The name “Burnett” embossed on the subject bottles is short for Joseph Burnett, a Boston druggist, who established an apothecary and later manufacturing business in Boston during the mid 1800’s. He’s generally credited with manufacturing and marketing the first commercially available flavoring extracts in the United States.
His chief product, Burnett’s Vanilla Extract, was still being offered for sale under his name in the late 1970’s.
A story in the November 1, 1881 edition of The Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel relayed this commonly held version of the product’s origin.
The extensive business of this house, which has extended to nearly every civilized country in the world, had its origin in what might be called an incident, or an accident some thirty years ago. At that time Mr. Joseph Burnett, the founder of the house was doing a large apothecary business on Tremont Street, opposite the Boston Museum.
A lady who had lived in France and had become accustomed to French methods of cookery, came into Mr. Burnett’s store one day and asked him if he could not make a decent Flavoring Extract for her, as she found those in common use abominable. She wanted an extract of vanilla. This was made which pleased the lady very much, and from this simple beginning has grown a business…
Likely some combination of both fact and legend, the above serves as a good background for Burnett’s story, a story that starts not with him, but another New England druggist named Theodore Metcalf, who gave Burnett his start in business.
Born in Dedham, Massachusetts on January 21, 1812, Metcalf began his career in the Hartford Connecticut apothecary of E. W. Bull where he initially served as an apprentice and later as Bull’s partner. That partnership was dissolved in January, 1836 with the dissolution notice appearing in the January 23, 1836 edition of the “Hartford Courant.”
According to Metcalf’s obituary, published in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record,” he subsequently moved to Boston and in the Spring of 1837 established an apothecary business at 33 Tremont Row (later called Tremont Street). Not long after he opened the doors Metcalf hired Burnett as a clerk, jump-starting what would ultimately be a long and successful career. A feature on Burnett, published in the October, 1894 edition of a publication called “The Spatula” provided some early details.
Mr. Burnett who was born in Southboro, Mass., in 1819, received as good an education as the schools of those days afforded, and began his career as a pharmacist in 1837 as a clerk in the store of Mr. Metcalf. It was not long before the latter saw the advisability of taking him into partnership which continued until Mr. Burnett became entire owner of the establishment
A notice announcing the transfer of ownership from Metcalf to Burnett, dated January 1, 1845, was published in several January editions of the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal.”
N0. 33 TREMONT ROW, JANUARY 1, 1845
The subscriber has disposed of his stock and place of business to Mr. Joseph Burnett, his principal assistant for the past six years.
To his regular customers no commendation of his successor is necessary, as his competency and accurateness are well known to them, and he respectfully solicits a continuance of their favors to the establishment.
To the medical profession he takes pleasure in saying that the duty of conducting the business could not fall into hands more capable.
JOSEPH BURNETT respectfully informs the medical profession, that he will endeavor, by close attention to business, to sustain the reputation of the old establishment, and to deserve their confidence and favor.
Over the course of the next ten years the business was listed in the Boston directories as simply “Joseph Burnett.” As far as I can tell Burnett operated the business as a sole proprietorship until 1853, at which time he admitted two partners, William W. Goodwin, and Peter J.Hassard. The partnership announcement, dated January 1, 1853, appeared in several January and February editions of Boston’s “Daily Evening Transcript.”
During this ten year period the business primarily served as an importer/wholesaler/retailer for a wide variety of items as evidenced by their advertisement that appeared within Boston’s 1851 Commercial Directory.
Several of the company’s late 1840’s to early 1850’s newspaper advertisements provide a sampling of the products they carried at the time.
The company also marketed a variety of items directly to the medical profession. According to the following 1853 advertisement that appeared in the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal” this included:
genuine drugs, pure chemicals, select powders, superior extracts (both solid and fluid), and other desirable pharmaceutical preparations
In fact, a story written years later in the October 13, 1946 edition of the “Boston Globe” credits Burnett with supplying the “pure sulphuric ether” used by W. T. G. Morton when he performed the first successful operation under anesthesia in 1846.
If that wasn’t enough, you could stop by his apothecary and have a flavored soda if you were so inclined.
Finally, their 1851 directory advertisement also mentioned “extracts for flavoring pies, jellies, etc.,” so they were certainly manufacturing them, though likely on a small scale, during the early 1850’s (some accounts say as early as 1847). That would all change on January 1, 1855 when, in an effort to focus on the manufacturing side of the business, Burnett sold the apothecary back to Theodore Metcalf. A notice announcing the sale appeared in the January 10, 1855 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript.”
Directly adjacent to the dissolution notice was an advertisement for Metcalf’s reacquired apothecary.
Soon after, Burnett partnered with William Otis Edmunds and established the firm of Joseph Burnett & Co. Within a year the company was manufacturing ten different varieties of flavoring extracts as evidenced by this December 20, 1855 advertisement in the “Boston Evening Transcript.”
FLAVORING EXTRACTS. Messrs. Joseph Burnett & Co., Tremont Street, manufacture very superior Flavoring Extracts of perfect purity, and great strength. The articles are guaranteed to be free from the poisonous oils and acids which enter so largely into the composition of many of the fruit flavors now so freely offered in the market. The varieties are Lemon, Orange, Nectarine, Peach, Celery, Vanilla, Bitter Almond, Rose, Nutmeg and Cinnamon. For family use in blanc mange, custards, pies, etc., or for confectioners and hotel keepers to use in ice creams, jellies, etc. They are not only true to their names but are prepared from fruits of the best quality, and are so highly concentrated that only a small quantity is required. They have all the freshness and delicate flavor of the choice fruits from which they are prepared.
A list published in a July, 2, 1859 “Boston Evening Transcript” advertisement, indicated that by then the menu had been upped to 12 by adding ginger and cloves.
More than just flavoring extracts, by the late 1850’s the company was also manufacturing several medicines and toiletries, all of which were advertised together as “Burnett’s Standard Preparations.”
In case you’re interested here’s an alphabetized list of uses that “Burnett’s Standard Preparations” were touted to address. The list appeared in the 1866 edition of their annual marketing publication called “Burnett’s Floral Handbook and Ladies Calendar.” .
Joseph Burnett & Co. was initially listed in 1856 and 1857 at 41 Tremont where they were literally next door to (or cohabitated with?) Metcalf’s apothecary. In fact, this early Burnett advertisement for “Kalliston,” that appeared in the April 14, 1856 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” named Metcalf as one of Burnett’s first retailers.
That being said, Burnett apparently outgrew his Tremont facilities rather quickly and by 1857 moved the company to 27 Central Street where, by 1881, a November 1st feature on the business in the “Fitchburg Sentinel” described a company whose production of vanilla extract alone consumed one fourth of the entire Mexican product. The feature went on to say:
Some fifty persons are now directly employed by the concern in the varied work of bottling, labeling, packing and boxing their various Flavoring Extracts and Toilet Preparations, all of which are of altogether superior nature.
By this time, Burnett’s sons Harry, and John M. were actively involved in the business and in fact as early as 1882 the Boston directories name them, not Joseph, as the company principals. This suggests that while it was likely that Joseph continued to oversee the business, by then it was his sons who were running its day to day operations.
Ultimately full authority passed to the brothers in 1894 when Joseph Burnett died in a tragic accident. The August 13, 1894 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” told the story.
Dr. Joseph Burnett of Southboro, well-known in Boston, was fatally injured at Marlboro yesterday afternoon. He was driving on Maple Street and when near the electric car station his horse became frightened by an electric car and Dr. Burnett was thrown out, striking upon his head. He was taken to his country home at Southboro in an unconscious condition and died at seven o’clock last evening.
That same year the business moved again, this time to 36 India Street, where, now incorporated, it was listed in the 1895 Boston directories with a new name; the Joseph Burnett Company. The directories named John M., president and Harry, treasurer, that first year.
It was also in the early 1890’s that the company began advertising a line of food coloring’s called “Burnett’s Color Pastes.”
For coloring Ice Creams, Frostings, Jellies, Custards and all kinds of confectionery.
This 1898 advertisement that appeared in the “Boston Cooking School Magazine” advertised their Extracts and Color Pastes side by side. The advertisement provided this menu of their colored pastes: Leaf Green, Fruit Red, Golden Yellow, Damask Rose, Carmel, Chestnut, Imperial Blue and Mandarin Orange.
By the turn of the century the business was emphasizing their extracts and color pastes at the expense of their medicines and toilet preparations, some of which were likely being scrutinized as a result of the food and drug laws being enacted around that time. One clue supporting this shift in focus is evident in the font size used in the company’s advertisement that appeared in Boston’s 1905 Commercial Directory. By this time the medicinal and toilet items appear in the advertisement as no more than afterthoughts.
Nine years later only their extracts are mentioned in the 1914 directory advertisement.
Although their line of extracts included many flavors, by the early 1920’s according to a feature on the Burnett business in the November 3, 1921 edition of an advertising trade magazine called “Printers Ink”
The company is chiefly known to advertisers as makers of Vanilla Extract. Vanilla has been the advertised leader for many years.
The “Printers Ink” feature went on to say:
The line includes, however, many other flavors as well as spices and color pastes. Burnett’s spices are a comparatively recent addition to the line and they are being featured in the advertising this fall.
As promised their fall advertising campaign included their new line of spices as evidenced by an advertisement that appeared in the December, 1921 edition of “The Ladies Home Journal.”
It was also in 1921 that the company moved again, this time to a new factory at 437 D Street in South Boston.
Later, in the mid 1930’s they added several products having to do with ice cream, “Burnetts Liquid Ice Cream” and “Burnett’s Ice Cream Mix.” The Ice Cream Mix was advertised in the “North Adams (Mass.) Transcript” on May 23, 1935.
Up through the mid-1940’s, the Burnett family continued to remain heavily involved in the management of the company. John T. Burnett succeeded his brother John M. Burnett as president in 1906, serving in that capacity until his death in 1929. He was succeeded as president by Henry P. Kidder, with a third generation of the Burnett family, George H. Burnett, serving as treasurer. This arrangement continued until 1946 when the company was sold to American Home products. The sale was reported in the May 2, 1946 edition of the Boston Globe.
Am. Home Products Acquires Burnett Co.
H. W. Roden, vice president of American Home Products Corporation, announced today acquisition of the Joseph Burnett Company of Boston, for 8,918 capital shares of American Home Products, parent of American Home Foods, Inc.
The newly acquired company was the outgrowth of a Boston drug store, founded by Joseph Burnett, who, in 1847, produced vanilla flavoring as an experiment.
Less than a year after the acquisition a fire caused significant damage to the company’s D Street factory. The fire was reported in the April 2, 1947 edition of the “Boston Globe.”
Seventy-five persons, many of them women were driven out of the building at 437 D St., South Boston, today when fire caused damage of more than $50,000 to the building and extract stores of the Joseph Burnett Company.
The fire started when a spark from an electric motor ignited alcohol fumes, fire officials said. It started on the fourth floor of the seven story brick building and spread along pipes down to the third floor.
It appears that the fire put an end to Burnett’s manufacturing operations in Boston. The following year, in 1948, the Joseph Burnett Co., was listed in the Boston directories as a division of American Foods with simply an office address at 43 Leon, Rm 310, in Roxbury. That same year their D Street factory was no longer listed.
On a side note, the structure apparently survived and today is called the Seaport Lofts. Here’s a recent photograph courtesy of Google Earth.
Where American Home Products moved Burnett’s manufacturing arm is not clear, but in the 1950’s they did put out several new products under the Burnett name. One advertised in the early 1950’s was Burnett’s Instant Puddings.
As far as I can tell, the Burnett brands were later acquired by the Doxsee Food Corporation. One last mention of the brand that I can find appeared in a July 29, 1987 “Boston Globe” feature entitled “Ask the Globe,” where one question/answer item made it clear that by then Burnett’s Vanilla Extract, and likely the entire Burnett brand, had been discontinued.
Q. My wife prefers to use Burnett’s Pure Vanilla Extract in her cooking but has been unable to find it in local stores. Can it be purchased anywhere? – C.C., Milton.
A. Ed Lindsay of the customer service department at Doxsee Food Corp. in Baltimore says his firm no longer produces Burnett’s, but instead makes an imitation vanilla extract.
The last newspaper advertisement for “Burnett’s Vanilla Extract” that I can find appeared in March, 1979, suggesting that the late 1970’s/early 1980’s is the product’s likely end date. The advertisement, for a grocery store called Warehouse Foods, listed it along with several other products under the heading “Baking Time.” The ad appeared in the March 19th edition of a Wisconsin newspaper called the “Oshkosh Northwestern.”
I’ve found two Burnett bottles. One is two ounces in size, the other four ounces. Each is mouth blown with a tooled finish, likely putting their manufacture date somewhere in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.
In the 1870 Floral Handbook and Ladies Calendar the company advertised that their flavored extracts were available in five sizes, one of which is two ounces.
Coupled with the fact that the smaller bottle matches almost exactly the vanilla extract bottle exhibited in this 1902 advertisement found in a publication called the “American Kitchen Magazine” leads me to believe it contained some variety of flavoring extract.
The four ounce bottle does not fit one of the advertised sizes so, assuming they didn’t add a four ounce size in the late 1800’s, it likely contained one of Burnett’s other “Standard Preparations.” The bottle closely resembles the size and shape of the bottle in this 1879 Kalliston advertisement found in their Floral Journal and Ladies Calendar so I’m leaning in that direction.
It certainly did not contain their Cocoaine or Cologne Water as both were sold in uniquely shaped bottles.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.”
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
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.
Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters had its origins with Moses Atwood, who originally manufactured it north of Boston, in Georgetown Massachusetts. In the early days the preparation went by a number of different names including: “Atwood’s Bitters,” “Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters,” “Atwood’s Jaundice Physical Bitters,” “Atwood’s Vegetable Physical Jaundice Bitters,”and “Atwood’s Dyspeptic Bitters.” Regardless of the name used, it was touted as a cure for just about anything and everything.
ATWOOD’S JAUNDICE PHYSICAL BITTERS!
HAVE YOU USED IT? If not go at once and procure a bottle – it is warranted in every case to cure the Jaundice, Headache, Dyspepsis, Liver Complaint, Dizziness, Worms, Loss of Appetite, General Debility, Costiveness, Fever and Ague and such other diseases as arise from a disordered state of the stomach, and impurities of the blood. It cleanses the blood from humors, moistens the skin, invigorates the whole system, and imparts new life and energy in the disease wasted frame. It is a powerful cathartic if taken in large doses.
For Sick Headache, it is an infallible cure. It has also become greatly celebrated of late for its remarkable success in curing the most obstinate cases of Fever and Ague. No family should be without this most valuable preparation.
Drug store advertisements that referenced it began appearing in the mid-1840’s, so it was certainly being manufactured and distributed locally by that time. The following newspaper advertisement for the Bennington Laboratory in Bennington, Vermont included Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters on a long list of “just received” items. The ad appeared in several March, 1846 editions of the Vermont Gazette and is the earliest newspaper reference I’ve been able to find.
In the late 1840’s Moses Atwood began to sell off certain pieces of the business and by 1855 he had completely sold out and left Georgetown for Iowa. It’s around this time that things got complicated, such that by the mid 1870’s a number of different entities were manufacturing some form of Atwood’s Bitters. They fall into the following general categories:
Carter & Dodge et. al. – Several businesses were spawned out of a partnership called Carter and Dodge. Carter and Dodge acquired their rights as a result of contracts with Moses Atwood that date back to the late 1840’s and early 1850’s. In 1875 all of these businesses were acquired by the Manhattan Medicine Company.
Lewis H Bateman – He worked with Moses Atwood in Georgetown as early as 1842 and claimed Atwood left him the formula when he moved to Iowa. His rights were also acquired by the Manhattan Medicine Company in 1875.
L.F. Atwood – Atwood’s father, Levi and his brother Levi F, manufactured a version of the preparation called L. F. Atwood’s Bitters in portions of New England, a territory not included in Moses Atwood’s agreement with Carter & Dodge. Later, L. F. Atwood’s Bitters would continue to be manufactured in Maine By H. H. Hay & Co.
Nathan Wood and later Nathan Wood & Son – They claimed to have acquired the Maine rights to the bitters from Moses Atwood’s son, Moses F. Atwood, in 1861.
Charles H. Atwood – A Boston druggist, he began producing a product called Atwood’s Quinine Tonic Bitters around 1860. As far as I can tell, other than his name he had no direct connection with Moses Atwood. Later, Atwood’s Quinine Tonic Bitters would be manufactured by Alvah Littlefield & Company and subsequent to that, by Gilman Brothers.
Not surprisingly this situation resulted in disputes that centered around the use of the Atwood Bitters name and trade marks. One such dispute resulted in a court case, Manhattan Medicine Company v. Nathan Wood, whose records reveal much about how this early history unfolded. I’ve tried to summarize it below, beginning with an 1848 agreement between Moses Atwood and Moses Carter.
At the time Atwood made an agreement with Moses Carter to sell him certain bills outstanding against local agents, and the rights to sell the medicines in certain specified places. From the original contract, it seems that Moses Atwood retained the preparation of the medicines to himself, and the contract does not show that he did, or agreed to, disclose his formulae to Carter. The medicines were, under the contract, sold to Carter by the barrel and gallon. Among these medicines was one called Attwood’s Jaundice Bitters. When these medicines were sold to Carter, he had the right to sell them in certain named places.
Another agreement between the two, this one in September, 1852, makes it clear that by then Carter had obtained the right to put up and compound the bitters as well as to sell it in specific territories that included a large part of Massachusetts and portions of other states. To accomplish this, Carter had formed a partnership with Benjamin Dodge called Carter & Dodge. A September 8, 1853 advertisement that appeared in several editions of the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal named Carter & Dodge as “wholesale dealers” of the preparation.
Moses Atwood worked in concert with Carter & Dodge until 1855 when he sold his remaining interest in the business to them and moved west to Iowa. Around the same time Carter’s son, Charles, joined the partnership changing its name to Carter, Dodge & Company. The new company name was reflected in this November/December, 1856 advertisement, also published in the Poughkeepsie Journal. No longer just wholesale dealers, the company now referred to themselves as “proprietors.”
Several years later, in 1858, the partnership was dissolved by mutual consent and the Carter’s and Dodge went their separate ways. The Carter’s continued the business in Georgetown operating at times under the name M. Carter and Son and at others as M. Carter & Sons.
Meanwhile Dodge moved to Rowley, Massachusettes where he set up shop and sold the bitters for about five years after which he sold the rights.
…during the existence of the firms M. Carter& Sons and M. Carter & Son, Dodge sold a right to one Will B. Dorman, who also carried on the business of selling this medicine…B.S. Dodge also sold a right to Noyes & Manning of Mystic Bridge Connecticut and they also carried on the same business.
Confused? Well it gets worse! While all this was going on a man named Lewis H Bateman was also selling Atwood’s Bitters in Georgetown Mass.
All this time from the year 1855 to 1871, in the same village of Georgetown, L. H. Bateman carried on the business of compounding these bitters in competition with the Carter’s and Dodge, and when he died in 1871, his son continued the same…
Bateman’s advertisements claimed:
L. H. Bateman of Georgetown, in the county of Essex, Mass., commenced the manufacture of Atwood’s Bitters in connection with Moses Atwood, the inventor, in 1842, and has continued their manufacture to the present time.
The Carter’s challenged Bateman’s claim and brought suit against him but their request for an injunction was denied and the suit was never brought to completion.
The court records go on to say that as time went on competition between the different entities grew:
After M. Carter & Son, Bateman, Dodge, Dorman, and Noyes & Manning were all running their own businesses on these medicines, they became competitors in the business. When the different sales were made to Dorman, Noyes, Manning & Co. and when Dodge separated from the Carters, it appears that certain divisions of the territory originally owned by Carter & Dodge, were made among them. Soon, however, these territorial divisions were disregarded, by them all, and they all sold on each others territory, and wherever they could. Bateman did the same.
As you might expect, this competition was especially fierce between the Carter’s and Bateman whose operations must have been within shouting distance of each other in Georgetown. Both were listed in the 1870 Georgetown Directory, Bateman as “druggist,” and the Carter’s as “patent medicines.” This led in some cases to each calling the other’s business a fake. An example can be found in the 1874 editions of the Davenport Iowa newspapers. Advertisements run by Batemann included his claim that his relationship with Atwood extended back to 1842 and that he legally possessed the original recipe. The ads went on to say:
L. H. Bateman has continued to put the genuine Atwood Bitters in half-pint glass bottles with the words “Atwood’s Jaundiced Bitters, Moses Atwood Georgetown Mass.,” blown on the bottles. And, hereafter, to prevent all mistake, upon the directions on the label of each bottle will be printed with RED INK, a fac-similie of the signature of L. H. Bateman. All dealers and consumers are cautioned not to purchase, and above all, not to take as medicine, bitters called Atwood’s Bitters, not put up and designated as above.
M. Carter & Son responded with their own advertisement, headed with the phrase “Important for all to Know,” that claimed that their bitters was the “only genuine.”
CAUTION Fraud Exposed. Everyone should know that the market is flooded with worthless imitations, purporting to be made and put up by Moses Atwood, who has not manufactured any bitters since we bought the business of him, or lived in Georgetown since 1855. So do not be deceived by worthless imitations.
This situation continued up until 1875 when each of the entities were bought out by the Manhattan Medicine Company.
At the beginning of the year, 1875, the titles of the Atwood Medicine business stood in Luther F. Carter (a son of Moses Carter), William P. Dorman and Noyes & Manning, (said parties being the successors of Carter, Dodge & Co.), and the Bateman heirs. All those several parties, by proper instruments of conveyance, duly conveyed to the appellant (Manhattan Medicine Co.) all of their respective rights, titles and interests therein; the Bateman heirs, January 1, 1875, Noyes & Manning, April 21, 1875, William B. Dorman, March 30,1875 and Luther F. Carter, April, 1875.
This unified most of the claimants to the Moses Atwood business under the Manhattan Medicine Company umbrella. The exception was in the territory of Maine which will be covered a little bit later in this post.
The Manhattan Medicine Company was established in 1875, the same year they acquired the rights to Atwood’s Bitters, however, its roots date back to a long time New York City druggist named John F. Henry. In 1873 he enlarged his operation when he organized the firm of John F. Henry, Curran & Co. An item in the October 4, 1873 edition of the Brooklyn Times Union announced the formation of the new business.
Mr. John F. Henry has very considerably enlarged his business by associating with him in partnership Mr. Theo Curran of the firm of A. L. Scovill & Co., of Cincinnati and this city, and Henry Bowen, Esq., publisher of the Brooklyn Daily Union.
This copartnership gives the new house a working capital of nearly one million dollars, and the ownership of something like a hundred proprietary articles, including the well known list of A. L. Scovill & Co., and the control of many more, among which are Brown’s Ginger, Marshall’s Catarrh Snuff, Heimbold’s Buchu, Murray’s English Fluid Magnesia and many other standard preparations.
It is the intention of the firm to add drugs to their stock, as a profitable method of employing their surplus capital…
The business will be continued under the name and style of John F. Henry, Curran & Co.
The company operated a large New York City facility called the United States Medicine Warehouse located at 8 College Place in Manhattan (later a revision to the Manhattan numbering system changed the address to 24 College Place).
It’s pretty clear that Henry and Curran used some of their new found capital to establish the Manhattan Medicine Company and acquire Atwood’s Bitters. This 1876 advertisement named the Manhattan Medicine Company as proprietors and John F. Henry, Curran & Co. as wholesale agents.
Based on this advertisement I think its safe to say that the Manhattan Medicine Co. owned the rights to Atwood’s Bitters but John F. Henry, Curran & Co. manufactured and distributed it. Recognizing that Henry had an interest in both companies and that each company was listed with the same College Place address, it’s likely that in practice, they operated as one business.
While ownership of the bitters had changed, this 1877 advertisement in the Boston Globe revealed that the marketing message had not.
John F Henry, Curran & Co. only operated until January, 1878 when the business failed as a result of their association with a banker named E. J. Dunning. The story appeared in the January 17, 1878 edition of “The Independent.”
Another heavy failure has occurred in Wall Street. E. J.Dunning. Jr., a commercial note broker well known in the drug and chemical trade, has made an assignment to Mr. E. Y. Bell…The cause of the failure is said to be the unexpected calling in of a large loan by one of the banks. The immediate effect of the failure was to cause the suspension of Messrs. John F. Henry, Curran & Co. and Messrs. Hegeman & Co….
The business ultimately reemerged as J. F. Henry & Co. and their relationship with the Manhattan Medicine Company apparently continued. The 1890 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory still listed both companies at 24 College Place and John F. Henry was named a principal in each.
John F Henry passed away in May 1893, and within several years J. F. Henry & Co. was no longer listed in the NYC directories. Subsequently, likely soon after Henry’s death but certainly by the early 1900’s, the long established New York City drug and cosmetics firm of Hall & Ruckel assumed the manufacturing and distribution rights to Atwood’s Bitters.
They were still listed as the manufacturer of Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters on a 1917 list of proprietary medicines prepared by the Analytical Laboratory of the Connecticut Experimental Station.
Sometime in the late teens or early 1920’s, the manufacturing rights passed from Hall & Ruckel to O. H. Jadwin Sons, Inc., who was identified as the sole agent of the Manhattan Medicine Company in this November, 1923 item published in the Druggist Circular.
The last reference I can find that connects the Manhattan Medicine Company with Atwood’s Bitters was a November, 1926 advertisement that appeared in several editions of The (Coshocton, Ohio) Tribune. At that time, though no longer listed in the N.Y.C. directories, you could still find the Manhattan Medicine Company in New York City at 11 Vestry Street where, if you sent in this coupon, you could obtain a free bottle of Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters.
Ultimately, late in 1929 American Home Products acquired the entire capital stock of the Manhattan Medicine Company, including their rights to Atwood’s Bitters. Established in 1926, two of American Home Products’ operating entities, the Whitehall Pharmacal Company (part of the original incorporation) and John Wyeth and Brother (acquired in 1931) were both named as manufacturers on Atwood’s Bitters labels in the 1930’s.
“Atwood’s Bitters” was included in drug store advertisements up through the 1940’s and into the early 1950’s. By then the reference to the product was completely generic so who actually manufactured it is unclear, though it’s likely one or both of the Wyeth/Whitehall duo. This 1940 reference was included in a 1940 Doan’s Drug Store advertisement from Ithaca, New York.
Heading back to 1875, the court records made it clear that the territorial rights to Maine and parts of New Hampshire were not included in the Carter & Dodge agreement with Moses Atwood and were instead reserved for his father, Levi Atwood, and brother, L. F. Atwood.
Localities almost without number were excepted out of the general grant, and uncontradicted proof is that the original proprietor made reservations in favor of his father, Levi Atwood, and his brother Levi F. Atwood, of Maine and part of New Hampshire.
It’s possible that L. F. Atwood was manufacturing a version of the bitters called L. F. Atwood’s Bitters as early as the 1850’s in the Town of Fairfield, Maine (Kendall’s Mills) where he’s listed under “apothecaries”in the Maine Register as early as 1856. At some point he apparently sold the rights to a local Portland Maine druggist, named Henry H. Hay. Located at the intersection of Fore and Middle Streets, according to their 1863 advertisement in the Portland Maine directory, Hay was the wholesale dealer for a wide variety of drug related products.
By 1868, H. H. Hay & Co. referred to themselves in advertisements as the “Sole General Agent” for L. F. Atwood’s Bitters.
Meanwhile, in 1861 Atwood’s son, Moses F. Atwood, was back in Georgetown and, while working with Bateman, sold the rights in the same area to Nathan Wood.
That Bateman had the original recipe, and that Moses F. Atwood, the son of the original proprietor, when in the employment of Bateman as a selling agent, sold the recipe for compounding and preparing the Atwood Bitters in the State of Maine in 1861.
As early as 1844, Nathan Wood was listed in the Portland, Maine directories as a “dealer in botanic medicines.” When he acquired his right to Atwood’s in 1861 he was listed as “patent medicines,” with an address of 135 Commercial.
By the late 1860’s H. H. Hay and Wood were certainly in competition as evidenced by two H. H. Hay advertisements that appeared in several 1868 editions of the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier.
One headed “Stop Thief,” stated in part:
The public are hereby cautioned against a base imitation of “L. F.” Atwood’s Bitters by a manufacturer of proprietary medicines in this city, who not only copied the label, in part, and adopted the same style bottle but states on his label that he has purchased the right…
Another, with the heading “The Rightful Medicine,” actually mentioned Wood by name.
I have never given information to anyone respecting my ATWOOD’S BITTERS, or the mode of compounding the same, neither did I sell my recipe, or any part of it to one “Wood,” or any other person or persons or persons whatsoever, excepting to H. H. Hay, Druggist, of Portland Maine…
As far as I can tell, both Hay and Wood continued to manufacture and sell Atwood’s Bitters well into the next century.
Nathan Wood was later joined by his son John T. Wood and by 1875 the business was listed in the Portland directories as Nathan Wood & Son, with an address of 202 Fore St. Sometime in the early 1880’s the business changed their address to 424 Fore and by the late 1880’s was listing a factory location as well, at 464 Fore St.
The company incorporated on January 1, 1920 and remained listed in the Portland directories up through 1932. By that time Arthur Wood, possibly a third generation of the Wood family, was named as the principal.
While I can’t relate any specific newspaper advertisements to their business, Wood’s Atwood’s Bitters was included in a Druggist Circular price list as late as 1911.
H. H. Hay on the other hand, advertised their L. F. Atwood’s Bitters quite heavily. This July 14, 1876 item in the Vermont Union with the heading “Read Quickly Ye Sufferers,” proudly claimed, among other things:
…highly concentrated, is warranted to contain more Medical properties in a 38 cent bottle than any other “Invigorator” or “Sarsaparilla” sold for a dollar…
By the early 1900’s advertisements referred to it as both L. F. Atwood’s Bitters and L. F. Atwood’s Medicine. This September 21, 1903 advertisement in the Bangor Daily News specifically referenced both names.
Over the next several years the word bitters was dropped from their advertisements and in 1910 the name of the manufacturer included in their advertisements changed from H. H. Hay to the L.F. Medicine Company.
I can’t find the L. F. Medicine Company listed in subsequent Portland, Maine directories, while H.H. Hay remained listed in Portland well into the 1950’s and possibly longer, as H. H. Hay & Son and later H.H. Hay Sons. As late as 1917, published price lists continued to name H. H. Hay Sons as the manufacturer, so it appears that Hay continued to manufacture it under the L. F. Medicine Company name. Newspaper advertisements for the L. F. Medicine vanish by the mid-1930’s.
The final piece of the puzzle, Atwood’s Quinine Tonic Bitters, got its start in Boston, likely in the late 1850’s. Early newspaper advertisements naming Charles H. Atwood of 19 Central Street as the proprietor began appearing in 1860. The following appeared in the October 11, 1860 edition of the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier.
As far as I can tell, Charles H Atwood did not claim any connection with Moses Atwood. The story he’d like you to believe appeared in an advertisement disguised as a newspaper item published in the September 6, 1860 edition of Vermont’s Green Mountain Freeman.
We again call attention to the excellent qualities of Atwood’s Quinine Tonic Bitters, so well adapted to the wants of the debilitated and the dyspeptic. Mr. Atwood, who is a highly respected importer of choice chemicals, medicines, etc., at the suggestion of prominent physicians, and on their representations of the need of a judicious preparation of this character, was induced to devote several months’ time and much energy to producing a tonic stimulant which would justify the confidence of both physician and sufferer.
The newspaper item went on to take what appears to be a veiled jab at the other “Atwood’s Bitters” products without specifically mentioning them by name.
Throwing aside all empirical claims of recently discovered remedies, his researches among the standard agents of the Materia Medica, revealed the fact that many of the most highly prized stomachics and tonics of former years have been of late neglected. Combining the choicest of these with Quinine, thus securing all the virtues of the Peruvian Bark in a condensed and refined form, he has succeeded, after many experiments, in achieving a result in the shape of the Quinine Tonic Bitters, which is now rewarding him for his endeavors. The compound has already acquired a prominent position in the scanty list of reliable remedial agents, backed by the endorsements of most of the eminent physicians of our city..
At some point, likely in the mid 1860’s but no later than 1871, Charles H. Atwood transferred the rights to his bitters to a druggist names Alvah Littlefield who maintained a drug store under Boston’s United States Hotel (Beach corner of Lincoln) for upwards of 40 years. This advertisement sponsored by Littlefield ran in the May 3, 1871 edition of the New England Farmer.
Sometime in the mid-1870’s Littlefield apparently sold the rights to Gilman Brothers who are named as proprietors in this June 28, 1876 advertisement published in the (Montpelier) Vermont Watchman and State Journal.
Newspaper advertisements for Atwood’s Quinine Tonic Bitters disappeared by the early 1900’s, however, I’ve seen it included in a Druggist Circular price list as late as November, 1920.
The bottle I found is mouth blown and roughly six ounces. It has the typical twelve paneled design and is embossed:
The 12 paneled bottle design dates back to the days of Moses Carter but the fact that our bottle is not pontiled or crudely made all but guarantees it was made after the Manhattan Medicine Company entered the picture in 1875. They continued using the above embossing up until at least 1883 when the United States Supreme Court ruled against them in their suit against Nathan Wood; the Court taking exception to their use of Moses Atwood’s name and their claim that it was manufactured in Georgetown, Mass when in fact it was manufactured by the Manhattan medicine Company in New York City.
The Court’s reasoning is presented below in their own words.
Mr. Justice Field speaking for the court said: “If one affix to goods of his own manufacture signs or marks which indicate that they are the manufacture of others, he is deceiving the public, and attempting to pass upon them goods as possessing a quality and merit which another’s skill has given to similar articles, and which his own manufacture does not possess in the estimation of purchasers. To put forth a statement, therefore, in the form of a circular or label, attached to an article, that is manufactured in a particular place, by a person whose manufacture there had acquired a great reputation, when, in fact, it is manufactured by a different person at a different place, is a fraud upon the public which no court of equity will countenance.”
This precipitated a change in embossing to the following:
Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters, Formerly Made By Moses Atwood, Georgetown Mass.
When exactly they made the change in embossing is not clear but I suspect it was shortly after the ruling dating the bottle no later that the mid-1880’s.
Established in the mid 1860’s by Phillip Danforth Armour and John Plankinton, Armour and Company was a meat packing business that by the turn of the century had grown into one of the largest companies in the United States. For many years its presence in Chicago’s Union Stock Yards contributed, in no small way, to that city’s reputation as the capital of the American meatpacking industry.
Not only a meat producer, the company was heavily involved in the manufacture of by-products utilizing materials that were typically wasted in the slaughtering process. According to an October 20, 1901 story in the Buffalo (N.Y.) Times:
It is a saying in Chicago that the house of Armour & Co., in the slaughter of hogs, “loses nothing but the squeal of the hogs” when they are led to the slaughter. Employing many thousands of men in the varied industries growing out of their vast slaughtering business, the firm has found it immensely profitable to utilize all portions of the raw material by the firm.
The story went on to provide this menu of products manufactured under the Armour name at the turn of the century. The list would grow well into the hundreds by the 1920’s
The business got its start with John Plankinton, not in Chicago but further north in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His biography, available on wisconsinhistory.org tells the story.
John Plankinton was a meat packer and businessman. In 1849 he began the packing of beef and hog products, and in 1852 formed a partnership with Frederick Layton under the firm name of Layton and Plankinton Packing Co. In 1861 Layton withdrew and Plankinton continued the business alone until 1863, when he was joined by Phillip D. Armour, and the firm became Plankinton, Armour and Co. (Plankinton & Armour)
Armour had arrived in Milwaukee by way of California where he had been lured by the gold rush. Whether he made any money on the west coast is apparently open to speculation. According to his biography published in “A History of the City of Chicago,” published in 1900:
Mr Armour returned to the East in 1856, after having a varied experience in mining enterprises, and it was conjectured at the time that he brought back with him considerable of the golden dust, but the facts of this interesting matter are known only to himself.
Another biography, this one published in the January 7, 1901 edition of Chicago’s “Inter Ocean,” described Armour’s Milwaukee years leading up to his association with Plankinton.
Mr. Armour went to Milwaukee, where he had a friend, Frederick S. Miles, who was engaged in the wholesale grocery and commission business, and soon became his business partner, the style of the firm being Miles & Armour. The firm was prosperous, but in 1863 Mr. Armour withdrew from it to engage in the shipment of wheat, in which he saw more money. He purchased the largest grain elevator in the city, and was again as successful as could be desired.
In the meantime the pork-packing firm of Plankton & Layton was dissolved, and John Plankinton formed a new firm, in the same business with Mr. Armour, under the style of Plankton & Armour.
It appears that shortly after his association with Plankinton the financial foundation for the Armour business was laid. His “Inter Ocean” biography went on to say:
The firm was successful from the first, and suddenly amassed a great fortune, all through the brilliant management of Mr. Armour. This happened in the spring of 1863, when the war of the rebellion was drawing to a close. At that time pork was selling at $40 a barrel, and the New York operators were buying it recklessly under the impression that it would go to $60. Mr. Armour believed that the war would soon end, and that pork would decline to $20 or less. He laid his plans before his partners, who gave him their approval, and then went posthaste to New York, where he sold pork short for $40 as long as anybody would buy it. Sure enough, pork soon fell to $18, and Mr. Armour and his partners were made millionaires.
In the meantime Phillip’s brother, Herman O. Armour, had started a grain commission business in Chicago sometime in 1862 and by 1864 the two brothers along with Plankinton had joined together in that city under the name H. O. Armour & Co. In 1868 they began packing pork under the name Armour & Co. and by 1870 all the business transacted in Chicago was done under the Armour & Co. name.
According to a story written years later in the December 2, 1951 edition of the Tribune, the Chicago operation moved to the Union Stock Yards in 1872 where it would remain until the late 1950’s.
The first Armour hog plant was the old Bell house in the Archer Avenue packing center which had been built up during the Civil War. About 1868 packers began to move south to the area just west of the stock yards and Armour followed in 1872.
As early as 1865 Herman left another brother, Joseph, in charge of the Chicago operation and opened an office in New York under the name Armour, Plankinton & Co. The office was first listed in the 1866/1867 New York City directory at 129 Broad Street in Manhattan.
By the end of the decade the Armours had also established another plant, this one in Kansas City run by a fourth brother, Simeone Armour, under the name Plankinton & Armours.
As early as the mid-1870’s a story in the Kansas City Times clearly viewed their operation as the leader in the country and world’s meat packing industry.
Thoroughly identified with the packing business of the whole country, there are no names in the United States more familiar to the trade than those of the Plankinton’s and the Armours, there being two of the former-father and son-and four of the latter-brothers. These six gentlemen stand at the head of beyond all comparisons the heaviest beef and pork packing business of the world…
A May 10, 1880 story published in the The (London) Times featured the American bacon and pork industry and included this description of the Armour business.
A few hogs are slaughtered and salted by the farmers, but the great bulk pass to the packers…
Messrs. Armour & Co. handle nearly 1,000,000 hogs annually at Chicago, and have similar establishments at Milwaukee and at Kansas City, at each of which upwards of 400,000 are slaughtered and packed. From small beginnings in 1860 their business has steadily increased; within six years it has doubled. At the Chicago works at the stock yards, 10,000 pigs are frequently killed daily in summer; 20,000 constitute a full day’s slaughtering in winter. Two thousand tons of meat are sometimes dispatched in a single day from the railway sidings which are conveniently brought into the premises. The work covers 14 acres; the buildings are four stories high, and are being constantly added to. There are six lifts, and hydrants and fire hose are fixed at convenient points on every story. A trained fire brigade is recruited from among the operatives. The premises are insured for a million dollars, the annual premium on different parts of the works varying from 1 to 1 3/4 percent. Two thousand men are employed in summer and 3,500 in winter.
The raw material which keeps this great establishment moving is conveniently found in the contiguous market where 60,000 hogs are sometimes pitched (sold) in a morning, and on one occasion last summer the number ran up to 80,000… Messrs. Armour have large pens and yards where their purchases are fed and watered until required. No fasting is practiced as in England. The grunter has his breakfast even if he is doomed before dinner time.
An advertisement published in the March 18, 1882 edition of the (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, for one of Armour’s agents, McCloskey & Henderson, provided this list of canned meat products being produced and shipped out of Chicago by Armour at the time. By this time the business included beef and even chicken soup, as well as pork.
Over the course of several years during the early 1880’s the Armours and Plankinton severed their various business relationships, apparently amicably. As the dust settled, the resultant situation was summarized in the October 26, 1884 edition of the Kansas City Times.
As appears from a dissolution notice published in the advertisement column of THE TIMES this morning, the partnership which has existed for twenty-five years between Mr P.D. Armour and Mr. John Plankinton, has been dissolved, Mr. Armour retiring from the Milwaukee house and Mr. Plankinton from the Kansas City house, which will in the future be known under the firm name of the Armour Packing Company.
The dissolution does not effect either the Chicago or New York houses, as Mr. Plankinton has not been connected with the former business for several years and a few weeks ago sold his interest in the New York house to Mr. H. O. Armour retaining an interest in but one establishment, that of Milwaukee, of which he is the chief owner.
It was during the remainder of the 1800’s that the Armours laid the foundation for much of the company’s expansion into industries related to their meat packing business, adding a glue factory, soap works and a pharmaceutical department among others to their operation.
A story in the January 1, 1886 edition of the Chicago Tribune announced the acquisition of the Wahl Bros. glue factory.
In a circular-letter to the trade, dated December 21, 1885, they announce the purchase of Wahl Bros’ extensive glue factory (which covers eight acres) in this city, together with the good will and all appurtenances. They will continue to produce glue in all it’s varieties, and all other products that their predecessors did, including gelatin, brewers’ isinglass, size for papermakers, bone-meal, neatsfoot oil, etc., etc. The regular packing business of the firm furnishes them with a fresh daily supply of materials, which is such an essential feature in securing superior qualities and perfect results… They employ 300 hands in the glue factory.
Ten years later, another item published in the Chicago Tribune, this one on May 5, 1896, announced the formation of their soap works.
Commencing this day the firm of Armour & Co. has added another feature to their business, to be known as the Armour Soap Works. The new building and plant are situated at Thirty-first and Benson Streets. With the inauguration of the soap works Armour & Co. now utilize everything in the way of raw material from the hog and steer.
An April 17, 1897 advertisement For Oshkosh Wisconsin’s “Kruschke’s” Department Store, confirmed that less than a year later the soap works was manufacturing at least three different soap brands.
Both the glue works and soap works were included in this May 28, 1897 advertisement in the Chicago Chronicle.
By the early 1890’s a pharmaceutical department had also been established as evidenced by this excerpt from an April 10, 1892 Chicago Tribune article.
In the downtown office of Armour & Co. are several rows of shelves filled with bottles and at first sight a stranger would think the “old man,” as P.D. Armour is called by his employees among themselves, was running a drug store on the side to make both ends meet. In these bottles are a great and unique variety of preparations extracted from animals killed at the yards. The man who manages this department is a duly licensed druggist and physician, and the big packer’s hobby when receiving visitors is to invite them to sample his dried bullock’s blood or desiccated ox gail.
It’s likely that the above mentioned licensed druggist and his department were the very beginning of Armour Laboratories. According to a November 13, 1949 Tribune story:
One of their earliest (products) was pepsin, a commercially valuable compound recovered from the stomach linings of hogs. For many rears the rudimentary laboratories at Armour’s were called the “pepsin department.”
On April 15, 1900 Phillip Armour formed a corporation that included most, though not all, of the Armour businesses. His reasoning was explained in a February 18, 1900 Chicago Tribune story.
The business of Armour & Co always has been carried on as a partnership. The recent death of Phillip D. Armour Jr., and the illness of Phillip D, Armour, the founder and head of the firm, are said to have supplied the reasons for deciding to put the business in a stock company. For several months the elder Armour has been ill, but it was not believed his illness was sufficiently grave to warrant any change in the management of the business. The death of his son was a severe blow, however, and is said to have determined the plan of incorporation.
The new corporation included the packing houses (excluding the Armour Packing House of Kansas City), glue factory and soap factory, as well as a felt and hair factory and rail car shops.
The factories that will be taken into the stock company are large concerns. The glue factory is one of the largest in the country. The soap factory of Armour & Co., a more recent establishment, is also an important plant. The hair factory has an output which is said to be unequalled by that of any similar institution. The car factory is used to manufacture and keep in repair the hundreds of cars used in the transportation of the meat and other products of the various Armour industries.
In addition to the manufacturing plants, the packing house includes the large cattle interests of the firm. The agencies of Armour & Co. also will fall into the corporation. In every city of any size in the United States Armour & Co. has an agency for the distribution of dressed beef and the other packing house products of the firm. There are besides agencies in foreign countries. These are to be found in every port of consequence in Europe. In Asia and Africa the firm also carries on its widespread business.
The stockholders of the new corporation were Phillip D. Armour (50%), his son, J. Ogden Armour (25%) and the estate of his deceased son Phillip D. Armour, Jr. (25%). Shortly after the business incorporated, Phillip Sr. also passed away and J. Ogden Armour assumed the presidency. It was J. Ogden Armour who, according to an August 17, 1927 Chicago Tribune story, developed the business into a world wide organization.
Expansion in this country was followed by invasion in the South American field. In 1909 Armour & Co. acquired an interest in an Argentine packing plant. Now (1927) it has in that country five large plants whose products go to the world meat trade.
In the teens their food product menu extended well beyond the by-products of their meat packing business. A product list published in 1919 bears this out.
According to the February, 1917 edition of a journal called “Advertising & Selling,” their food product line alone had reached over 300 items that were being distributed by 350 branch houses throughout the country. So it was out of necessity that around this time they unified much of their advertising under the “Armour Oval Label”
According to the 1917 story in “Advertising and Selling:”
About two years ago (1915) it was adopted as a permanent trademark for all Armour top grade products, and since then has appeared in all the advertising of these products; newspaper, poster, magazine, window display, booklet advertising, alike, all have the Oval Label as a prominent and permanent feature of the copy. (A label committee , composed of representatives from the selling, operative and executive departments, decides upon the eligibility of a product for the Oval Label, only the highest quality products being admitted to this class.)
Armour Laboratories had also grown significantly from the fledgling department of the early 1890’s. An advertisement published in the 1919 edition of the “Modern Hospital Year Book,” included the laboratory’s pitch to the medical community.
We are headquarters for the organotherapeutic agents. Our abattoirs supply enormous quantities of glands and membranes from which digestive ferments and endocrine gland preparations are made. Raw material is selected with rigorous care. Nothing but healthy normal material is employed, and this is put into process before any deterioration has set in.
The laboratory is conveniently located. All desiccating is done in vacuum ovens at a low temperature, which prevents injury to active principles.
The advertisement went on to provide a descriptive list of their preparations.
The post World War I years brought pressures on the business that would ultimately, in the 1920’s, transition it from a company closely held by the Armour family to a publicly held company. A feature on J. Ogden Armour published at the time of his death in the August 17, 1927 edition of the Chicago Tribune described the influence of World War I on the corporation.
During the war American packers carried tremendous meat supplies, both for the American armies and for those of European allies. Prices of live stock and meat joined the wartime inflation.The business of Armour & Co. increased sales to around $1,000,000,000 a year…
With the abrupt ending of the war American packers and the allied governments alike had vast quantities of meat on hand. The wartime demand faded. Governments cancelled contracts and threw their surplus stocks on the market for whatever they would bring. Prices of live stock and meat dropped. With the post-war depression the currencies of Europe also plunged down in value.
The result of all this was that the large inventories of American meat packers lost tremendously in value. Their stocks in Europe were paid for in constantly depreciating currencies. It is estimated that Armour & Co. lost around $125,000,000 in two years.
Ultimately in 1923 a refinancing of the business was effected that ultimately resulted in J. Ogden Armour both relinquishing the presidency and selling the majority of his stock.
The Associated Press announced the organizational change on January 3, 1923.
Armour & Co. for the first time since it was organized in 1862, today operated without a member of the Armour family in the president’s chair.
Instead F. Edison White, a worker from the ranks, occupied the controlling station made vacant by the resignation of J. Ogden Armour yesterday, who became chairman of the board of directors.
However, members of the Armour family will retain important positions with the company. Phillip D. Armour III who has been a vice president of the company was designated first vice president, and Lester Armour was continued as a member of the board of directors.
A Chicago Tribune Story, dated February 14, 1925 revealed that the refinancing plan also included an option to purchase the bulk of Mr. Armour’s stock holdings within five years. The story went on to say that the purchase began at that time with a third of his holdings.
Armour & Co., largest of the packing concerns, will be owned by a large body of investors and will cease to be a family corporation with the working out of plans made known yesterday.
It is understood that about one third of the total stock holdings of J. Ogden Armour will be bought by the banking group, which conducted the financial reorganization of Armour & Co. two years ago, and then offered publicly to investors. Later on and as market conditions permit, further offerings of stock will be made.
J. Ogden Armour’s 1927 Chicago Tribune obituary mentioned that Armour’s stock holdings at the time of his death were not large, so it appears much of his remaining stock was sold over the next two years. Four years later in January, 1931 P. D. Armour, the grandson and namesake of the founder, resigned as first vice president. He would be the last member of the Armour family to hold an executive position in the corporation.
Overall the company had its ups and downs but continued to grow through the 1930’s and early 1940’s as evidenced by this financial snapshot included in the Chicago Tribune’s January 23, 1943 edition.
Stockholders were given a glimpse of company progress as indicated by a comparison of balance sheets of last year and of 1923, after a reorganization. Funded debt was reduced from 144 million to 62 million dollars during the 20 years, and sales increased from slightly more than 800 millions to 1 billion 300 millions.
Around this time they were contributing significantly to the World War II effort, so much so that an April 11, 1943 Chicago Tribune story announced that 90 to 95 per cent of Armour’s total production was devoted to war production. As a result, the army and navy awarded their E flag to company officials.
Notice that Armour & Co. had been elected to the award came in a letter from Robert P. Patterson, Undersecretary of War. The letter read in part; “You men and women of Armour & Co. are making an outstanding contribution to victory. You have every reason to be proud of the record you have set, and your practical patriotism stands as an example to all Americans.
Among the company’s specific accomplishments in aiding the war, (Armour)President Eastwood cited the following: “The development of wood veneer drums to replace metal drums, such as are used in the shipment of lard; a new method of smoking ham and bacon for army use which takes 96 hours instead of seven days; the telescoping of lambs to save shipping space.”
He also pointed to a new product “Tushonka,” a canned pork popular with Russians; to a new style of “stuffing horn” for packaging of ground beef; and, finally to the formula for “Pemmican,” an emergency ration carried by airplanes and ships.
The award also recognized the achievements of Armour Laboratories.
Brig. Gen. C. C. Hillman, acting Surgeon General, Washington D. C., said in his statement of the award to Armour Laboratories that they had “given a rich endowment, not only to the war effort but to the entire field of medicine. Listed on the chart of Armour’s achievements will be their production of ligatures, insulin, and other medical supplies for the military service. In addition to this, your conversion of facilities for the absorption of great production loads all shall be listed on the war chart victory.”
After the war the company continued to introduce new products and innovations. In 1948 the company introduced their famous brand, DIAL deodorant soap.
An August 11, 1948 Chicago Tribune advertisement bragged that the soap was so popular that after being introduced, it immediately sold out.
In the mid-1950’s Armour became the first company to vacuum package their bacon as well as other meats. A May 5, 1956 Chicago Tribune feature provided the details.
Armour was the very first to discover how to keep bacon slicer-fresh from packing house to your pan. Old style packages of bacon usually lost freshness after a week or 10 days, so Armour research set about developing a package that would maintain freshness for three weeks.
Since air was known to be the villain that made bacon lose flavor, the obvious solution was to remove the air and pack bacon in a vacuum.
Obvious? Well not exactly. While vacuum packed jars and cans have been used for years, the requirement that a bacon package be both flexible and transparent gave the problem new complexity.
Several hundred kinds of materials, and nearly as many different shapes and types of packages were tried and discarded.
Finally, a new plastic was tested and found to have just the right combination of strength and pliability for use in newly developed vacuum packaging machines.
Subsequent taste tests revealed that bacon packaged the new way keeps fresh much longer than was once thought possible. This fundamental research on bacon packaging was so successful that it soon led to vacuum packaging of many other products.
Armour Laboratories was also making significant advances during the late late 1940’s and 1950’s. Some were enumerated in a December 2, 1951 story.
Recently the science of animal utilization has reached its highest point at Armour & Co., which is now headed by Frederick Specht. The company views its laboratory accomplishments primarily from a humanitarian, rather than a money making angle.
The outstanding achievement was development of the pituitary hormone , ACTH, which was ordered into production in the early summer of 1949. It has been used in treating arthritis and 20 other diseases. A later development is trypsin, which has the ability to turn dead flesh into liquid without damaging live tissue. Trypsin, like the insulin used by diabetics, come from a meat animal’s pancreas.
Hormones are not the only medical products of meat packing. Liver extracts are used in treating anemia, many products are made from animal blood, and a stomach lining substance is used for ulcer.
As the 1960’s approached the overall corporate picture was apparently beginning to lose some shine. In 1959 Armour discontinued all slaughtering operations in Chicago. A story dated June 9, 1959 in the Chicago Tribune detailed the facts and reasoning behind the decision.
Armour & Co. announced Monday that it will discontinue all slaughtering operations at six plants, including the one at Chicago…
Approximately 5,000 employees will be affected at all plants, including 2,000 in Chicago. Armour employs nearly 3,000 persons in its Chicago unit, but not all of them work in slaughtering operations. Such Chicago operations as refining of fats and oils, wool pulling, soap manufacturer, and sales and distribution will be continued. In addition, Armour will continue to buy cattle on the Chicago market for its eastern plants…
The company said there were several basic causes for its inability to reverse substantial losses encountered at these plants. These include obsolescence of buildings, many of which were constructed more than 50 years ago; shifts in live stock numbers sectionally; declining receipts of live stock at some markets; and a general and widely recognized condition of excess production capacity in the meat packing industry.
Ultimately Armour was acquired by the Greyhound Corporation in 1970. This strange marriage is explained by company histories.com.
The country’s leader in the motor coach industry since 1930, Greyhound under chairperson and CEO Gerald H. Trautman had begun to diversify its operations in the 1960’s in response to declining bus ticket sales. As automobiles and airline tickets became less expensive and bus line profits dwindled, Greyhound acquired small companies in the fields of automobile leasing, money orders, insurance, and catering. Greyhound board members were approached by Armour in the late 1960’s when General Host threatened Armour with a hostile takeover, and Greyhound was persuaded to add Armour to its subsidiaries. The 1970 $400 million purchase was Greyhound’s first major acquisition. To reduce its investment, Greyhound immediately sold $225 million of Armour assets, retaining only the meatpacking and consumer products subsidiaries. The meatpacking operation was renamed Armour Foods, while the consumer products operation was renamed Armour-Dial.
Less than a year later, and after more than 100 years, the Arizona Republic announced that, now a subsidiary of Greyhound, the Armour headquarters was leaving Chicago for Phoenix Arizona.
Greyhound Corp. the nation’s 29th largest firm, and its big subsidiary, Armour and Co., are moving from Chicago to Phoenix.
Gerald H. Trautman of Paradise Valley, chairman and chief executive said the move will affect ” a few hundred”employees of the headquarters staffs of the Greyhound Corp. and of these subsidiaries:
Armour and Co., Greyhound Bus Lines, Greyhound Leasing and Financial Corp., and Greyhound Computer Corp., except its service center personnel.
The largest of Greyhound’s subsidiaries is Armour and Co., acquired in 1970. From its start in meat packing, that firm has diversified into a modern industrial complex.
Today Armour meat products continue to be sold by Smithfield Foods and are still marketed under an oval label.
Over the years I’ve found two Armour bottles, both small and mouth blown. One embossed “Armour Laboratories,” is colored brown and approximately one ounce in size. The Armour Laboratory Pharmaceutical List, published in the 1919 “Modern Hospital Yearbook” included a one ounce bottle size for both pepsin and pancreatin powders.
The second bottle is approximately two ounces in size and embossed “Armour and Company,” not “Armour Laboratories,” which leads me to believe its not a pharmaceutical bottle. Armour produced lemon, orange and vanilla flavoring extracts in several size bottles, including two ounces, so I’m leaning in that direction.
The above bottle is simply embossed Kellogg’s on its base which leaves several turn of the century products that it could possibly have contained.
One was “Kellogg’s Whiskey,” but the size and shape of the bottle certainly say medicine, not whiskey flask. Another, Kellogg’s Ant Paste, also fits the time frame but was sold in what was marketed as “the jar with the rattle cap,” not in a bottle
The fact that both businesses were located on the west coast and focused their advertising in that area further raised doubt that they hit the mark.
That left the linseed oil manufacturing company of Spencer Kellogg & Sons who in the mid-teens began manufacturing a product called “Tasteless Castor Oil,” whose bottles best fit the bill. In fact, the subject bottle looks quite similar to the bottle illustrated in this 1913 advertisement.
The business of Spencer Kellogg & Sons incorporated in Buffalo, New York in 1912 but the Kellogg family had been in the business of crushing and recovering products from various oil bearing seeds for two generations prior. The family’s start in the business was described years later in the December 31, 1939 edition of the Decatur, Illinois “Herald and Review.”
History records the erection of the first linseed oil mill by a member of the Kellogg family in 1824. It was in that year that Supplina Kellogg, grandfather of the founder of the present company, great grandfather of a present president, made the decision at the age of 35 to embark in the linseed oil business.
The first linseed mill erected on the Chactanunda Creek, West Galway in the Mohawk Valley near Amsterdam, N.Y., was a modest affair with a capacity of two barrels daily. In a few years, its production expanded to six barrels daily.
The first motive power at this “plant” was furnished by a blind mule. The maximum output was obtained when the mule was good and fresh.
According to the “Genealogical and Family History of Western New York,” by William Richard Cutter, published in 1912, Supplina passed away in 1845 and subsequently the business, operated by his two sons, Lauren and John, moved to Amsterdam, New York in 1852. A year later Lauren Kellogg passed away and his place in the firm was taken by his wife’s brother, James A. Miller, changing the firm to Kellogg and Miller.
The “Genealogical and Family History of Western New York” goes on to say that in 1868 Spencer Kellogg entered the picture.
Spencer Kellogg, at the age of seventeen, began working for the firm and displayed so much business ability that four years later, in 1872, on his coming of legal age, was admitted to the firm…
Spencer remained with the firm for another five years. Then, in 1877 sold his interest in the business and relocated to Des Moines, Iowa before ultimately settling in Buffalo, New York. The reasoning behind his move from Des Moines to Buffalo was explained in “A history of the City of Buffalo Its Men and Institutions,” published in 1908.
…he entered into a partnership to erect a linseed oil mill in that town, which was to compete with one already established there. One day Mr. Kellogg was struck with the idea that the flax crop which had progressed steadily in a northwesterly direction, and from having originally been chiefly grown in the vicinity of Philadelphia, had moved through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and was now largely located in Iowa, must almost of necessity proceed further westward, and would, therefore, eventually leave Des Moines, out of its radius, as it had already left Amsterdam.
Further investigation convinced him that the flaxseed which was the raw material of his proposed mill, would in the end be grown principally in the Dakotas. But the principal markets for linseed oil were in the East. Hence the question arose, How will the flaxseed be brought to the Eastern mills? and putting his finger on the map where Buffalo was marked, he said to his partner, “That will be the great distributing point, and that is the place for our mill.
Acting on this theory, the Des Moines project was abandoned and in 1879 Kellogg, in partnership with Sidney McDougall, erected a mill in Buffalo, New York. Located on an island in Buffalo Harbor, a February 22, 1881 story in the “Buffalo Commercial” described their location as “the south side of the creek, opposite the foot of Illinois Street.” The 1880 Buffalo Directory simply used the address, “on island.”
The early history of the business included a building collapse and two fires but the company survived and grew steadily during their first decade ultimately incorporating in 1887 under the name of the Kellogg & McDougall Linseed Oil Company. The incorporation notice was published in the January 14, 1887 edition of the “Buffalo Times.”
A feature on the business published in the October 2, 1892 edition of the “Buffalo Sunday Morning News” provided this snapshot of their oil manufacturing works as the business entered the 1890’s.
The office of the works is at 351 Main Street, while the works on the island at the foot of Main Street occupy a two story building 50 x 130 feet, a six story building 40 x 150 feet, and an elevator of 100,000 bushels capacity. Twenty presses are operated, crushing 750,000 barrels annually, the daily capacity being for 120 barrels of oil and 57 tons of oil cake, the latter being exported, while the oil is sold through New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
As early as 1884 the company was not only producing oil from the crushed flaxseed but, based on this May 3, 1884 news item, was growing a portion of the flaxseed crop as well, not surprisingly, in the Dakotas.
The enterprising firm of Kellogg & McDougall of Buffalo have 2000 acres of land in Dakota now under cultivation for flaxseed. This is the greatest number of acres ever sown to flaxseed by any one firm in the United States. The farm is under the management of Lauren K. Lee, a cousin of Spencer Kellogg. He has 180 head of horses and from 80 to 100 men employed by the undertaking. The land is located around Valley Springs, is very rich and will yield a handsome crop.
In addition to expanding their oil works the company was also branching out during their first decade. The 1892 “Buffalo Morning News” feature went on to enumerate several other companies/businesses established under Kellogg and McDougall during that period. One was the Kellogg Oil, Paint and Varnish Company.
The Kellogg Oil, Paint and Varnish Company was incorporated in 1887, the officers being Spencer Kellogg, president; Sidney McDougall, treasurer and Robert M. Walker, manager, with office at 351 Main Street and their four story factory with warehouse adjoining is on Elk Street and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railway, South Buffalo.They manufacture ready-mixed paints, colors ground in oil, shingle stains and buggy and floor paints, all of superior quality and largely sold throughout the country.
Their incorporation notice was published in the June 11, 1887 edition of the “Buffalo Commercial.”
1889 newspaper advertisements for their paints indicate that the company may have had a retail location at 609 Main Street as well as their 351 Main Street office.
The 1892 feature went on to say:
Mr. Kellogg in 1888 established a large business as a dealer in linseed oil, making a specialty of aging these oils to give them a superior body, adapting them for use for varnish, grinding, patent leather, printers’ ink and other purposes, this business also occupying commodious premises on Elk Street, South Buffalo.
Another of these enterprises is that of the Spencer Kellogg Company, organized in the present year with Spencer Kellogg, president, and Sidney McDougall secretary, this company opened for business Aug 1, 1892, an elevator of 600,000 bushels capacity on Ganson Street, the canal, the river and the Buffalo Creek Railway.
The Spencer Kellogg Company’s incorporation notice, published in the February 5, 1892 edition of the “Buffalo morning Express,” provided the following description of the elevator business.
The Spencer Kellogg Company is the name of an organization the certificate of incorporation of which was filed with the County Clerk yesterday. The object of the company is the purchase of cereals, grain and seeds and grinding and milling the same, manufacture of flour and meal, the receiving, elevating, storing and transporting of grain….
The capital stock is $100,000, all of which shall be common stock, and the company of 50 years duration. There are five directors as follows: Spencer Kellogg, Sidney McDougall, Robert M. Walker, Albert J. Warwick and Charles S. Wright.
An anecdote published in the August 9, 1892 edition of the “Buffalo Morning Express” provided an idea of the elevator’s size without mentioning a single dimension.
“I’m glad that stack is finished,” said contractor James Boland yesterday as he looked at the big brick smokestack of the new Kellogg & McDougall elevator. “It was intended to make it round, but that was so expensive and would take so much time that a square stack was decided on instead. It’s rather an expensive job. The men went up in the morning and did not come down until night, because I found it much cheaper to feed them at the top. An hour’s nooning would take a man two hours away from his work. I guess he could go to Black Rock in the time it would take him to go up and come down the stack.”
This construction photograph of the elevator appeared in the June 12 1892 edition of the Buffalo Morning Express.
If that wasn’t enough, Kellogg & McDougall also established a broom factory as part of their operation. According to the 1892 “Buffalo Sunday Morning News” feature:
Under the firm name of Kellogg & McDougall, these gentlemen conduct on Elk Street and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railway in South Buffalo an extensive broom manufactory which they established in 1886. They produce 200 dozen brooms daily, making a specialty of the best grades.
Well respected in their own right, the brooms were exhibited in the Paris Exposition in 1889. In fact, not only were they included in the U. S. exhibit but, according to a June 30, 1889 item in the Buffalo Morning Express, they also kept the floors of the entire U. S. portion of the exposition swept clean..
Opposite the exhibit of Buffalo tools, on the wall, is a big palm-leaf fan, projecting high above everything. It is made entirely of brooms, as are also the two pyramids in front of it, and the whole is placarded, in big labels, “These brooms are from the works of Kellogg & McDougall, Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.A.” This firm supplies all the brooms used by the United States Commission in keeping clean its 80,000 square feet of floor space. An exhibit of linseed oil cake, in a prominent place near by, is also from the firm.
That being said, the manufacture of raw linseed oil was their primary business, operating independently until sometime in 1889 or 1890. At that time it appears that the business joined a linseed oil trust, reorganizing as a branch of the National Linseed Oil Company of Chicago Illinois. A feature on the business in the October 2, 1892 edition of the “Buffalo Sunday Morning News” described the reorganization.
One of the most interesting groups of important industries is that of which Spencer Kellogg and Sidney McDougall are the controlling heads. In 1879 they became associated under firm name of Kellogg & McDougall to manufacture pure linseed oil, carrying on the business thus until two years ago, when a reorganization was effected, the business since then being conducted as a branch of the National Linseed Oil Company of Chicago, Ill., under the direction of the original proprietors, Mr. Kellogg being manager and Mr. McDougall assistant manager, and the establishment being known as the Kellogg & McDougall Linseed Oil Works
Spencer Kellogg’s association with the Trust was short lived and in 1894 the April 26 edition of the “Buffalo Morning Express” announced that he was leaving the trust with plans to construct a new plant and proceed independently.
Spencer Kellogg who has been connected with the National Linseed Oil Company of Chicago for more than a year, or since the Trust assumed control of the different plants of that kind in the country is about to sever his connection with the Trust and to engage in the manufacture of these products on his own account. He was the owner of the plant in this city until the time when it went into the hands of the Trust and since that time has managed the concern…
The new plant will be a model one of the kind, it is promised. It will be located on the lot adjoining the Kellogg Elevator and will be one of the most modern and best equipped in the country. It will have a capacity for crushing 4,600 bushels of flaxseed a day and 1,400,000 a year, which makes a very large output at the present price of flaxseed…
The mill will contain 36 presses and the machinery will be of the latest design. At the beginning there will be in the vicinity of 40 men employed and this number will probably be increased after a short time…
Over the next six years Kellogg’s new plant was almost continuously being enlarged. An October 4, 1900 story in the “Buffalo Morning Express” documented the additions.
The Kellogg plant originally had 36 presses. Twenty-four more were added in March, 1899. The work of intstalling 30 more was begun about July, 1900.
The story went on to call it the largest linseed oil plant in the world and they weren’t done. Three years later, in 1903, another addition increased the number of presses to 138.
The business incorporated in 1904 as the Spencer Kellogg Company. The incorporation notice was published in the May 7, 1904 edition of the “Buffalo Courier.”
The Spencer Kellogg Company capitalized at a million dollars has been incorporated according to papers filed yesterday. The concern deals in and refines oil in Buffalo. The directors are Spencer Kellogg, Spencer Kellogg, Jr., and Howard Kellogg.
Later, in August, 1912, they would reincorporate as Spencer Kellogg & Sons, with $6,000,000 capital.
The incorporation notices included Kellogg’s two sons but made no mention of Sidney McDougall who apparently ended his business relationship with Kellogg in 1898. At that time, it appears he left the manufacture of linseed oil to Kellogg and took complete control of the “Kellogg Oil, Paint and Varnish Company,” changing its name to the “Buffalo Oil, Paint and Varnish Company,” on December 27, 1898. According to his May 18, 1919 obituary in the “Buffalo Courier,” he remained president of that firm until his death.
In 1907 Kellogg announced plans for a second plant in Minneapolis Minnesota that would double their output. Later, in 1909, a December 27 story in the “Buffalo Evening News” announced that the Spencer Kellogg Company was in the process of establishing still another plant; this one in the New York City area. The story quoted Spencer Kellogg, Jr.
The Spencer Kellogg Company has a mill in Minneapolis, and we are now building another plant in New York, consisting of a mill, concrete elevators, refineries, etc., which will cost $500,000, exclusive of the site. The purpose of this plant at New York is to crush and treat the seed that is imported.
The plant was actually located directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, in Edgewater, New Jersey. The following aerial and river views of the facility that date to the late 1940’s are courtesy of the Library of Congress.
According to “The Chemical Industry of Shadyside (Edgewater) New Jersey – A History” by Robert J. Baptista, (December 16, 2012 update):
The deepwater dock allowed ocean going ships from India and Argentina to come directly to the plant to discharge cargoes of flaxseed, which was pressed into Linseed Oil. In 1913 the plant started crushing castor beans from India. The castor oil was used in the textile industry to soften fibers and impart luster to synthetic dyes.
It was at the New Jersey location that their “Tasteless Castor Oil” was manufactured. It apparently hit the market sometime in 1913 with newspaper advertisements first appearing in August of that year. Several ads, disguised as newspaper articles, appeared that year that were certainly introductory in nature.
BUFFALO FIRM PERFECTS THE FINEST LAXATIVE IN 3,000 YEARS
Kellogg’s Tasteless Castor Oil is Pure Castor Oil Without Taste or Smell
For 3,000 years castor oil has been the world’s best laxative, but until now an offensive, sickening taste has limited its use.
For 3,000 years chemists have tried to remove the taste.
It remained for Spencer Kellogg & Sons of Buffalo to solve the problem.
Kellogg’s Tasteless Castor oil is just what the name means – a pure, clear, refined oil without any taste. Doctors are prescribing it already.
Anybody can disguise the taste of castor oil by mixing it with alcohol, wintergreen, peppermint, or other flavors, but it required real genius to keep the oil pure and make it tasteless. Kellogg’s Tasteless Castor Oil works even better than the old evil dose, without pain or griping.
Your dealer has Kellogg’s Tasteless Oil, or can get it quickly. 25c and 50c. Ask for Kellogg’s and look for the trade mark on the label – the Kellogg signature over a green castor leaf. Spencer Kellogg & Sons, Inc., Buffalo N.Y.
At the same time the company was reaching the general public with newspaper advertisements they were also pitching the medical profession through a series of 1914 advertisements in the New York State Journal of Medicine.
The advertisements said, in part:
The attending physician can now prescribe pure castor oil in cases of temporary indisposition, with the feeling that he will not be working a hardship upon his patient – whether man, woman or child – because it is now made in absolutely tasteless form and no cathartic is quite so meritorious.
Realizing the great demand for an absolutely TASTELESS Castor Oil – without the unpleasant flavor and odor of castor – we experimented with and finally announce the complete perfection of Kellogg’s Tasteless Castor Oil.
Its simply good old-fashioned Castor Oil without the unpleasantness. Absolutely nothing added – nothing taken away except the odor and taste. Not to be confused with so-called “palatable” or “aromatic flavored” Oils which are heavily adulterated with strong flavoring which greatly compromises the properties of the Oil.
You can now prescribe KELLOGG’S TASTELESS CASTOR OIL freely for children and fastidious adult patients without working a hardship on them. You’ll find they welcome this king of all cathartics – if you see that they get Kellogg’s.
Their oil continued to be included in advertised drug store price listings as late as the early 1970’s and over the years their message remained quite consistent. Advertisements from 1926 and 1939 bear this out, although by 1939 it was called Kellogg’s “Perfected” Tasteless Castor Oil.
Spencer Kellogg passed away in 1922. That left his son Howard as president ushering in a fourth generation of Kellogg’s to a leadership position. Later a fifth generation, in the person of Howard Kellogg Jr., would serve as president. By 1957, according to a March 20 story in the ‘Binghamton (New York) Press and Sun-Bulletin,” the company employed about 1,200 persons at 15 plants in the country. Over the years their plant locations included Superior, Wisconsin, Chicago and Decatur, Illinois, Des Moines, Iowa, Bellevue, Ohio, Long Beach California, as well as Rotterdam Holland and Manilla in the Philippines.
The Kellogg business also maintained sales offices at various locations across the country, with one in New York City listed consistently from 1886 up until 1960. Initially located at 102 Barclay Street, they remained in lower Manhattan, at 59 Maiden Lane and later 100 William Street, until sometime around 1920 when they moved to midtown where they occupied several different locations in the East 40’s over the next 40 years.
In 1961 Spencer Kellogg & Sons merged with Textron Inc. The merger was reported in the July 28, 1961 edition of the “Decatur (Illinois) Daily Review.”
Spencer Kellogg & Sons, Inc. is now a part of Textron, Inc.
Textron a diversified company supplying industrial, consumer and defense products is based in Providence R. I.
Spencer Kellogg is a producer of vegetable oils and meal, special chemical products and animal feed.
Textron will acquire Spencer Kellogg’s assets, properties and business by swapping six-sevenths of a share of its stock for a share of Spencer Kellogg.
Last year Spencer Kellogg had assets of $52,459,000 dropping it to 465th place from 446th place in the national rankings of Forbes Magazine.
Spencer Kellogg employs 1,772 persons making it 487th in size.
The bottle I found is machine made with Kellogg’s (in script) embossed on the base. It likely dates as early as 1913 when their Tasteless Castor Oil was introduced up through the late 1920’s when they likely transitioned to a screw top finish.
During this period the company offered both a three ounce and seven ounce size as evidenced by this 1915 advertisement.
The subject bottle is certainly the three ounce version.
A 1924 advertisement in a publication called “The Public Health Nurse,”demonstrated that the company was also offering a sample size around that time.