper for furnace pipe covering, asbestos papers, (all thicknesses) asbestos cement, (all grades) asbestos wick packing, magnesia cement, wool felt of all kinds, hair felt, sectional covering and all kinds of asbestos materials, roofing, etc.

A story that appeared in the “Minneapolis (Minnesota) Journal” on October 22, 1904 suggested that there were also some unique products such as theatre curtains.

Absolute fire protection is afforded the audience between the stage and auditorium by the Asbestos Fire Proof Curtain furnished by the Keasbey & Mattison Co. This firm is well known for their extensive manufacture of fire curtains from asbestos and have supplied the Orpheum with one of their best makes, which is second to none in the country. The cloth is made of fine strands of brass wire insulated by a heavy coating of asbestos tightly wound, and then woven closely, thus forming a protection which no fire can overcome. As a demonstration of this a blowpipe was used against the curtain for a period of one and one quarter minutes last week. The curtain became red hot from the intense heat, but remained intact in every detail, the spot not being detected after cooling. This exhibition was witnessed by Mayor Haynes, Chief Canterbury, the owners of the theater, architects and builder, all expressed their approval of the qualities existing.

If that wasn’t enough, the January 14, 1904 edition of “The (Perkkasie Pa.) Central News” announced that the company was building another factory in Ambler, this one specifically to manufacture asbestos shingles.

The Keasbey & Mattison Company, of Ambler, who was recently negotiating for a site along the Delaware for the erection of a plant to manufacture asbestos shingles, have resolved to locate the new industry at Ambler in connection with their extensive plant for the manufacture of other products. The first part of the building has been completed. The building which will be nearly 300 feet long, will be sheathed and covered with asbestos shingles. Dr. Mattison, president of the company, some time ago inspected a site at New Hope for the location of the plant, but the railroad facilities there were not considered as favorable.

This advertisement for their Asbestos “Century” Shingles appeared in 1908/1909 Oklahoma newspapers.

Ultimately with demand for their products exponentially increasing, the company acquired the largest asbestos mine in the world. A May 3, 1906 story in “The Central News” told the story.

The Keasbey and Mattison Company of Ambler, has purchased the largest asbestos mine in the world, with associated rights and property. This valuable accessory to the large local plant is located at Thetford, Quebec, near the Quebec Central Railroad. Despite the enormous output of this mine, it will require about one half again as much more asbestos to supply the needs of the Ambler plant, which is the largest of its kind in the world.

Just as pressing as the need for raw materials was the need for a local labor force. Consequently, on January 5, 1908, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced that Mattison was building a village in Ambler to house them.

AMBLER, Jan 4. – Dr. Richard W. Mattison, owner of Lindenwold Farm, at this place, and with a villa at Newport, where he spends his summers will, it is said, build a village here for the men in his employ at the extensive Keasbey-Mattison plants and at his other interests. It is understood, that with this object in view, and to make the proposed village as idealistic as possible, Dr. Mattison will sail for Italy in the early spring, and will spend a couple of months in that country to procure detail to make the projected operation a complete success.

A story in the Philadelphia Inquirer published years later, on September 5, 1999, made it clear that Mattison made his plan a reality.

Italian stone masons were brought over to build homes for his employees. They constructed about 400 homes within the borough, which were rented out to company executives, foreman and blue collar workers at reasonable rates.

Another story, this one in the March 28, 1985 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, further explained:

The street on which the employee lived indicated his position in the company, with blue collar workers on Church Street in row houses, supervisors on Highland Avenue in twin houses and executives on Lindenwold Terrace in mansions.

The story included this photo of Mattison’s home (in 1936) at 1 Lindenwold Terrace.

It appears that the Keasbey & Mattison business peaked sometime in the late teens  when advertisements concisely summarized their menu of products like this:

That success continued until the late 1920’s when Keasbey, long retired but still a partner in the firm, charged Mattison with unlawful mismanagement of the business. According to a June 23, 1928 story in “The Bristol (Pa.) Daily Courier:”

Charges of unlawful acts on the part of its president, Richard V. Mattison, and mismanagement of the affairs of the Keasbey and Mattison Company, of Ambler, are made in a bill in equity filed in the office of the Prothonotary by Attorneys High, Dettra and Swartz in behalf of Henry H. Keasbey, owner of almost half of the stock in the firm, against the Keasbey and Mattison Company and Richard V. Mattison.

In May, 1927, Mr. Keasbey states, he returned from a sojourn abroad and because of information received by him concerning the management of the company by Mattison he made an investigation and as a result avers that Mattison has not managed the business and affairs of the company “fairly, lawfully and efficiently, but for many years has managed the affairs of the defendant company inefficiently and unlawfully to the personal gain of the defendant, Mattison, and to the loss and disadvantage of the plaintiff, Keasbey.

The suit, settled out of court, was followed closely by the stock market crash and “Great Depression,” all of which led to a bank takeover in 1931.  A little over two years later the company was acquired by the British firm of Turner and Newall. “The Birmingham (England) Gazette” reported the acquisition on January 13, 1934.

The very sharp rise in Turner and Newalls sharers during the last few weeks has been latterly accompanied by rumors and important developments were pending. These are now publicly announced in the course of a letter to the stockholders. The board have entered into an agreement to purchase a controlling interest in the businesses of the Keasebey and Mattison Company and the Ambler Asbestos, Shingle and Sheathing Company.

The Keasbey and Mattison Co., established in 1873, manufactures asbestos textiles, friction linings, magnesia and other insulation and pharmaceutical products, and also owns and operates the well-known Bell asbestos mine at Thetford, Quebec, Canada. The Ambler Asbestos, Sheathing and Shingle Co. was established about 25 years ago, and although closely associated with the businesss of the Keasbey and Mattison Co., is not a subsidiary company but owns, in its own right, and operates factories for the manufacture of asbestos cement products.

It is proposed to merge the business of the Ambler Asbestos, Shingle and Sheathing Company with that of the Keasbey and Mattison Company, after which Turner and Newell, Ltd., will acquire 60 percent of the capital stock of the enlarged Keasbey and Mattison Company…The Keasbey and Mattison Company will remain under American management and Mr. A. S. Blagden, who has been president since 1931, will continue in that capacity.

A January 16, 1934 “Philadelphia Inquirer” story on the merger added that:

The enlarged business will retain the name of the Keasbey & Mattison Company.

After the acquisition, the company continued the pharmaceutical branch of the business, at least for a short while, manufacturing “Bromo Caffeine” up through at least the late 1930’s as evidenced by this advertisement that continued to associate Keasbey & Mattison with the product. It appeared in several editions of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” during the Spring of 1937.

In 1940, several years after these ads appeared, Keasbey & Mattison renewed the “Bromo Caffeine” and “Alkalithia” trademarks but assigned both to the Alkalithia Company of Baltimore, Maryland. The renewal/assignment notice appeared in the June 18, 1940 edition of the U.S. Patent Gazette. I suspect that this marked the end of Keasbey & Mattison’s pharmaceutical division.

This bottle of “Alkalithia,” recently offered for sale on the internet, exhibits the Alkalithia Company name and listed their address as 220 W. Lombard Street in Baltimore.

How long the Alkalithia Company continued to manufacture Bromo-Caffeine is not clear. The product disappeared from newspaper advertisements for drug stores in the early 1940’s, however, the following “Question & Answer” column found in the October 11, 1967 edition of Long Island’s “Newsday” stated that the company manufactured Bromo Caffeine as late as 1950.

Q. In a box od sea shells left from an estate, I found three small, corked blue bottles marked “Bromo Caffeine.” Can you tell me when this was made and if the bottles have any value?

A. This product, similar to another bromo fizz cure for upset stomachs, indigestion or hangovers, was made from 1941 to 1950 by the Alkalithia Co. of Baltimore, Md., which is no longer in existence…

Keasbey & Mattison’s asbestos line continued well into the 1960’s under Turner & Newall’s ownership. According to a story in the March 21, 1960 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” at that time the company had five major product lines – asphalt roofing, asbestos and glass textiles, asbestos-cement pipe, asbestos-cement building materials and industrial products. They employed about 900 people in Ambler and 8oo at other plants that were located in Santa Clara, California, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Meredith, New Hampshire and St. Louis Missouri.

Ultimately the company was sold again in the early 1960’s, at which point the Keasbey & Mattison name came to an end. The March 28, 1985 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” provided the details.

The business was sold again in 1963, bringing  an end to the 90 year-old Keasbey & Mattison company. Two businesses succeeded the company: One, Nicolet Inc., made millboard and other products; CertainTeed Corp. made asbestos cement plates. CertainTeed went out of business in 1981. Today (1985) only Nicolet remains. It has stopped manufacturing asbestos products and instead makes Formica.

A story in the September 5, 1999 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer picks up the story from there.

In 1987 Nicolet Industries went bankrupt, citing the burden of more than 61,000 asbestos-related lawsuits against it. Left behind was a 22-acre asbestos dump that was treated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program. EPA built large mounds of earth over it and planted trees and shrubs there. The dump was removed from the Superfund list in 1993. Yet the asbestos remains.

The asbestos was still there in late 2017 when a November 29th “Philadelphia Inquirer” story referred to the site as “Ambler’s White Hills.” As far as I can tell, today the dump site continues to remain vacant and undeveloped.

I’ve found three Bromo Caffeine bottles over the years, all mouth blown, three inches tall and a little more than one inch in diameter at the base. Each is a different shade of blue ranging from a deep cobalt to a cornflower. The 1904 Stein-Gray Drug Co. price list pictured previously listed three sizes being offered around the turn of the century: $1.25, $0.75 and $0.10. Recognizing the rather small size of the bottles, they’re almost certainly of the $0.10 variety.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burnett, Boston (Burnett’s Extracts, Joseph Burnett & Co.)

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.

THEODORE METCALF

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.

 

R. V. Pierce, M. D., Buffalo, N. Y., Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery

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.

Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer

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.

Roche’s Embrocation for the Hooping Cough, W. Edwards & Son

Its not often I come across an article that dates back as far as the 18th Century but it sure looks like I’ve stumbled onto one here. Likely of English origin, “J. Roche’s Embrocation for the Hooping Cough” was included in an inventory of patent medicines advertised for sale as early as February 26, 1799 in The Edinburgh (Scotland) Advertiser. The advertisement, for a medicinal wholesaler called Baxter’s Italian Warehouse, is partially reproduced below (Roche’s is on the left side, midway down).

Over the course of the next 140 years it was touted as:

An effectual Cure for the Hooping Cough, Without Inward Medicine

The medicine’s marketing message, aimed primarily at the parents of small children remained relatively consistent throughout the product’s long history. The following appeared in “Newcomb’s Midland Counties’ Almanac, and Rural Handbook for the Year 1866,” and was typical.

This is the only discovery affording a perfect CURE, without administering internal medicine, the difficulty and inconvenience of which in all disorders particularly incident to children, are too well known to need any comment. The Inventor and Proprietor of this EMBROCATION can with pleasure and satisfaction declare that, its salutary effects have been so universally experienced, and so generally acknowledged, that many of the most eminent  of the Faculty now constantly recommend it as the only known safe and perfect cure, without restriction of diet or use of medicine.

Many thousands of children are cured annually by this remedy; on the first attack, an immediate application of the EMBROCATION will prevent the complaint taking any hold of the constitution, and a few times using often completely cures. The Proprietor therefore earnestly and conscientiously recommends it to parents, guardians, and all those who have the care of children.

While Roche was certainly distributing the article as early as the late 1700’s, it apparently wasn’t until sometime in the early 1800’s that he obtained an English patent for it. A notice (or is it an advertisement?) referencing the patent  was published in London’s Morning Chronicle on January 17, 1809.

By Majesty’s  Royal Letters Patent. – ROCHE’S ROYAL HERBAL EMBROCATION, and effectual Cure for the HOOPING COUGH, without Medicine. – The unrivaled reputation this Embrocation has gained, and the Inventor, anxious to secure it genuine to the public, and prevent the impositions daily practiced, by unprincipled persons vending dangerous compositions, his Majesty has been pleased to grant his Royal Letters Patent, for a security to the public, appointing him the sole benefit of his most invaluable discovery. The public and families may therefore be supplied wholesale and retail, at his house, No. 19, King Street, Holborn, and are requested to observe that Stamp is signed “J. Roche;” and with each bottle is given a full direction, at the top of which is his Majesty’s Arms. Price 4s. – All others are counterfeits.

The above notice suggests that Roche originally distributed his embrocation from a location on King Street in the Holborn district of London. Shortly afterwards however, he formed an association with a firm named Shaw & Evans to serve as his exclusive agent. This December 9, 1812 advertisement published in London’s Morning Chronicle named Shaw & Evans as the product’s “only wholesale vendors.”

Within two years Shaw & Edwards had apparently dissolved their partnership with the remaining partner, Evan Edwards, continuing the business under the name of simply “Edwards.” Another advertisement, this one published in the December 15, 1814 edition of the Morning Chronicle made it clear that Edwards had continued the association with Roche’s Embrocation. The advertisement, almost identical to the previous one, now referred to “Edwards,’ as the medicine’s “only wholesale and retail agent.”

Sometimes referred to as a “medicine warehouse,” the “Edwards” business was originally located at 66 St Paul’s Church Yard in London. An advertisement published in the November 29, 1817 edition of The (London) Times, included Roche’s Embrocation among a menu of patent medicines available at that location (Roche’s Embrocation appears on the left at the bottom). At the time the advertisement still referred to the business as the late “Shaw & Edwards.”

Over the course of the next 100 plus years the name Edwards remained intimately associated with Roche’s Embrocation. At some point the original proprietor, Evan Edwards, gave way to Wm. Edwards and by 1880 the company was named Wm. Edwards & Son. Always located in London, the company left their long time St Paul’s Church Yard location in 1867, first moving to 38 Old Change in 1867 before settling at 173 Queen Victoria Street in the late 1870’s. They remained there well into the 1920’s and possibly longer.

Roche’s Embrocation made its way across the Atlantic to North America by the late 1820’s. Its first documented appearance that I can find was in Canada where it was included on a list of medicines available from an importer called the Joseph Beckett & Co. Found under the heading “New Goods,” the list was published in the July 7, 1828 edition of the Montreal Gazette.

An advertisement for a New York City druggist named Patrick Dickie that appeared in the January 12, 1837 edition of the The (New York) Evening Post made it clear that by the late 1830’s Roche’s had arrived in the United States as well.

At some point, the drug importing firm of  E. Fougera and Co. began serving as the United States agent for Roche’s Embrocation. This Fougera advertisement, aimed at druggists and published in the December, 1896 Druggist Circular and Chemical Gazette touted a “full assortment of imported French and English Pharmaceutical Specialties,” Roche’s Embrocation among them (bottom right).

E. Fougera & Co. was established in 1849, so it’s possible that their relationship with the Edward’s business extended back that far. That being said, I can’t find any evidence connecting the two firms until this December, 1889 Harpers Bazaar advertisement.

Coupled with the fact that up through the mid-1880’s U.S. advertisements for Roche’s were few and far between suggests that the 1880’s was closer to the start of their relationship.

Always located in Manhattan, Fougera was listed in the New York City directories at 26 to 30 North William Street until 1905 when they moved to 90 Beekman Street.

Later they would move again, this time to 75 Varick Street.

By the late 1920’s and early 1930’s Fougera’s advertising of Roche’s Embrocation had dropped off considerably and by the late 1930’s the article was no longer referenced in the newspapers. Its disappearance was surely related to a 1938 cease and desist order by the Federal Trade Commission that struck at the heart of their advertising.

E. Fougera & Co., Inc., a corporation, 75 Varick Street, New York City, vendor-advertiser, was engaged in selling a medicinal preparation designated Roche’s Embrocation and agreed in soliciting the sale of and selling said product in interstate commerce to cease and desist from representing it directly or otherwise:

a) That Roche’s Embrocation constitutes a competent treatment or an effective remedy for: 1. Croup, 2. Bronchitis, 3. Heavy chest colds, 4. Whooping cough, 5. Difficulty in breathing or 6. Fits of coughing

b) That it prevents choking, breaks up the true cause of any of the above conditions, or loosens phlegm fixed in the chest and stomach. (July 8, 1938)

The bottle I found is mouth blown, with a one inch square cross section and approximately five inches tall. It contains embossing on all four sides and appears to exactly match the example found in the following 1920 advertisement, although mouth blown, it likely dates somewhat earlier.

         

On a final note….Is it spelled “Whooping” or “Hooping” Cough?

At first I thought that the word “Hooping,” embossed on the bottle was a typographical error and should have been spelled “Whooping” Cough. However, several turn of the century dictionaries (The Century Dictionary – An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language, 1895 and 1914) indicate that both “Whooping,” and “Hooping” were acceptable spellings at that time. By the mid-20th century, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, (Fifth Edition), makes no mention of the “Hooping” alternative.

Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar, C. N. Crittenton, New York

As early as the Civil War era, Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar was advertised as a “cure” for any and all lung related diseases including coughs, colds and influenza.

Still on the market in the 1940’s, by then it was simply touted for the “relief” of cough and cold related symptoms.

Advertised as a botanical preparation, its ingredients changed several times over its 80+ year history but always included some form of dangerous, habit forming drug. According to an analysis/report by the Connecticut Experimental Station, the 1914 version contained 13.87 percent alcohol and 0.077 grams per fluid ounce of chloroform extract. The report went on to say that earlier versions of the medicine had included opium (5/13 gram per fluid ounce) and codeine (1/4 gram per fluid ounce). In the 1940’s, the alcohol was gone but the chloroform extract remained.

Initial newspaper advertisements in 1864/1865 named Charles Downer, 44 Cedar Street, as the “General Agent.” Likely the inventor of Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar, Downer was a long time New York City druggist who was listed in lower Manhattan as early as the mid-1840’s. The story he’d like you to believe about the origin of Hale’s was included in the earliest newspaper advertisement I could find, published in the October 31, 1864 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

This sovereign remedy is compounded from the favorite recipe of an illustrious physician and chemist, who for many years used it with the most complete success in his extensive private practice.

He had long been profoundly impressed with the wonderful virtue of the honey of the plant Horehound, in union with the CLEANSING and HEALING properties of tar extracted from the LIFE PRINCIPLE of the forest tree Abies Balsamea or Balm of Gilead. For years he was baffled in his attempt to blend these great medicinal forces into such a union that the original power of each would be preserved, the disagreeable properties of common tar removed, and the price of the compound be within the means of all. At last, after a long course of difficult chemical experiments, he found that by adding to these five other ingredients, each one valuable by itself, he not only obtained the desired results but greatly increased the curative powers of the compound. This having been thoroughly tested by practice, is now offered to the general public as a safe, pleasant and infallible remedy.

Advertisements continued to name Downer as the medicine’s agent throughout the mid-1860’s. Then sometime in 1867 or 1868 he apparently transferred the medicine’s rights to Charles N. Crittenton.

Crittenton was born in upstate New York and moved to New York City sometime in the mid-1850’s. Not long after his arrival city directories began listing him as a clerk in his brother William’s proprietary medicine business located at 476 Broadway (1858 to 1860) and later at 55 Prince Street (1860 to 1861). Then sometime in 1862 Charles started his own proprietary medicine business at 38 Sixth Avenue.

This December 19, 1862 newspaper advertisement that appeared in the New York Times confirmed that his new business was up and running by the end of the year.

Crittenton remained at 38 Sixth Avenue until 1868 when he established both a store and attached three-story factory at 7 Sixth Avenue. Devoted exclusively to the sale of druggists’ sundries and proprietary preparations he also manufactured several of his own, one of which was Hale’s Honey of Horehound & Tar.  The first ad I can find associating Crittenton with Hale’s was dated October 7, 1868.

Once firmly established in his new quarters Cittenton began referring to his business as a “patent medicine warehouse,” and this December 1, 1870 advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle made it clear that Hale’s was one of their marque preparations.

Great Run On A Well-Known Institution

The famous Patent Medicine Warehouse of CHARLES N. CRITTENTON, No. 7 Sixth Ave, New York, has recently been subjected to an extraordinary pressure – the pressure of crowds of sufferers from coughs and colds in search of Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar, of which he is the fortunate proprietor. The popularity of the article is boundless, and will last, for it is built on the solid foundation of innumerable cures. Crittenton’s establishment might properly be called a savings bank, from the number it has been instrumental in saving from consumption. Trochial affections of every type vanish under its balmy and balsamic influence with astonishing rapidity.

The growth of Hale’s through the decade of the 1870’s can be gauged by the scope of Crittenton’s newspaper advertising. In 1870 his advertisements were limited to New York State, most of which appeared in local New York City newspapers. By the end of the decade the company was advertising in New England, across the Midwest and as far west as California, with only the South being ignored.

Much of the advertising preyed on the nation’s fear of tuberculosis (consumption), as evidenced by this December 29, 1877 advertisement that appeared in (Elton, Maryland’s) The Cecil  Whig.

Health is an estimable jewel. The cough that deprives you of it may take your life too. One bottle of Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar will avert the evil, and save you from consumption. Will you weigh life against a half dollar?

Throughout the 1870’s the business remained at 7 Sixth Avenue . Then in 1880 they moved again, this time to 115/117 Fulton Street and while their location had changed, the Hale’s advertising message remained consistent.

The business incorporated in June, 1892 as the C. N. Crittenton Company.  A June 25, 1892 story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced that under the terms of the reorganization Crittenton voluntarily surrendered considerable interest in the company to five of his old time employees, one of which was his brother-in-law, Thomas E. Delano. Another beneficiary of the reorganization, Edward G. Wells, was quoted in the story.

“Yes, said he, it is quite true that Mr. Crittenton has taken four of my associates and myself into partnership with him, or at least has turned over to us a block of stock in the recently organized corporation…

So far as the company is concerned there is not much to be said. It is capitalized at $800,000. Mr. Critterton having turned into it every dollar’s worth of assets of the house of Charles N. Crittenton of which he was the sole owner. The stock is all taken, being held by Mr. Crittenton, Messrs Alfred H. Kennedy, William A. Demarest, Franklin B. Waterman, Thomas E. Delano and myself. Mr. Crittendon is President of the company, Mr. Delano First Vice-President and Treasurer, Mr. Waterman Second Vice-President and Secretary and I hold the position of Third Vice-President.

All of us who have been taken into the company are old employees, the youngest of the five in point of service being myself, with a record of thirteen years in Mr. Crittenton’s employ.”

The story went on to describe the events that led up to Critteton’s generosity.

…About three years ago he went to London, leaving a sweeping power of attorney in Mr. Delano’s hands. When he left he expected to simply run over to London for a few weeks, but he passed on to the Continent, then crossed over to Asia and finally went to San Francisco, where he has since remained.

Long before his departure he founded the Florence Mission in Bleecker Street, as a memorial to his little daughter Florence, who had recently died. When he reached California he became convinced that his field of work was on the Pacific coast, and he has since founded missions in San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento.

Meanwhile the business continued to hum right along. A feature published in the December 31, 1896 edition of the Pharmaceutical Record made it clear that by then the company had achieved a national reputation.

“Try Crittenton” is what every wholesale druggist in the country says when he has an order for some proprietary medicine that it is difficult to obtain. And “Crittenton,” or to be more explicit, the Charles N. Crittenton Company, is never tried in “vain.” Without a doubt the corporation is the largest dealer in proprietary medicines in this or any other country. Some idea of its immense resources and of the great volume of business it transacts yearly may be gathered from the fact that it never carries less than 12,000 different proprietary articles in stock, and that there is not a drug store, retail or wholesale, of any repute, from the Canadian line to New Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific seaboard, the name of which cannot be found on its books. It is as difficult to imagine the patent medicine owner getting along without his Crittenton as it is to imagine the twentieth century broker getting along without his telephone.

The feature went on to offer a glimpse of their Fulton Street operation at the time.

The building in which the Crittenton Company transacts its immense business is as well known to every New York druggist as his own store. As for the country druggist, there is no address that he writes more frequently than “Charles N. Crittenton Co., 115 and 117 Fulton Street, New York City.” Both these numbers, 115 and 117 are really in one building, five stories high. The Crittenton Company occupies No. 115 from top to bottom, including the basement and sub-cellar, seven floors in all. Of No. 117 it occupies the top four floors, which are connected with those of No. 115. Each floor extends clear back from Fulton Street to Ann street, a distance of 125 feet.

The story included this view of the main floor as you entered from Fulton Street. Cashiers and bookkeepers were located on the right and salesman on the left. The shelves on the left contain light stock such as perfumery, toilet articles, etc.

Upstairs they stored an inventory of proprietary pharmaceutical specialties that according to the story was “unparalleled by that of any other house in America.” A sampling of the firms represented within their inventory can be seen from this page included in Crittenton’s 1902-1903 catalog.

It was also on the upper floors that they manufactured their own proprietary articles, including Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar.

The manufacturing department occupies the whole of the fourth floor, although the apparatus used for making the Crittenton’s preparations are confined to the eastern section…There are four large churns for mixing, besides an imposing array of percolators, screw presses, copper stills, evaporating pans and large macerating vats and tanks.

With the manufacturing process over, the preparations are transferred to the western section of the floor to be bottled and then stored there, along with the house’s large stock of bottles and glassware, until it is time for them to be hoisted to the floor above for the finishing touches, wrapping and labeling.

This work keeps a large corps of girls constantly busy, although they handle no preparations outside of those manufactured by the Crittenton Company. When wrapped and labeled the goods are sent down on the elevators to the shipping department or to the warehouse on the third floor, those packages intended for export being kept separate.

At the turn of the century Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar was one of over 40 proprietary medicines being manufactured by the company as evidenced by another page included in their 1902-1903 Catalogue

It’s likely that the popularity of Hale’s peaked early in the first decade of the twentieth century. After that, pressure from legislation, beginning with passage of the Food and Drug Act of 1906, began to take it’s toll. As a result, by 1908/1909 their advertising began to soften as evidenced by the following two ads that appeared in the Yonkers Statesman. The first, from January, 16, 1908, stated that Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar: “cures colds of all kinds.” A year later, this December 22, 1909 ad simply stated:”Take it for coughs and colds and get relief.”

 

That being said, the business was still on solid financial footing in 1916 when the Crittenton heirs, who controlled 60 percent of the business after Crittenton’s death in 1909, opted to liquidate the company. According to the October, 1916 edition of the American Druggist:

The drug trade will learn with universal regret of the passing of the house of Crittenton, which is now in process of liquidation…On his death in 1909 it was found that Mr. Crittenton had made five grandchildren and the Florence Crittenton Mission of New York, a house of refuge for young girls, founded and supported by him, his principal heirs. These heirs, controlling 60 percent of the company stock, voted last January to convert the business into cash as quickly as possible. The corporation was dissolved in July, but it was assumed by the trade that the business would be carried on after a reorganization. It was only recently that it had become generally known that the business is to be liquidated, although it is in a very strong position financially, the outstanding obligations being less than $50,000, while the assets are estimated at four or five times that amount. The liquidation has been brought about purely for internal reasons and has no significance from a trade point of view…From the Crittenton ranks many men have risen to prominence in the wholesale drug trade, and the disappearance of the name of Crittenton from the annals of the drug trade will cause regret among a very wide circle, including all the wholesale trade and a great many of the leading retail druggists.

Sometime in the late teens Dr. Franklin J. Keller of Paterson, N. J., acquired the rights to manufacture Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar as well as several other Crittenton preparations including Glenn’s Sulphur Soap and Pike’s Toothache Drops. Around the same time he established a corporation to manufacture and distribute them called the Century National Chemical Company.

The incorporation notice was published in the October 12, 1918 edition of the (Paterson N. J.) Morning Call.

The Century National Chemical Company, to locate at 379 Totowa Avenue, this city, filed papers of incorporation with County Clerk Slater yesterday. Dr Franklin J Keller is named as the agent of the business. The articles state that the company proposes to carry on a general business as chemists, druggists, chemical manufacturers, importers, exporters and dealers in chemicals.

An authorized capital stock of $100,000 is provided, to consist of 1,000 shares at a par value of $100 a share. The company will commence business with its entire capital stock paid in. It is held by the following incorporators: Franklin J. Keller, 997 shares; Jane D. Keller, two shares, and William J. Lickel, of New York City, one share.

In addition to their Paterson New Jersey factory the company maintained an office in New York City at 86 Warren Street in lower Manhattan.

In their early advertisements and labeling the company referred to themselves as “Successors to The C. N. Crittenton Co.” This labeled example of Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar manufactured by the Century National Chemical Company is provided courtesy of the National Museum of American History, Behring Center.

 

Newspapers advertisements for Hale’s continued up through the early 1930’s. The last advertisement I can find appeared in several Vermont newspapers during the Spring of 1933.

It was around this time that Century likely transitioned to a screw top version of their bottle, an example of which was recently offered for sale on e-bay.

As late as February, 1944 Hale’s was still being manufactured and distributed by the  Century National Chemical Company as “effective for coughs, colds, hoarseness, whooping cough, sore throat, loss of voice or inflamed or irritable conditions of the respiratory mucous membranes.” This caught the attention of the authorities who took exception to their wording, declaring it misbranded.

On April 13, 1944, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a libel against 22 packages, containing two fluid ounces each, of Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar, and 190 boxes, each containing 3 cakes of Glenn’s Sulphur Soap at New York, N. Y., alleging that they had been shipped on or about February 8 and 23, 1944, by the Century National Chemical Co., from Paterson N. J.; and charging that they were misbranded.

Examination of the Hale’s Honey of Horehound and Tar showed that it contained tar, chloroform and syrup.

The article was alleged to be misbranded because of false and misleading statements in the labeling which represented and suggested that the article was effective for coughs, colds, hoarseness, whooping cough, sore throat, loss of voice or inflamed or irritable conditions of the respiratory mucous membranes.

It’s not clear when  Hale’s completely disappeared from the druggists’ shelves but it was likely sometime in the mid to late 1940’s.

The bottle I found is a four ounce medicine. Mouth blown, it fits a late 1800’s to early 1900’s time frame and includes the C. N. Crittenton name on one side so it was likely filled and shipped from their Fulton Street location.

On a final note: Horehound Extract can be obtained today as an herbal supplement from a company called Mountain Rose Herbs.

According to their web site:

Horehound is a garden mint with green and white leaves and a distinctly bitter taste. It is native to Asia and Europe, but is naturalized in North America. Egyptian priests referred to it as the seed of Hours, which some speculate is the root for its modern name. In medieval Europe it was used to ward off spells by witches. Horehound was an accepted medicinal plant in the U. S. Pharmacopeia until 1989 and is still endorsed in Europe.

The ingredients listed on today’s web site include: organic grain alcohol, distilled water and organic horehound.

 

 

Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root Kidney Liver and Bladder Remedy, Binghamton, N.Y., U.S.A.

Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root Kidney, Liver and Bladder Remedy was one of the late 19th/early 20th century’s most popular and, at the same time, most notorious patent medicines. A September 3, 1904 item in a publication called “The Rural New Yorker,” described it as a cure for a wide range of ailments that even included a hangover.

Dr Kilmer’s Swamp Root, the great kidney remedy, fulfills every wish in promptly curing kidney, bladder and uric acid troubles, rheumatism and pain in the back. It corrects inability to hold water and scalding pain in passing it, or bad effects following use of liquor, wine or beer, and overcomes that unpleasant necessity of bing compelled to go often during the day and to get up many times during the night. The mild and the extraordinary effect of Swamp Root is soon realized. It stands the highest for its wonderful cures of the most distressing cases.

Its manufacturer, the Dr. Kilmer Company was, at the turn of the century, Binghamton, New York’s leading industry. Originally established by S. Andral Kilmer; later it was his brother Jonas Kilmer and nephew Willis Sharpe Kilmer who ultimately catapulted the business into national prominence, becoming two of Binghamton’s most influential citizens along the way.

The extent of their wealth and power was documented in a May 11, 1912 story published in Collier’s Magazine.

Two Kilmer’s – father and son – Jonas M. and Willis Sharpe, manufacture and vend Swamp Root. It is today the leading industry of the lively and progressive little city where it is made, Binghamton, New York. The fortune derived from it is variously estimated at from ten to fifteen millions, all accumulated in the last twenty years. The Kilmer house is the most expensive in Binghamton. The two Kilmer buildings are the finest business blocks in the city, with one exception. The Kilmer’s newspaper, the “Binghamton Press,” has the largest circulation in that part of the state. The People’s Bank (Jonas Kilmer, president; Willis Sharpe Kilmer, vice president) is a strong and growing institution. Jonas Kilmer has been police commissioner of the city. Willis Kilmer has had congressional aspirations. In every phase of existence in Binghamton, except perhaps in the social phase, the Kilmer’s are powerful – and feared.

Then, pulling no punches, the story went on to say:

All this wealth, all this power, all this influence rests on a foundation of pure fraud and knavery; has been built up by a business acumen as disreputable as that of the card sharp, as ruthless as that of the burglar who will kill, if need be, in order to make his haul.

That being said, I’m getting a little ahead of myself, so let’s go back and start at the beginning with S. Andral Kilmer.

The “History of the Kilmer Family in America,” published in 1897, stated that he was born in Cobbleskill, New York, in December, 1840, and began the study of medicine at the age of 18. It goes on to say:

After a successful tour of medical lectures and practice in the West, Dr Kilmer settled in Binghamton buying and building a residence on the plot where the extensive Kilmer Medicine Works are now located. He was first employed in visiting surrounding cities on advertised days, in which practice he was so famous and successful that he was soon enabled to commence the erection of his laboratory buildings for the preparation of his remedies…

The first listing I can find for him in the Binghamton directories was in 1871, when he was listed as a physician living in the Mechanics Hotel. I suspect that he settled in Binghamton around that time and initially lived in the hotel prior to establishing his residence and laboratory. Located at the corner of Chenango and Virgil Streets, this photograph of his first laboratory appeared years later as the early half of a “now and then” item published in the March 13, 1988 edition of Binghamton’s Sun and Press Bulletin.

The Kilmer History goes on to say that his younger brother, Jonas M. Kilmer joined him in business in 1878 and they became equal partners in 1881.

It was around this time that the two began to manufacture and market a wide range of remedies attributed to Dr. Kilmer. A partial list of these early remedies was included in an item promoting his medical practice that was published in the 1884 edition of nearby Syracuse University’s “The Onondagan.”

A story written years later, by Jerome B. Hadsell, a long time executive of Dr. Kilmer & Co., included this recollection of the fledgling business in the late 1880’s. The story was published at the time of Willis Sharpe Kilmer’s death in the July 13, 1940 edition of the Binghamton Press & Sun.

…it was what you might call a modest establishment. Neither J. M. nor his brother had much capital. Neither had any advertising experience or much experience in promotion. J. M. was a good salesman, but promotion and advertising were not then the sciences they have since become.

They were manufacturing everything at the time. I say everything; it seemed like everything. Swamproot, then as later, was the outstanding product. But they had cancer medicines, consumption medicine, pills, ointments – practically a full line of home remedies for all sorts of complaints.

Their merchandising methods were limited to the consignment basis. Goods were billed out and paid for as they were sold by storekeepers with remittances every 30 days. There was no particular incentive on the part of the storekeepers to move the merchandise, and collections were not exactly good.

Up to that time the advertising of Kilmer’s remedies was done exclusively on a local basis, predominantly consisting of painted wooden signs, posters and packaged circulars. The only newspaper exposure that I can find was a series of 1883 advertisements that appeared in neighboring Carbondale Pennsylvania’s local newspaper, The Advance. Each advertisement contained S. Andral Kilmer’s likeness and featured one of his remedies. One was Swamp Root; another was”Dr. Kilmer’s Ocean Weed Heart Remedy. Both are shown below.

 

Things began to change in 1892 when S. Andral Kilmer sold his share of the patent medicine business to Jonas. Now, as the sole owner, Jonas put his son Willis Sharpe Kilmer in charge of advertising. According to Hadsell this was the turning point of the business.

Jonas M. Kilmer was comfortable enough but the business was not exactly thriving. As a matter of fact the real expansion, development and prosperity of the business dated from the time when Willis Sharpe Kilmer became actively interested in it.

Hadsell’s story went on to say:

Willis began to buy space in country weeklies in this section, and to turn out, at first under his father’s direction, the sort of advertising copy which was later to make the business grow by leaps and bounds. At first just a few newspapers in the Southern Tier were used but that advertising showed almost immediate results. It was a fascinating thing for all of us to see the power and pull that could be developed by the use of ingenuity, patience and black and white type.

Within a few years, and I would say no more than eight after he started, we were beginning to ship out in carload lots all over the eastern United States.

The company remained at their original location until 1900 when a fire gutted the facility, forcing a move to temporary quarters. The fire and resultant move were reported in the August, 1900 edition of the National Druggist.

The fire which destroyed the immense Swamp Root medicine plant of Dr. Kilmer & Co., July 1, was the most disastrous which has ever occurred in Binghamton. However, the Kilmer’s resumed business next morning, though not at the old stand, which is a heap of smoldering ashes. While the firemen were yet pouring water on the burning Chenango Street establishment, the Kilmer’s were arranging to do business somewhere else.

That this great industry might not be crippled for a moment, through the courtesy of other prominent firms and citizens, the large factory and adjoining buildings on South Street were vacated for the benefit of the Swamp Root people, and possession was taken immediately, and here, by Monday, July 8, this new temporary factory will be turning out Swamp Root, the great Kidney Remedy, in quantities of about 60,000 bottles per day, and in two or three weeks’ time the full capacity of more than four times that amount will be produced. The immense demand for Swamp Root will thus in no way be interfered with.

At the same time, according to Hadsell, the new and what turned out to be long time home of the Dr. Kilmer Company was being planned.

Immediately after we burned out at Virgil and Chenango Streets J. M. and Willis made arrangements for the purchase of the Lockwood property, on the corner at Lewis Street and the viaduct, now occupied by Dr. Kilmer & Co. There was no viaduct there then, and the lot was occupied by a wooden structure which had been a residence.

While under construction, a story in the December, 1902 edition of “Farmers Review” referred to the new building as “The Largest and Most Complete Laboratory in the World.”

The story described the eight story building as “tall and towering,” and went on to say:

It will stand for centuries. It has the finest of modern steel construction, with fireproof masonry and cement arches, not a piece of wood is used in the entire structure. It is situated on the most central and commanding site in the city, and has a frontage of 331 feet on Lewis Street, 345 feet on Chenango Street and 407 feet on Lackawana Avenue; its floor space amounts to the astonishing four and one-half acres.

A convenient switch connecting with the main lines of all railroads entering the city runs direct to the doors of the shipping department.

The building was occupied in the Fall of 1903. That year this rendering of the completed structure appeared in Binghamton’s Board of Trade Publication.

Hadsell’s recollections included this description of the business at about the time the building opened.

Of course the business had expanded considerably to justify the new building which was the leading structure in Binghamton at that time and has always been one of the ranking business establishments ever since. Before we moved to South Street we had started to ship in carload quantities and the trade had spread to the general line of the Mississippi River. Tariffs established some barriers to Canadian trade, but we had a flourishing field in practically the entire eastern United States with the growing emphasis south of the Mason Dixon Line.

By the early 1900’s, in addition to their Binghamton headquarters, company advertisements also listed a Kilmer office in Chicago as well as foreign offices in Rio De Janero, Brazil and Kingston, Jamaica.

According to Hadsell, advertising was fueling much, if not all of this growth.

I should say that shortly after we moved into the new building we were doing about $800,000 worth of advertising a year, with a great many page spreads, and that the business which had started so modestly was growing more than $2,000,000 every 12 months.

By the early 1900’s newspapers in every state of the nation were running Kilmer’s advertisements, many of which were taking up more than half of an entire page. One, published in the January 30, 1901 edition of the Detroit Free Press was typical of their advertising style. It lead with an eye catching headline.

It followed that with text that sold the idea that all disease was rooted in the kidneys and that if you heal the kidneys with Dr. Kilmer’s all of your other health issues will follow suit.

Kidney trouble is responsible for more sickness and suffering than any other disease, and if permitted to continue fatal results are sure to follow. Kidney trouble irritates the nerves, makes you dizzy, restless, sleepless and irritable. Makes you pass water often during the day and obliges you to get up many times during the night. Unhealthy kidneys cause rheumatism, gravel, catarrh of the bladder, pain or dull ache in the back, joints and muscles; makes your head ache and back ache, causes indigestion, stomach and liver trouble, you get a sallow yellow complexion, makes you feel as though you had heart trouble; you may have plenty of ambition, but no strength; get weak and waste away.

The kidneys filter and purify the blood – that is their work. So when your kidneys are weak or out of order you can understand how quickly your entire body is affected, and how every organ seems to fail to do its duty.

If you are sick or “feel badly,” begin taking the famous new discovery, Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root, because as soon as your kidney’s are well they will help all the other organs to health. A trial will convince anyone.

In taking Swamp Root you afford natural help to nature, for Swamp Root is the most perfect healer and gentle aid to the kidneys that is known to medical science. Swamp Root is pleasant to take and for sale the world over in bottles of two sizes and two prices – fifty cents and one dollar.

If you still weren’t convinced their advertisements typically suggested this (later debunked) simple test.

If there is any doubt in your mind as to your condition, take your urine on rising, about four ounces, place it in a glass or bottle and let it stand twenty-four hours. If on examination, it is milky or cloudy; if there is brick-dust settling, or if small particles float about in it, your kidneys are in need of immediate attention.

The rest of the page was filled with testimonials.

   

By the early 1900’s, increasing public awareness was leading to the investigation and ultimate exposure of the patent medicine industry’s plethora of false claims. In 1906, this resulted in legislation that prohibited false representation of a medicine’s benefits, forcing a change in Swamp Root’s labeling.

According to the 1912 Collier’s story written by Samuel Hopkins Adams and published under the heading: ” The Fraud Above the Law:”

Under the interpretation of the law, forbidding false representations on the label, Swamp Root dropped from its carton the legend: “Kidney, Liver, and Bladder Cure.” The claim of cure was untrue, and the Kilmer’s knowing it to be untrue, did not dare face the issue…

In the grand parade of confession which the food and drug law set a marching, Swamp Root was a conspicuous penitent. Applying the parallel column treatment, its admitted mendacity fairly smells to the skies:

Was ever a change of claim more significant! The revised label sedulously refrains from any misstatement of fact. Incidentally, and by omission, it admits the lies that the old label carried….

An unscientific review of the Kilmer bottle as it was depicted in newspaper advertisements that were published in the Buffalo (N.Y.) Inquirer reveals that the label change occurred sometime in 1908. The first, pictured below, appeared as late as April, 1908 and exhibited the word “cure,” the second, in December, 1908; remedy.

          

The Collier’s story didn’t stop there, also listing the ingredients of Swamp Root

What is Swamp Root? Essentially it is alcohol, sugar, water and flavoring matter, with a slight laxative principle. According to its label, it “contains the active medicinal properties of Swamp Root, Field Herbs and Healing Balsams.” But these ingredients are of such inconsiderable potency in the small amount contained, that they are practically negligible. Alcohol is the chief drug constituent of the mixture, the alcoholic strength being 9 percent, about that of champagne…

Collier’s questioned recommending alcohol for liver problems and sugar for diabetic trouble ultimately concluding:

While there is nothing in Swamp Root which will cure the patient of any disease specified in its promises, there are at least two main ingredients which will, in afflictions for which the nostrum is prescribed, give the sufferer a helping hand toward the grave.

Colliers even exposed the 24 hour urine test recommended in much of their advertising as a total scam. Described earlier in this post, their advertisements stated that any deposits found in a urine sample after it was left standing for 24 hours required immediate attention. According to Colliers anyone who performed the test would conclude they needed Swamp Root.

All urine deposits a sediment after standing twenty four hours. Yet the Kilmer’s deliberately circulate this falsehood in millions of homes in this country, endeavoring to frighten sound and well people into believing themselves endangered, in order to lure into the toils the readily impressionable. And the damnable feature of the matter is that it is actually possible to scare a certain type of person into becoming ill. Hence we see Swamp Root in another phase of devil work; not only preying on the sick, but even trying to inspire disease from which to wring blood money.

By the time the Collier’s story was published in 1912 U. S. sales of Swamp Root were beginning to decrease, so you’d think that this exposure would have signaled the end of the company, but you’d be wrong. Protected by wealth and political influence, and backed by the voice of their own newspaper, the business survived in what the Collier’s story concluded was “a copartnership of quackery, blood money and fraud nurtured journalism.”

The Kilmer family remained in control of the business throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, during which time Willis Sharpe Kilmer was serving as president with Jonas having passed away back in 1912.

They continued to advertise heavily in the newspapers up through the mid 1920’s, and while the curative claims of Swamp Root had been toned down by then, the company’s advertising ethics remained questionable, as evidenced by this March 24, 1925 advertisement that connected Swamp Root with the ability to obtain insurance.

Below this headline the advertisement reported:

An examining physician for one of the prominent Life Insurance companies, in an interview of the subject, made the astonishing statement that one reason so many applicants for insurance are rejected is because kidney trouble is so common to the American people, and the large majority of those whose applications are declined do not even suspect that they have the disease. Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root is on sale at all drug stores in bottles of two sizes…

By the late 1920’s and 1930’s the company’s newspaper advertising had decreased significantly, and sales were certainly in decline. That being said, Swamp Root continued to be well represented in local drug store advertisements.

      

Ultimately, in July, 1940 Willis Sharpe Kilmer passed away and shortly afterwards his estate sold the business. The Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin reported the sale in their April 18, 1941 issue.

Dr Kilmer Co. Purchased by N.Y. Concern.

The business of Dr. Kilmer & Co., Inc. makers of the proprietary medicine, Swamp Root, was sold today by the executors of the Kilmer estate to Ardibold, Inc., a recently incorporated New York City firm.

The purchasing firm, it was announced, will continue the business in the Kilmer building which has been the Kilmer & Co. headquarters since it was built in 1903.

Their commitment to remain in the Kilmer Building was short-lived. Less than a year after the acquisition, a September 3, 1941 story in the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin reported that the company was leaving their long time home in Binghamton.

Carlova Moves Into Swamp Root Building

Carlova Co., perfume and cosmetic manufacturer, moved into the Swamp Root building at 39-45 Lewis Street today, as A. Alexander, vice president and secretary of the concern, announced plans for the employment of between 500 and 800 persons at the Lewis Street building.

Occupancy of the building will be completed about Jan. 1, 1942, when Mr. Alexaner said, International Business Machines Corporation and Kilmer & Co., which now occupy space in the building move out…

A deed transferring the property from the estate of the late Willis Sharpe Kilmer to the perfumery and cosmetic concern was filed in the county clerk’s office today. Federal revenue stamps attached indicated a purchase price of approximately $140,000.

Apparently they continued to operate under the Kilmer & Company name after the acquisition. Advertisements for Swamp Root between 1942 and 1959 located the business in Stanford Connecticut, with some including the street address of 370 Fairfield Avenue.

Their first newspaper advertisements, published in 1942, now referred to Swamp Root as a stomachic and intestinal liquid “tonic.”

This October 13, 1959 newspaper advertisement is one of the last I can find. By then their message was simply:

Chances are that Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root medicine can help you the way it has helped millions of other people.

By the early 1960’s, the business was located in Plainview, on New York’s Long Island. According to a 1968 Cincinnati Enquirer story regarding patent medicines:

We are told that “Swamp Root” is still made by Kilmer & Co. at Plainview N. Y., and costs $1.35 for an 11-ounce bottle containing 10 1/2 % alcohol.

At this point I lose track of them so it’s not exactly clear how long the sale of Swamp Root extended beyond the late 1960’s.

The Kilmer Building located at the corner of Chenango and Lewis Streets still remains to this day. Opened in 1903 it’s exterior has changed little if at all over the years as evidenced by the following two photographs. The first appeared in Collier’s 1912 story. The second is current, courtesy of Google Earth.

A reminder of its original use still exists on today’s building facade.

According to the “Then and Now” feature in the March 13, 1988 edition of the Binghamton Press and Sun, their initial laboratory location at Virgil and Chenango Streets was demolished in the 1960’s to make way for an apartment complex.

The bottle I found is mouth blown and its embossing exhibits the word remedy, not cure. This dates it from approximately 1908 when they made the change from cure to remedy and sometime in the mid-teens when I’d expect a machine made bottle.

Around this time they were advertising both a 50 cent and one dollar size bottle. I suspect that this was the 50 cents size. I’ve also found a larger size, also mouth blown, that although not embossed, matches embossed examples found on the internet.

 

This suggests that it was either a labeled version of Kilmer’s larger size or produced by a knock-off company, a common occurrence back in the day.

On a Final Note: In 1892, after selling his share of the patent medicine business, S. Andral Kilmer continued to maintain a medical practice treating cancer patients. According to his January 15, 1924 obituary in the Oneonta (N.Y.) Star:

He had for many years been a resident of Binghamton, where for several years he was associated with his brother, Jonas M. Kilmer, in the proprietary medicine business. Later he retired from this business and was from 1892 largely engaged in the treatment of cancer, at first at Sanitaria Springs, later in Binghamton, and just before his death in the new Sanitarium at Sanitaria Springs, which he opened only last Thursday.

Also a brazen advertiser, his 1904 Binghamton Directory advertisement referred to him as the “Greatest Cancer and Tumor Doctor in all the World.”

During the course of his cancer practice, Dr. Kilmer & Company continued to imply through their merchandising that he was still associated with their patent medicine business. This resulted in a court battle between the two brothers. A story in the October 31, 1911 edition of the (Elmira N.Y.) Star Gazette laid out the issues that S. Andral Kilmer had with his former business.

KILMER CONCERNS FIGHT IN COURTS

Dr. S. Andral Kilmer avers that for more than 30 years (actually closer to 20 years) he has not been associated with Dr. Kilmer & Company, but has practiced in Binghamton, and for ten years past he has made a specialty of treating cancerous growths and allied diseases.

Dr. Andral Kilmer further contends that there is no “Dr. Kilmer” connected with Dr. Kilmer & Company at present, but that the latter company opens and puts to its own use letters addressed to “Dr. Kilmer,” “Dr. Kilmer Company,” etc., which are addressed and intended for him.

Dr. Andral Kilmer also objects to the use of his signature and photograph on the cartons of the Kilmer Company’s medicines, which he says is detrimental to his business.

In 1919, after eight years of litigation, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Dr. Kilmer & Company. As late as the 1960’s S. Andral Kilmer’s likeness and signature appeared on their packaging as evidenced by this 1960’s example bearing the Plainview New York location on the label.

 

“Antidol” For Rheumatism

Antidol was a proprietary medicine advertised around the turn of the century as a headache remedy and pain reliever. Not just another quack medicine of the day, the compound contained aspirin (salicylates) and caffeine, the main ingredients in today’s pain reliever Anacin.

Application No. 20,619 for “Certain Named Remedies,” that included the word “Antidol” was filed with the U.S. patent office by a Boston druggist named Albert D. Mowry on December 15, 1891.

The product along with its uses were described in an advertisement that appeared more like a news item, published in the March 1, 1892 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era.”

ANTIDOL’S VIRTUES

The Boston Medical Fraternity are unanimous in their praise for that valuable little remedy named Antidol, as an instantaneous cure for headache and neuralgia. For several years they have prescribed it, and in treating the most obstinate cases they claim that it reduces fever, allays nervousness and pains of the most obscure origin, whether accommodated by fever or not. It is said to be perfectly harmless and does not contain opium, morphine or any of those narcotics that are so injurious to the nervous system. Antidol comes in the form of a gelatin capsule, which makes it very pleasant to take. Dr. Draper, a physician well known throughout New England, says: “Antidol as a specific for headache has no peer.” The retail price is 25 cents. Every druggist should stock this preparation. Communicate with the manufacturers, Wheeler Pharmacal Co., Boston Mass.

The patent holder, Albert D. Mowry, and the Wheeler Pharmacal Company were closely related, if not one and the same. As early as 1885 Mowry was listed as a druggist in the Boston directories and between 1892 and 1899 Mowry’s drug business and the Wheeler Pharmacal Co. were both listed with the same two addresses; 329 Warren St. and 476 Blue Hill Ave. This leads me to believe that Mowry was writing prescriptions for Antidol in the late 1880’s and by the early 1890’s had formed the Wheel Pharmacal Co. in an effort to manufacture and market Antidol, which they did locally. Advertisements in the New England Magazine and Boston Globe appeared quite regularly between 1891 and 1894. The following advertisements appeared in New England Magazine in the Fall of 1892.

 

Sold only in capsule form it was packaged in what they called small “vest pocket” bottles. A December 13, 1891 Boston Globe advertisement described the bottle like this:

Antidol comes in little pleasant tasting capsules put up in small bottles about the size of a fat, but short lead pencil.

This photograph of their “vest pocket” bottle is provided courtesy of the New Hampshire Historical Society. https://www.nhhistory.org

Medicine bottle, Wheeler Pharmacal Company, Boston, MA.

By 1900, the Wheeler Pharmacal Company was no longer listed in the Boston directories, however, as late as November, 1904, the Merck Report continued to name them as the manufacturer of Antidol in their  “Dictionary of Remedies, Synonyms, and Various Proprietary Preparations.” Mowry’s drug business continued to be listed through 1907 at which time, an item in the December 16, 1907 edition of the Boston Globe announced that he had passed away.

Another trademark for Antidol was filed with the United States Patent Office in 1920 by William Schapira. A New York City druggist, Schapira was located in Manhattan, at 182 First Avenue (corner of 11th St.) from 1898 up until his death in March, 1924.  The application claimed that it was first used in 1904, about the same time it was disappearing up in New England.

The timing fits, so it’s possible that Schapira, obtained the rights to Antidol from Mowry, however, that being said, the “Practical Druggist and Review of Reviews,” in their March, 1905 issue, included it on a list under the heading “Latest New Remedies” (3rd one on the left hand side) and indicated  it was a remedy for rheumatism as well as headache.

Based on this its not apparent whether this was a re-launch of Mowry/Wheeler’s Antidol or a new compound altogether.

What is apparent was that at some point Schapira began manufacturing Antidol in liquid form. Recognizing that the bottle I found is mouth blown and not machine made, this likely occurred within several years, if not at, its start with Schapira in 1904/1905.

Schapira was certainly manufacturing it in liquid form by the early 1920’s as evidenced by the following two advertisements. The first, aimed at the general public, appeared in the December 28, 1922 edition of the Brooklyn Citizen. The second appeared in the April, 1923 edition of the “Druggist Circular.”

An item in the April, 1924 edition of the Practical Druggist announced that Schapira passed away on March 20, 1924. The Wm. Schapira Pharmacy was still listed at 182 First Avenue in 1933 under different ownership (C. Pellicione and P. Nardi).

A compound under the name Antidol is still made today in pill form.  It’s advertised uses are not much different than they were a century ago.

ANTIDOL 500 MG COATED TABLETS

Systematic relief of occasional mild or moderate pain, such as headache, dental pain, muscle pain or back pain.

Manufactured by the CINFA Group, it’s not currently available in the United States.

The bottle I found is a brown mouth blown medicine, maybe 12 ounces in size. It’s simply embossed “Antidol” for Rheumatism. While the embossing doesn’t specifically include Schapira’s name and address, it’s similar in size, color and style to a bottle recently offered for sale on the internet that does.

     

Both bottles likely date to the first decade of Schapira’s business, say 1905 to 1915.

Schapira’s long time location in Manhattan at 182 First Avenue was located on the northeast corner of 11th Street. Today, courtesy of Google Earth, the building at that location is a 19th century walk-up whose ground floor likely accommodated the business.

Note: Streeteasy.com indicates the building at that address was constructed in 1920 but recognizing that Schapira’s pharmacy utilized the address continuously from 1899 through 1933 I suspect streeteasy is likely interpreting  a building permit for renovations as original construction.