Frederick C. M. Lendholt was born in Germany in the early 1870’s and arrived in the United States sometime in the mid-1880’s. As early as 1900, census records indicate he was living on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx with the occupation of “clerk.”
New York City directories continued to list his occupation as simply “clerk” up through 1908. I suspect for some, if not all of this time, he worked for long time Bronx druggist, Edward F. Miller. This 1899 advertisement described Miller’s business as:
The Oldest and Most Reliable Establishment in the Bronx
During much of the early 1900’s, in addition to 712 Tremont Avenue, which was also Miller’s home address, he also listed a second business address at 2007 Boston Road.
Towards the end of the decade, Miller incorporated the business as Edward F. Miller, Inc. By this time Lendholt, more than just a clerk, was apparently managing the business, as evidenced by the fact that Miller named him president of the new corporation. The incorporation notice was published in the March 24, 1909 edition of the “Paint, Oil & Drug Review.”
The N. Y. C. Copartnership and Corporation Directories continued to list the corporation in this fashion up through 1915. That year Lendholt left the Miller company and opened his own pharmacy on East Tremont Avenue. The announcement appeared in the May, 1915 edition of “The Practical Druggist.”
F. C. M. Lendholt has succeeded Wm. Isemann in the drug business at Bathgate and Tremont Aves., New York City. Until recently Mr. Lendholt was manager for E. F. Miller.
Located at 490 East Tremont Avenue, Isemann’s business had been listed there as early as 1907.
Lendholt continued in business for at least the next 18 years. As late as 1933 N.Y.C.’s business directory still listed him as a retail druggist at 490 East Tremont Avenue. Sometime after that he passed away, with 1940 census records listing Lendholt’s wife Katherine as a widow. That being said, the 1939/1940 Bronx Telephone Book continued to list the pharmacy, now F.C.M. Lendholt Inc., at the 490 East Tremont Avenue address. So, its likely that at some point after his death the business passed into the hands of a corporation. What became of it after 1940 is not clear.
Today, 490 East Tremont Avenue, at the corner of East Tremont and Bathgate Avenue is a vacant lot.
The bottle I found is a mouth blown prescription bottle made by the Whitehall, Tatum Co. (W.T.Co. embossed on the base). It exhibits Lendholt’s “490 East Tremont Avenue” address dating it no earlier than 1915 when Lendholt succeeded William Isemann at that address. Recognizing that it’s mouth blown, I don’t expect that it dates much later than 1915 after which I would expect a machine made bottle. This could put it in the initial batch of bottles ordered by Lendholt after assuming control of the business.
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).
Frank Parker was a pharmacist by trade who lived on New York’s Long Island in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. During this time he operated retail drug stores in Islip Village (1880 to 1884), Babylon (1884 to 1887), East Islip (1893 to 1897) and Central Islip (1906 to 1913). He also held several political positions in Islip including Town Supervisor from 1898 to 1902..
Born in 1850, census records indicate that Parker immigrated to the United States from England in 1869. His portrait appeared in the March 21, 1908 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
Parker began his pharmacy career not on Long Island, but in Brooklyn, New York where he was first listed in Brooklyn’s 1872/1873 Directory with the occupation “drugs.” Then, sometime in 1876 or 1877 he established his own drug store at 244 Broadway (corner of 8th Street) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The capital needed to support the business during these early days was provided by a man named Francis Fenelon Murray. Their limited partnership agreement naming Parker as “General Partner” and Murray as “Special Partner” was published in several September and October, 1878 editions of Brooklyn’s “Times Union.”
Among other things the agreement stated:
The amount of capital which the said FRANCIS FENELON MURRAY, as such special partner, has contributed to the common stock of said partnership, is the sum of one thousand dollars in cash.
The agreement associated the business with a second Brooklyn address of 118 Wythe Avenue. While Parker was never listed at this address in the Brooklyn directories, a notice announcing the drug store’s opening certainly confirms its existence.
A copy of the notice was supplied by Parker’s grandson after reading a previous version of this post.
More than just a druggist, at least by today’s standards, this December 9, 1878 advertisement in the Brooklyn “Times Union” made it clear that Parker’s inventory included a product called “Dr. Underhill’s Original Pure Wines” produced in Westchester, New York’s Croton Point Vineyard.
Imported wines were also sold as evidenced by this label also provided by Parker’s grandson.
In addition to being a retailer, Parker also manufactured his own line of patent medicines.
It was sometime in 1880 that Parker initiated a move from Brooklyn to Long Island’s Islip. That year the 1880/1881 Brooklyn directory continued to list his drug business at 244 Broadway however, it now listed his residence as “Islip, N.Y.” The following year neither his residence or business were mentioned in the Brooklyn directories.
That same year, a June 19, 1880 story in Amityville N. Y.’s local newspaper, the “South Side Signal,” made it clear that by then his drug business was up and running in Islip. The story appeared under the heading “Islip Village.”
Excitement runs high over the liquor license granted to Mr. Parker, the new druggist. Mr. Parker says, however, that he only intends to sell spirits as medicine. He claims to be alive to the fact that any other course would be suicidal to himself as a responsible druggist. He is not a believer in a tippler’s drug store, so he says. “We shall see what we shall see.” One thing is certain, if the place is kept as a liquor saloon, three fourths of the people here will move on him sharp, short and decisive. For our own part, we say let Mr. Parker have fair play. A drug store should sell spirits medicinally, and we have no good reason yet to believe that this one will do otherwise.
A story that ran almost three years later in the February 3, 1883 edition of the “South Side Signal” clearly demonstrated that he was still running his Islip business at that time so he apparently didn’t ruffle any feathers with alcohol sales. The story also provided some evidence of Parker’s marketing talents.
Mr Wilson is painting Hygeia, the goddess of health, on the side wall of Parker’s drug store. The painting is attracting considerable attention.
In March, 1884 Parker was one of three individuals from Islip that registered a trademark for a patent medicine with the name “Bait.” U. S. Patent Office records described it as “a perfume for the breath.”
A “Bait” label provided by his grandson exhibits Parker’s Brooklyn address of 244 Broadway, suggesting that sale of the product dated back to the late 1870’s.
In 1884 Parker moved west to Babylon N. Y. and opened a drug store there. An announcement to that effect appeared in the May 1, 1884 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
Another drug store on Deer Park Avenue is an assured fact. Frank Parker, lately located at Islip, assures us that he expects to build on his recent purchase and begin business without delay. “The more the merrier.”
True to his word, less than three months later the July 19th edition of the “South Side Signal” announced that construction was underway.
The contract for building the new drug store, on Deer Park Avenue, for Mr. Frank Parker, of Islip, has been awarded to Samuel M. Kellum. The building will be two stories in height and 20×40 feet in size. Ground has been broken.
Parker remained on Deer Park Avenue in Babylon for a little less than three years during which time he continued to exhibit a talent for drawing people to his store. One such example appeared in the June 12, 1886 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
The store of Frank Parker, on Deer Park Avenue, was crowded on Monday evening, with people who gathered to watch the unfolding of a night-blooming cereus. The beautiful flower began to unfold soon after 6 P.M. and continued to do so until about 9 o’clock when it was at its height of beauty. After that hour it would have gradually closed its petals, but Mr. Parker removed it from the plant, and placed it in alcohol thus preserving it in its full beauty. Mr. Parker who is an enthusiastic and successful florist, had for five years watched the growth and development of this plant, which had never blossomed until this week. His courtesy in permitting the public witness the unfolding of this beautiful flower was greatly appreciated by all present.
Ultimately Parker sold the Babylon drug business in 1887. The sale was reported in the April 9, 1887 edition of the “Suffolk Weekly Times.”
Frank Parker has sold his drug business at Babylon to Lester A. Wyatt of Islip.
According to his grandson he spent the next several years in New York City where he managed a drug store for the Lawrence Company at Sixth Ave and 26th St. and later at Broadway and 30th St. (Note: The 1887/1888 NYC directory listed a drug firm called Lawrence, Keyser & Co. with addresses on Sixth Avenue and Broadway. This is most likely the N.Y.C. company referenced by his grandson.)
His story returns to Long Island in 1893 when the March 11th edition of the “South Side Signal” ran this story under the heading “East Islip:”
Frank Parker, of Babylon, who some years ago was engaged in the drug business in Islip Village is about to embark in business in East Islip – or is at least reported to have leased the store of Thomas Walters for that purpose. He is desirous of being appointed Postmaster, and a petition is being circulated in his behalf.
Less than a year later the February 24, 1894 edition of the “South Side Signal” announced that Parker had been appointed to the postmaster position. It appears from the story that the appointment created quite a stir at the time.
The appointment of Druggist Frank Parker to be postmaster here (East Islip) was like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky to the unterrified Democracy of East Islip. To say the least it was unexpected. William H. Brady had received the unanimous endorsement of the County Committee and was the choice of a large portion of the Democracy of the village. There were a few of the followers of the ruling party who strenuously objected to Brady’s appointment, but as no third candidate was advanced it was thought by all that the latter would be appointed, or that Postmaster Frazer would hold over. Mr. Parker had never voted in the district until last fall, having been a resident of this vicinity about nine months…The giving of this office to a comparatively stranger and the “turning down” of a young man who was born and brought up here, and who has also been a worker for his party, and who in addition had the sanction of the County Committee is certainly strange politics.
For three years, Parker ran the post office while continuing to operate his East Islip drug business, both of which were apparently quartered in the space he originally rented from Thomas Walters. This all changed in 1897 when a June 26th story in the “South Side Signal” announced that he had just sold the drug business..
The drug business formerly conducted by Postmaster Frank Parker has been sold by the latter to Robert Topping, who will remove the same to the store of his brother, David H. Topping. An addition is now being built on the rear of the store to be used exclusively for the pharmacy. Mr. Topping has been in the latter business in the past and will no doubt do well here. Mr. Parker removed the post office on Thursday from the Walters Building to the store of David H. Topping, where he will remain during the balance of Postmaster Parker’s term.
Parker remained in East Islip for another seven years during which time he not only served out his term as postmaster, but three terms as supervisor and one as town clerk. He also ran for Assembly on two occasions but lost both times.
His only connection with the drug business during this time was filling in for drug store owners who were either ill or out of town. One such occasion, when he filled in for druggist Frank W. Race, was documented in the October 26, 1901 edition of the “South Side Signal,” under the heading “Islip.” Coincidentlly, Race’s pharmacy was at the same Islip location as Parker’s original Long Island drug store.
In the absence of Druggist Frank W. Race during the past week, Supervisor Parker has been compounding prescriptions at the latter’s pharmacy.
In 1905 Parker moved again, this time back to Central Islip where he ultimately bought Race’s drug business. The story begins with an October 14, 1905 story in the “South Side Signal.”
Former Town Clerk Frank Parker has decided to embark in the drug trade at Central Islip and will shortly open a store in the vicinity of the depot. We trust he may be successful in this venture.
The following spring this item appeared in the March 3, 1906 edition of the South Side Signal. It appears to have been written at the time he officially opened for business.
Frank Parker has purchased the pharmacy business formerly conducted by Frank W. Race and will hereafter conduct the same. The location is a good one and Mr. Parker will doubtless build up a profitable trade. It will be remembered that he conducted the same business at the same stand some twenty years ago.
An item published three months prior, in the November 14, 1905 edition of the “South Side Signal,” suggested that he built a new store at that location prior to his March, 1906 opening.
Boss Wright has the contract for the erection of the new drug store and residence of Frank Parker at Central Islip. The building will be 18×35 feet in size.
This undated post card, captioned “Parker Pharmacy, Central Islip,” fits the description.
Census records from 1910 indicate that Parker was still operating the drug store at that time.
Ultimately, Parker sold the Central Islip drug store in 1913 as evidenced by this item that appeared in the December 3, 1913 edition of a publication called the “Paint, Oil and Drug Review.”
Islip, N. Y. – John H. Allen of Central Valley, N. Y., bought the drug business of Frank Parker and will move his family here.
In 1916, the “ERA Drugggists’ Directory” named Harrison M. Jones as the proprietor so apparently it changed hands again shortly after.
On a personal note, according to an item published in the March 21, 1908 edition of the “South Side Signal,” Parker was twice widowed and about to be married for the third time.
Babylon friends of ex-supervisor Frank Parker of Islip will be interested in the announcement of his engagement to Miss Clara Woodworth of that place…Mr. Parker has been married twice previously. His first wife passed away while the couple were residents of Babylon, and his second wife, while they were making their home in East Islip.
1920 census records indicate that by then, Parker, along with his third wife Clara, had left Long Island and were living in Oakland, California. He passed away in 1930.
The subject bottle is roughly eight ounces in size with a tooled crown finish. It’s embossed with the East Islip location dating it between 1893 and 1897. Recognizing that the crown finish wasn’t patented until 1892 and likely took several years to gain popularity it’s likely that the bottle dates more toward the 1897 date. The bottle is shaped exactly like a mineral water bottle, suggesting that Parker bottled and sold mineral water as part of his East Islip business.
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.
The name “Burnett” embossed on the subject bottles is short for Joseph Burnett, a Boston druggist, who established an apothecary and later manufacturing business in Boston during the mid 1800’s. He’s generally credited with manufacturing and marketing the first commercially available flavoring extracts in the United States.
His chief product, Burnett’s Vanilla Extract, was still being offered for sale under his name in the late 1970’s.
A story in the November 1, 1881 edition of The Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel relayed this commonly held version of the product’s origin.
The extensive business of this house, which has extended to nearly every civilized country in the world, had its origin in what might be called an incident, or an accident some thirty years ago. At that time Mr. Joseph Burnett, the founder of the house was doing a large apothecary business on Tremont Street, opposite the Boston Museum.
A lady who had lived in France and had become accustomed to French methods of cookery, came into Mr. Burnett’s store one day and asked him if he could not make a decent Flavoring Extract for her, as she found those in common use abominable. She wanted an extract of vanilla. This was made which pleased the lady very much, and from this simple beginning has grown a business…
Likely some combination of both fact and legend, the above serves as a good background for Burnett’s story, a story that starts not with him, but another New England druggist named Theodore Metcalf, who gave Burnett his start in business.
Born in Dedham, Massachusetts on January 21, 1812, Metcalf began his career in the Hartford Connecticut apothecary of E. W. Bull where he initially served as an apprentice and later as Bull’s partner. That partnership was dissolved in January, 1836 with the dissolution notice appearing in the January 23, 1836 edition of the “Hartford Courant.”
According to Metcalf’s obituary, published in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record,” he subsequently moved to Boston and in the Spring of 1837 established an apothecary business at 33 Tremont Row (later called Tremont Street). Not long after he opened the doors Metcalf hired Burnett as a clerk, jump-starting what would ultimately be a long and successful career. A feature on Burnett, published in the October, 1894 edition of a publication called “The Spatula” provided some early details.
Mr. Burnett who was born in Southboro, Mass., in 1819, received as good an education as the schools of those days afforded, and began his career as a pharmacist in 1837 as a clerk in the store of Mr. Metcalf. It was not long before the latter saw the advisability of taking him into partnership which continued until Mr. Burnett became entire owner of the establishment
A notice announcing the transfer of ownership from Metcalf to Burnett, dated January 1, 1845, was published in several January editions of the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal.”
N0. 33 TREMONT ROW, JANUARY 1, 1845
The subscriber has disposed of his stock and place of business to Mr. Joseph Burnett, his principal assistant for the past six years.
To his regular customers no commendation of his successor is necessary, as his competency and accurateness are well known to them, and he respectfully solicits a continuance of their favors to the establishment.
To the medical profession he takes pleasure in saying that the duty of conducting the business could not fall into hands more capable.
JOSEPH BURNETT respectfully informs the medical profession, that he will endeavor, by close attention to business, to sustain the reputation of the old establishment, and to deserve their confidence and favor.
Over the course of the next ten years the business was listed in the Boston directories as simply “Joseph Burnett.” As far as I can tell Burnett operated the business as a sole proprietorship until 1853, at which time he admitted two partners, William W. Goodwin, and Peter J.Hassard. The partnership announcement, dated January 1, 1853, appeared in several January and February editions of Boston’s “Daily Evening Transcript.”
During this ten year period the business primarily served as an importer/wholesaler/retailer for a wide variety of items as evidenced by their advertisement that appeared within Boston’s 1851 Commercial Directory.
Several of the company’s late 1840’s to early 1850’s newspaper advertisements provide a sampling of the products they carried at the time.
The company also marketed a variety of items directly to the medical profession. According to the following 1853 advertisement that appeared in the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal” this included:
genuine drugs, pure chemicals, select powders, superior extracts (both solid and fluid), and other desirable pharmaceutical preparations
In fact, a story written years later in the October 13, 1946 edition of the “Boston Globe” credits Burnett with supplying the “pure sulphuric ether” used by W. T. G. Morton when he performed the first successful operation under anesthesia in 1846.
If that wasn’t enough, you could stop by his apothecary and have a flavored soda if you were so inclined.
Finally, their 1851 directory advertisement also mentioned “extracts for flavoring pies, jellies, etc.,” so they were certainly manufacturing them, though likely on a small scale, during the early 1850’s (some accounts say as early as 1847). That would all change on January 1, 1855 when, in an effort to focus on the manufacturing side of the business, Burnett sold the apothecary back to Theodore Metcalf. A notice announcing the sale appeared in the January 10, 1855 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript.”
Directly adjacent to the dissolution notice was an advertisement for Metcalf’s reacquired apothecary.
Soon after, Burnett partnered with William Otis Edmunds and established the firm of Joseph Burnett & Co. Within a year the company was manufacturing ten different varieties of flavoring extracts as evidenced by this December 20, 1855 advertisement in the “Boston Evening Transcript.”
FLAVORING EXTRACTS. Messrs. Joseph Burnett & Co., Tremont Street, manufacture very superior Flavoring Extracts of perfect purity, and great strength. The articles are guaranteed to be free from the poisonous oils and acids which enter so largely into the composition of many of the fruit flavors now so freely offered in the market. The varieties are Lemon, Orange, Nectarine, Peach, Celery, Vanilla, Bitter Almond, Rose, Nutmeg and Cinnamon. For family use in blanc mange, custards, pies, etc., or for confectioners and hotel keepers to use in ice creams, jellies, etc. They are not only true to their names but are prepared from fruits of the best quality, and are so highly concentrated that only a small quantity is required. They have all the freshness and delicate flavor of the choice fruits from which they are prepared.
A list published in a July, 2, 1859 “Boston Evening Transcript” advertisement, indicated that by then the menu had been upped to 12 by adding ginger and cloves.
More than just flavoring extracts, by the late 1850’s the company was also manufacturing several medicines and toiletries, all of which were advertised together as “Burnett’s Standard Preparations.”
In case you’re interested here’s an alphabetized list of uses that “Burnett’s Standard Preparations” were touted to address. The list appeared in the 1866 edition of their annual marketing publication called “Burnett’s Floral Handbook and Ladies Calendar.” .
Joseph Burnett & Co. was initially listed in 1856 and 1857 at 41 Tremont where they were literally next door to (or cohabitated with?) Metcalf’s apothecary. In fact, this early Burnett advertisement for “Kalliston,” that appeared in the April 14, 1856 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” named Metcalf as one of Burnett’s first retailers.
That being said, Burnett apparently outgrew his Tremont facilities rather quickly and by 1857 moved the company to 27 Central Street where, by 1881, a November 1st feature on the business in the “Fitchburg Sentinel” described a company whose production of vanilla extract alone consumed one fourth of the entire Mexican product. The feature went on to say:
Some fifty persons are now directly employed by the concern in the varied work of bottling, labeling, packing and boxing their various Flavoring Extracts and Toilet Preparations, all of which are of altogether superior nature.
By this time, Burnett’s sons Harry, and John M. were actively involved in the business and in fact as early as 1882 the Boston directories name them, not Joseph, as the company principals. This suggests that while it was likely that Joseph continued to oversee the business, by then it was his sons who were running its day to day operations.
Ultimately full authority passed to the brothers in 1894 when Joseph Burnett died in a tragic accident. The August 13, 1894 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” told the story.
Dr. Joseph Burnett of Southboro, well-known in Boston, was fatally injured at Marlboro yesterday afternoon. He was driving on Maple Street and when near the electric car station his horse became frightened by an electric car and Dr. Burnett was thrown out, striking upon his head. He was taken to his country home at Southboro in an unconscious condition and died at seven o’clock last evening.
That same year the business moved again, this time to 36 India Street, where, now incorporated, it was listed in the 1895 Boston directories with a new name; the Joseph Burnett Company. The directories named John M., president and Harry, treasurer, that first year.
It was also in the early 1890’s that the company began advertising a line of food coloring’s called “Burnett’s Color Pastes.”
For coloring Ice Creams, Frostings, Jellies, Custards and all kinds of confectionery.
This 1898 advertisement that appeared in the “Boston Cooking School Magazine” advertised their Extracts and Color Pastes side by side. The advertisement provided this menu of their colored pastes: Leaf Green, Fruit Red, Golden Yellow, Damask Rose, Carmel, Chestnut, Imperial Blue and Mandarin Orange.
By the turn of the century the business was emphasizing their extracts and color pastes at the expense of their medicines and toilet preparations, some of which were likely being scrutinized as a result of the food and drug laws being enacted around that time. One clue supporting this shift in focus is evident in the font size used in the company’s advertisement that appeared in Boston’s 1905 Commercial Directory. By this time the medicinal and toilet items appear in the advertisement as no more than afterthoughts.
Nine years later only their extracts are mentioned in the 1914 directory advertisement.
Although their line of extracts included many flavors, by the early 1920’s according to a feature on the Burnett business in the November 3, 1921 edition of an advertising trade magazine called “Printers Ink”
The company is chiefly known to advertisers as makers of Vanilla Extract. Vanilla has been the advertised leader for many years.
The “Printers Ink” feature went on to say:
The line includes, however, many other flavors as well as spices and color pastes. Burnett’s spices are a comparatively recent addition to the line and they are being featured in the advertising this fall.
As promised their fall advertising campaign included their new line of spices as evidenced by an advertisement that appeared in the December, 1921 edition of “The Ladies Home Journal.”
It was also in 1921 that the company moved again, this time to a new factory at 437 D Street in South Boston.
Later, in the mid 1930’s they added several products having to do with ice cream, “Burnetts Liquid Ice Cream” and “Burnett’s Ice Cream Mix.” The Ice Cream Mix was advertised in the “North Adams (Mass.) Transcript” on May 23, 1935.
Up through the mid-1940’s, the Burnett family continued to remain heavily involved in the management of the company. John T. Burnett succeeded his brother John M. Burnett as president in 1906, serving in that capacity until his death in 1929. He was succeeded as president by Henry P. Kidder, with a third generation of the Burnett family, George H. Burnett, serving as treasurer. This arrangement continued until 1946 when the company was sold to American Home products. The sale was reported in the May 2, 1946 edition of the Boston Globe.
Am. Home Products Acquires Burnett Co.
H. W. Roden, vice president of American Home Products Corporation, announced today acquisition of the Joseph Burnett Company of Boston, for 8,918 capital shares of American Home Products, parent of American Home Foods, Inc.
The newly acquired company was the outgrowth of a Boston drug store, founded by Joseph Burnett, who, in 1847, produced vanilla flavoring as an experiment.
Less than a year after the acquisition a fire caused significant damage to the company’s D Street factory. The fire was reported in the April 2, 1947 edition of the “Boston Globe.”
Seventy-five persons, many of them women were driven out of the building at 437 D St., South Boston, today when fire caused damage of more than $50,000 to the building and extract stores of the Joseph Burnett Company.
The fire started when a spark from an electric motor ignited alcohol fumes, fire officials said. It started on the fourth floor of the seven story brick building and spread along pipes down to the third floor.
It appears that the fire put an end to Burnett’s manufacturing operations in Boston. The following year, in 1948, the Joseph Burnett Co., was listed in the Boston directories as a division of American Foods with simply an office address at 43 Leon, Rm 310, in Roxbury. That same year their D Street factory was no longer listed.
On a side note, the structure apparently survived and today is called the Seaport Lofts. Here’s a recent photograph courtesy of Google Earth.
Where American Home Products moved Burnett’s manufacturing arm is not clear, but in the 1950’s they did put out several new products under the Burnett name. One advertised in the early 1950’s was Burnett’s Instant Puddings.
As far as I can tell, the Burnett brands were later acquired by the Doxsee Food Corporation. One last mention of the brand that I can find appeared in a July 29, 1987 “Boston Globe” feature entitled “Ask the Globe,” where one question/answer item made it clear that by then Burnett’s Vanilla Extract, and likely the entire Burnett brand, had been discontinued.
Q. My wife prefers to use Burnett’s Pure Vanilla Extract in her cooking but has been unable to find it in local stores. Can it be purchased anywhere? – C.C., Milton.
A. Ed Lindsay of the customer service department at Doxsee Food Corp. in Baltimore says his firm no longer produces Burnett’s, but instead makes an imitation vanilla extract.
The last newspaper advertisement for “Burnett’s Vanilla Extract” that I can find appeared in March, 1979, suggesting that the late 1970’s/early 1980’s is the product’s likely end date. The advertisement, for a grocery store called Warehouse Foods, listed it along with several other products under the heading “Baking Time.” The ad appeared in the March 19th edition of a Wisconsin newspaper called the “Oshkosh Northwestern.”
I’ve found two Burnett bottles. One is two ounces in size, the other four ounces. Each is mouth blown with a tooled finish, likely putting their manufacture date somewhere in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.
In the 1870 Floral Handbook and Ladies Calendar the company advertised that their flavored extracts were available in five sizes, one of which is two ounces.
Coupled with the fact that the smaller bottle matches almost exactly the vanilla extract bottle exhibited in this 1902 advertisement found in a publication called the “American Kitchen Magazine” leads me to believe it contained some variety of flavoring extract.
The four ounce bottle does not fit one of the advertised sizes so, assuming they didn’t add a four ounce size in the late 1800’s, it likely contained one of Burnett’s other “Standard Preparations.” The bottle closely resembles the size and shape of the bottle in this 1879 Kalliston advertisement found in their Floral Journal and Ladies Calendar so I’m leaning in that direction.
It certainly did not contain their Cocoaine or Cologne Water as both were sold in uniquely shaped bottles.
Mum was the trade name for what is widely recognized as the first commercially available deodorant. Trademark records found on trademark.justia.com indicate that the name was first used as early as June 1, 1888.
“Mum” as easy to use as to say
A creamy substance applied by the fingertips, the State of Connecticut’s laboratory described the product like this:
Mum – This preparation, put out by the MUM Manufacturing Company, Philadelphia, was analyzed by the Connecticut chemists in 1914, who reported that it was essentially zinc oxide, 14.3 percent, and benzoic acid (possibly derived from benzoin), 3.3 percent, and a fatty base. Dr. Harvey W. Wiley in his book “1001 Tests,” says of it: “A harmless deodorant consisting of fat with benzoic acid and zinc oxide.” No special claims. Efficacious in some cases.”
The company’s marketing message was certainly more eloquent as evidenced by this verbiage that appeared in a 1907 advertisement:
The difficulty of keeping the body perfectly free from odors in summer can be instantly overcome by “Mum,” a pure toilet cream that neutralizes the odors of perspiration by a non-injurious chemical process.
“Mum” does not smother bodily odors by a stronger and still more offensive odor, like various high-scented preparations. Nor does it interfere with the healthy action of the pores by clogging them. Does not harm the skin or clothing; just neutralizes the bodily odors and does it in a scientific hygenic way.
There are varying stories of Mum’s invention circulating about the internet most of which involve an unknown Philadelphia inventor who named it after his childhood nurse. What we do know is that the invention was connected in some way with Philadelphia druggist George B. Evans, who by the late 1800’s was manufacturing it under the Mum Manufacturing Company name and selling it locally in his drug store chain. He ultimately turned it into a national brand and continued to manufacture and sell it up through the late 1920’s. A deodorant bearing the Mum name is still available today.
So, with that being said I’ll begin the story with George B. Evans.
A native Pennsylvanian, he was born outside of Philadelphia, in Montgomery County in 1857. A July, 1907 feature on his business published in the Bulletin of Pharmacy recounted his early history.
He went to Philadelphia, graduated from the Philadelphia, College of Pharmacy in 1880, and meanwhile learned the practical end of the drug business in Hubbell’s Pharmacy – a pharmacy which, by the way, is generally considered to have been one of the best training schools in the country.
Three years after his graduation from the P.C.P., Mr. Evans had succeeded in saving $865, and with the help of a silent partner he bought a small stock of goods and established himself in business on the spot where his headquarters store is now located – 1104-6 Chestnut Street.
The silent partner was a railroad executive named Aaron Fries who for many years was a director of the Pennsylvania and Northwestern Railroad. According to his obituary in the November 15, 1906 edition of the Pharmaceutical Era he and Evans were boyhood friends. An 1895 Philadelphia Inquirer business notice that announced one of several periodic renewals of their limited partnership agreement, named Evans as “general” partner and Fries as “special” partner.
As far as I can tell they quietly remained partners until the death of Fries in October, 1906 at which time the October 5th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer announced that the Evans stores were closed that day in his honor.
The growth of their drug store business over the first 20 plus years can be summarized in a nutshell by this item, included in the Bulletin of Pharmacy’s 1907 feature.
The first day’s business back there in December, 1883, amounted to just about $30. On the very same calendar day in 1906, twenty-three years later, the sales in the identical location were something over $3600.
Initially located at 1104 Chestnut Street, this growth began to manifest itself as early as 1887 when they acquired the adjoining space at 1106 Chestnut Street. With this expansion Evans boasted of having what he said would be the largest retail drug store in America. The boast appeared in the March 15, 1887 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Mr. C. J. Heppe, the piano manufacturer, of No. 1106 Chestnut Street, is looking for larger accommodations nearer to Broad Street than his present location. He has not yet decisively selected a store, but has one under consideration. He will remove about September 1. The rooms about to be vacated by Mr. Heppe will be occupied by the drug house of George B. Evans, now located at 1104 Chestnut Street. Mr. Evans said yesterday: “We expect to increase and enlarge our business. The new store will give ample room for the purpose. When we are established in our new quarters we will have the largest retail drug store in America.”
The following photograph that appeared in the 1907 feature pictured the original store at 1104 on the left, just below the barely readable “Get it at Evans” sign, and the 1106 addition on the right, below “EVANS APOTHECARY.” If you’re interested, the office of Mr. Evans was on the second floor, third from the right.
This rendering provides a more detailed representation of the 1106 Chestnut Street frontage. Is that Mr. Evans in his 2nd floor office window?
By the late 1880’s Evans was manufacturing his own line of patent medicines, as evidenced by this March 2, 1889 advertisement in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The menu of med’s included everything from Evan’s Sarsaparilla to Evan’s Worm Syrup but there’s no mention of Mum, which, in its infancy, was likely manufactured in the store with no apparent effort to advertise it.
By the early 1900’s the Evans business, now with five retail locations supported by a separate manufacturing facility, had evolved into one of the first drug store chains in the country. Each of the retail locations was described in the 1907 feature.
I have already stated that the headquarters store is located at 1104-6 Chestnut Street. The others are to be found at 1012 Market Street, 8th and Arch Streets, 17th and Chestnut Streets and 2330 North Front Street. The store at 17th and Chestnut is in a residence district and is what might be called a “family pharmacy.” The one on North Front Street is out in the Kensington mill locality and was established for the purpose of catching the business of the laboring men in that section of the city. The other three stores are all of them downtown and within a few blocks of each other.
Shown below is the 8th and Arch location. It included 190 feet of street level window space.
The manufacturing facility, also referred to as a laboratory, was added in 1899. A December 1, 1898 item published in the Philadelphia Inquirer announced its arrival.
WITH THE BUILDERS
Contractor Charles McCaul submitted plans to the Bureau of Building Inspection yesterday providing for the erection of the four-story brick manufacturing building at the southeast corner of Tenth and Spring Streets, for George B. Evans…
The 1907 feature went on to offer this indication of the size of the business at the time.
Would the reader like a few surprising figures to begin with? Well in the first place, there are five of the Evans stores, and the total annual sales exceed a million dollars. About half of this enormous volume of business is transacted in the headquarters store at 1104-6 Chestnut Street…
Here are some more figures and facts: $250,000 is invested in the stock, apart from the money tied up in fixtures. There are 250 people in the headquarters store alone, and 500 or 600 in the Evans employ altogether.
The philosophy that generated this growth was recounted in a September 21, 1933 Philadelphia Inquirer story.
He capitalized two good ideas in the drug store business and it made for George B. Evans, in 35 years, a fortune exceeding $3,000,000.
Mr Evans told me that when he began he had only a few hundred dollars in cash.
“I figured,” he went on, “that no man could prosper greatly by filling doctor prescriptions in a drug store. So I decided to promote soda fountain business and what the public calls jim-crack trade” meaning sale of commodities other than drugs.
A March 26,1906 story entitled “Fountain Beverages of Today” published in the Pharmaceutical Record described his soda fountain as one of the two largest in Philadelphia.
It is believed that the greatest trade in soda water in Philadelphia is divided between the pharmacy of George B. Evans, on Chestnut Street, above Eleventh, and the Broad Street Station Pharmacy, conducted by Mr. Stoever. Both of these stores make a specialty of soda water and there is as much attention paid in them to keeping up this department as there is in any other department of the store…
The manager of Evans’ store says the largest day’s business was when 4,000 drinks were dispensed. Both of these stores average about 2,000 glasses of soda water beverages of some kind or another every day in the year.
The story went on to describe the Evans fountain as well as the assortment of drinks served.
This fountain is 40 feet long and was manufactured by Robert M. Green & Sons. It is constructed of marble, onyx, silver and mahogany.
In commenting on the growth of the soda water business (the manager) Mr. Stinson said he has always about 60 kinds of syrups to draw upon, although at times there were about 100 concoctions…At the present time Mr. Stinson said the big run was on sundaes. There were also such popular drinks as pulp de marron, walnut bisque, hot grape juice, ginger rickey, egg bisque, hot egg phosphate, cherry orangeade, hot malted milk, maple cream puff, egg and chocolate cream puff, egg and coffee, celery egg tonic, nut salad sundae, besides the regular hot drinks that are sought after at this time of year.
The jim-crack trade as Evans called it included candy, sundries, toilet articles, leather goods, candy and perfume. The flagship store also featured a gift room on the second floor that, according to an August, 1903 story in the Bulletin of Pharmacy, featured 3,000 articles in china, bisque, cut glass, etc., and over 300 photograph frames. The extent of this trade was such that according to the 1907 feature:
The large trade which Evans enjoys in the sale of side lines and sundries causes his December sales to double those of any other month.
That’s not to say that the prescription business was neglected. This photograph that accompanied the 1903 story showed their prescription department where over 100 prescriptions were filled daily.
The entire operation was supported by their manufacturing facility that opened in 1899. Located at 219 North 10th Street its where Evans made many of the articles used and sold in his drug stores; candies, soda flavors, toilet waters, talcum powders and pharmaceuticals among them.
In 1898, a year before this facility opened, Evans established the Mum Manufacturing Company. The earliest reference to it that I can find was a series of advertisements that appeared in several March and April, 1898 editions of the Philadelphia Times.
So, while Mum may have been manufactured and sold locally in the Evan’s chain during the 1890’s, by the turn of the century, with the establishment of a separate company coupled with the opening of a new manufacturing facility, they were primed to go national.
Their expansion into the national market was explained years later, in the July, 1925 edition of a druggist publication called “The Spatula.”
Mum was placed on the market about twenty years ago by George B. Evans, the Philadelphia druggist. Previous to any attempts to secure national distribution, Mum had been thoroughly tried out through the Evans drug stores, and the local success it had attained warranted the belief that it had the “makings” of a national success. Accordingly Mr. Evans appropriated about $1,000 for advertising, and ran small advertisements in women’s magazines, offering to send a package for 25 cents. It was stipulated that the inquirer should send the name of her druggist, and when the order was filled, a second package was sent free to the druggist, with a letter stating that Mrs. Blank had been sold through the mail, and had been advised that she could secure her next package from him. So, there was the package, and if Mr Druggist wanted any more he could secure it from his jobber, the prices being so and so.
This advertisement, reflecting the above approach, appeared in the July, 1907 edition of a publication called the “Trained Nurse and Hospital Review,” which, in that era was certainly considered a women’s magazine. It confirmed that the ad campaign described above was certainly up and running by that time.
The Spatula story went on to say that:
This was the only method used for selling to both the user and the druggist, but it was sufficient for the reason that it was done well. Up to the present year (1924) no salesmen had been employed, and the present great and profitable business of the Mum Manufacturing Co. has been built up entirely from the original investment of $1,000. The Periodical Publishing Association, in one of its bulletins, recites these facts and states further that the magazine advertising expenditure for Mum for 1924 will be approximately $125,000.
As budgets increased their ads began appearing in more and more of the national magazines of the day including Life, Vogue, Munsey’s, Good Housekeeping, etc. Their target audience however, remained unchanged as evidenced by the following advertisement that appeared in the June, 1924 edition of “Vogue.”
The caption at the bottom reads:
Even in crowded gatherings and in warmer weather the dainty woman can always preserve the sweet daintiness of her female charm
By this time many of their advertisements included two additional Mum Manufacturing Company products that had also gone national; “Amoray” Talc and Evan’s Depilatory, .
In 1929 Mum was sold to a subsidiary of the Sterling Products Company. The announcement appeared in the February issue of the Practical Druggist and Pharmaceutical Review.
Announcement was made that “Mum” one of the best known deodorants in the toilet goods field has been purchased by the Household Products Company, controlled by the Sterling Products Co. of Wheeling, W. Va.
Around that time Sterling Products, Inc. was owned by a holding company called Drug, Inc., that also owned the assets of United Drug, Inc., Bristol-Myers Co., Vick Chemical Co., and Life Savers Inc. Later, in August, 1933, Drug, Inc. was segregated into five new corporations; Sterling Products, Inc., United Drug, Inc., Vick Chemical, Co., Bristol-Myers Co., and Life Savers, Inc. As far as I can tell, when the dust settled the assets of the Mum Manufacturing Co. ended up under the Bristol-Myers Co.
Bristol-Myers began advertising Mum in 1933. The first ad I can find, in the December edition of Good Housekeeping, listed the Mum Mfg. Co with a New York City address of 75 West Street in Manhattan. They’re also listed that year in the 1933 New York City telephone directory. Advertisements in 1935 substituted Bristol-Myers, Inc. as the company name, so it appears that the Mum Manufacturing Company name was dropped around that time.
In 1952 Bristol-Myers launched it’s initial roll-on antiperspirant under the Mum name, Mum Rollette. According to a post on cosmeticsandskin.com:
In 1952 the new antiperspirant lotion in its ball-point package went on sale in the American market in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Cleveland, Dayton and Columbus.
This introductory advertisement with the heading “Now in Baltimore,” appeared in the July 23, 1952 edition of Baltimore’s Evening Sun.
The cosmeticsandskin.com post went on to say:
…the early reactions were good but unfortunately the applicator seized up with use, generating a string of complaints. This caused Bristol-Myers to remove the product from sale and do further research.
The product successfully re-emerged in the U. S. under it’s now famous name, “Ban.” (Bristol-Myers continued to market it in Europe under the name Mum Rollette.)
Bristol-Myers continued to advertise the cream version of Mum throughout the 1950’s, still primarily in women’s magazines like “Good Housekeeping,” and “Woman’s Day.” The following advertisement appeared in the April, 1956 issue of “Woman’s Day.” I’ve seen Mum advertisements appear in U. S. magazines as late as 1959.
Packaging of Mum, other than the rollette version, changed very little over the years. Originally it was sold in a small milk glass container approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter. The lower half was welled and contained the cream. The top half fit over the well and was smooth on top to accommodate a label. This early version of their packaging recently appeared for sale on e-bay.
I found a lower half, shown below on the left. “Mum Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.,” is embossed on the base, dating it between 1898, when the company started and 1929 when it was sold. An example that includes both the top and bottom is shown on the right, courtesy of e-bay.
Bristol-Myers versions from the 1940’s and 1950’s are shown below. At this point the top is made of metal.
A roll-on version of Mum is still manufactured today (2017) by Dendron, Ltd. under a license from the Proctor & Gamble Co. According to their web site:
Now offering four MUM roll-on products, we offer a fragrance for every woman – even those with sensitive skin. And because we have over 120 years of experience giving women effective protection, we’re a brand you can rely on.
So, just in case you’re interested in what became of the Evans drug stores…
At around the same time that Mum was sold to Sterling Products, the Walgreen Co. acquired the capital stock of the George B. Evans drug store chain which by then had expanded from five to eight stores. The acquisition was reported in the September 14, 1928 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The merging of the eight stores of the Evans Drug Company with the Walgreen Company of Chicago was announced yesterday by Charles R. Walgreen, president of the Walgreen concern.
The deal, it is understood, was consummated at a price between $3,500,000 and $4,000,000. Mr. Walgreen declined to discuss the terms of the transaction.
The merger gives the Walgreen Company the ownership of 180 stores and the operation of about twenty others and represents its first entrance into the chain drug store business in this city. Philadelphia, with New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Rochester, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Milwaukee, Memphis, Columbus, Ohio and Louisville, will become one of the more than twenty cities now linked in that chain.
The Evans Company has been operating stores here since 1883, and it is understood under the terms of the merger, they will continue to operate under that name, for the present at least.
How long Walgreen continued to use the Evans name is not clear, however, what is clear is that by the late 1930’s they had vacated the flagship location on Chestnut Street, which in 1940 was occupied by the John Davis Co., a furrier. I can confirm that at least three of their other stores had been vacated by that time as well.
The 1104/1106 Chestnut Street buildings remain to this day. They appear below courtesy of Google Earth.
The business of John Wyeth & Brother originated in 1861 when John and Frank Wyeth formed a partnership and opened an apothecary store in Philadelphia. The company and its several successors have remained in business for over 150 years, ultimately becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer in 2009.
A graduate of the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy, prior to founding John Wyeth & Brother, John Wyeth had partnered with Henry C. Blair under the name of Blair & Wyeth, in a Philadelphia pharmacy business located at Eighth and Walnut Streets. His brother Frank Wyeth, also a Philadelphia School of Pharmacy graduate, worked for the business as chief clerk.
On July 1, 1861 the Blair & Wyeth partnership was dissolved and the brothers formed a new partnership under the name John Wyeth & Brother. Notices for both the dissolution of the old business and establishment of the new business were printed in the July 2, 1861 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
This change must have been in the works for a while because on July 1, 1861, the same day the above notices were dated, the brothers opened their own store and laboratory at 1412 Walnut Street.
A feature on the company, printed in the January 16, 1908 issue of “The Pharmaceutical Era” picks up the story from there.
From the beginning the business proved successful, and requiring greater facilities the adjoining property 1414 Walnut Street was added. Their preparations soon became recognized by the medical profession and their laboratory was enlarged by the addition of another property, No. 1416 Walnut Street, the firm soon thereafter entering regularly into the wholesale manufacturing business.
Their entrance into drug manufacturing appears to be driven by the increased need for drug related supplies as a result of the Civil War. Wyeth’s obituary, in the April 1907 edition of a pharmaceutical magazine called “The Spatula,” stated:
When the Civil War broke out he secured a big contract to furnish the Government with medicinal supplies, and from this began the manufacturing of pharmaceutical articles.
Early in their history the business became famous for their sweetened tinctures which they called elixirs. A story featuring Wyeth in the March 28, 1881 edition of the Montreal Gazette described their elixirs like this:
The elixirs are drug compounds, made up in an elegant and palatable shape; drugs which are nauseating in the ordinary form are in this guise cordials which a patient can take with relish and which the weakest and most sensitive stomach will not reject.
This 1872 advertisement, printed in the Charleston (S. C.) Daily News listed a menu of over 35 elixirs that they were manufacturing at that time.
They were also pioneers in the manufacture of medicines in pill and tablet form and in 1872 developed a rotary tablet machine that allowed the mass production of pills with pre-measured doses. Excerpts from a letter written years later discussed in the company’s own words their early history in this field. Dated January, 1913, it was written to the U. S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Chemistry in response to a request for information on tablet compressing machines and printed in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association.
We have no prepared data or printed matter on hand of tablet compressing machines; from our books we glean that in about 1872 we constructed the first rotary tablet machine in our own shop by our chief mechanic; the machine was what is styled a disc machine with several dies, and improvements were constantly added and machine perfected until we had some machines that had as many as thirteen dies in rotating disc and some of these machines are still in use at the present time in our laboratory.
We are also the originators of the compressed hypodermic tablets and compressed tablet triturates, also compressed medicinal lozenges; these three variations were introduced by us during a period of 1877 to 1880 and other combinations of compressed tablets followed quickly according to demands made upon us by the physicians and trade. Prior to 1877 the formulae that were sold in tablet form were very few. They consisted of simple chemicals principally, such as potassium chlorate, ammonium chloride, etc., and after 1877 combinations followed. Physicians saw the convenience of this form of medication and at various times submitted different compound formulae which were made into either tablets or compressed lozenges…
Throughout the 1870’s the business was growing and by 1879 that growth had reached Canada where the Montreal firm of Perry Davis & Son & Lawrence was serving as their agent. Interestingly they didn’t ship their products to Canada but instead, according to a March 28, 1881 story in the Montreal Gazette, shipped their chemists to Canada instead.
Nearly every preparation included in the Pharmacopia is manufactured under the direction of this firm (Wyeth) in the establishment of Messrs. Perry Davis & Son & Lawrence. The method in which it is done is this: Messrs. Wyeth & Bro. send on their representative from Philadelphia at certain periods of the year and a large number of hands are engaged. The manufacture is proceeded with on a large scale and as soon as the stock is regarded as sufficient for the time being for the Canadian market operations cease. When the stock runs low again the manufacture is renewed.
In Philadelphia they remained at the Walnut Street location until February 10, 1889 when their entire plant was destroyed by fire. The fire was described in the March 6, 1889 issue of “Chemist & Druggist,” and a diagram of the fire was included in the February 11, 1889 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
It brief we may state the fire originated just before noon on February 10 in the cellar of Frank Morgan’s drug store, which was part of the main building, a handsome marble structure, occupied by John Wyeth & Brothers. The fire raged fiercely. Great plate glass windows cracked as if they had been egg-shells. In a few minutes the gable roof of John Wyeth & Brothers’ store was on fire. The flames crept stealthily back and joined the blaze on the roof of the marble front. The roof fell killing a fireman in its descent and when darkness came a mass of ruins marked the spot where a few hours before stood one of the handsomest drug stores in the country. Great sympathy is felt for Messrs. Wyeth Brothers who commenced business in Walnut Street twenty five years ago, and during that time have made a significant collection of apparatus, especially that for making compressed tablets, the loss of which cannot be represented by money.
After the fire it wasn’t long before the business was up and running again. On June 19, 1889 a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer announced:
John Wyeth & Brother have purchased the property at the southeast corner of Eleventh Street and Washington Avenue where they will establish their chemical laboratory.
Six weeks later on August 1, 1889, another Philadelphia Inquirer story announced planned alterations to the building.
Builder McPherson will erect a number of new buildings. Among them can be mentioned the extensive alterations to be made to the building of John Wyeth & Bro., at Eleventh and Washington Avenue. A new fourth story is to be added and extensive interior alterations made, which will cost at least $20,000.
The January 16, 1908 feature on Wyeth in the “Pharmaceutical Era” noted that they moved into their Washington Avenue location in November that year. What appears to be a rendering of the original Washington Avenue building, including the new fourth floor addition, was incorporated into a Wyeth advertisement printed in the October 22, 1899 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Pharmaceutical Era feature went on to say that subsequent additions made over the next ten years tripled the capacity of the original plant.
Additions and innovations to their product lines continued as well; one example being an entire line of “chocolate coated” compressed tablets introduced in 1901.
We trust the introduction of a line of Chocolate-coated Compressed Tablets (Compressed Pills) will meet with the same favor that has been accorded to our Plain and Sugar-coated Compressed Pills, and which we do not hesitate to claim as one of the greatest advances in pharmacy of the age and a distinct innovation in the manufacture of pills. As no excepient enters into their composition, they do not become hard by age and are less liable to be affected by any climatic influences. Their lenticular shape renders them much easier to swallow than the ordinary round pills. In fact, they offer so many decided advantages they must commend themselves to every practitioner.
The business incorporated on October 27, 1899 under the name John Wyeth & Brother, Inc. The incorporation notice printed in the October 28, 1899 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer named John and Francis H. Wyeth along with E.T. Dobbins, W.A. Sailor and H.G. Starin as the initial directors.
John Wyeth served as president until his death on March 30, 1907 when he was succeeded as president by his son Stuart Wyeth. A year later in 1908 his brother Frank retired as Vice-President and was succeeded by his son Maxwell Wyeth.
The business remained in the Wyeth family until Stuart Wyeth’s death on December 30, 1929. A bachelor, he left the bulk of his estate, approximately $5,000,000, to Harvard University which at the time was the largest sum ever left to Harvard. A story in the May 28, 1931 edition of the Boston Globe summarized the ownership in the Wyeth business after the dust settled.
In early 1930 45 to 50 percent of the Wyeth stock was willed to Harvard University by Stuart Wyeth. Other than 5 percent owned by employees of the company, the balance rests with two Philadelphia institutions, serving as trustees, the Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company and Pennsylvania Company for Insurance on Lives and Granting Annuities.
Less than two years later the business was sold to American Home Products. The basics of the sale were included in the July 8, 1931 edition of the Oakland Tribune:
Purchase by American home Products corporation, of John Wyeth and Brother of Philadelphia for about $4,000,000 in cash, will increase the per share earnings of American Home Products approximately $1…The transaction approved by the directors in May will be financed out of current funds and with bank accommodation.
Still headquartered in Philadelphia, at the time the business was sold it had become nation-wide and had also established their own laboratory in Canada. A story in the December 19, 1933 edition of the The Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Record provided a snapshot of the business just after the sale.
The firm has its main office and a manufacturing laboratory in Philadelphia, a laboratory in Walkerville, Ontario, with branch warehouses and offices in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Denver, St. Paul, San Francisco, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Portland, Atlanta and Dallas, Texas…
It employs 600 workers in its manufacturing plants and offices and it has 100 traveling salesmen covering Canada, the United States and the outlying territories.
As a subsidiary of American Home Products, the business continued under the name John Wyeth & Brother up until 1943. During this period, long time Wyeth employee Frank F. Law served as vice president and general manager and later president of the company. Then in 1943 American Home Products reorganized the drug piece of their business under the name Wyeth, Inc. A September 30, 1948 story in the Wilkes-Barre Record that featured Frank Law touched on the 1943 reorganization.
In 1943 American Home Products merged five companies into an ethical drug division, using Wyeth as the nucleus and with Harry S. Howard, then head of AHP as president. The new firm was called Wyeth Incorporated and Law became vice president in charge of pharmaceuticals and penicillin manufacture and president of John Wyeth & Brother Incorporated of Canada.
The story went on to say:
Wyeth was among the first to grasp the revolutionary potentialities of penicillin and under Law’s direction the company was a leader in the manufacture of the new wonder drug.
This photograph, printed in the August 5, 1945 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer actually shows the nobel prize winning discoverer of penicillin, Sir Alexander Fleming at a Wyeth laboratory.
Wyeth was also heavily involved in the manufacture of other important vaccines as well; smallpox and polio to name a few. This story was printed in the April 25 edition of “The (Schuykill Pa.) Call”
The Marietta plant of Wyeth Laboratories, Inc. has been kept quite busy the past few days as a result of an increased demand from New York City for small pox vaccine to combat an outbreak in that city.
Dr. John H. Brown, production director at the laboratories, reported that over 100 members of his staff were very busy processing and packing small pox vaccine in order to fill New York City’s request for 2,000,000 inoculations.
In 1961, Wyeth moved from their long time facility on Washington Ave to the Philadelphia suburbs. According to a story in the October 13, 1960 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Wyeth Laboratories’ new $8,000,000 pharmaceutical facility near Malvern which will replace its 12th St. and Washington Ave. plant here, will be ready for occupancy in six months, it was announced Wednesday by Herbert W. Blades, president.
The new structure located on a 90 acre tract in East Whiteland township, just off Route 30, will have more than 12 acres under roof. The building cost $2,500,000 and manufacturing and laboratory facilities will cost an estimated $5,500,000.
Some 750 persons, including scientific, technical and administrative workers, will be employed at the plant. The facility will turn out prescription drugs and also serve as a national warehouse for Wyeth.
According to another article written around the same time, by then the company was headquartered in Randor Pennsylvania and had 21 manufacturing and distributing centers throughout the country.
In 2002, their parent company, American Home Products, actually changed its name to Wyeth. Having made the decision to focus on prescription drugs and health care they were in the process of selling off unrelated companies. According to Robert Essner, their president and chief executive officer at the time:
We are changing our name to reflect an important transition in the company’s history. Over the years we have strategically evolved from a holding company with diversified businesses to a world leader in research based pharmaceutical products. The Wyeth name, with its long and well respected association with the health care community, better conveys the skills of our people, the promise of our science, the quality of our products and our position as a world leader in the pharmaceutical industry.
In 2009 Pfizer acquired Wyeth in a $68 billion deal.
Wyeth’s presence in New York City dates back to the early twentieth century when they opened what appears to have been a sales office in 1914. The announcement of the opening was carried in the September, 1914 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era.”
John Wyeth & Bro., Philadelphia have opened a New York office at 449 West 42nd Street, with Charles Howard as their representative.
Over the next 40 years they maintained an office and most likely warehouse facilities at a number of NYC locations. Specific listings I can find include: 12 East 22nd St. (1919 to 1922), 7th Ave & 10th St. (1925), 117 7th Ave. South (1933) and 154 11th Avenue (1942 to 1946).
In 1948 it appears that much of their New York operation moved to 34 Exchange Place in Jersey City, N.J., however, they did continue to list a New York office until at least 1960. That year they were located in the Empire State Building.
I’ve found two Wyeth bottles over the years, both cobalt blue. One is a small mouth blown oval shaped pill bottle.
The other is a square machine made bottle with a timed dosage cap that fits over the top (the bottle and cap were found in different locations at different times.) According to embossing on the base of the bottle it was patented on May 16, 1899. A recent labeled example exhibited on the Internet contained sodium phosphate; “A mild and pleasant Laxative Employed in the Treatment of Constipation, Obesity, Children’s Diarrhea, Rickets, Jaundice, etc.
Alfred VanHorn and George (Guy) R.P. Ellison started business in 1888 but the seeds of the business date back much earlier to a man named William H. Whitney. Whitney’s obituary, published in the March 1, 1888 edition of the Pharmaceutical Record, described him as a long time New York City druggist.
He was born in Boston, where he entered the drug business, and came to this city in 1855. Shortly after that he took charge of the store of Hegeman & Co., Broadway and Eighth Street, where he was manager for 18 years. Subsequently he entered business on his own account on Fifth Avenue near the Windsor Hotel…
Whitney started his Fifth Avenue business sometime in the early 1870’s when the N.Y.C. directories typically listed his address as 543 Fifth Avenue. Then sometime around 1880 he moved his store to the northwest corner of Park Avenue and 41st Street where it was situated under the Grand Union Hotel.
Shortly after Whitney’s death in February, 1888 this advertisement for Van Horn and Ellison named them as his successor. The advertisement appeared in the 1889 “Medical Directory of New York.”
The first listing I can find for VanHorn & Ellison at that location is in the 1889 Copartnership and Corporation Directory with an address of 120 Park Avenue (at the corner of 41st Street). This turn of the century depiction of the Grand Union Hotel clearly shows a row of stores at street level of the red brick hotel building. Van Horn & Ellison’s location at the corner of 41st Street and Park Avenue would have been at the left hand side of the building.
A year or two later, they opened a prescription department and laboratory in the same area at 61 East 41st Street. An item in the 1891 Medical Directory of the City of New York announced the opening.
We call special attention of physicians to our complete Analytical and Pharmaceutical Laboratory, which we have established in connection with our new Prescription Department, in separate rooms entirely removed from the general business of the store.
Hospital and Surgeons’ Supplies, Felt and Wood Splints, Catgut warranted perfectly Antiseptic. Surgeons’ Silk, Silver Suture Wire, and Silk-worm Gut.
Reef and Flat Sponges prepared and sterilized to order for surgical operations.
A complete assortment of superior materials for Antiseptic Dressings, made especially for us by Seabury & Johnson.
A partial photograph of the sterilizing laboratory was included in a Van Horn & Ellison advertisement published in the December 29, 1894 edition of the “Medical Record.”
On a side note: recognizing that this website is focused on bottles, I have to mention that the “cat gut” mentioned in the above advertisements was actually sold in glass bottles containing alcohol, as evidenced by this 1894 advertisement.
Another 1894 advertisement, this one in the “North American Journal of Homeopathy,” specifically mentioned several other of the laboratory’s products.
In 1895 the company opened a second location underneath the Bolkenhayn apartment house adjoining the Hotel Savoy at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street. An article in the “Pharmaceutical Record” announcing the stores opening called it the largest and handsomest retail drug store that New York or any other large city in the United States can boast of and it describes the exterior of the new store this way.
Describing the new drug store can best be done by stating that it looks about as little like the ordinary drug store as it is possible to imagine. The immense front facing on Fifth Avenue is taken up by a sheet of plate glass that is claimed to be the largest in the United States. It measures 19 feet x 13 feet 3 inches, and is said to be American plate, the largest that has ever been made here.
An old photograph of the Savoy Hotel shows the Bolkenhayn apartment house to the right with the drug store’s plate glass windows clearly visible.
The salesroom was located on the ground floor with the prescription, chemical and sterilizing departments located on the floor below. The article goes on to describe the store’s interior, leaving no doubt that the store catered to the high end customer:
Potted palms and plants adorn the window, which is also graced by four elegant specimens of the colored window bottles on the side. Two sprays of electric lights illuminate these at night.
Inside the salesrooms the general effect of quiet elegance is obtained by a combination of mahogany and plate glass in side cases and moveable counters. A pleasing contrast is also occasionally furnished by stained glass doors and panels. The ceiling is of a buff, with artistic plaster relief work, while from it depend four elegantly carved metal electroliers of four lights each. The side walls are an olive green with gold plaster relief decoration, while the floor is a pretty mosaic tiling.
As if that wasn’t enough, taking up a large portion of one side of the salesroom was a soda fountain whose counter was made up of four different colors of Numidian marble.
Behind the wrapping counter was a dumbwaiter and a speaking tube that connected with the dispensing and chemical departments. Orders were either sent down by means of the tube or the prescription was shunted down on the dumbwaiter.
According to the article, the store furnished just about anything in the drug line, but only high-end items were exhibited in the salesroom.
Only fancy articles for the toilet and boudoir are to be seen in the salesrooms proper. Combs and brushes, toilet waters and cologne, tooth powders, manicure ointments and the dainty appurtenances greet the eye.
This advertisement for the Crown Perfumery Co., of London England, provides a good example of the type of articles they showcased. The advertisement was for “The New Crown Violet,” a perfume “distilled from the natural flowers of the Riviera” and referred to as the “finest violet made and the success of the day in London and Paris.” It sold for $1.50 per bottle and Van Horn & Ellison was named in the advertisement as one of its five suppliers in New York.
Van Horn & Ellison incorporated in New York sometime in 1896. According to an item that year in the “Paint, Oil and Chemical Review:”
Incorporation papers have been secured by Van Horn & Ellison of New York, to carry on a chemical business; capital $100,000. Directors – G.R.P. Ellison, H.W.Robinson, J.Van L. Young, Alfred Van Horn and S. Harry Ellison of New York City.
Apparently it was all downhill from there. In June of 1897, Alfred Van Horn had resigned and internal dissension within the corporation led to charges of forgery against George Ellison based on a technicality. Ellison admitted to having endorsed and collected checks made payable to the firm, but claimed that he had that right. His statement in response to the charges was printed in the New York Sun.
After the resignation of Alfred Van Horn as President I controlled the majority of stock. Mr. Van Horn and I had always stood together in the Board of Directors. Since Mr. Van Horn’s resignation I have been compelled to contend against the majority of the directors. There were five directors in the corporation. Besides Mr. Van Horn and myself there were S.H. Ellison, treasurer; Dr. J. Van Loren Young, secretary, and H.W.Robinson, who has no interest, but holds one share of stock to qualify him as a director.
These last three directors combined against me because I had called a meeting of the stockholders to amend the by-laws of the company in such a manner that their powers would be curtailed, and because at the annual election to be held in July others would be elected to fill their places. S.H. Ellison, Dr. Young and Robinson refused to give me money due me by the corporation. After consulting my counsel he advised me to take the course I did in regard to the endorsement of checks. Now they have tried to take advantage of a technical point to force me out.
It’s not clear how this issue was resolved but less than six months later an item in the January 1898 issue of the Pharmaceutical Record indicated that the business had changed it’s name to Van Horn & Co. The 1900 and 1901 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories listed Van Horn & Co. as a New Jersey Corporation located in Manhattan at the 118-120 Park Avenue address. Interestingly none of the original directors, including Van Horn and Ellison were listed with the business. Instead George West and Harry Hutchinson were named President and Secretary respectively and the capital was only listed as $5,000.
It’s likely that the incorporation of the company and subsequent absence of Alfred Van Horn and Guy Ellison from company leadership in 1900 and 1901 was somehow related to financial problems that the company was having. In 1900, the Bureau of Arrears for the Collection of Personal Taxes listed Van Horn & Ellison as a defendant with their ‘disposition pending.” A year later, in September, 1901, both Van Horn and Ellison declared bankruptcy. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle printed their bankruptcy notices on September, 20th and 27th respectively.
Then in the 1902 Directory George Ellison and Alfred Van Horn are back, listed as president and secretary respectively of Van Horn & Co., which had moved to 307 Madison Avenue. The treasurer of the company was Edward T. Sawtell.
Around this time it appears that the company divided into two separate corporations. In the 1904 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory Van Horn & Co. remained listed as a New Jersey corporation with Ellison as president and Van Horn as secretary and a New York corporation, Van Horn & Sawtell appeared for the first time. Alfred Van Horn and Edward Sawtell were listed as president and treasurer respectively of the new company.
Ultimately both George Ellison and Alfred Van Horn ended up working with Johnson & Johnson. Ellison apparently started with them after Van Horn & Co. dissolved in 1911. The June 1913 issue of the Northwestern Druggist reported:
Guy R.P. Ellison, formerly of the firm of Van Horn & Ellison, New York, is now with Johnson & Johnson as detail representative. Mr. Ellison will spend about a month in the Twin Cities. He is especially posted in the manufacture of ligatures and in the scientific departments of his firm.
Van Horn began with Johnson & Johnson in 1919 when they acquired Van Horn & Sawtell. The acquisition was reported in Red Cross notes that year.
Johnson & Johnson has taken over the well known firm of Van Horn & Sawtell of New York, and have made it the Van Horn & Sawtell Department of Johnson & Johnson. This consolidation means the continuation of a policy of progress, a gratifying increase of laboratory facilities and the addition of Mr. E.T. Sawtell and Mr. Alfred Van Horn to the personnel of the Johnson & Johnson organization.
The bottle I found is a small, mouth blown, maybe one ounce, cobalt blue medicine bottle. “Van Horn & Ellison (in script), Chemists, New York” is embossed on the front. The 1895 article announcing the opening of their Fifth Avenue location provides a clue about the use of the bottle:
In the dispensing department only two kinds of bottles were used – white and blue. The blue was only used when the contents were for external use or were poisonous.
The bottle dates to the period between 1888 and 1897, when the company name was Van Horn & Ellison.
McKesson & Robbins was a predecessor to the McKesson Corporation, a global health provider that was ranked 11th of the Fortune 500 in 2014 with more than $179 billion in annual revenue.
According to the company history that’s presented on McKesson’s corporate web site the company dates back to 1833.
John McKesson and Charles Olcott, two young entrepreneurs, opened Olcott & McKesson, a drug import and wholesale business located on Maiden Lane in Manhattan. The company quickly thrived with it’s first customers – captains of the tall masted clipper ships that docked nearby. In 1853, Daniel Robbins, who originally started as an apprentice in 1833 after walking 80 miles to answer McKesson’s first help-wanted ad, became a partner and the company was renamed McKesson & Robbins.
I’ll leave open to speculation as to whether Robbins actually walked 80 miles to answer McKesson’s help-wanted advertisement, but I will point out that according to his obituary, in 1833 he was living 80 miles north of Manhattan in Poughkeepsie New York.
The limited NYC directories I can find from this period generally confirm the rest of the early story. The 1834-35 Longworth’s American Almanac – New York Register listed Olcott & M’Kesson, druggists, at 145 Maiden Lane. Charles M Olcott and John M’Kesson were also listed individually as druggists at the same address. In the 1837-38 Directory, the company name was listed as Olcott, M’Kesson & Co. and by 1847-48 the company address had changed to 127 Maiden Lane. The 1853-54 Directory listed the business as Olcott, McKesson & Robbins and then in the 1855-56 Directory it was listed for the first time as McKesson & Robbins.
Around 1857 the company moved from Maiden Lane to a new building on Fulton Street. According to “Cast-Iron Architecture in America, The Significance of James Borardus” by Margot Gayle and Carol Gayle:
John McKesson and Daniel Robbins, who had a drug business at 127 Maiden Lane, purchased property for a new building in the spring of 1853. They bought a 50 foot wide double lot at 91-93 Fulton Street and soon added two smaller lots to the rear facing on Ann Street. Probably in 1855 they commissioned (James) Bogardus to build a five-story iron front on the Fulton Street lot.
The 1857-58 NYC Directory listed them at 91 Fulton Street and 82 Ann Street where the business remained through at least the mid-1920’s.
Over the course of the next two decades, both McKesson’s son, John McKesson Jr. and Robbins’s sons, Charles A. Robbins and Herbert D. Robbins joined the business.
According to McKesson’s corporate web site, during this period, McKesson & Robbins pioneered the development of gelatin coated pills. A full page advertisement in the August 1879 issue of the New York Medical Electric (Devoted to Reformed Medicine, General Science and Literature) provided a partial list of medications that they produced utilizing this process. The advertisement stated that “these important changeable substances will be found perfectly preserved in our Gelatine-Coated Pills.” Interestingly, the list included both Cannabis Indica (medical marijuana) and Coca Exythroxylon (cocaine).
In December of 1885, Copartnership Notices published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced that McKesson & Robbins had been dissolved and a new firm with the same name had been formed along with another company called the New York Quinine and Chemical Works. The notice listed John McKesson Jr. and Herbert Robbins with McKesson and Robbins. That business, described as wholesale druggists and manufacturing chemists, remained at the original location which now included 91-93 Fulton Street and 74-84 Ann Street.
Charles A. Robbins was listed with the New York Quinine and Chemical Works. Their office was located at 35 Liberty Street, but soon after they moved to 114 William Street, within a block of McKesson & Robbins. Their Eastern District factory was located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. They were described as manufacturers of medicinal chemical preparations.
Daniel C Robbins remained associated with both firms and on December 3, 1885, the Eagle published a letter from Daniel Robbins explaining the reasoning behind the need for two companies.
Some eighteen months since the great Italian factory at Milan, which manufactured nearly one-half of all the quinine consumed in the world, failed, and Dr. Charles A. Robbins, who was educated in Germany for the purpose of conducting a similar establishment in the United States, and who had for seven years superintended the chemical productions connected with the house of McKesson & Robbins, advised the employment and transfer of trained experts connected with the Milan establishment to the United States.
Fourteen lots have been purchased in the Eastern District, a factory has been built and a corps of Italians and Germans have been transferred to the United States.
Through the early 1920’s, both companies remained closely controlled by the McKesson and Robbins families and were apparently associated in some way. In fact, when Daniel C. Robbins died suddenly in 1888, Herbert Robbins was named president of the New York Quinine and Chemical Company and also continued to remain listed as a principal of McKesson and Robbins. As late as 1919, the Copartnership and Corporation Directories listed John McKesson Jr. as president of McKesson and Robbins and Herbert D. Robbins as president of the New York Quinine & Chemical Company and a Vice President in McKesson & Robbins.
Both companies were involved in the importing and manufacturing of cocaine in the United States. According to “Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States 1884-1920” by Joseph Spillane:
Before 1884 the New York firm of McKesson & Robbins was among the leading importers of coca and one of the few companies that offered small amounts of cocaine to its customers in that period. Although McKesson & Robbins was primarily a wholesale drug company, it also imported and manufactured some drug products, including cocaine. The company claimed to be the first and largest cocaine manufacturer in the United States, making all of its product from coca leaves imported into New York. Coca importation data from the late 1880’s confirm that McKesson imported between 20 and 30 percent of all leaves entering New York each year, usually the largest proportion of any single manufacturer. The families who controlled McKesson & Robbins also owned the New York Quinine and Chemical Works, which gradually took over the cocaine business from McKesson.
McKesson & Robbins also controlled at least two additional companies, the Tartarlithine Co., and the Galen Drug Co. Both were listed in the directories at the McKesson & Robbins Fulton Street and/or Ann Street addresses. The Tartarlithine Co. was listed in the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories between 1901 and 1925. They manufactured a rheumatism remedy and I’ve seen advertisements for their products as early as 1902.
The Galen Drug Company was first listed around 1914 at 91 Fulton Street and was still listed in 1925. Based on the definition of galenical (a medicine prepared by extracting one or more active constituents of a plant) they were most likely involved with plant based remedies.
In the mid 1920’s, the McKesson & Robbins name, along with its medicinal departments were sold to Frank D Costa. The 1933 NYC Directory listed Costa as the president, secretary and treasurer of McKesson & Robbins with an address of 79 Cliff.
Costa, who’s real name was Phillip Musica, had a criminal past and operated under several aliases. He seeded the company with family members and proceeded to loot the business up through the mid-1930’s. His scheme involved fake purchase orders, inflated inventory and skimming cash from company sales. The scheme fell apart in 1938 when the suspicions of the company treasurer led to an investigation that revealed that the McKesson & Robbins balance sheet was made up of 20% fictitious assets that included $10 million in fictitious inventories and $8 million in overstated receivables.
The company survived the scandal and by 1948, the NYC Telephone Directory had McKesson & Robbins listings for their Executive Offices (155 E 44th), a Wholesale Drug Division (3674 3rd Ave), Liquor Division (111 8th Ave), Export Division (155 E 44th), Industrial Chemical Division (155 E 44th) and a Warehouse (90 Beekman).
In the 1960’s they merged with Foremost Dairies of San Farancisco becoming Foremost-McKesson Inc., the largest U.S. distributor of pharmaceutical drugs, alcoholic beverages and chemicals. In 1970 they moved to new corporate headquarters at One Post Street in San Francisco.
As far as I can tell the McKesson and Robbins families retained the chemical manufacturing piece of the business and continued to operate as the NY Quinine & Chemical Works. The factory location was still listed in 1952 at 101 N 11th Street in Brooklyn.
The bottle I found is a small mouth blown rectangular medicine with a tooled finish. It’s embossed “McKesson” on one edge side and “& Robbins” on the other. I found a labeled sample listed on the Internet of what appears to be the exact same bottle. It contained 100 gelatin coated pills containing extract of cannibis.
H. Roberts was an English chemist and druggist that established a pharmacy in Florence, Italy in the mid-1800’s. The business was featured in “Murray’s Handbook of Florence and it’s Environs” published in 1867.
Apothecaries. – Mr. Roberts, an English chemist and druggist, at the Pharmacy of the British Legation, No. 17 in the Via dei Tornabuoni will be the best person to whom the making up of English prescriptions can be confided, as he has several English assistants; he keeps an extensive stock of English patent medicines, perfumery, teas, and a good supply of foreign and of the superior qualities of Italian wines. In addition to his business as a dispensing chemist, Mr. Roberts carries a large wholesale trade, supplying most of the apothecaries in the Tuscan and neighboring Italian towns. Groves, Borgo, Ognisanti (also English), Forini, Piazza della Signori.
The business was also mentioned in the 1863 edition of Murray’s Handbook. The fact that it was a business worthy of inclusion in a travel guide suggests that by the early 1860’s it was an established business so it probably dates back to at least the 1850’s.
A description of the pharmacy was contained in the February 27, 1892 Issue of “The Chemist and Druggist.” An English publication, they were doing a feature on “English Pharmacies Abroad.”
Florence boasts of two large and handsome English Pharmacies- the old established business H. Roberts & Co., and that of Henry Groves, the eminent botanist whose death in March last was so greatly lamented by his many English and Italian friends, and by the world of botanical science.
These pharmacies are located in two of the principal streets in florence, and, in comparison with the average english or continental shops, are remarkable for size and elegance. The shops are about twenty feet high with arched ceilings and walls decorated with that ornamental relief work in which the Italians are so skillful. The modern Italians have followed their progenitors the Romans in the style and substantial character of their buildings. Nearly all the floors are of marble and are supported by stone arches. The walls are usually three or four feet thick, hence the buildings have a grand, but rather heavy, appearance. Both of the shops referred to have handsome fronts of from 40 to 50 feet wide, with plate-glass windows. The laboratories and offices adjoin the dispensing establishment…
The main room of the Farmacia Roberts is probably larger than other pharmacy in England or on the Continent, and the principal room in Grove’s establishment is nearly as large. Both firms are compelled to carry a very varied stock, including nearly all medicines in general demand in England, owing to the large number of English visitors and residents. They also have large stocks of English perfumes, soaps, brushes, etc.
Meters. Roberts & Co. have developed a large trade in numerous specialties which they advertise in Italy. The Italians have great confidence in English drugs and medicines, and the firm does business with chemists in all the principal towns of Italy and endeavor to keep up with the times by procuring all the new preparations as they come out. The firm has a branch establishment in Rome.
According to the above article, prior to 1892 the company had established a branch in Rome. Subsequently, a 1905 item in the April 1 Issue of the Pharmaceutical Journal announced the opening of a Milan location and in 1908, an advertisement announced another new location in Naples.
It appears that at some point the business became Manetti & Roberts. According to bloomberg.com: “Manetti & Roberts has a rich history dating back to 1843 when it started operations in Florence.” This suggests that the Roberts of Manetti and Roberts was the same Roberts as Roberts and Co. It also establishes the start date for the company as 1843. Today, Manetti and Roberts operates as a subsidiary of the Bolton Group, B.V.
The bottle I found is a small (approximately 4 oz) mouth blown medicine. It’s embossed with the locations “Florence and Rome” so it possibly dates prior to 1905 when they added the Milan location. How it got to the south shore of Long Island is anybody’s guess.