Dr. S. Pitcher’s / Chas. H. Fletcher’s Castoria

Castoria was a  patent medicine and later over-the-counter drug that hit the market in 1868. A version of it is still sold to this day. Originally called Pitcher’s Castoria, its name later morphed into Fletcher’s Castoria around the turn of the century. Typically marketed as a child’s laxative, for years it was heavily advertised with the phrase “Children Cry for Fletcher’s Castoria.”

It’s story begins with  a man named Dr. Samuel Pitcher.

An encapsulated version of Pitcher’s life up to the point where he introduced Castoria to the public, was summarized in the August 10, 1899 edition of the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record.”

Dr. Samuel Pitcher, the originator of “Castoria was born in the town of Hyannis on October 23, 1824… Dr. Pitcher, while still quite young, entered upon the study of medicine at the College of Medicine of Philadelphia, finally graduating from the Harvard Medical School. He then entered upon the practice of medicine and about the year 1847 began the various experiments, extending over a period of twenty years, which eventually resulted in the perfection of the formula of Castoria, which he then proceeded to introduce to the public.

Pitcher obtained a patent (No. 77,758) for his formula on May, 12 1868, not specially calling it “Castoria,” but simply referencing  it as an “Improved Medicine.” The following is an image of the patent’s introductory heading, courtesy of googleapis.com.

The patent goes on to say in part:

Be it known that I, Samuel Pitcher, of Barnstable, and State of Massachusetts, have invented a new and useful Composition, to be employed as a cathartic, or substitute for castor-oil, in the treatment of disease; and I do hereby declare the same to be fully described in the following specification.

The ingredients of the composition are senna-leaves, bicarbonate of soda, extract of taraxicum, essence of wintergreen and sugar.

To make the composition, take twenty pounds of senna-leaves, two ounces of bicarbonate of soda, five pounds of essence of wintergreen, one pound of extract of taraxicum, fifty pounds of sugar, and ten gallons of water…

According to a January 7, 1897 story in the “Pharmaceutical Record,”shortly after obtaining the patent, Pitcher transferred his interest in the medicine to several persons who formed the co-partnership of Samuel Pitcher & Co.

As early as 1868 Samuel Pitcher & Co. was manufacturing the “Improved Medicine” in Boston, Massachusetts under the name “Castoria.” The company was listed in the  Boston city directories  between 1869 and 1870 during which time they used two addresses; 71 Cornhill and 25-29 Brattle.

Their earliest newspaper advertisements found in several Fall, 1868 editions of the “New England Farmer,” touted Castoria as:

A PLEASANT AND COMPLETE SUBSTITUTE FOR CASTOR OIL.

The advertisements went on to articulate the medicine’s sales pitch.

Probably no greater general want exists for a harmless yet effectual purgative. The millions of pills annually used in spite of the many objectionable features pertaining to them, and so often felt by the sick, show conclusively that a simple cathartic, adapted to all needs and ages, is really required.

CASTORIA is the prepared prescription of an old Physician, and is simply a well-known purgative, so combined as to render it perfectly palatable, and still retain its laxative properties. Preserved without alcohol, it may be given with perfect safety to the youngest child or most delicate female whenever a cathartic is required, and having all the desirable qualities of Castor Oil without its nauseous taste, it is the mildest yet most effectual Family Medicine offered to the public.

Unlike pills, it is not liable to gripe or its use to be followed by constipation. By gently yet surely curing Costiveness, it prevents attacks of Piles, and for Dyspepsia, Indigestion, Sick Headache Liver and Billous Complaints , and especially for disorders of the Stomach and Bowels in Children, Castoria is a safe, pleasant and effectual remedy. One trial will convince you of its desirable qualities, and its cost is no more than for the cheap physics which flood the market.

Prepared by Dr. S, PITCHER & CO., 29 Brattle St., Boston, Mass. For sale by all Druggists and Dealers. Price 25 cents per bottle.

The 1897 “Pharmaceutical Era” story went on to say that Samuel Pitcher & Co. ultimately incorporated as the Pitcher’s Castoria Manufacturing Company. The company’s certificate of organization, dated March 4, 1870, was  referenced in a court case entitled “Centaur Co. vs. Heinsfurter,” a summary of which was found in the “Federal Reporter, Volume 84, Cases Argued and Determined In the Circuit Courts of Appeals and District Courts of the United States, February – March, 1898.”  The certificate  described the new company as:

a corporation established at Boston, in said commonwealth (Mass) for the purpose of manufacturing Castoria.

Newspaper advertisements published during this time indicate that the corporation continued to use the Brattle Street address as evidenced by this June 29, 1871 advertisement published in the “Fall River (Mass) Daily Evening News”

The court records go on to say that two years later, on January 22, 1872, the corporation  sold the right to manufacture and sell “Castoria” to Joseph B. Rose, who then made the following assignment to Demas Barnes:

The exclusive right to use the name of the said Samuel Pitcher in connection with the manufacture and sale of the said patent medicine, named Castoria.

Barnes had been in the patent medicine business for many years making his fortune with products that included among others “S. T. Drake’s Plantation Bitters.” Later he served in Congress and was publisher of a Brooklyn newspaper called “The Argus.”

So, as the dust settled, Demas Barnes quietly owned the rights to the name “Pitcher’s Castoria” while Rose, acting as Barnes’ agent, was responsible for the manufacture and sale of the medicine.

Rose partnered with Charles H. Fletcher, who was a former employee of Demas Barnes, and they  moved the manufacture of Castoria to New York City under the company name of J. B. Rose & Co.

NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories in the early 1870’s named both Rose and Fletcher as partners and listed the company’s address at 53 Broadway in lower Manhattan. Later, likely sometime in 1876, the company moved to 46 Dey Street, also in lower Manhattan.

As early as May, 1872, J. B. Rose & Co. newspaper advertisements for Pitcher’s Castoria began appearing in New York City newspapers. By the end of the year the advertisements had spread to New England and several mid-west states as well.

It was also during 1872 when, what would eventually become the company’s well-known slogan: “Children Cry For Pitcher’s Castoria,” began appearing in their advertisements.  One of the earliest I can find was published in the September 13, 1872 edition of The “Brooklyn Daily Eagle.”

During this time, in addition to Castoria the company also advertised another proprietary product called Centaur Liniment. According to an August 16, 1872 “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” advertisement:

CENTAUR LINIMENT WILL CURE NEURALGIA, BRUISES, SWELLINGS, STIFF JOINTS, STRAINS, RHEUMATISM, and all Flesh, Bone and Muscle Ailments…

Some of the ingredients of this Liniment are equally efficacious for MAN and BEAST, HENCE THE NAME OF “CENTAUR,” which was half horse and half man.

Centaur Liniment – White Wrapper – is for Family use. The Centaur Liniment – Yellow Wrapper – is for Horses and Animals. It will cure SPAVIN, STRAINS, SCRATCHES, SWEENY, etc., and is bound to astonish the world.

Why will you suffer or lose the use of a valuable animal, when you can get Centaur Liniment, a certain speedy and effective cure, for 50 cents and one dollar per bottle…

J. B. ROSE & CO., Proprietors, 53 Broadway, New York

Sometime in the mid to late 1870’s Rose’s involvement with the business ended after which Fletcher connected with the nephew of Demas Barnes, Demas Barnes Dewey, and established  the Centaur Company.  Still located at 46 Dey Street, the 1879 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed Centaur with a capital of $25,000 and  named Dewey, president and Fletcher, Secretary.

Throughout much of the 1880’s Pitcher’s Castoria continued to be manufactured and sold by  the Centaur Company  with the NYC directories always naming Demas Dewy as president and Fletcher as secretary. During this time the company listed lower Manhattan addresses of 46 Dey Street (1879-1880); 182 Fulton Street (1882-1887) and 77  Murray Street (1888-1890).

This October 23, 1884 advertisement featuring both Castoria and Centaur Liniment exhibited the company’s Fulton Street address. It was published in the Junction City (Kansas)Tribune.

Centaur’s corporate picture ultimately changed in the late 1880’s when both Demas Barnes and  Demas Dewey passed away; Barnes in May, 1888 and Dewey in December, 1889,  leaving Fletcher in complete control of Pitcher’s Castoria. By 1890 the  NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory named him as the Centaur Company’s president, a title he would hold until his death in 1922.

On a side note: While Fletcher was now running the business, its apparent that the Barnes family continued to hold a healthy financial interest in the Centaur Company. When Demas Barnes died in 1888, his share’s of Centaur Company stock were inherited by his daughter, Cora F. Barnes. Upon her death in 1914, an August 8, 1914 story in the “New York Tribune” announced that the accumulation of profits and dividends on that stock was appraised at $4,952,195.

As Fletcher gained control of the company’s management he was faced with competition from an increasing number of companies attempting to profit from Castoria’s success. Court records from a Canadian case, “The American Druggists Syndicate v. The Centaur Co.,” dated October 18, 1920, succinctly summarized the situation faced by Fletcher.

In 1868 one Dr. Pitcher invented a medicine compounded of various ingredients according to formula for which he obtained a patent for in the United States which expired in the year 1885. This medicine in the United States was commonly called “Castoria,” though it was not so christened by the inventor in his patent…

At the expiration of the life of the patent of the thing “Castoria,” the public were at perfect liberty to compound the substance and sell it under that name in the United States. During all the life of the patent there is one thing certain, that substance was sold under no other name than “Castoria,” and the substance was known to the public as “Castoria.”

When the patent expired, the record shows that manufacturers or dealers to the number of 15 or 18, in the United States, commenced the manufacture and sale of the substance. There was on the market (and I paraphrase the testimony) “Smith’s Castoria” and there was “Brown’s Castoria” and there were many others. The proof will show that possibly in the composition or compounding by these different manufacturers, there was a slight difference, but in all cases the substances were sold as “Castoria.”

While these companies were legally using the word “Castoria,” many were selling it in packaging almost identical to Fletcher’s. In an effort to differentiate his product from the counterfeits, sometime in the early 1890’s Fletcher added his signature to Castoria’s outside wrapper. This had certainly occurred by 1892 when Fletcher ran this advertisement, that appeared more like a news story in newspapers throughout much of the country.

Beware of Imposition

We desire to inform the public that Dr. Pitcher’s Castoria is made and put up in the laboratory of the Centaur Company, New York, in but one size bottle, and on the outside wrapper the formula is printed and the Fac Simile signature of “Charles H. Fletcher, New York.” No other preparation offered as Castoria is genuine. To counterfeit or imitate either in the name or signature is a criminal offense. Dr. Pitcher’s Castoria has become a valuable standard family medicine with the endorsement of some of the best physicians in America. Don’t allow anyone to sell you anything else on the plea or promise that it is “just as good,” and will answer every purpose, etc., etc. Castoria is sold by every respectable druggist and dealers in medicine.

Do not be deceived when you buy it, but look well at the wrapper and see if it has the signature of Chas. H. Fletcher, New York. No other can be genuine. Castoria without this signature is a base fraud 

In 1897 he even ran an advertisement that included a letter of endorsement from Dr. Samuel Pitcher, who declared that the labeled bottle bearing Fletcher’s signature, was in fact the original Pitcher’s Castoria, “the kind you have always bought.”

Ultimately Fletcher filed a trademark application for his signature on May 17, 1905 and it was approved and published in the  Official Gazette of the U. S. Patent Office on September 19, 1905.

Undeterred the counterfeits continued both before and after the signature was trademarked and Fletcher vigorously fought them all. One of many such cases that illustrate what Fletcher was up against was summarized in the  June, 1904 edition of the “Midland Druggist.”

St. Louis Mo., May 14. In the case of the Centaur Company, of New York City, against the Palestine Drug Co. and John Beck, of this city, in the United States  Circuit Court, an injunction was issued this morning by Judge Adams restraining the defendant’s company from selling Castoria in a wrapper or label heretofore used by it and which is declared to be an imitation of the Centaur Company’s wrapper. The enjoined label is similar to that of the Centaur Company, except where the signature of Chas. H. Fletcher appears on the genuine, the defendant has inserted that of “Alph Arthur,” who is said to be a fictitious person.

With both Fletcher’s advertising and packaging stressing his signature, it wasn’t long before “Fletcher’s Castoria” began to slowly replace “Pitcher’s Castoria” in advertisements and  drug store price lists. As early as the mid 1890’s Fletcher  himself was using both terms interchangeably in his famous slogan as evidenced by the following two newspaper advertisements that both bear Fletcher’s signature. The first, “Children Cry for Fletcher’s Castoria,” appeared in the July 22, 1893 edition of the Dresden (Kansas) Star.

The second, still using the phrase”Children Cry for Pitcher’s Castoria,” appeared two years later in the September 4, 1895 edition of the New Bern (N. C.) “Daily journal.”

That being said, it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that advertised references to Pitcher’s Castoria began to drop off significantly and the product became more widely known as Fletcher’s Castoria.

Whether you called it Pitcher’s or Fletcher’s by the early 1890’s newspaper advertisements suggest that Castoria had become Centaur’s hallmark product. By then advertisements referencing their liniments had become scarce and on the occasion when they were  mentioned appeared more as an afterthought, as evidenced by this February 1, 1891 ad in the Nashville (Tenn) Banner.

Though no longer actively promoted by Centaur, their liniments did continue to sporadically appear in advertised drug store price lists up through the late teens after which they disappear completely. This all suggests  that the product was discontinued sometime prior to 1920..

On the other hand sales of Castoria were growing and a February 15, 1923 feature on the Centaur Company included in a publication called “Printers Ink” put some numbers to this growth.

The product is put up in bottles of one size only. Shipments over a period of years compare as follows: 1910, 11,688,884 bottles; 1914, 12,657744 bottles; 1918, 18,701,136 bottles; 1922, 20,778,192 bottles.

The output has thus shown a substantial growth from 11,688,884 bottles in 1910 to 20,778,192 bottles in 1922, an increase of over 80 per cent. Sales have shown exceptional stability during periods when general business has been unsettled.

Thanks to Castoria’s growth, by 1911 the Centaur Company had expanded to the point where they were operating out of four separate locations in lower Manhattan. At that point it was announced they were consolidating the business in a new eight-story building at 250 West Broadway. A rendering of their new quarters was included in the November 26, 1911 edition of “The New York Sun.”

The move, which occurred sometime in 1912, was featured that year in the September edition of the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record”

The Centaur Company, manufacturers of Castoria and the Centaur Liniment, recently moved into their new quarters at 248 and 250 West Broadway, New York. The building, eight stories tall, measuring 50 x 100 feet, was erected in accordance with the plans drawn by Mr. Fletcher, president of the Centaur Company. It contains the very latest and most improved devices for the manufacture, packing, shipping and advertising of the specialties made by this company. The move which was necessitated by the continued growth of the business enables the company to get under one roof all the different departments of their business, which heretofore occupied four different buildings – two on Murray Street and two on Washington Street. Among the most interesting features of the new building are the elaborately equipped manufacturing laboratories and the complete system of carriers, chutes and elevators, which reduce to the minimum the labor of handling the goods in the course of their preparation and shipment….

Less than 10 years later the company was forced to move again, this time to an even larger building at 84 to 90  Varick Street. The announcement was included in a June 5, 1920 item published in the “New York Herald.”

Centaur Company will build a ten story factory, warehouse and offices, 175 x 64.11, to cost $450,000 in the east side of Varick St., from Grand to Watts St. Plans have been filed by Helmie & Corbett, architects.

The company began operations there sometime in 1921.

The February 15, 1923 Printer’s Ink feature credited much of this growth to a heavy dose of advertising.

Charles H. Fletcher’s Castoria has been steadily advertised for about 45 years, newspapers, posters, signs on buildings and other forms of publicity having been utilized for this purpose. Over $6,500,000 has been expended in advertising in the United States and Canada in the last 13 years, 1910 – 1922.

As the above story makes clear Fletcher’s advertising took many different avenues. Not only did they advertise on a national scale using newspapers and magazines but they also kept their name front and center on a local basis using billboards and painted signs on buildings. This photo of one such sign painted on the side of a New York City tenement is courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York.

Centaur also published what they called “The New York Almanac,” which included some general information along with a heavy dose of advertising. The following excerpt is from the 1903-1904 edition.

In addition to the general public, Centaur also targeted the retail druggist, by running ads in trade publications. This April, 1920 advertisement found in the “Pharmaceutical Record” stated, in part:

The head line CASTORIA has been before the general public for more than forty years, resulting in great profit to the retail trade….

Fletcher’s Castoria has been one of your greatest sellers, and our continued advertising will keep it at the top.

Our Candy Bags and Counter Wrappers will Help You and Save Money.

Charles Fletcher passed away in April, 1922 shortly after which management of the Centaur Company, along with a twenty five percent ownership share, was acquired by Sterling Products Inc. The acquisition, accomplished  under a newly formed corporation called Household Products, Inc.., was announced in the February 13, 1923 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle.”

A syndicate headed by Hornblower & Weeks, will offer tomorrow at $34 a share 275,000 shares of the Household Products, Inc. The company has been organized with capital stock of 500,000 shares to acquire the assets and good will of the Centaur Company, which produces and sells Castoria. Of the 500,000 shares, the Sterling Products, Inc., has purchased 125,000 shares and interests identified with the company 100,000 shares…

The management of the Sterling Products Inc., which which has had a long and successful record in the manufacture and distribution of household remedies, will assume the direction of the Household Products, Inc…

Sterling manufactured Fletcher’s Castoria on a continuous basis for the next 60 plus years except for a period of approximately one year in 1943 and 1944. On May 5, 1943 Centaur ran advertisements in newspapers nationwide announcing that the entire lot of Castoria then on the market was being recalled. The advertisement read in part:

In cooperation with the United States Food and Drug Administration, the Centaur Company of Rahway, New Jersey, manufacturers of Fletcher’s Castoria warns all holders of Fletcher’s Castoria, that is wholesale druggists, retail druggists, country storekeepers and consumers to discontinue the sale and use of the article because it has been discovered that all of such Fletcher’s Castoria which has been shipped since March 1, 1943, contains a foreign ingredient which causes nausea and vomiting.

As neither consumers nor retailers can tell the difference between the packages made before March 1st and those produced thereafter, it is necessary to withdraw and recover all Fletcher’s Castoria outstanding…

The advertisement in its entirety is presented below.

A month later another advertisement, this one entitled “What Happened to Fletcher’s Castoria,” provided some additional information.

After seven weeks of intensive work, laboratory researchers have discovered  the reason why certain batches of Fletcher’s Castoria caused nausea…

…The sugar content of Fletcher’s Castoria was reduced to conserve sugar under war time conditions. A year ago, Castoria was made with this reduced sugar content and was up to standard in every respect. This year, in March we again started production with reduced sugar.

However, at that time a chemical change – harmless in itself –  occurred in the characteristics of the water used in making Castoria. But this change, in combination with the reduced sugar, increased the degree and rate of normal fermentation. The more rapid fermentation retarded normal reoxidation during the aging process, resulting in a product which caused nausea.

Fletcher’s Castoria made it back to the market place in June, 1944, as evidenced by this June 15th story in the “Brooklyn Citizen.”

After an absence of more than a year, Fletcher’s Castoria has been returned to the market, Harold B. Thomas, Vice President of Sterling Drugs, Inc. in charge of the Centaur Company Division which manufactures the product, today announced.

“Most elaborate scientific controls to safeguard proprietary preparation” have been devised, consisting of 138 separate tests of ingredients and products and including chemical, biological, bacteriological and potency standardization testing he stated.

The public, he asserted can immediately distinguish the new package from the old by a quality control number appearing on the label of each new bottle, plainly visible through a window in the carton. Further identification is given the new carton by use of a distinctive green band.

The Sterling Drug Company continued to manufacture and sell Fletcher’s Castoria until 1984 when they sold the rights to the Mentholatum Company. The sale was reported in the “Buffalo News” on September 19, 1984.

The Mentholatum Co., Inc., 1360 Niagara St., has agreed to buy the trademark rights and inventories of 11 over-the-counter medicines owned by Sterling Drug Inc., New York City.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed. The products include Fletcher’s Castoria children’s laxative, Cope pain reliever, Astring-o-sol mouthwash, Medi-Quik first aid spray, Caroid tooth powder, Creamalin antacid tablets, Dr. Caldwell’s laxative, Mucilosee laxative, Neucurtasal salt substitute and Fizrin analgesic-antacid.

A spokesman said Sterling has agreed to continue manufacturing the products for Mentholatum for two years…

Another story, this one in the Decatur, Illinois “Herald and Review” shed a little more light on the sale

Liquidation of the product lines, which included Fletcher’s Castoria children’s laxative and Cope pain reliever, was an effort to streamline Sterling’s marketing strategies, said Norma Walter, the company’s assistant director of communication. The firm, she said, chose to concentrate its marketing efforts on its more popular products like Bayer aspirin and Panadol pain reliever…

“We want to concentrate on markets that have the best long-term potential for us.”

A product called Fletcher’s Laxative is still made to this day by the Mentholatum Company, Orchard Park, N.Y.

According to the company’s web site it continues to contain the senna mentioned in Pitcher’s original 1867 patent application:

Fletcher’s Laxative for children works naturally to provide safe, gentle and effective relief from occasional constipation. The natural root beer flavor of the Senna pod concentrate makes Fletcher’s easy to administer. It works as fast as 6 hours. Suitable for children ages 2 and up. Trusted since 1871.

The Manhattan building occupied by the Centaur Company from 1912 to 1921 at 248-250 West Broadway remains to this day. Today’s version, courtesy of “Google Maps,” appears almost identical to the 1911 rendering found in the “New York Sun.”

In addition, the ten story building currently located at 90 Varick Street appears to be the  same one occupied by Centaur beginning in 1921.

All told, I’ve found three Castoria bottles. Each has a double ring finish with a rounded upper ring  and a tapered collar serving as the lower one. The bottles are all identically shaped and contain exactly two ounces. Each is described below along with dating information that is based on a document entitled “Pitcher’s and Fletcher’s Castoria, An Uncommon Study of Common Bottles,” by Bill Lockhart, Beau Schreiver, Carol Seer and Bill Lindsey with contributions by Joe Widman. It can be found on the web site of the Society of Historical Archeology, a link to which is presented below.

http://sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/CastoriaHistory.pdf

The first and oldest is blown in a mold with a tooled finish. One side panel is embossed “DR. S. PITCHER’S,” the other, “CASTORIA.”

The base is embossed “A 5,” which suggests two possible alternatives. Either it was  made by the American Bottle Co. during 1905-1906 or it was made in the early 1900’s in one of three batch tanks of the Chantey Glass Co. Either way it most likely dates to the first decade of the 20th Century.

The second is machine made and embossed with Chas. H. Fletcher’s signature on one side panel and “CASTORIA” on the other.

Embossed with a solitary “C” on the base, it was likely made by the Charleston, West Virginia plant of the  Owens Bottle Machine  Co. sometime between 1912 and 1917,  prior to the reorganization that created the Owens Bottle Co.

The third also exhibits Chas. H. Fletcher’s signature on one side panel and “CASTORIA” on the other, while the base is embossed with a circled “P” and the number 16. The circled “P” on a cork finished bottle indicates it was likely made in the 1932 to 1935 time frame.

Coward’s Corn Cure (Coward Shoe Company)

What you’re looking at in the above photograph is the lower half or base of a milk glass jar that’s embossed “Coward Corn Cure” on the bottom. Incorporated into the base is a shallow well that contained the “Corn Cure”which must have had a thick, greasy consistency.

The metal top of the jar is long gone obviously due to the salt water environment of the bay where it was found. That being said, a compete example  including the top was recently offered for sale on the internet and is pictured below.

While you might think “Coward’s Corn Cure” was another turn of the century patent medicine, and possibly it was, the product was in fact manufactured by one of the largest and most reputable shoe makers of the late 19th and early 20th century, James S. Coward.

According to the “National Cyclopedia of American Biography,” published in 1910:

Mr. Coward is a thorough student of the foot. His trade mark is “The Coward Good Sense Shoe,” whose peculiarity consists in its conformity to the natural shape of the foot, thereby giving the foot proper room at all points and not crowding it into unnatural or deformed shapes. By adopting the most progressive methods he has become one of the foremost shoe merchants in the country.

Coward was born in New York City on December 19, 1847 and, according to various biographies, began his career at the age of thirteen working for a man named  James Sinclair whose shoe factory was located in lower Manhattan at the corner of Pearl and Chatham Streets. Still in his teens he was later employed in the retail shoe store of B. McClosky on Greenwich Street. A feature on Coward in the October 21, 1903 edition of “The Shoe Retailer” picks up the story from there.

Coward’s employer was B. McClosky, who at the time had a small store at 217 Greenwich Street, where he worked until he was 19 years of age. At this period he started in business for himself, and his first location was on Greenwich Street, just above his present store. His former employer had later located at 270 Greenwich Street, where he finally sold out to other partners, who soon failed. It was then that Mr. Coward took over that store…

According to a feature on the Coward business found in the December 24, 1902 edition of an advertising publication called “Printer’s Ink,” it was in 1866 that Coward established that first shoe store at 370 Greenwich Street in a building called “Old Marble Hall.” Wilson’s Business Directory of New York City first listed the business at that location in their 1867-68 directory and it remained there until the mid-1870’s at which time Coward moved further south and into McClosky’s old store at 270 Greenwich Street.

The 1903 “Shoe Retailer” story went on to say:

Custom shoemaking was a profitable business in the early days, and this was Mr. Coward’s specialty. In the early days Mr. Coward lived over the store, and he would come down in the morning at 6 o’clock and open the store. He would work all day until closing time, 10 o’clock at night, then would pitch in and work until 2 o’clock almost every morning fitting up stock and lasts so that the shoemakers could start on them in the morning.

Early on Coward was content to simply service the local family trade so his approach to advertising was quite simplistic. He described it like this in the 1903 “Shoe Retailer” story.

I would go out late at night and early in the morning with a pail of paste and cover the entire lower districts with posters which read: “Get Your Footwear at Cowards.”

This approach began to change in the late 1880’s at which time Coward began publishing and distributing a mail order catalog as well as advertising in local newspapers. At this point, according to the 1902 “Printers Ink” feature:

Mr. Coward determined to divide the business into two departments. One was to cater to personal customers and the other was to be purely a mail order trade. To achieve this he chose the local newspapers to attract customers to the store. For the latter he selected magazines, religious and other publications.

For mail order purposes he claims the Coward list cannot be surpassed. It includes the “Ladies Home Journal,” ‘Munseys,” “Youth’s Companion,” “McClure’s,” the (Phil) “Saturday Evening Post,” “Success,” the “Christian Advocate,” “Motherhood,” etc.

This December 30, 1902 advertisement published in the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle,” included the phrases “Sold Nowhere Else,” and “A Short Walk from the Brooklyn Bridge,” so it was certainly aimed at the local store customer.

While this advertisement found in the October 17, 1901 edition of the more widely circulated religious publication “Christian Advocate,” focused on the mail order patron.

The 1902  “Printers Ink” feature went on to say:

The sixteen years of advertising done by Mr. Coward has yielded him a mail order list of 125,000 names.

This 16 year emphasis on advertising created a demand for expansion of their physical plant, which grew from a single store to four adjacent  buildings all located on Greenwich Street (268 to 274 Greenwich St.).   A description of their 1903 Greenwich Street facilities was included in the “Shoe Retailer” feature.

The business increased until it was necessary to occupy the entire building for sales, workshops, and the sorting of surplus stock. The business continued to grow until Mr. Coward now has four stores devoted to selling, while three upper floors of the four buildings, together with the basements, are required for various purposes, with over one hundred employees…

…In the repair department of this establishment, situated on the third floor, about 20 men are employed. The custom department on the fourth floor is another considerable feature. The shoemakers are in the rear, while the cutters work in the curious antique rooms lighted by the gable windows…

The second floors of the entire four buildings are exclusively devoted to the surplus stock of footwear, while in the basement is situated the receiving rooms and the rubber stock. The contrast between the store and the shoemaking departments on the upper floors is marked and interesting. It is the modern against the antique, the present compared with the past.

The mail order department of this concern is not a side issue by any means. It requires the services of several people alone to attend to this end of the business. Catalogues are issued twice a year, and several hundred thousand are printed. Orders come from every state in the Union, and a few from Europe…

Another feature on the Coward business, this one published in the July 3, 1909 edition of “The Shoe Retailer,” described a special department for making plaster casts. It also speaks volumes of Coward’s reputation.

A special department of this store is that for making plaster casts of feet which require special lasts. Four men are constantly employed to do-nothing but make these casts. A most interesting sight is a view of these casts, which show the facsimiles of the feet of some of the wold’s most prominent men. Among them the writer was shown the casts of the feet of a late President of the United States… the secrecy of identity maintained.

By this time the company’s merchandise had expanded well beyond simply a “Good Sense” shoe as evidenced by this list of specialties included in a November 26, 1906 “New York Times” advertisement.

It was also around this time, that they began including the “Corn Cure” in their advertisements as evidenced by this ad published in the May 12, 1905 edition of the New York “Evening World.”

The 1909 “Shoe Retailer” feature made it clear that throughout the first decade of the 20th Century, Coward’s Greenwich Street facilities were continuing to expand.

Mr. Coward has recently purchased two old buildings to the south of his present holdings and these later will be razed on August first next and upon the lots there will be erected a modern building containing every convenience, including elevators, to house the wonderful shoe business of James S. Coward.

Coward passed away in 1923 after which his son, John M. Coward, who had been working with his father for years, took over the business. Up to this point Coward shoes were sold from no other place in the world except their Greenwich Street location. The reasoning for this was verbalized by Coward’s son, John in the 1909 “Shoe Retailer” feature.

We have all the business here that we can attend to – I might almost say more – so what’s the use of going somewhere else?” “We believe in letting well enough alone.”

“The success of our house, located here in this out-of-the-way place, on a street that is in no sense a retail thoroughfare, simply bears out to the letter the truth of what Emerson says: ‘If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbor, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.’ That’s our case exactly.”

This long time philosophy began to change in 1925 when John M. Coward passed away and his son, J. Mortimer Coward, James S. Coward’s grandson, took over. A little over a year later the company announced the opening of their “New Uptown Branch,” at 37 West 47th Street. This item in the March 19, 1927 edition of a Brooklyn, N. Y. publication called “The Tablet,” announced the opening of the new branch.

The announcement went on to read in part:

Now Coward Shoes will be as convenient to buy as they are comfortable to wear.

Thousands of old friends will find this new store, the first and only branch, easy to reach… A great store it is too, with 11,000 square feet of floor space – the counterpart of the great Greenwich Street store which grew from a workbench in a tiny shop to be the largest single shoe store in all the world.

Less than four months later the company opened a huge store in Boston, Massachusetts, their first location outside of New York City. An August 12, 1927 story in the Boston Globe announcing the opening included this fun fact.

There will be 110,000 pairs of shoes in the store Monday morning when the establishment opens for business, a record number for opening a shoe store.

Stock room boys will be busy all day taking the shoes from the stock shelves to the automatic lifts which will carry the shoes upstairs to fill the places of those sold. In order to make speed in the basement the stock room boys will be provided with roller skates. The floor is a hard cement. This is bound to be a popular job for young boys.

The “Boston Globe” story included this photograph of the sales room that included over 300 leather seats.

Another story, this one in the August 18, 1927 edition of the “Bayonne Evening News” laid out J. Mortimer Coward’s plans for the future.

With the opening of the store, Coward has set in motion plans for expansion of the business into what he hopes will become the world’s greatest retail shoe business.

Sadly, J. Mortimer Coward passed away unexpectedly less than a year later and never saw his expansion plans implemented. Two years later, the April 16, 1930 edition of  the “Montclair Times” reported the business had been sold.

Sale of the Coward shoe stores to Lane Bryant, Inc., announced this week, marks the end of the control held by a Glen Ridge family for three generations. No announcement was made of the consideration. Two years ago $15,000,000 was refused for the Coward stores. Complete control of the Coward business will pass to Lane Bryant.

Policies of the Coward stores and the name will undergo no change because of the sale, it was said. The same administration will continue as when the business was in the hands of the Coward family.

There are but three Coward stores involved, though one of them is among the largest retail stores in the United States…Sale of the business was effected by the estate of the late J. Mortimer Coward who died March 4, 1928, in Havana at the age of twenty-eight.

In 1932 Lane Bryant opened two new stores in New York City under the Coward name. The first, third in Manhattan, was opened in March in the Empire State Building. All three Manhattan locations were pictured in this March 4, 1932 advertisement published in Brooklyn’s Times Union.

The second, located at the corner of Fulton and Hoyt Streets in Brooklyn, opened on December 15, 1932.

Fifty plus years later the Coward Shoe Company was still operating shoe stores in and around the New York area. A March 17, 1988  advertisement for “Revelations Shoes” published in the New York “Daily News” listed four Coward stores in Manhattan (though Greenwich St. and 47th St. were no longer included) as well as one each in Brooklyn, Hempstead, L. I., and Westchester County’s Mamaroneck.

As late as 1991 Coward’s was still advertising in the newspapers, as evidenced by this April 7th ad in Long Island’s “Newsday.”

The very bottom of the advertisement (shown below) indicates they were still operating their Empire State Building  location in Manhattan as well as Hoyt Street in Brooklyn at that time

It appears the end of the road came the following year when advertisements for “Claro Shoes” included the phrase “Claro Shoes Formerly Coward Shoe.”

(Note that the word “formally” is used incorrectly in lieu of “formerly” in the third line of the ad but formerly is used correctly further down.)

Today, all remnants of Coward’s Greenwich Street complex are gone, replaced by modern buildings. That being said, it appears that the building and storefront of their 47th Street location remains to this day. The now, courtesy of Google Maps, and then are both pictured below

Their Empire State Building location certainly remains as well, somewhere in the building’s 34th Street frontage.

Finally, I’ll close the loop on “Coward Corn Cure:”

The inspiration for Coward Corn Cure came as a result of Coward’s mail order business. According to a “Printer’s Ink” feature published in 1916:

The mail order department was still young when customers began asking Coward to send them a box of stockings with a pair of shoes. This suggested the advisability of expanding the stock into “everything for the feet.”

It was obvious immediately that every additional item Coward could sell would add to the net profits from the mail orders, so he has extended his lines until now they include his own make of insoles, foot powder, shoe oil, leather dressings, corn cure, shoe forms, and many other specialties.

As far as I can tell, in 1905 and 1905 only, the company ran specific advertisements for their “Corn and Bunion Paste”

In addition, many general Coward advertisements that year included, at the very bottom, a reference to their “Corn Cure.”

The fact that these ads and references are exclusive to 1905 suggests, at least to me, that the product originated around that time. I’ve seen it referenced in drug price lists (1907 and 1910) and correspondence in a drug publication (1921) so it was certainly on the market from 1905 up through at least the early 1920’s. When exactly it was discontinued is unclear.

American Apothecaries Co., New York – SALVITAE

The American Apothecaries Company manufactured the patent medicine “Salvitae” during the first half of the 20th Century.

The first mention of the American Apothecaries Company that I can find was in 1904 when the business incorporated in the State New York. Their incorporation notice was published in the New York Times on November 30, 1904.

American Apothecaries, New York (medicines) capital, $150,000. Directors W. F. Grier, T. F. Kelleghan, A. S Grier, New York.

The company was always located in the Long Island City/Astoria sections of New York City’s Borough of Queens. Initially located at 272 Flushing Avenue (1904 to circa 1926), later (1926 through much of the 1940’s) they would list two addresses; 299 Ely Avenue and 35-08 Astoria Avenue. I suspect, one was their office, the other their manufacturing facility.

Not long after incorporating American Apothecaries Company was advertising several different proprietary medicines to the medical profession as evidenced by this 1908 business card found in the Pharmaceutical Era’s 1908 “Drug Trade Directory.”

That being said, almost all of their advertising focused on “Salvitae,” whose purported  curative properties were described in the following 1908 advertisement found in  the “California Medical Journal.”

Gout, rheumatism, constipation, biliousness, recurrent headache, mental depression, subnormal metabolism, languor and in fact, innumerable local and general deviations from the normal state are frequently the direct effect of excrementitious materials.

Immediate and durable relief of such disturbances is best achieved  by the administration of an agent that is capable of normalizing combustion, promoting elimination and augmenting the constructive processes. Salvitae, which is an effervescent salt embracing uric-solvent, waste-dispelling, laxative and diuretic agents, is unquestionably the most potent product evolved for the relief of systemic disturbances arising from the excessive production or inadequate elimination of waste materials. Its antirheumatic, laxative, diuretic properties and stimulating action upon the excretory apparatus is unequalled.

According to another advertisement, this one found in a 1907 publication called “Dental Items of Interest,” Salvitae was of great benefit to the dental profession as well.

The deposit of serumal or salivary calculi in or about the alveoli is a common cause of Soft, Flabby, Bleeding and Receding Gums.

In conjunction with mechanical treatment, it is distinctly advantageous to administer an agent that will bring about the disintegration of these deposits and prevent their recurrence.

In as much as these deposits are, in the main, due to the systemic retention of an excess of uric acid, it is markedly wise to employ a uric-solvent and eliminant. By increasing the uric-solvent power of the blood and raising its alkalinity to a normal degree, such an agent affects the dissolution of calico concretions and precludes their reformation. Salvitae is unquestionably the most powerful uric-solvent extant. It arrests the over-production of uric acid, disintegrates uratic concretions, promotes metabolism and renders the blood normally alkaline.

Needless to say the product’s claims caught the attention of the authorities and on at least three occasions, (1908, 1919 and 1941) the product was declared mis-branded. Partial documentation from the 1919 incident follows:

7293. Misbranding of Salvitae.  U.S. v. The American Apothecaries Co. Plea of Guilty. Fine $200.

On July 17, 1919, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, acting upon a report by the Secretary of Agriculture, filed in the District Court of the United States for said district an information against the American Apothecaries Co., a corporation, Astoria, N.Y., alleging shipment by said company, in violation of the Food and Drugs Act, as amended on May 25, 1918, from the State of New York into the Island of Porto Rico, of a quantity of an article, labeled in part “Salvitae.” which was mis-branded…

…It was alleged in substance in the information that the article was misbranded for the reason that certain statements appearing on the labels of the bottles containing the article and on the wrapper around said bottles, falsely and fraudulently represented it to be effective as a treatment, remedy and cure for gout, rheumatism, Bright’s disease, Rigg’s disease, stomatitis, recession of the gums, urethritis, cystitis, gravel, inflammatory affections of the urinary passages and diseases that are produced by uric acid, inactivity of the kidneys, renal or hepatic calcull or incontinence and gingivitis, as a uric acid solvent, urinary antiseptic and diuretic and intestinal antiseptic, to fortify the system against the millions of dangerous microbes, and to restore lost health and preserve one from disease, when, in fact, it was not.

This attention from the government authorities doesn’t appear to have had much impact on business.  As early as the mid-teens, in addition to marketing Salvitae to the medical and dental professions, the company was going directly to the public as well, with the product appearing sporadically in the price lists of  drug store advertisements published in local U. S. and Canadian newspapers. This  Salvitae  mention was included in a full page “Owl Drug Company” advertisement found in the April 7, 1914 edition of the “Los Angele Evening Express.”

Around the same time the company was also extending their reach south of the border, where Salvitae was being sold with a Spanish language label. This advertisement, exhibiting the Spanish label appeared in a 1915 publication called “”Puerto Rico Illustrado.”

When the manufacture of Salvitae was discontinued is not exactly clear. A specific advertisement for its use was still appearing as late as 1951 in Binghamton New York’s  “Press & Sun.” Although the advertisement’s language was toned down quite a bit, its theme remained consistent with that of the company’s earliest ads.

By the mid 1950’s Salvitae had disappeared from drug store advertisements in U.S. newspapers, however, in Canada, it was still being sporadically listed in ads up through the mid 1960’s. According to a July 28, 1966 advertisement in the “Montreal Star,” at the time you could still buy a large bottle of Salvitae for $1.52 at the Montreal Pharmacy on St Catherine St. East.

The bottle I found is 5-3/4 inches tall and 2 inches in diameter at the base. It’s machine made and cobalt blue. Its only embossing is on the base and consists of “American Apothecaries Co. New York” embossed in circular fashion along the base perimeter. In addition, “Salvitae” is prominently embossed across the base diameter. I apologize for the lack of a photograph, but all attempts proved absolutely useless.

 

Dr. D. Jayne’s Expectorant, Philadelphia.

Dr. D. Jayne’s Expectorant was a patent medicine on the market for well over 100 years from the mid-1830’s up through the 1940’s and possibly longer. Much of that time its ingredients included small doses of the drug opium.

An early  advertisement, published in 1854, touted it as:

A Safe and Standard Remedy for all Pulmonary and Bronchial Complaints.

The advertisement went on to provide some detail on the medicine’s purported benefits.

Recent Coughs and Colds, Pleuritic Pains, etc., are quickly and effectually cured by its diaphoretic, soothing, and expectorant power.

Asthma it always cures. It overcomes the spasmodic contraction of the air vessels, and, and by producing free expectoration, at once removes all difficulty of breathing.

Bronchitis readily yields to the expectorant. It subdues the inflammation which extends through the wind tubes, promotes free expectoration, and suppresses at once the cough and pain.

Consumption –  For this insidious and fatal disease no remedy has ever been found so effectual. It subdues the inflammation, suppresses the cough and pain, and relieves the difficulty of breathing, and by causing an easy expectoration, all irritating and obstructing matters are removed from the lungs.

Hooping-Cough is promptly relieved by this Expectorant. It shortens the duration of the disease one-half, and greatly mitigates the sufferings of the patient.

In all Pulmonary Complaints, in Croup, Pleurisy, etc., it will be found to be prompt, safe and reliable.

Fifty years later, in the early 1900’s, the patent medicine was still being advertised as having the ability to cure your cough as evidenced by  this item published in the September 6, 1906 edition of the”Philadelphia  Inquirer.”

Generally sold as a liquid, in 1912 it was introduced in tablet form as well. Directed at retail pharmacists, this introductory advertisement for Dr D. Jayne’s Expectorant Tablets appeared that year in the February edition of “The Practical Druggist.”

Three years later, in response to enactment of the Harrison Narcotic Tax Act that regulated the production, importation and distribution of opiates and cocoa products, a notice published in the March, 1915 edition of “The Practical Druggist”  announced that both the liquid and tablet forms of the Expectorant contained a small amount of opium.

While the notice went on to say that “the new law in no way affects the sale or possession” of the Expectorant, by 1920 the opium had been replaced as an ingredient. The change was announced in an advertisement published in the July, 1920 edition of “The Practical Druggist.”

After several months of research work we have succeeded in replacing the very small amount of opium in these preparations with a non-narcotic equivalent that does not impair in the slightest degree the efficiency of these remedies.

This will eliminate the former necessity of keeping a record of each sale and therefore greatly facilitate the handling of these preparations by the druggist.

Recommend these Remedies to your customers. Aside from using a substitute for the opium the formulas have not been changed.

Subsequently, the tablets were advertised to the general public under the brand name JANEX. This advertisement for JAYNEX appeared in the February 25, 1921 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”

As you might expect, as the 20th Century progressed  the curative claims associated with Jayne’s Expectorant softened quite a bit such that by the late 1930’s it was pitched as nothing more than a cough medicine. This wording in a February 23, 1938 advertisement in Allentown Pennsylvania’s “Morning Call” was typical of the era.

The favorite for a century. Colds and coughs strike without warning. Be prepared to fight. Keep Jayne’s Expectorant handy. It soothes the tender throat, losens the irritating phlegm and helps to expel it. Just what’s needed. Get it now.

Specific newspaper advertisements promoting Dr. D. Jayne’s Expectorant vanished by the early 1940’s, but it continued to be listed sporadically in drug store advertisements up through the end of the decade. As late as February 12, 1948 you could still get it at “Peck’s Cut Rate Drugs” in Port Huron Michigan (2nd last).

While it’s not clear exactly when the expectorant was discontinued, newspaper references to it completely disappear by 1950.

The expectorant’s original formulator and namesake was a man named David Jayne.

His story gets its start at the turn of the 19th century when, according to his March 6, 1866 obituary published in Philadelphia’s “The Evening Telegraph,” his initial occupation was not as a druggist, but as a school teacher.

Dr. Jayne was born in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, on the 22nd day of July, 1799…He was the son of the Rev. Ebenezer Jayne, a Baptist clergyman, and received the most of his education under the auspices of pious parents. When quite a youth he removed to Cumberland County, New Jersey, and commenced life as a poorly paid school teacher.

Jayne’s obituary went on to say that in the early 1820’s he switched his focus to medicine.

About 1821 he commenced the study of medicine under the tutelage of Dr. E. Shepherd, a practitioner of marked ability and influence. He pursued his studies with untiring industry, and in due time was admitted to practice.

Whether Jayne actually graduated from medical school is not exactly clear (at least to me) as his rather lengthy obituary makes no mention of it. In addition, the 1850 edition of his  annual advertising vehicle, “Jayne’s Medical Almanac,” also leaves the issue open with this vague statement in Jayne’s own words:

I would here take occasion to remark that I was a student of one of the best medical institutions in the United States (the University of Pennsylvania) and have now had over thirty years experience in an extensive and diversified practice….

All that aside, his obituary went on to say:

He performed the duties of country physician for some years with eminent success, but had the ambition to desire a wider field of usefulness.

Early newspaper advertisements suggest that it was during his time as a country physician in New Jersey that he began to manufacture his own line of patent medicines. This early newspaper advertisement for what’s most likely his first concoction, “Jayne’s Carminative Balsam,” appeared in the July 30, 1834 edition of the “Alexandria (Va.) Gazette.” The endorsement at the bottom of the advertisement was dated May 4, 1831 suggesting that Jayne had begun the manufacture of his balsam by that time.

In 1836, advertisements for his expectorant, originally called “Dr. D. Jayne’s Indian Expectorant” also began to appear in newspaper advertisements. One of the earliest was published in the November 3rd edition of Newport Rhode Island’s “Herald of the Times.”

Less than a year after the above advertisement was published Jayne picked up and moved his entire operation to Philadelphia where he initially settled at 20 South Third Street. Notices announcing his arrival began appearing in Philadelphia newspapers as early April, 1837.

By June, with his medical practice now up and running in Philadelphia, Jayne’s notices began to include Philadelphia references.

That being said, it’s clear that Jayne continued to focus on his patent medicine business as well. According to his 1866 obituary, when Jayne arrived in Philadelphia

he commenced as a practicing physician, but after a short time found himself gradually becoming a leading druggist and from that time to the present has been entirely engaged in that line of trade.

The transition from physician to druggist, if not complete, had certainly made significant progress by 1840 when the number of patent medicines associated with the Jayne name had increased to five. Now referred to as “Doctor Jayne’s Family Medicines,” they were listed in the December 9, 1840 edition of the “Lancaster (Pa.) Examiner.”

It was also around this time, actually 1843, when Jayne began the annual publication of “Jayne’s Medical Almanac and Guide to Health,” in which he shamelessly pitched the use of his patent medicines. Early versions state in Jayne’s own words:

…It contains a vast amount of valuable information suited to the wants of all; among which will be found a Catalogue of Diseases, with suitable directions and prescriptions for their removal, together with the full and explicit directions for the use of my various preparations…

In 1845 Jayne moved up the street, relocating from 20 South Third Street to 8 South Third Street. Again, notices announcing the move appeared in the Philadelphia newspapers beginning in May of that year.

Other than offering “advice gratuitously,”the ad doesn’t mention medical services suggesting that by then Jayne was no longer a practicing physician. Now, apparently fully invested in his drug business, he was not only manufacturing and  selling his “Family Medicines,” but, according to the ad, acting as a wholesale dealer for “everything usually kept by dealers in drugs and medicines.”

The business grew rapidly, and  according to his “Evening Telegraph” obituary, by 1849 he was planning another move. ”

 His immense business forced him to seek more extensive quarters, and in 1849 he commenced the erection of his magnificent Quincy granite structure, in Chestnut Street, below Third. The center building was finished in 1850 and the wings added in 1852.

As early as 1852 the cover of Jayne’s Medical Almanac and Guide to Health” featured the completed center building…

…and later almanacs featured the completed building, including the wings.

The “Jayne” building, sometimes referred to as Philadelphia’s first skyscraper, was initially listed with an address of 84 Chestnut Street. Shortly afterwards, what appears to be a revision to the numbering system, changed the address to 242 Chestnut Street.

This description of the new building was included as part of a feature on Philadelphia, published in the  March 15, 1852 “Pittsburgh Post.”

The next place of interest in Philadelphia to visit is Dr. Jaynes great building on Chestnut Street. It is 42 feet in width, 135 feet in depth, and is eight stories high. The height of the building above the pavement is 96 feet, and the height of the cupola 33 feet, making the elevation above the pavement 129 feet, to which may be added 27 feet for the stones under ground, or foundation, which makes the entire altitude, from bottom to top, 156 feet! The material of which this immense structure has been constructed is granite, from the Quincy quarries in Massachusetts. The front of this building has numerous columns, which inclose Gothic windows, and the whole is crowned with Gothic cornice. I was also taken through the building from foundation to turret, by one of the polite clerks of the establishment. From the top I had (a) magnificent view of Philadelphia and its environs, the shipping, navy yard, Camden, etc., etc. The cost of Jayne’s building exceeds $350,000 -the ground alone cost $144,000.

This early photograph the building is courtesy of the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection.

As you might guess, constructing a building of that size in 1850 had its issues, not the least of which, according to the December 11, 1850 edition of Philadelphia’s “Public Ledger,”  was fire protection.

The Jayne Palace – In a few days, the Diligent Engine Company will make an attempt to throw water to the top of Dr. Jayne’s new building in Chestnut Street… The effort will be made at the request of Dr. Jayne, in consequence of one of the Insurance Companies refusing to insure the property if the feat cannot be accomplished.

The successful attempt took place the following spring and drew quite a crowd. It was described in the April 18, 1851 edition of the “Public Ledger.”

A Great Feat. – An attempt to throw water over the cupola of Dr. Jayne’s granite palace in Chestnut Street was successfully performed yesterday with the Diligent Engine, in the presence of a great throng of persons attracted to the spot by the great novelty of the undertaking. The engine was manned by about fifty men, a large portion being members of the Good-Will Engine, who had volunteered for the occasion. The gallery stream was first tried with a 1-1/8 inch nozzle, and the stream was thrown above the cupola with perfect ease. Several persons were standing in it, and probably deemed themselves above all the efforts of the fireman, but they soon found themselves deluged, one of the gentlemen having his hat washed off by the sudden gush of the watery element. He acknowledged the triumph of the engine, by waving a very wet handkerchief, amid the cheers of the spectators below. The breastwork of the cupola is 134 feet above the Chestnut Street pavement, and the height to which the water was thrown was therefore fully 140 feet. The water was next forced through two side streams with 7/8 inch nozzles, and each of these streams went over the cornice, which is 96 feet above the pavement. The whole power of the engine was then applied to a single side stream, and though the pipe was held by a person standing on the ground, this stream was thrown at least twelve feet above the top of the cupola, attaining an actual height of 146 feet….The Diligent has in this instance handsomely sustained the reputation it has hitherto borne of being the most powerful engine attached to the fire department.

On a side note: Ironically, 20 years later, on September 4, 1872, the building was partially destroyed by fire when firemen were unable to get water to the cupola. A story in the March 7, 1872 edition of the “Carlisle (Pa.)Weekly Herald” reported:

…after burning for twenty minutes the cupola collapsed inside the building.

In 1850, just as the new building was about to open, Jayne formed a business partnership with family members to run the wholesale drug piece of the business.  According to an 1896 publication entitled “Men of the Century:”

…Dr. Jayne formed a partnership with his son, David W. Jayne, and his nephew, Eden C. Jayne, to conduct the wholesale drug business. This attained large proportions, but was not so remunerative as desired, and was discontinued in 1854, a new partnership being formed in 1855, including the three partners named and John K.Walker, Dr. Jayne’s brother-in-law, under the firm name of Dr. D. Jayne & Son.

According to Eben Jayne’s obituary, published in the November 21, 1900 edition 0f the “Lewiston (Pa) Journal,” the 1855 partnership was established to consolidate the wholesale drug business with Jaynes patent medicine business.

Under the new partnership, the menu of Jayne’s Family Medicines continued to grow and by the late 1850’s had more than doubled. This expanded list of medicines appeared in the 1865 Philadelphia City Directory.

Shortly after forming the partnership David Jayne turned the day to day management of the business over to his partners. Now focused on real estate, David Jayne went on to build several more iconic buildings in Philadelphia before passing away in 1866. After his death ownership of the company passed on to his estate while it continued to operate under the management of his brother-in-law, John K. Walker and nephew, Eben C. Jayne. (David Jayne’s son, David W., had previously passed away in 1863.)

It was under their management that the company survived the March 1872 fire, announcing in the March 6, 1872 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” that they were temporarily resuming business at 622 Chestnut Street…

…and less than six months later, on August 24, 1872, another “Philadelphia Inquirer” notice announced they were back in business at 242 Chestnut Street

It was also under their management that the business continued to grow. In the late 1860’s/early 1870’s newspaper advertisements for Jayne’s medicines were appearing throughout much of the northeast and mid-west as well as California suggesting that the company’s reach was nearing national proportions; an amazing fact considering the mode of distribution described in a December 19, 1877 “Lancaster (Pa.) Intelligencer” story.

A valuable old mare, the property of Dr. D. Jayne & Son, has just reached Philadelphia in good order after having traveled eleven months a year for the last six years, through Virginia and Pennsylvania, traveling during this period the immense distance of 46,500 miles by actual measurement. From the record of her driver, William Shall, while collecting for the firm she was always driven with a mate; a new one however, had to be supplied every year.

It was also in the mid -1860’s that the company was shipping their medicines overseas to agents in places like England and Australia.This advertisement for Dr. D. Jayne’s Expectorant that appeared in the October 21, 1865 edition of a British publication called the “Cambridge Weekly News,” identified their London, England agent as Francis Newberry and Sons, 45 St. Paul’s Churchyard, London.

By the turn of the century their medicines had even made their way to China where in 1899, and possibly earlier, agents for the company were being listed in “The Directory & Chronicle for China, Japan, Cores, Indo-China, Straits Settlements, Malay States, Siam, Netherlands, India, Borneo, the Philippines, etc.” This business card advertisement was included in the 1909 edition of that publication.

Highlighting their world wide reach was a notice to druggists promoting Jayne’s 1910 Almanac. It pointed out that not only were seven million copies being printed but it was being published in seven different languages.

David Jayne’s brother in law, John K. Walker, passed away in 1881 after which his nephew, Eben C  Jayne, continued as head of the firm until his death in November 1900. That being said, as late as 1926 the company was still being managed by the Jayne family, with a grandson, J. Maxwell Bullock, listed in the Philadelphia directory as “General Manager.”

In 1927 the company announced that they were moving from their long time home in Chestnut Street’s Jayne Building to a new location along the Philadelphia waterfront. Also owned by the Jayne estate, the property was located at Delaware Avenue and Vine Street. The move, announced in concert with a plan to standardize both their bottle type and size (5 ounces) was announced in the June, 1927 edition of the “Practical Druggist.”

For many years almost from the foundation of the business, Dr. D Jayne & Son have put up their preparations in various sizes and styles of bottles, but today with the greatly increased manufacturing costs and with the impossibility of advancing prices to the public, Dr. Jayne & Son decided to adopt a uniform size and style bottle for all of their preparations, and in their advertisement in this issue they quote both the old and new wholesale and retail prices, and where the price has been raised, it is only nominal as the quantity has been increased, so that it is not really a price raise.

The making of these changes in prices and uniformity of size was under consideration for some time and an excellent opportunity to make the change (occurred) when Dr. Jane & Son were able to dispose of their building on Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, and remove to property that they owned at Vine Street and Delaware Avenue. When the removal was decided upon, plans were made to install the latest styles of pharmaceutical apparatus and bottle labeling machinery with the result that today Dr. D Jayne & Son are in a position to fill all orders more expeditiously than at any time in the long history of the business. In the removal to their present premises there is a great advantage in receiving and shipping facilities as the Belt Line railroad is within a hundred feet of the building, and for water shipment only the distance of the width of Delaware Avenue.

Ownership of the company remained with David Jayne’s estate until 1931 when Jayne’s estate was distributed among the surviving heirs. A May 24, 1931 “Philadelphia Inquirer” article tells the story.

Sixty-five years after his death and nearly a century after he settled in Philadelphia and first began to amass a fortune from patent medicine and real estate transactions that made him one of the wealthiest men of his time, final distribution of the estate of Dr. David Jayne, physician, philanthropist and civic leader is about to be made…

There were twelve grandchildren, ten of whom are now living. Harry W. Jayne, a deceased grandson left two sons and J. Maxwell Bullock. another deceased grandson, left three sons.

Real estate which has not yet been converted includes the premises 611-27 Chestnut Street, valued at more than $600,000; Pier 15 North Wharves, Delaware Avenue and Vine Street, and 216 Vine Street.

Less than a month after the announcement, the business incorporated in the State of Delaware. The incorporation notice appeared in the June 5, 1931 edition of the Wilmington Delaware’s “News Journal.”

Seven years later, in 1938, David Jayne’s heirs sold the Vine and Delaware property to the corporation. The sale was reported in the March 12th edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”

Jayne Heirs Convey Stores 2 to 16 Vine St. for $50,000

2 to 16 Vine St. eight store properties, lot 153 by 81 feet have been conveyed by A. R. Bullock, Charles H. Jayne, Horace F. Jayne and other heirs of the Jayne estate to Dr. D Jayne & Son, Inc. for $50,000. They are totally assessed at $79,400.

The company continued to publish their almanac up through the early 1940’s. As far as I can tell the last (98th) edition came in 1941.

Newspaper advertisements continue to locate Dr. D. Jayne & Son in Philadelphia at 2 Vine Street as late as 1946 after which I lose track. That being said, as late as the 1960’s, newspaper advertisements for their “Vermifuge,” now called “Jayne’s P-W,” continued to appear sporadically. The last one I can find appeared in the October 29, 1969 edition of the “South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.”  The ad closed with the line:

Perfected by Dr. D. Jayne & Son, specialists in worm remedies for 100 years.

The subject bottle is mouth blown with a tooled finish and eight ounces in size. This likely dates it sometime around the turn of the century. At that time Jayne’s Expectorant, in liquid form,  was being sold in three different size bottles. For much of its history it was sold in what the company referred to as the “Dollar” size. Then, as early as 1893 they began offering it in “Half Dollar” bottles as well.

In 1905 the company took it a step further, announcing the addition of a two ounce size.

This 1917 price list refers to the three sizes as “Large,” “Half” and “Quarter” respectively.

We know from the 1905 advertisement that the “Quarter” contains two ounces. Therefore, logically the subject bottle, containing eight ounces, is what the company called the “Large” or “Dollar” size which in 1917 was selling for $1.20.

E. Hartshorn & Sons, Established 1850, Boston

 

E. Hartshorn & Sons manufactured both patent medicines and flavoring extracts in Boston, Massachusetts from 1870 up through 1930. The roots of the business however date back to the 1850’s and a physician named Edward Hartshorn.

Born in 1817 in New Hampshire, by the late 1830’s Hartshorn was living in Reading, Massachusetts where, according to his biographical entry in the “History of the Town of Berlin, Worcester County, Mass., from 1784 to 1895”

Edward walked back and forth from there to the Medical College of Harvard University; graduating there in 1840. He settled in Berlin the same year, being 23 years of age, the youngest physician in the county.

Embossing on the subject bottle suggests that 10 years later, in 1850, he established his manufacturing business. That being said, I suspect that any manufacturing done during the early 1850’s was quite limited and simply done in connection with Hartshorn’s medical practice.

That apparently changed sometime in 1854 when Hartshorn went into a short-lived  partnership with another Harvard educated physician, Dr. Lemuel Gott. According to Gott’s biographical entry in the “History of Berlin:”

…He practiced in Rockport from 1836 to 1854; at the latter date he removed to Berlin and went into partnership with Dr. E. Hartshorn in the manufacture of medicines and family extracts, and also in medical practice. They soon dissolved the copartnership and (Gott) continued as the sole resident physician (in Berlin) to the time of his death.

While Gott continued as Berlin’s sole resident physician, Hartshorn also remained in Berlin and continued to manufacture medicines and extracts. Then, sometime in 1866 or 1867, Hartshorn opened what appears to be a retail store at 132 Water Street in Boston Massachusetts. This advertisement in the 1867 Boston city directory named him the “proprietor” of “Hartshorn’s Family Medicines.”

Around the same time that that he opened up shop in Boston advertisements for one of his family medicines, ” Hartshorn’s Bitters,” began appearing in several New England newspapers. Touting the bitters as the “Key to Health, the ads appeared in several local newspapers in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and Vermont. The following was found in the June 19, 1868 edition of Bedford, Maine’s “Union and Journal.”

At this point, Hartshorn’s sons, Edward H. Hartshorn, Jr., and William H. Hartshorn, were also involved in the business; both listed with the occupation “clerk” at the 132 Water Street address.

Three years later, “Dr. E Hartshorn & Sons,”was established with sons Edward H., Jr. and William H. named as partners. Located at 18 Blackstone Street in Boston, the partnership was listed for the first time in Boston’s 1870 city directory. That year their directory advertisement no longer mentioned a Berlin laboratory so it appears by then the entire operation had been consolidated in Boston.

In the early 1870’s the company’s menu of “Family Medicines” included products with names that included “Dr. Hartshorn’s Cough Balsam,” for all pulmonary complaints; “Dr. Hartshorn’s Never Failing,” for every pain…

…and “Dr. Hartshorn’s Peristaltic Lozenges,” the most perfect, agreeable and effective cure for every form of Indigestion and the only cure for the Piles, either bleeding or otherwise.

That being said, an advertisement that appeared in the 1871 Boston Almanac suggested that their bitters was at the top of the “Family Medicine” list.

In case you’re interested, the advertisement followed up their sales pitch with this list of ingredients. (What’s not mentioned is the fact that the bitters also contained over 22% alcohol by volume.)

The company only remained at the 18 Blackstone Street address for several years, moving to 71 Blackstone Street, sometime in the mid-1870’s where they shared a building with a brewery. A description of the building appeared under the heading “Real Estate Matters,” in the June 16, 1891 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript.” The building’s size suggests that Hartshorn’s operation was not all that large.

The building is a four-story brick store with granite front, and is numbered 69 and 71 Blackstone Street, and extends through to North Centre Street. Its measurement front and rear is practically twenty feet, while the building extends back about seventy-two feet. It is now occupied by the Norfolk Brewing Company and Edward Hartshorn & Sons, manufacturers of medicines and flavoring extracts, the annual rental paid on the building being $2,575.

By the 1890’s newspaper advertisements for “Hartshorn’s Bitters” had pretty much vanished (likely due to pressure from the temperance movement), while advertisements for “Hartshorn’s Cough Balsam” were beginning to gain traction. This ‘Hartshorn’s Cough Balsam” ad touting the company’s 40 year history appeared in several December, 1892 editions of the “Fall River (Mass) Daily Herald.”

A Tree Planted Forty Years Ago!

Is Now Bearing Wonderful Fruit.

The company also continued to manufacture extracts as evidenced by this 1892 advertisement that appeared in the The Somerville Journal’s Semi-Centennial Souvenir edition.

Around 1910 the company moved from its long time home on Blackstone Street to 220 Milk Street, where they were first listed in the 1911 Boston city directory. This advertisement exhibiting their Milk Street address appeared in the 1914 “ETA Cook Book.”

Up through the mid-1920’s the company remained closely held by the Hartshorn family. Edward, Jr. had passed away in 1887, leaving William as the sole surviving partner. Edward, Sr., apparently semi-retired, continued to be listed at the 71 Blackstone Street address as a physician through much of the 1890’s. He ultimately passed away in 1906.

William H. Hartshorn remained at the head of the firm until he passed away on February 3, 1926. That same year, likely as a result of his death, the business incorporated under the name E. Hartshorn & Sons, Inc. The 1926 Boston city directory named William’s son, James H. Hartshorn, as the corporation’s treasurer. He had joined the business as a clerk sometime in the mid-1890’s; the third generation of Hartshorn’s to be involved with the business.

A list of Hartshorn products on the market at around the time the business incorporated appeared in Randolph, Vermont’s “Herald & News.” They could be purchased at W. F. Blood’s North Main Grocery Store in Randolph.

As far as I can tell, the great depression put an end to the Hartshorn business. Hartshorn advertisements, as well as their product listings in local drug and grocery store newspaper advertisements, completely disappear in 1930 and by 1931, a June 13  item in the “Boston Globe” indicated that the business was in receivership.

In 1932 and up through 1935, the business did continue to be listed in the Boston city directories at 220 Milk Street with J. Gordon MacLeod then named as both president and treasurer. That being said, I can’t find any evidence that the business was active during this period. By 1936 the company’s no longer listed in Boston.

The bottle I found is a small pharmacy bottle. Mouth blown it likely dates to the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. Newspaper advertising for Hartshorn’s Cough Balsam was increasing  at that time so it’s certainly one possibility for its use. It could also have contained one of their flavoring extracts.

 

 

Camphorine (R.H. Williams, Amityville, L.I.)

In the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, the name “Camphorine,” was associated with a wide range of companies and products. So, recognizing that there’s no company name or address embossed on our bottle, more than just a few potential uses for it exist. The following turn of the century advertisements illustrate several of them. The obvious one is an insecticide for moths.

Others include a “Disinfecting Powder” and “Disinfecting Solution” manufactured by a British firm called the “Sanitary Dry Lime Company…”

…a toilet preparation called “Bishop’s Camphorine…

and even a “Camphorine Shampoo.”

With all these possibilities I had to narrow down the field, ultimately opting to research a purported ‘cure-all” simply called “Camphorine” that was concocted by a man named Reuben Hoyt. The patent medicine had its roots in Brooklyn, N.Y. and was later manufactured in Amityville, Long Island, within shouting distance of the Great South Bay where the bottle was found.

The name “Camphorine,” registered by Hoyt, appeared  in the March 2, 1875 edition of the U.S. Patent Office’s “Official Gazette,” under the heading “List of Trademarks, Descriptions of Which Have Not Previously Appeared In Any Printed Publications.” This suggests that it was one of, if not the first product to actually exhibit the Camphorine name.

Hoyt was a New York City druggist dating back to the early 1850’s. Originally listed in the N.Y.C directories with an address of 537 Greenwich Street, sometime around 1855 he partnered with James Quinn and formed Reuben Hoyt & Company. The business remained listed at 537 Greenwich Street but was short-lived and ultimately dissolved three years later. The dissolution notice, dated February 9, 1858 was published in the February 11th edition of the “New York Times.”

Within two years Hoyt, still in the drug business, partnered with Sidney H. Blanchard under the name Hoyt and Blanchard. Throughout the 1860’s the partnership was located on Manhattan’s Fulton Street, initially at 215 Fulton Street (1860 to 1866) and later at 208 Fulton Street (1867 to 1868). Their business card appeared in the August, 1866 edition of the “Druggist Circular and Chemical Gazette.”

By 1870 the company moved again, this time to 203 Greenwich Street and it was around this time, five years before its name appeared in the U.S. Patent Office Gazette, that the partnership began advertising “Camphorine” as a “cure-all.” The earliest advertisement I can find was published in the July 5, 1870 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Shortly after these initial ads were published the Hoyt & Blanchard partnership apparently dissolved. As early as 1871 Blanchard was no longer listed at the 203 Greenwich Street address and “Camphorine” advertisements simply named Hoyt as the proprietor. An early example of the change is depicted in this December 12, 1872 advertisement published in the “Portchester (N.Y.) Journal.”

Between 1872 and 1874 “Reuben Hoyt” advertisements for “Camphorine” routinely appeared in newspapers throughout the northeastern United States from Maine on south to Maryland with many touting it as “The Greatest Discovery of the Age.”

After 1874, Hoyt’s advertisements for “Camphorine” drop off significantly but up through 1879 the N.Y.C. directories continued to list him at the 203 Greenwich Street address with the occupation “patent medicines.”

The following year, in 1880, the directory only listed Hoyt with a home address, and there was no longer any mention of “patent medicines,” or “drugs” as his occupation. Based on this its likely that the business did not survive into the 1880’s; a supposition that’s further supported by 1880 census records where Hoyt named his occupation as Custom House Officer. He ultimately passed away in February, 1896.

While this signaled the end of Reuben Hoyt’s association with “Camphorine,” it didin’t result in the end of the product as a “cure-all, when sometime in the late 1800’s its manufacture  was apparently picked up by a man named Richard H. Williams. Also a New York City druggist, directories indicate that between 1875 and 1884 he was living in Brooklyn and working at 180 South Street in Manhattan. Then, according to his wife’s obituary, published in the February 3, 1911 edition of Babylon, Long Island’s “South Side Signal,” in 1886 the couple moved to the Long Island village of Amityville.

By 1900 Williams was certainly manufacturing “Camphorine” in Amityville and marketing it locally on Long Island, as evidenced by this story that appeared in the “South Side Signal,” on March 17, 1900.

Tomorrow (Saturday), weather permitting, our neighbor, R.H. Williams of Amityville, will be in town and will distribute at the residences in the village sample bottles of Camphorine and Silvershine, of which he is the manufacturer. Camphorine is a remedy with an established reputation as a pain reliever, and the Silvershine, as its name implies, is a preparation for cleaning silver. Both are good articles and well worthy of trial. When Mr. Williams or his representatives call on our readers we bespeak for him courteous treatment and counsel a fair trial for the articles he will leave. The goods are advertised in other parts of this issue, and will be placed on sale in Babylon and throughout the country.

The advertisement promised in the story also appeared in the March 17th edition of the “South Side Signal.” and bears a close resemblance to Reuben Hoyt’s previous advertisements, right down to the phrase “The Greatest Discovery of the Age,” strongly suggesting a connection between Reuben Hoyt and R.H. Williams.

While the above story appears introductory in nature, similar  advertisements for “Camphorine” appeared sporadically in local Long Island newspapers dating back as far as the mid 1880’s. The earliest one I can find appeared in the December 11, 1886 edition of “The South Side Signal.”

Though none of these ads mention Williams by name, they’re almost identical to the one he published in advance of his sales trip to Babylon in 1900. This suggests that Williams may have begun manufacturing “Camphorine” as early as 1886 when he arrived on Long Island.

By the early 1900’s local newspaper advertisements for Camphorine as a ‘cure-all” disappear completely, a fact that’s not surprising considering that increased public awareness and stricter food and drug laws were clamping down on the outlandish claims of the  patent medicine industry around that time.

This advertisement for “Camphorine” that appeared in Charles N. Crittenton’s 1902/1903 catalog of druggist sundries and proprietary medicines is one of the last ones I can find.

That being said, Williams was listed as a drug nanufacturer in the ERA druggist directories as late as 1911 and was still manufacturing ‘Camphorine” as late as 1920, as evidenced by its inclusion on this list of  Price Changes published in the April 3, 1920 edition of the  “Drug Trade Weekly” (at the bottom.)

The bottle I found is five inches tall with a 1-1/2 inch square cross-section. Mouth blown, its characteristics fit nicely into the late 1800’s/early 1900’s time period that “Camphorine” was manufactured and marketed on Long Island. Recognizing that Long Island is where the bottle was found, makes R.H. Williams a likely source.

That being said, he’s certainly not the only possible source. In addition to the varied uses mentioned at the start of this post, by the early 1900’s other companies were also manufacturing a patent medicine named “Camphorine.” Two even exhibited the Hoyt name. One was E. W. Hoyt & Co., of  German Cologne fame and the other was the Hoyt Chemical Co., of Indianapolis, Indiana. As far as I can tell, other than their name, neither one bears any connection with Brooklyn’s Reuben Hoyt.

 

 

 

Healy & Bigelow, Kickapoo Indian Sagwa, Kickapoo Indian Oil and Kickapoo Indian Cough Cure

 

John E. Healy and Charles Bigelow were proprietors of a patent medicine business called the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company that sold several different concoctions under the “Kickapoo Indian” name in the late 1800’s. Later, the company continued to operate as a subsidiary of the William R. Warner Co. well into the 1900’s.

What they’d like you to believe about their line of patent medicines was spelled out in Healy & Bigelow’s “Family Cook Book,” published in 1890.

The Kickapoo Indian Remedies have acquired a wide spread fame, and have done more to help suffering humanity than any other medicines…

They have been born in nature’s bosom and reared in nature’s lap; hence the mysteries of all nature is an open book to them. They live up to nature’s laws and partake in nature’s remedies, and this gives them the healthy lungs, superb muscle power, strong constitution, luxuriant hair and sound white teeth for which they are noted. No-one has ever seen a deformed or bald headed Indian.

…None are more intellectual than the Kickapoo’s, and they have discovered superior medicinal qualities in certain barks, roots, herbs, gums and leaves, never ascertained or applied before…and the peculiar compounding of their medicines is known only to themselves. These Kickapoo doctors now manufacture five special remedies:

Their “Family Cook Book” went on to illustrate each medicine’s late 1800’s packaging.

The affectations supposedly cured by each of these remedies were spelled out in another 1890 advertisement, this one found in a publication called “Keeling’s Book of Recipes.”

The Kickapoo remedies were promoted by traveling medicine shows that featured both Native Americans and vaudeville performers. According to a book entitled “Snake Oil, Hustlers and Hambones,” by Ann Anderson:

Each traveling unit featured a “village” populated by varying numbers of Native Americans, several performers to entertain the audience with jokes and songs, and an agent who harangued the audience about the benefits of Kickapoo Indian Remedies during the performance.

This undated photograph of one such show was recently offered for sale on the internet.

According to a story in a Wisconsin newspaper called the “Steven’s Point Gazette,” in 1895 Healy & Bigelow had 100 of these shows operating throughout the country. The story was published on February 6th after one such show had just closed up and left Steven’s Point.

Dr. Percy Hudson and his Kickapoo medicine company closed a two weeks’ engagement, at Chilla’s Hall, last Saturday evening, giving good performances nightly and selling fair quantities of their Kickapoo remedies. Healy & Bigelow are the proprietors, and they have 100 companies on the road at present, covering the entire country, and they have been traveling continually for years. The size of these companies average a half dozen people, and it will be seen that the income from their sales and performances must be considerable.

In addition to saturating the United States the company put on their medicine shows in places as far away as South America, as evidenced by this item that appeared in the September 23, 1891 edition of New Haven’s “Morning Journal-Courier.”

Five colored men from the “sandy hollow” district of New Haven went to New York last night to sail for South America, where they are to do their musical acts in the employ of Healy & Bigelow.

The concept for the  “Kickapoo Indian Medicine”  operation was born in the late 1870’s when John E. Healy got together with a patent medicine manufacturer named E. H. Flagg who, early in the 1870’s, was hawking two patent medicines; a pain reliever called “Flagg’s Instant Relief,” and “Flagg’s Cough Killer.” This advertisement touting both appeared in the July 12, 1871 edition of Portland Maine’s “Daily Press.”

At around the same time, Healy was managing a traveling comedy company that performed an Irish themed variety show called “Healy’s Hibernian Gems.” Between 1874 and 1876 the troupe was criss crossing the country performing in various cities along the way. The following advertisement touting their San Francisco stay appeared in the September 3, 1874 edition of the San Francisco Examiner.

It follows quite naturally that Healy’s experience with traveling shows coupled with Flagg’s patent medicine business resulted in the traveling medicine show concept. In fact, its likely that Flagg’s “Instant Relief” became “Kickapoo Indian Oil” (both cured both internal and external pain), and Flagg’s Cough Killer became “Kickapoo Cough Cure.”

Now all they needed was a front man and Charles Bigelow fit the bill. According to the New England Historical Society, in the late 1870’s Bigelow was associated with a man named “Dr. Yellowstone” who had also concocted a line of Native American themed medicines called “Indian Herbs of Wonder,” so he was certainly familiar with the requisite “sales pitch.”

Early on the company headquarters was no more than a series of tents pitched in a major city where they put on extravagant medicine shows and coordinated the operations of their local traveling shows.

According to “Snake Oil Hambones and Hustlers”

Healy & Bigelow started the Kickapoo business in a Providence hotel storeroom and then moved to Boston where they pitched a tent in front of the train station and put on a show.

Not just a tent, as early as May 20, 1882 they were advertising it as an Indian Village in the “Boston Globe” .

The only mention of Healy & Bigelow in the Boston directories during this time appears in 1884 when they’re listed in the commercial directory under the heading “medicines,” with an address of 130 Commercial. There’s no mention of Flagg suggesting that he was out of the picture by then. The next year, in 1885, the Boston Directory simply stated: “Healy & Bigelow, patent medicines, removed to New York City.”

There, the city directories listed the business as John E. Healy, “pat meds,” (1885 to 1887) and later, “Healy & Bigelow” (1887 to 1888). Always listed with an address of 26 West Street, this is likely where they manufactured their medicines during this time.

Though not listed until 1885, as early as 1882 they were operating what they called “wigwams” in New York,  as evidenced by this item that appeared in the November 12th edition of the “Boston Globe.”

John E. Healy of the Indian Village claims to be clearing $1,000 a week at his New York branch wigwam.

Apparently a seasonal operation, in the Spring of 1883 the New York “wigwam” was located on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and described like this in the May 13, 1883 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle:”

Three large tents have been erected here, in which are to be displayed, in the first a “real” Indian village populated by “real” Indians; in the second a museum which is claimed to be unequalled for the extent and variety of its curiosities and rare exhibits; while the third is fitted up as Summer theater, with a well appointed stage, comfortable sittings, etc., and which is to be devoted to acrobatic, gymnastic and specialty performances of the best class.

This advertisement for opening night appeared in the May 14, 1883 edition of the “Brooklyn Union.”

The next day, opening night, which included more than one appearance by Charles Bigelow (alias Texas Charlie), was described like this in the “Brooklyn Union.” Having bought in to Texas Charlie’s spiel, the reporter certainly appeared  awed by the experience.

The Big Indian Wigwam

Mr. W. C. Coup opened his Indian wigwam at the corner of Flatbush and Fifth Avenues last evening, and the prevailing rainstorm, though making unpleasant for an opening night, did not very materially interfere with the attendance, as all the seats were occupied. The tent in which the performances are given is about 150 feet in diameter, having a circle of “circus seats” and the center is supplied with chairs. The interior is tastefully decorated with bunting and large squares of movable pictures of Indian warfare scenes are exhibited. Mr. Charles Bigelow (“Texas Charlie”) introduced fifty Indians to the audience and made a speech which was in reality an eloquent plea for the red man’s rights, and, coming from one who has had long experience on the border, carried a conviction with it. The audience heartily applauded the lecturer for his sentiments, which were given with an unmistakeable Western feeling. These Indians during the evening gave their war and medicine dances and peculiar chants, and the more intelligent among them welcomed visitors at the close of the performance to their tents. The variety show comprised a dog circus by Mr. Shedman’s trained canines, tight-rope gyrations by a trained monkey, banjo playing by Al Harris, horizontal bar acts by Currey and Avery, songs and dances by Saunders and Dean, musical selections by Pettingall and Frazer, acrobatic performances by the Sherman Brothers, and trapeze acts by Ella Zuila. The fancy shooting by Texas Charlie was excellent, shooting potatoes off a stick from almost every conceivable position, and ending up with two shots which made the audience feel somewhat awed, knocking off at the first shot the ashes from the cigar of a gentleman held between his lips and at the next shot cutting off the lighted portion.

The museum tent is about one hundred and thirty feet in diameter and is filled with one of the most remarkable collection of curios and antiques outside of the old-established museums of universities and scientific bodies. Mr. Coup intends to remain all summer and will add fresh novelties every week. Stage performances are given afternoons and evenings.

The following summer Healy & Bigelow were operating another “wigwam,” this one in Manhattan. According to a story published in the June 25, 1884 edition of the “New York Tribune,” it was not well received in the neighborhood.

A “Big Indian Wigwam” at One-hundred-and-sixteenth Street, between Second and Third Aves., has so far disturbed the usual quiet of that neighborhood that a petition signed by nearly a hundred residents was recently sent to District-Attourney Onley, asking if some action could not be taken against the proprietors. John Healy and Charles Bigelow – the latter known as “Texas Charlie,”-  proprietors, and the manager, Thomas E. Hallock were indicted for keeping a disorderly public resort. Hallock was tried yesterday before Recorder Smyth. More than a score of businessmen living in One-hundred-and-fifteenth and One-hundred-and-sixteenth Sts. were called as witnesses. Some of them described the place as a nuisance and testified that the tent was nightly filled with a crowd, mostly boys, that yelled and hooted in applause at the performers, who were called by the Assistant District-Attorney “Sullivan St. Indians.” The jury convicted Hallock, and he was remanded for sentence.

At the same location, earlier that month, a June 6th “Brooklyn Union Story” announced that Bigelow had been fined $100…

for violating the Penal Code by giving an exhibition, in which a man stood against a wooden target while another threw daggers in close proximity to the man’s body.

The following summer, there were no Manhattan or Brooklyn newspaper advertisements for the “wigwam,” suggesting that by then Bigelow may have worn out his welcome there. At which point he apparently moved on to Chicago where a “Chicago Tribune” reporter found “Texas Charlie” in 1886. It’s clear from his July 5th story that the Tribune reporter was more skeptical than his Brooklyn counterpart.

PATENT MEDICINE MEN

Indians Employed to Advertise a Certain Sort of Alleged Medicines

An “Indian village” of about a dozen tents has been located for the last few weeks in the baseball park at Thirty-third street and Portland Avenue. The occupants are some ten to twelve Pawnee Indians and an equal number of more or less civilized whites. The whole is under the command of “Texas Charley,” formerly an Indian agent and now a patent medicine drummer. The Indian village is an advertising scheme for the medicine referred to – the medicine being advertised as of  Indian origin – and the proprietors of the village and the manufacturers are a firm of New York druggists, whose concoctions have probably about as much connection with Indian herbs and simples as they have with the oyster-beds of Lake Michigan or the sugar-mines of Siberia.

“Texas Charley” was found at the village yesterday enjoying a sleep in the sunshine. He was pleased to talk to reporters about Kickapoos, and Pawnees, and Sioux, and Chipewas, and wigwams, and medicine men, and braves, and squaws, and chiefs, and happy hunting grounds, and all the romantic hocus-pocus appertaining to the poor Indian. He said the firm has about twenty bands of Indians out over the States advertising their medicine. Chicago was the headquarters; he kept the reserve forces here and directed the movements of each band. They gave free shows of a Buffalo-Bill sort of character, distributed advertising pamphlets to the crowds, and then induced the local druggists to keep a permanent stock of the medicine. Their expenses here at Chicago averaged $700 to $800 a week. They gave two exhibitions a day here, except Sundays, when the baseball clubs needed the park.

“Texas Charlie” went on to answer a few questions about the Native Americans that were part of the show.

“Where do you get the Indians?

“Off the reservations. We hire them and give bonds to the government to treat them well and send them home when we are through with them.”

“You pay them a salary?”

“Yes; $30 a month. The chiefs get a commission on the business to make them take an interest in the work, and we give them about $50 a month. Of course we feed them besides. They send home about half what they earn; we don’t let them spend it. The rest of their pay they spend on tobacco and trinkets.”

“What reservations do you get them from?”

“From everywhere and anywhere we please. These here now are Pawnees from the Kansas reservation.”

In 1887 and 1888, the Chicago city directories listed “The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company,” with an address of 174 W. Van Buren. which was likely used for storage.

In 1888 Healy and Bigelow moved their headquarters to New Haven, Connecticut where they were listed with an address on Grand Avenue.

They remained at that location until 1893 when they moved to larger quarters at 441 Chapel Street, also in New Haven. The March 1, 1893 edition of New Haven’s “Morning Journal-Courier” announced the move.

Yesterday the Healy & Bigelow company bought for about $25,000 the large brick factory at the corner of Chapel and Hamilton Streets, formerly occupied for years by the well remembered firm of Durham & Wooster, carriage makers. The property has a frontage on Chapel Street of 157 feet and 140 feet on Hamilton Street and is a valuable investment. 

Healy and Bigelow remained the proprietors of the business up until 1895 when Healy retired. According to the February 26, 1895 edition of the “Morning Journal-Courier:”

The well known patent medicine firm of Healy & Bigelow, with headquarters on Chapel Street, has been dissolved, John E. Healy withdrawing… Mr. Bigelow retains the controlling interest.

A week later the business incorporated with Bigelow serving as its first president.  The March 2, 1895 edition of the Morning Journal-Courier published the incorporation notice.

The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company of New Haven has filed a certificate of organization with the secretary of state, its capital stock being $72,000 and the shareholders, Charles Bigelow of this city, Lucius S. Davis of Northampton, Mass., and James K. Averill of New York City.

Four years later, the September 5, 1899 edition of the “M0rning Journal Courier” announced that Bigelow had sold the Chapel Street factory and was planning a move.

Charles Bigelow, president of the Kickapoo Medicine Company, who sold their factory at 441 Chapel Street last week, says a new factory will be built for the headquarters of the medicine company, as soon as a suitable site can be procured.

Another story, this one in the September 2, 1899 edition of the (Meridian Connecticut) Journal added:

The price paid was $28,000.

The medicine company has a lease on the property for a year with the privilege of an extension.

Bigelow took advantage of the additional time afforded by the lease, ultimately moving just outside New Haven, to Clintonville, in early 1901. The move was announced in the February 27, 1901 edition of the “Morning Journal Courier.”

The Kickapoo Medicine Company will soon remove to Clintonville, where a manufacturing building is being fitted up for the company. It is on the Air Line road and has ample facilities for shipping freight…It is expected that the company will remove prior to April 1.

By the time the company settled in Clintonville their menu of Kickapoo products had grown significantly. A February 13, 1902 price list that appeared in the “Pharmaceutical Era.” shows Kickapoo Indian Pills, Liverines, and Prairie Plant, along with Kickapoo Soap had been added to the original five.medicines.

Ultimately, ten years after moving to Clintonville, the corporation dissolved. The preliminary certificate of dissolution was published in the “Hartford Courant” on October 10, 1911.

Advertisements for their traveling shows, though less and less frequent, continued right up to the end. One of the last ones I can find, published in the December 1, 1908 edition of the “Waterville (Me) Seninel.” made it clear that their approach remained the same.

The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company which has been demonstrating the Indian remedies at Vose & Luques’ drug store for the past two weeks, has changed the window attraction for this week and has transferred here the little Indian family consisting of Chief White Horse, squaw Minnehaha and papoose Little Thunder.

Little Thunder is about eight months old and is strapped to the Indian cradle in the primitive way, and whenever he has appeared has attracted great crowds of all classes of people.

In addition to the Indian family there will be added two chiefs, Deep Sky and Deer Foot, and through efforts of Messrs. Rose & Luques the people of Waterville are to be given an opportunity to see and hear the Kickapoo Indians in some of their native songs and dances at the Silver Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon and evening, when will be given such songs as “Lake Side” and “Mosquito Song.” Among the dances will be the White Bean and War dances.

Indian courtship and marriage will be illustrated and also the raising of a man up to be a chief. The admission to the Silver Theater will remain the same.

While dissolution of the Connecticut corporation put an end to any connection Bigelow had with the business, it didn’t put an end to the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company or their products.

The next year, an item published in the June 6, 1912 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, announced that the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company had incorporated in Pennsylvania, with capital of $5,000. Now operating as a subsidiary of Wm. R. Warner & Co., between 1913 and 1919 their listed addresses coincided with Warner locations at 639 N. Broad in Philadelphia and 500 N. Commercial in St. Louis, Missouri.

The menu of Kickapoo products continued to expand under Warner as evidenced by this listing that appeared in the 1915 N.A.R.D. Journal.

Under Warner, their medicine shows vanished but newspaper advertisements continued through the mid-teens; most focused on their Kickapoo Worm Killer. The following, published in the May 28, 1914 edition of the “Oklahoma Register” was typical.

The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Co. remained in both Philadelphia and St. Louis up through the late teens at which time the William R. Warner & Co. consolidated in New York City. According to the November, 1916 edition of the “Practical Druggist:”

The formation of a new centre of New York chemical interests is heralded in the sale of the old B. Altman department store property, once occupied by the Greenhut Company, in the west side of Sixth Avenue, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets, New York City, to William R. Warner & Co., of Philadelphia, manufacturing pharmacists and wholesalers, for close to $1,100,000 in cash. The transaction means bringing 500 employees and their families to New York.

The Warner Company is one of the largest concerns of its kind in this country, controlling the local Richard Hudnut Company, the Searle & Herth Co., Sloan’s Liniment Co., Kickapoo Indian Medicine Co., the Haywood Family Remedies, the Kid-ne-oid Preparations, Meade & Baker Carbolic Mouth Wash Co., Morely Medicine Co., the Sutherland Medicine Company and others.

The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company (Pa.) was listed at William R. Warner & Co.’s New York City address of 113- 133  West Eighteenth Street from 1917 up through the early 1930’s, after which I lose track.

Advertisements for most of the Kickapoo named products had petered out by the 1920’s, however “Kickapoo Worm Killer” was still included in drug store price listings as late as 1942.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to find bottles that contained three of the five original Kickapoo products; Indian Sagwa, Indian Oil and Indian Cough Cure. In fact they’re the only three that came in bottles. They’re mouth blown and exactly match the bottles exhibited in the company’s 1890 “Cook Book.”

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Findings of Fact” went on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RECORD LEASE NEAR WALDORF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pharmaceutical Era story went on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fraser & Co.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manufacturers, Importers and Wholesale Dealers in Medicines and Physicians Supplies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The feature included this view of their laboratory…

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

The 1903 feature went on to say:

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

The feature also included this view of their prescription department…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answer – An official of the Fraser Tablet Company states that since their fire, which has put them back somewhat, there has scarcely been any demand for their stock, none of which however, has been sold by them below par. The company is making money but it will be impossible for them to pay dividends until some of their fire loss is paid up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRASER TABLET CO. SOLD AS BANKRUPT.

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

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

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

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

MORTGAGE ON SOUTH BROOKLYN PLANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bromo Caffeine (Keasbey and Mattison)

 

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

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

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

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

The small print went on to say:

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

Very respectfully, KEASBEY & MATTISON, Chemists, Philadelphia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The feature went on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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