Waterman’s Ink

“A drop of ink may make a million think,” is an old saying, but oceans of ink would not bestir the gray matter of the most brilliant if it were not made intelligible by a pen.

Eighteen years ago an enterprising man awoke to the fact that there was a great future for the device that should serve as the connection between ink and paper.

That man was L. E. Waterman and the device was the “Waterman Ideal Fountain Pen.”

These words prefaced a story featuring Lewis Edison Waterman and his fountain pen business that was published in a 1902 edition of a publication called “The World’s Book.”

That’s not to say that Waterman invented the fountain pen. In fact, according to a feature story on Waterman in the June 11, 1921 edition of the American Stationer, by the early 1880’s the market was flooded with stylographic pens however most sputtered, leaked and didn’t work on a consistent basis. What Waterman did was fill the need for a reliable fountain pen. The story went on to describe the basics of his invention.

The first fountain pen he made had a wooden barrel and ink feed, but he soon discovered that the acids in the ink rapidly corroded the barrel and clogged the feed. Further experiments with various materials taught him that rubber was the only substance that would give entire satisfaction. After deciding on hard rubber as the material from which to construct the barrel and feed of his fountain pen, Waterman cast about in search of a point that would take the place of the common steel pen, which he found practically useless when adapted to fountain pens. Numerous experiments with different metals convinced him that gold possessed all the qualities he desired in a flexible, non-corrosive point.

His pen, called the “Ideal Fountain Pen,” consisted of only four parts as demonstrated by this schematic that appeared in the June, 1898 edition of the New England Stationer and Printer.

The initial patent was granted on February 12, 1884 however it was a year earlier, while the patent was still pending, that he first started in business. According to a story in the April 29, 1897 edition of the American Stationer, he sold his first pen on July 11, 1883.

That first year in business was described in the 1902 World’s Book story.

Steel pens and quills were good enough for most of the people of eighteen years ago and Mr. Waterman’s success was of the slow and steady sort. At first the founder of the business made a dozen pens, then went out and sold them pen by pen, when another dozen was made and peddled – he was the factory, the office force and the selling department.

At that point, the entire operation was conducted utilizing a desk in the back of the Owl Cigar Store located in the Commercial Advertising Building at the corner of Fulton Street and Nassau Street in lower Manhattan. Then sometime in 1884 he formed a business relationship with a bookbinder named Asa Shipman. Together they established the Ideal Pen Company, initially located at Shipman’s 10 Murray Street address. An advertisement published in the June 5, 1884 edition of the Christian Union named both Waterman and Shipman’s business, Asa L. Shipman’s Sons, as proprietors.

While this was the earliest advertisement I could find, it was an advertisement published later that year in”Century” Magazine that history credits with jump-starting the business. According to the June 21, 1921 American Stationer story:

It was in 1884 that the Waterman fountain pen came to the attention of the magazine advertising solicitor, who suggested to the inventor that he run a quarter-page advertisement of his pen in the “Century,” which magazine he represented. But Waterman did not have the money to pay for the advertising. Then the magazine solicitor did an interesting thing. He was so convinced of the commercial possibilities of the fountain pen that he proposed to Waterman to insert his advertisement and claim payment only if the ad produced a fair amount of orders.

The first advertisement introducing the Waterman fountain pen to the world appeared in the “Century” magazine for November, 1884.

The June, 1921 American Stationer story went on to say:

Prior to that time, Waterman had sold about 300 of his pens by personal solicitation and over the counter of his little stand. Within a few weeks after the first modest advertisement appeared a large number of orders were received – in fact, so large a number that the inventor was able to negotiate a loan of five thousand dollars with which to contract for additional advertising and have the pens made and delivered. 

Sometime in 1885, Waterman moved the Ideal Pen Company to 157 Broadway, where the company was first listed in the 1885/1886 N.Y.C. directory. At the same time Shipman remained listed as a bookbinder at 10 Murray Street, so it appears that Waterman’s relationship with Shipman was short-lived. Century” advertisements in the Spring, 1885 reflect this change, no longer including any mention of Shipman or his company.

This undated photograph included in the December 21, 1921 edition of Printers Ink was likely taken at the 157 Broadway location. That’s Waterman seated in the center of the room.

Two years later, in November, 1887, the business incorporated under the name L. E. Waterman Company with an initial capital of  $10,000. Waterman was named as the first president and he continued in that capacity until his death in 1901 at which time his nephew, Frank D. Waterman, assumed the presidency.

By 1890 this December 23 Christmas advertisement in the New York World made it clear that their pen was becoming widely available in the New York City area.

As the last decade of the 1800’s progressed the company’s production was increasing exponentially as evidenced by these statistics included in a 1914 American Stationer story.

In 1888, nine thousand pens were sold; seven years later, the number of orders had reached sixty-three thousand; in 1900, the business reached two hundred and twenty-seven thousand sales…

In an effort to keep up with this growth, the facilities at 157 Broadway were constantly expanding.  Originally utilizing 300 square feet of space, by 1897 they occupied the entire 2,700 square foot ground floor with a salesroom, offices and a shipping department. A story in the April 29, 1897 American Stationer provided this verbal tour of the sales room as it was readied for opening after another expansion.

When ready for occupancy the visitor upon entering the store will find himself in a room 15 feet wide and 60 feet long, done in oak. On the right hand will be a counter 16 feet in length, on which will be two 8-foot showcases for “trying” the pens on and which will be filled with “Ideal” fountain pens. Between them will be placed one of the latest cash registers manufactured by the National Cash Register Company, Dayton, Ohio. At the end of this counter will be located one or two roll-top desks, and back of it will be the repair counter and benches and also the cabinets for holding the stock. At the further end of the store there will be a trade reception room of the dimensions 15 by 20 feet, which will be nicely furnished and carpeted, and supplied with conveniences for writing, etc. It is said that this will be the largest store in the world devoted exclusively to a fountain pen business.

The June 24, 1897 edition of the American Stationer provided a view of the storefront.

At the same time their facilities were growing, so was their selection of pens. A March 25, 1897 advertisement with the heading “Points Worthy of Consideration” laid out the different types available at the time.

According to the advertisement:

Our Gold Pens are solid Gold, as fine Gold as the best, so fine that they are not corrodible by ink or otherwise, and as fine as they can be made and have sufficient alloy to make them strong, elastic and durable. The points are diamond-pointed with the best iridium, and ground by the most skilled workmen to have a variety of points, some smooth, like ordinary Gold pens, and some to “feel” the paper like steel pens, so that all can be suited with their favorite points. They are made in five sizes, Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. The assortment includes long, medium and short nibs, and fine, medium, coarse and stub points, with varying degree of flexibility to suit any hand.

While most pens were marketed to the general public at a cost as low as $2.50, some were certainly aimed at the rich and famous. This description of their exhibit at the Paris Exposition included in the March 26, 1900 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described several of their high end items.

The exhibit is located on the center aisle and contains about six hundred pens of the finest mountings and workmanship.

While the majority of the pens shown are of the company’s standard make, there are some wrought with exceptional elegance and beauty. Among these there are three gold barreled, jewel mounted pens, one having thirty-six jewels and valued at $250. Two others are studded with eighteen diamonds each and are valued at $125 and $175 respectively.

By 1902 the space at 157 Broadway had been maxed out, dictating a move to new quarters a block to the north at 173 Broadway.  According to the 1902 World’s Book story:

In a decade the quarters of this thriving concern have been enlarged ten times until it has become necessary to move into a larger building, the greater part of which will be devoted to the sale, assembling of parts, and repair of injuries of Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pens. From the desk room in the back of a cigar store, the business has grown until six stories are needed to contain but a portion of it.

An item announcing Waterman’s move to their new quarters was published in the May 26, 1902 edition of the New York Sun.

By then, according to the World’s Book story the company was producing a half million fountain pens per year and their office and sales staff had reached seventeen and one hundred respectively. Accompanying the story were photographs of their new building as well as the sales room.

Located at the corner of Broadway and Cortlandt Streets in lower Manhattan, the intersection was sometimes referred to as “the busiest corner in the world.” It also became known as the “Pen Corner,” courtesy of Waterman’s advertisements. One depicting “Pen Corner” appeared in the April 25, 1908 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Beneath the image was the following paragraph:

Mid Castles in the Air

The Waterman Building (31,000 square feet floor space) remains the only home in this vicinity devoted entirely to any one business enterprise. It is surrounded by business quarters of nearly 100,000 people.

A blow-up, looking west from Broadway, depicts the Waterman building on the right side of the intersection.

No manufacturing was done at their Broadway location. According to the 1902 World’s Book story, this was accomplished at two factory locations. One was located in Seymour Connecticut, the other on Rose Street in lower Manhattan.

At the factory at Seymour Conn., where the hard rubber barrels are made, one hundred men are employed in shaping rubber into the polished black and mottled tubes for Waterman pens. The barrel here passes through forty-nine processes, so many, in fact, that it would seem impossible to bring the completed pen within reach of the ordinary purse.

The story included a photograph of the factory’s interior and a July 16, 1910 edition of the American Stationer included an exterior view.

The Manhattan factory was actually leased floor space in the Rheinlander Building located at the intersection of Rose Street and Duane Street. It’s here that the pens themselves were put together, including the making of the pen’s gold nib.

This leads to a piece in the 1902 World’s Book story regarding the handling of the gold and iridium used to make the nib and tip. It’s well worth a read!

Of the making of the gold nib alone an article as long as this might be written; – sixty to seventy hand processes are necessary to produce each gold pen. The material used is gold of 14-carat fineness tipped with iridium which is nearly worth it’s weight in diamonds. The material handled, in fact, is so precious that extraordinary precautions are taken to preserve every minute particle – the clothes of the operators are the property of the company and are periodically reduced to ashes for the sake of the gold dust they carry; from the water used in washing the hands and faces of the men $90 worth of gold is taken every month.

The iridium used for the tip was even more valuable than gold. According to another American Stationer story, this small bottle of iridium was valued at $1,000 in the early 1900’s

By 1915 the company had constructed two buildings in New York City that were fully dedicated to the manufacture of their fountain pens. The first, opened in September, 1910, was located on Fletcher Street in lower Manhattan.

The opening was covered in a September 10, 1910 story in the Brooklyn Times Union. The story makes it clear that all the manufacturing operations were encompassed under one roof.

On September 10, New York became possessed of one more great manufacturing plant, when the L. E. Waterman Company officially opened their mammoth factory at 34-40 Fletcher Street for the manufacture of fountain pens.

Saturday afternoon between 1 o’clock and 6 the factory was thrown open to the public, and with the aid of a large staff of competent guides were taken through the different departments of the plant and shown how a sticky piece of rubber and a bit of gold are made up into one of the most useful articles of the day.

When one enters the building they are first taken to the basement, where is located the power and machine plants, and where also are the smelting and refining furnaces. Here the crude or semi-crude rubber is refined to the stage where it can be moulded and turned into the handles of the pens; next one is taken to the ink department, which though it is only a subsidiary manufacture is an industry in itself and occupies two floors. Through the printing and case department you next go, but it is not until you reach the gold and silver mounting department that you begin to realize to what extent the finer art of the pen making is carried; here the beautiful filigree work, seen so much on the higher priced pens, is done and in this branch are employed some of the most skillful gold and silversmiths to be found in America.

The rubber turning department is on the next floor. The rubber handles are not finished here, but are taken to the assembling room where they are finished by hand.

Having seen in a general way the operations required to make a fountain pen, you leave the building by way of the shipping room, where tier after tier of boxes, filled with pens, were being sent to all parts of the world and every state of the Union.

The second New York City factory, also in lower Manhattan, was located at 163 Front Street and opened in May, 1915. A rendering of the factory as well as a construction photo appeared in the American Stationer that year.

     

With the opening of this second New York City factory and another in Connecticut,  the company was now operating a total of five; two in New York, two in Connecticut and another in St. Lambert, Canada.

By then, according to a May 22, 1915 American Stationer story, the business was capable of producing 2,500,000 pens per year and the different types available were almost endless.

As a starter, Mr Waterman made one type of pen in two prices and four different points which would mean a line of eight different types of pens. At the present time, we make four active lines, regular type, self-filling type, safety type and the pocket type, in four different style holders which would be sixteen different kinds of pens; multiply this by ten different points would mean 160 distinct type of pens. If you care to multiply these figures by the three different length of nibs which we make regularly you would have 480 different kinds of pens, and if you would add to this the different mountings and special points and the other styles such as 2, 32, 42, 52 jointless holders, you will have about 2,000 different kinds carried by the company.

The 1915 American Stationer story went on to say that the company had evolved into a world wide operation.

We have branch stores in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco in this country, and which are the company’s headquarters in New England, the Central West and the Pacific Coast; also branches in Canada, the principal cities in Europe, South Africa, Australia, South America, etc.

A photograph in the February 13, 1915 edition of the American Stationer  showed their London headquarters on Kingsway. Similar to New York City,  its location was described as “The Pen Corner.”

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In August, 1916 the company announced that their New York City headquarters was moving to 191 Broadway.

The new location was located within the same block on Broadway as their present location. The company simply moved from the south end of the block at Cortlandt Street to the north end at Dey Street, now calling the Dey Street intersection “The New Pen Corner.” The New York Tribune reported the opening in their May, 1, 1917 edition.

A new “Pen Corner” was opened yesterday, fittingly enough on the eighty-fourth anniversary of the birth of the man who became a fountain pen manufacturer after unpleasant experiences with a leaky specimen, and on the thirty-fourth anniversary of the founding of the great industry that grew from his decision.

The fountain pen has passed through many stages since L. E. Waterman turned out his first 200 and the changes are reflected in the showcases of the new store at Broadway and Dey Street. Seven thousand persons dropped in yesterday to admire the gold and silver mounted pen of 1917 and compare it to the dull looking specimens of the “first two hundred.”

There is a pen to fit every hand, a point to suit every preference in the new “Pen Corner,” for its walnut cabinets have a capacity of 30,000 and the variety is no less than 5,000. The cabinets are arranged in an ellipse in the exact center of the store. Hidden behind them are the repair men; in front of them is an unbroken showcase displaying pens that run the scale in design between extreme simplicity and ultra ornateness.

This photograph, showing a view of the salesroom appeared in the June, 1917 edition of Architecture and Building.

The several floors above the salesroom were utilized by the wholesale and export departments and executive offices.

It appears the company’s peak occurred sometime in the early 1920’s when they constructed what was called at the time, the “world’s greatest fountain pen factory,” in Newark New Jersey.

The plant was described in the March 26, 1921 edition of the American Stationer.

The largest and most modern factory building in Newark, New Jersey, was recently completed and occupied by the L. E. Waterman Company, manufacturer’s of Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pen. It occupies the equivalent of one city block, on Thomas Street, numbered from 140 to 170, extending back a considerable greater distance in two other immense buildings, with a paved court accessible from a broad driveway and exit on either side of the main entrance to the Administration Building, situated on Thomas Street.

The new building – vastly larger than the others – will have a production of approximately 10 million pens a year, and with full equipment of modern and newly devised machinery, makes it the world’s greatest fountain pen factory.

By then the manufacture of ink was well entrenched in the company’s business as evidenced by this story written just as their Newark factory opened. It appeared in the March 5, 1921 edition of the American Stationer.

One of the largest and most modern ink plants in the world making fountain pen ink exclusively is that of the L. E. Waterman Company. The plant occupies a portion of the mammoth new Waterman factory on Thomas Street, Newark, N. J., and is the first department to be placed in full operation there. It is devoted entirely to the manufacture of Waterman’s Ideal ink, supplying the millions of users of Waterman’s fountain pen with the ink best adapted to its well known writing qualities. Inks of the standard colors are produced, namely blue-black, green, red, violet and jet black. The output is 4,000 gallons a day, and this is being steadily increased by the addition of new equipment.

So that leads to the question: “When did Waterman add the manufacture and sale of ink to his fountain pen business?”

An unscientific study of his advertising reveals that this likely occurred in 1890. Prior to that Waterman advertisements focused on the fountain pen, sometimes adding this phrase:

It uses any good ink and holds enough to write continuously from 10 – 25 hours.

It was in 1890 that advertisements associating the Waterman name with an ink product began to appear in the American Stationer. One of the first was an August 28 ad for “Waterman’s Fountain Pen Ink Filler.” Aimed at the retailer, it was certainly introductory in nature.

It is for the interest of every dealer to present this new article to the attention of his customers.

Because

it insures the use of good ink in their fountain pens and in other ways makes their care less troublesome

An August 17, 1907 advertisement  in the American Stationer described their ink and its packaging:

It is made in all of the following colors: Blue-Black, Combined (for writing or copying), Black, Red, Green and Violet and each one of these colors are made in all sizes (2-ounce up to a quart).

The two ounce size was pictured in the advertisement.

     

The ink was also packaged and sold in “desk filler” and “traveler’s filler” styles.

The desk filler…consists of a solid rubber stopper and dropper in a bottle, holding enough ink for about 50 fillings.

The travelers’ filler consists of a solid rubber stopper and dropper, in a bottle holding sufficient ink for 12 fillings, which is held firmly in place by a spring in a neat wooden box.

The advertisement pictured both in a display stand.

Subsequently, the April 17, 1915 edition of the American Stationer announced the addition of several newly patented style bottles.

One, a pour out bottle was made in two sizes, pint and quart. It was initially advertised on the cover of the American Stationer’s March 27, 1915 edition.

   

The other was an oddly shaped 2 ounce bottle marketed for use with their self-filling pen.

By the time they moved into their new factory  Waterman’s Ideal Ink was being marketed hand in hand with their fountain pens. Their message to retailers was: “One Sells the Other.”

Waterman continued  the United States arm of their business well into the 1950’s however, during this time competition from companies like Parker and Schaefer was taking its toll. Ultimately, in 1958, the company was acquired by Bic. The acquisition was covered in the Boston Globe on November 24, 1958.

Sale of controlling interest in the Waterman Pen Co., one of the oldest pen makers in this country, to Marcel L. Bich of Paris, France was announced today.

The company said a new line of inexpensive ball point pens will be featured in the new operation of the organization.

The company’s plant here will continue its present output along with the added production of an initial output of 100,000 ball point pens a day. One hundred additional employees will be required.

The new firm will be called the Waterman-Bic Pen Corp., Inc.

This August 19, 1959 New York Daily News advertisement made it clear that Waterman-Bic served as the French corporation’s manufacturing arm in the United States.

The hand-pleasing personal writing quality of Bic pens has conquered five continents in 10 years . Every day of the year, one-and-a-half-million people buy a Bic pen. Now Bic pens are manufactured in America for you by Waterman. Quick, get a Bic!

Operating solely out of Seymour Connecticut, the other Waterman plants had apparently been sold off at some point. The company remained in Seymour until 1963 when they moved the operation to Milford, Connecticut. The move was reported in the June 19, 1963 edition of the Bridgeport Post.

The United Aircraft Corporation has sold its Wiley Street plant and office building to the Waterman-Bic Pen Corporation, a subsidiary of Societe Bic, a French corporation, it was learned today.

Bic plans to move from its present plant in Seymour after alterations have been made to the Wiley Street building formerly occupied by the Norden division of United Aircraft.

Societe Bic has 18 plants and produces 2,400,000 pens a day. The Connecticut plant now located in Seymour and scheduled to move here is its only facility in the United States.

According to an April 21, 1971 story in Binghamton New York’s Press and Sun Bulletin, Bic dropped the Waterman name at that time. The story not only marked the end of the Waterman name in the United States, but could serve as an obituary for the fountain pen as well.

Bic to Drop Waterman Name, Marking End of Writing Era

The Waterman-Bic Corporation of Milford has announced it will change its name to the Bic Pen Corporation, effective May 1.

“We hope to bring about a stronger product identity between the Bic ball pens and the consumer,” Robert P. Alder, Bic president said.

The disappearance of the Waterman name, in effect, reflects the demise of the fountain pen as an everyday, functional writing instrument, the announcement said. The Waterman Pen company was founded in 1884 and was a pioneer in the development of the fountain pen as well as sales leader during the height of its popularity.

The Waterman-Bic corporation was formed in November, 1958, and since then has grown to dominate the American writing instrument business with a 64 percent share of today’s retail market, its announcement reported. Bic makes more than 2,000,000 ball pens a day from its highly automated plant facilities in Milford – all in the 19 to 49-cent price ranges. The company has not made a fountain pen in 10 years.

The Waterman name continued in Europe and you can still get a Waterman Pen to this day.

I’ve found two types of Waterman ink bottles over the years. The first, machine made, is an example of their standard 2 ounce bottle. It closely resembles the one included in the 1907 advertisement presented earlier in this post.

 

The other, mouth blown, appears to be an example of their traveler filler. It’s faintly embossed “Waterman’s Ink” on its base.

 

On a final note, Waterman’s Manhattan factory building on Front Street, opened in 1915, remains to his day. Google Earth reveals that it’s currently under renovation.

   

In response to the initial version of this post I was contacted by a researcher named Daniel Kirchheimer who has unearthed compelling evidence that the original version of Waterman’s pen was actually the invention of a man named Frank Holland. His impeccable research can be found on the following link and is well worth the read. It even includes an appearance by the world renowned author Mark Twain.

https://danielkirchheimer.com/articles/blotting-out-the-truth

Lewis Brothers, Inc. New York – Vitalis

        

Lewis Brothers, Inc. introduced the hair product Vitalis to the market sometime in the mid 1920’s but the business itself dates back to 1913 when it was first listed in the New York City directories with an address of 22 West 115th Street.

The 1914 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed the business with the occupational heading “chemists,” and named the proprietors as Morris, Max and Louis Lewis. Census records in 1910 show that Morris immigrated to the United States from Russia at around the time he was born in 1885 while the younger Louis was a native New Yorker, born in 1894. Both, along with Max, whose census records I can’t find, are consistently associated with the business throughout the teens and 20’s while other Lewis family members, Charles and Herman, appear sporadically in the directories during that time.

The business incorporated sometime in the late teens and was first listed as a New York Corporation in the 1919 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory with Morris named president and Max and Louis named secretary and treasurer respectively. Around the same time, the company moved to 125th Street where they were listed in the early 1920’s at 1 West 125th Street and later in the decade at 26 East 125th Street.

The company registered the trademark “ELBEE VITALIS” on March 25, 1924 (Serial No. 187872). As far as I can tell, the word ELBEE is the phonetical spelling of their initials L.B.

Not long after it was trademarked, drug stores began to include Vitalis in their newspaper advertisements. This advertisement for the Stanley Drug Co. of Philadelphia, published in the April 8, 1926 edition of Camden New Jersey’s Courier-Post, was one of the earliest I could find. L-B Vitalis was listed under the heading “Toilet Needs.”on the lower left (enlarged below the entire ad).

A series of late 1920’s Lewis Brothers advertisements published in the New York Daily News delivered their early marketing message.

If only you had taken care of your hair! You would have no regrets now. Vitalis cares for the hair in three important ways. It retards falling hair – it tends to eradicate dandruff – and is a perfect vegetable dressing that has no stickiness. Use Vitalis only twice a week – you will be surprised at the results.

Another ad in the series provided these directions for its use, claiming “Twice a week is sufficient!”

You who have hair troubles – here is the simplest treatment in the world. On Tuesday and Saturday mornings rub a small quantity of Vitalis into your scalp, then comb your hair. The other mornings of the week, dampen the hair with water, and comb. Vitalis will retard falling hair, tend to eradicate dandruff – and is a gentlemen’s dressing.

While these advertisements skewed toward men, the company also made a short-lived effort to develop a female following as well. Advertisements in 1930 touting it as a way to curl straight hair appeared in several New York City newspapers.

YOU CAN HAVE CURLEY HAIR

I’m not spoofing you…for I’ve seen ’em with my very eyes begin to wave and curl after the directions in “How to Care for Your Hair” had been followed. The booklet is distributed through the courtesy of the makers of Vitalis. Every step in the complete home care of the hair is given. I will send you without charge a copy of this beautifully illustrated booklet and if you add 6c in stamps I will include a bottle of Vitalis…the preparation that brings out hidden waves…or, you can purchase a large bottle at your drug store for $1 or less with booklet enclosed.

By the early 1930’s, the product’s success made it a target for acquisition by Bristol-Myers. This item announcing the acquisition appeared in the March 31, 1931 edition of the Boston Globe.

Drug, Inc., announces the purchase from Lewis Brothers, Inc. of Vitalis, the well-known hair preparation. The purchase was effected out of surplus, without the issuance of any additional stock.

Vitalis has been transferred to the Bristol-Myers Company, a subsidiary of Drug, Inc., and, after April 1, the product will be manufactured and sold entirely by the new owners. Additional advertising and sales support will be applied during the current year to this product.

Harold B. Thomas, who has been in charge of Vitalis sales and advertising under Lewis Brothers’ ownership, will be associated with the sales department of the Bristol-Myers Company in promoting the sale of the preparation.

By this purchase, the Bristol-Myers unit handles the manufacture and sale of six nationally advertised specialty products in the drug field.

The story specifically promised “additional advertising and sales support,” and advertise they did! By July  an advertisement with the heading “The Hot Sun is Severe on Hair! But don’t let it ruin yours!” was appearing in newspapers all over the country. It promoted the “2-Minute Summer Treatment.”

2-Minute Summer Treatment

Want to play 36 holes of golf…7 sets of tennis…take a long, long swim – and still have your hair manageable, healthy, neat?

Then just before you dash out for your day’s sport, massage Vitalis into your scalp. It won’t take 2 minutes!

Later that year the product’s long-time catch phrase was born when the two minute treatment was cut in half and branded the “60 second workout.” Advertisements published in the Fall of 1931 pitched it like this:

The way to handsome hair is through a healthy scalp. Your tight dry scalp can’t grow good-looking hair. It needs excercise, action, stimulation – it needs this twice-a-week schedule of 60 second workouts with Vitalis and massage.

Other advertisements around the same time demonstrated how it worked.

Twenty years later the message had changed very little as evidenced by this March 13, 1951 New York Daily News advertisement.

In 1952 things did change when Bristol-Myers  incorporated  what they called their “New Greaseless Grooming Discovery V-7” into Vitalis, now referring to the product as the “new finer” Vitalis Hair Tonic.

Vitalis Hair Tonic with V7 can still be purchased to this day on line.

The Walgreens web site describes it like this:

Vitalis liquid is specially formulated to leave your hair neat, well groomed and healthy looking. Vitalis liquid works to restore manageability to all hair types using a non-greasy formula that contains V7.

According to a book called “Did Trojans Use Trojans?: A Trip Inside the Corner Drug Store,” by Vince Staten, the Vitalis secret wasn’t, and still isn’t V7, but actually alcohol, and lots of it.

The days of secret ingredients are past. So its okay if I reveal what they really were…

Perhaps the most interesting secret ingredient is V7 itself. Its not the main ingredient in Vitalis. That’s alcohol, which, because of its drying power, has been a staple in hair tonic for decades.

In the fifties, Vitalis trademarked the name “V7” for trimetozine, a drug whose main use was as a sedative. That’s right, if you used Vitalis hair tonic in the fifties you were smearing sedative in your hair. Now you know why you slept so well back then. Your hair tonic contained the original hair relaxant.

So what’s in the modern version of Vitalis? Let’s see, the main ingredient is SD alcohol 40. In other words, alcohol. That’s followed by PPG-40 butyl ether, a compound derived from ethyl alcohol. In other words alcohol.

Then there’s water, which you know about, benzyl benzoate, which is a solvent used as a fixative in perfumes and chewing-gum flavors, and dihydroabietyl alcohol. More alcohol. That’s alcohol, alcohol, water, solvent and alcohol. No wonder winos used to drink this stuff. They knew what the real secret ingredient was.

A  list of Vitalis ingredients presented on the Walgreen’s web site is almost identical to the list Vince Staten presented in his book.

Lewis Brothers, Inc., having sold Vitalis in 1931, continued to be listed in the New York City directories up through the early 1950’s as wholesale dealers in barber supplies. They remained at 26 East 125th Street up through at least the early to mid 1930’s.

According to street easy.com, today’s building at that location was built in 1909 so it’s certainly the one utilized by the Lewis Brothers’ company when they were manufacturing and selling Vitalis in the late 1920’s. Here’s the building today courtesy of Google Earth.

Later, the company moved downtown, listing addresses at 2 W. 18th (1940’s/early 1950’s) and 822 Broadway (early 1950’s). This September 24, 1950 story in the New York Daily News confirms that the Lewis family was still managing the business at that time. It presented Charles Lewis’ opinion on the future price of a New York City haircut ($1.25!).

10-Bit Haircut Ahead?

A hair-raising prediction was made yesterday by leaders in the barbering field. Haircuts at $1.25 and 75-cent shaves are in the offing for New Yorkers patronizing union shops.

Charles Lewis, president of Lewis Brothers, Inc., barber suppliers of 2 W. 18th St., said that a survey just completed by him points to price hikes of from 25% to 50% by the first of next year.

The bottle I found is machine made and 16 ounces in size. It’s embossed “Lewis Brothers Inc.” on its side. “Vitalis, is embossed across the bottom and “this bottle property of Lewis Brothers, Inc.,” around the bottom’s perimeter. This dates it between 1924 when the Vitalis name was trademarked and 1931 when the product was acquired by Bristol-Myers.

The bottle matches the one illustrated in the late 1920’s Lewis Brothers’ advertisements in the New York Daily News.

 

Hicksville Bottling Co., Hicksville, N. Y., “ROXY”

 

Long Island New York’s Hicksville Bottling Company had its roots with the mineral water business of a man named Edgar Davis. When Davis started the business is not clear, however, bottles produced for the Hicksville Bottling Company in the 1940’s and 1950’s include the phrase “Since 1873,” so it’s possible that it’s inception extended back that far.

 

A September 4, 1886 local newspaper story specifically referenced Edgar Davis as a bottler so it’s clear he was up and running by the mid 1880’s.

In 1894, brothers-in-law William F. Staude and Charles Fassbender purchased the business from Davis. The transaction was announced in the May 12, 1894 edition of a Huntington, New York newspaper called “The Long-Islander.”

William F. Staude of the Roadside Hotel and Charles Fassbender, collector for the Ulmer Brewing Company have bought out the mineral water business of Edgar Davis and have leased the old Pahde property where they will carry on a bottling business on a large scale. Both young men are sons in law of August Fleischbein, proprietor of the Grand Central Hotel and are well-known. We wish them success.

As far as I can tell their initial location was near the Hicksville train depot on the northeast corner of East Marie Street and Railroad Avenue. A map, circa 1914, confirmed their plant was located there by that time.

Not just associated with mineral water, this advertisement, published in the September 21, 1907 edition of the Brooklyn Times Union also labeled them as beer bottlers and wine and liquor dealers.

The advertisement specifically mentioned Ulmer Cabinet Beer. According to Fassbender’s April 12, 1922 obituary published in the Brooklyn Standard Union he worked for Brooklyn’s Ulmer Brewery from 1880 to 1920.

During his forty years connected with the Ulmer Brewing Company, Mr. Fassbender advanced himself from clerk to personal collector for Brooklyn and Long Island. He also handled a considerable portion of its real estate dealings with its various agencies.

So, it’s no surprise that the company not only bottled Ulmer beer, but almost certainly bottled it from the start in 1894. Recognizing that their father-in-law, August Fleischbein, owned Hicksville’s Grand Central Hotel including its 600 person capacity hall, it’s also likely they had an immediate market for their products.

Staude passed away in 1917 and Fassbender ultimately sold the business in 1921. The sale was reported in the August edition of the American Bottler.

HICKSVILLE BOTTLING PLANT CHANGES HANDS

The Hicksville Bottling Co., at Hicksville, Long Island, has been purchased by Jac. Friedman, who was formerly connected with the Christ Wagner Bottling Co., of Java Street, Brooklyn. Charles S. Fassbender was the former owner of the plant, which he had successfully conducted for a number of years.

Polish immigrants, the Friedman’s apparently operated the business as a family affair. In addition to Jac (Jak), 1930 census records indicate that Eli Friedman, likely his brother, as well as Jak’s two sons, Louis and William, were all involved in the business. Census records in 1940 continued to associate the Friedman’s with the business.

It was the Friedman’s who, during Prohibition, began utilizing the name “Roxy.” They trademarked the name in 1930, but their application indicated that it had been in use since July 1, 1926.

After Prohibition they were back in the beer business as evidenced by this May 26, 1937 advertisement in the New York Daily News listing them as a Brooklyn and Long Island distributor for the Fidelio Brewery. By then the company had apparently moved, listing their address as 10-2 Lenox Avenue in Hicksville.

Another advertisement, this one published in the March 17, 1939 edition of the Nassau Daily Review named them as a distributor for New York City’s John Eichler Brewing Company as well.

The company, as well as the Roxy brand, endured well into the 1950’s and possibly longer. As late as 1957, this July 21 New York Daily News advertisement listed “Roxy – dietetic” (halfway down the second column) as a beverage made with Sucaryl.

           

The bottle I found is machine made with the Hicksville Bottling Co. name embossed on the bottom. The name “Roxy” is embossed on both sides in a style matching the patented trademark.

      

The bottle was likely made in the late 1920’s or 1930’s, and certainly no earlier than July, 1926 when the trademark application declared it was first used.

The company also used the Roxy name on siphon bottles as evidenced by this item recently offered for sale on the internet.

 

Rising Sun Brewing Co., Elizabeth, N. J.

 

The Rising Sun Brewing Company was in operation for almost 50 years during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Located in the  vicinity of 7th Street and Marshall Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey, it was one of just two major  breweries located in that city.

Established in 1887, the roots of the business date back much earlier. According to a 1901 publication called “One Hundred Years of Brewing:”

John F. Wagner commenced brewing lager beer at Elizabeth N. J., in 1865, and the continuation of the business, to which has been added the manufacture of ale and porter, is in the hands of the Rising Sun Brewing Company.

Wagner was listed in the Elizabeth directories as a brewer from the mid 1870’s up until 1883. At that point it appears that he turned the operation over to Benjamin Witter who called it the Orient Brewery.

Within a year, newspaper accounts across the nation announced that a boiler explosion had destroyed the brewery. The September 24, 1884 edition of the Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Times Leader told the story like this:

A BREWERY BURNED

ELIZABETH N. J., Sept. 23. – This evening an upright boiler in Witter’s brewery exploded, the fragments being thrown through the roof and 300 feet from the building. The brewery immediately took fire and was totally consumed, together with its contents. F. W. Bauer’s grocery store adjoining was also burned. The loss is about $25,000. Two men were reported to have been killed by the explosion, but the report lacks confirmation.

A year later on December 5, 1885 Camden N. J.’s Morning Post announced that the business had failed.

Failure of a Brewery

ELIZABETH, N. J., Dec 5 – The failure is reported of the Orient Brewery in this city, Benjamin Witter, proprietor, for the sum of $31,000.

An advertisement published three months later, in the February 23, 1886 edition of the Elizabeth Daily Journal, indicated that the brewery, still called the Orient Brewery, was back up and running by then. The brewery also ran this advertisement in the 1886 Elizabeth directory.

A year later, in 1887, the Rising Sun Brewing Company had incorporated and was listed at the former address of the Orient Brewery. Whether the cost of rebuilding ultimately forced Witter to sell the brewery due to bankruptcy or the new owners of the business rebuilt and operated it for a year under the old name is not clear. Nonetheless, by 1887 it was certainly under new ownership.

“The City of Elizabeth Illustrated,” published in 1888 by the Elizabeth Daily Journal, described the operation in its first year or so.

The Rising Sun Brewing Company was incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey, on March 2, 1887, with a capital of $50,000. The incorporators are citizens of Elizabeth, who are interested in the development of home trade, which they supply with a wholesome article of ale and lager beer.

In addition to their home trade the Rising Sun Brewing Company have an extensive business in Newark and New York City, which they supply with their products.

The business of the company is growing rapidly, and the present output of beer is at the rate of thirty thousand barrels per annum. The quality of the beer, which is of the finest, is equaled only by a few breweries and surpassed by none.

The 1888 feature also included a description of the physical plant along with a rendering.

The buildings are substantially built of brick, and are situated at Nos. 29 to 35 Seventh Street, corner of Marshall Street. The premises are amply  supplied with all of the modern appliances for the manufacture of ale and beer. They have a complete equipment of horses and wagons for transportation purposes. The present buildings were put up a few years ago on the site of a brewery which had been destroyed by fire, and the extensive plant presents an imposing appearance, the wagons and teams in the vicinity of the brewery presenting a scene of constant activity.

By 1890 the Elizabeth business directory listed the business under the title of both “brewers” and “beer bottlers,” so it appears they were likely bottling their own beer close to, if not at the start of the new company.

The brewery grew with Marshall Street serving as its central spine. The manufacturing plant was located on the west side of the street while the offices and distribution facilities were located on the east side. This  1930 photograph of the brewery shows Seventh Street running from foreground to background and Marshall Street across the picture. The brewery is the building  pictured on the right, with the towered office and distribution plant plainly visible across the street. According to a September 18, 1932 story in the N. Y. Daily News the beer was piped from vats located in the brewery under Marshall Street to kegs in the distribution plant.

As early as the late 1800’s you could grab a “Rising Sun – Special” on draught, “after business hours or, when at your leisure,” at Elizabeth’s  Cafe Broeker. Their beer menu, printed in the 1897 Elizabeth N.J. directory, mentioned that you could also enjoy a Salvator, brewed by Peter Breidt. Breidt’s City Brewery was the only other major brewery located in Elizabeth at the time.

Originally Rising Sun was in the hands of several Elizabeth, New Jersey businessmen including Charles Seeber who, according to his January 18, 1900 obituary, was the principal stockholder. Seeber served as president of the company up until his death in 1900. At that point, another stockholder, Phillip Schauble, assumed the presidency with Seeber’s son, George, serving as vice president.

Four years later, a story in the November 25, 1904 edition of the Central New Jersey Home News reported that the Rising Sun business had changed hands.

ELIZABEH, NOV. 25 – One of the most important real estate deals transacted in the city in recent years took place Wednesday when the Rising Sun Brewery here changed hands and is now in the control of a syndicate represented by Alderman Edward Neugent as president. The price was $300,000, all of which was delivered in cash…

The syndicate will conduct the business on a much larger scale than heretofore, and will also enlarge the facilities of the plant.

Two months later, in January, 1905, the stockholders elected George Seeber as president, a position he held up through the start of Prohibition and beyond.

In addition to Alderman Neugent, stockholders in the new company included the former governor of New Jersey (1898 to 1902) Foster M. Vorhees and the head of Citizen’s Bank, H. Hayward Isham. An October 27, 1905 story in the (Bridgewater N. J.) Courier-News, explained that this roster of influential individuals allowed them to conduct “business as usual.”

This is Plainfield and Union County politics, but it is also politics everywhere else. The Rising Sun Brewing Company of Elizabeth….owns or controls a large proportion of the saloons in Union County. Among its stockholders are men high in official authority and powerful in the councils of both political parties. It controls the granting of licenses to such an extent that brewers in other counties can hardly obtain licenses to sell their beers in Union, and it commands the saloon vote so completely that politicians and bosses are glad to do its bidding in return for its influence at election time. “The saloon in politics” is a misnomer, so long as brewers can own the saloons and crack the whip over political bosses of both parties.

Prior to Prohibition the company marketed their light brew under the name “Bohemia” and their dark beer as “Seeber.” An advertisement for Bohemia appeared in several December, 1913 editions of the Central New Jersey Home News.

Another advertisement, this one in the September 15, 1915 edition of the Hackensack (N. J.) Record, pitched a free advertising tray to be included with the sale of each case.

The sun has arisen. The Rising Sun Brewing Co., Bohemia Beer. Pure malt and hops only. $1.00 per case, 24 bottles. A beautiful tray given with each case of beer.

It’s possible that the tray pictured below, recently offered for sale on the internet, could be a surviving example of this advertised offer.

With the advent of National Prohibition the company began advertising a non-alcoholic version of both Bohemia and Seeber, now marketing them under the singular name – See-bo (light and dark).

Newspaper advertisements for See-bo began appearing in late 1919 and early 1920; the following appearing in the January 20, 1920 edition of the Passaic (N. J.) Daily News.

Around the same time another advertisement creatively delivered their marketing pitch, cleverly avoiding the fact that it was non-alcoholic.

Not a “near”-this, nor a “near” -that but the ACTUAL THING. You can’t mistake it for anything but what it really is. Touches the spot as nothing else can. Made in a plant that knows how, and bottled right here at the brewery – as good when it reaches you as when it leaves us. Just try it – order a case (light or dark, or assorted) from your dealer or grocer, or telephone the local distributor.

Within a year they had added both a “Half & Half,” and a non-alcoholic ale called “Dublin Brew” to their menu as well.

Newspaper advertisements for these products, plentiful in the early 1920’s, completely disappear by 1924. Around this time it appears that Seeber leased the brewery to others. Names mentioned in newspaper stories over the next several years mention Louis Parkowitz and later the Oneida Manufacturing Co. as lessees, however, other stories suggest that the brewery was actually being run by New York gangster Waxey Gordon. The history of the brewery during the latter half of the 1920’s serves to support this suggestion.

The brewery was certainly illegally brewing and distributing real beer as evidenced by this December 8, 1928 story in the (New York) Daily News.

Court action yesterday prevented a general smashup of the Rising Sun Brewery at Elizabeth N. J., after dry agents had made an ax-and-crow-bar raid there. And the agents needed police protection, because of the unpopularity they had achieved.

Elizabeth likes its beer, and the crowd that gathered when blows of ax and hammer resounded through the neighborhood was in no friendly mood.

Just after daybreak five agents from New York, led by W. J. Calhoon, battered their way through the gates. A truck sped through another gate and got away and ’tis said, it carried with it a full load of brew. A crowd collected about the place and its attitude was such that the Elizabeth police were summoned.

Later the agents set about to dismantle the plant. But along came a temporary restraining order from Judge Runton in Newark to spoil that sport. It seems, according to the attorney for the brewery, that the raiders had forgotten the formality of getting a search warrant.

One man, Louis Parkowitz, was found in the brewery. He was released in $1,000 bail.

The brewery survived this incident but wasn’t able to survive another incident in 1930 when an enforcement agent was shot and killed during a government raid. A September 20, 1930 Daily News article told the story; a story that brings to mind the “Untouchables” television show.

A raiding dry agent, already marked for death, was killed yesterday in a gun battle between brewery guards and Philadelphia prohibition operatives , who were trapped by the gangsters in the fortress-like Rising Sun Brewery at Elizabeth, N. J.

The dead man was John J. Finiello, ace of Philadelphia raiders, who had a reputation for being incorruptible.

“Get the rat!” said one of the gunmen, pointing to Finiello who stood with raised hands.

Sensing the peril, the agent reached for his revolver, and fired twice, but he died with eight bullets in his body. Five of the shots pierced the search warrant which was in one of Finiello’s pockets.

Later, according to an October 3, 1930 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the story got better.

John G. Smith, chief of Federal prohibition agents led a squad to the Rising Sun Brewery, followed an underground passageway and went up at the other end into a blacksmith’s shop where he found 1,500 half barrels of beer. Julius H. Russell, owner of the building was arrested and held pending an investigation.

The next day’s edition of the Daily News included a photo of the illicit beer barrels.

After well over a year of legal proceedings, the March 2, 1932 edition of the Courier-News announced that the brewery had been ordered padlocked.

Federal Judge William Clark yesterday ordered the Rising Sun Brewery in Elizabeth where John Finiello, dry agent, was killed during a raid, padlocked for one year.

Counsel for company consented to the order, ending suddenly proceedings the government instituted many months ago. The brewery was raided in Sept., 1930, but the defendant company carried the issue of the legality of the raid to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, where the bench warrant was held valid.

The padlock was removed on April 7, 1933 and on February 14, 1934 the Courier-News announced the brewery’s reopening.

Elizabeth – Formal opening of the Rising Sun Brewing Co, this city, was attended by a large number of city officials and other citizens today. The plant, closed during prohibition days, was the scene of the shooting of John G. Finiello, a prohibition agent, in September 1930, during a raid…

Shortly after the re-opening the company apparently changed its name to the Seeber Brewing Company.  The business was certainly a family affair as evidenced by the 1935 Elizabeth directory listing for the Seeber Brewing Company that named George Seeber, Jr. as manager (George Seeber Sr. passed away in 1930), Herbert Seeber as vice president, John Seeber as “brewery worker” and Phillipine Seeber as secretary. The listing also included the phrase “brewers since 1877,” so they continued to acknowledge their “Rising Sun” history.

This July 2, 1936 advertisement in the  Montclair (N. J) Times demonstrated that they also stayed true to the former “Rising Sun” brands.

Unfortunately the Seeber Brewing Company’s lifespan was short. According to the September 14, 1937 edition of the Hackensack Record:

The Seeber Brewing Company of Elizabeth, successor to the Rising Sun Brewing Company, faced liquidation today under a Federal court order.

The May 17, 1939 edition of the Courier-News reported that the plant was ultimately taken over by the Schultz Brewery of Union City N. J. but their occupancy was even more short-lived.

The Schultz Brewing Company of Elizabeth was ready today for a public sale of its assets. Federal Judge Guy L. Fake signed an order yesterday directing the sale of the company on May 25. The company which moved from Union City to Elizabeth recently to take over the Seeber Brewing Company, said it could not meet bills accumulated since last September and could not pay back $17,000 it had borrowed.

Today, a scan of Google Earth reveals that very little remains of the brewery complex. One possible exception is a brick building that includes a smokestack located at 650 Marshall Street.

Another, also brick with a modified entrance,  lies right across the street at 647 Marshall Street.

The bottle, actually found in the bay by a friend of mine, is export style and machine made. It certainly resembles the bottle shown in early 1920’s See-bo advertisements.

  

It’s likely from the Prohibition era or possibly a Bohemia or Seeber bottle from the decade prior.

Kellogg’s Tasteless Castor Oil

 

The above bottle is simply embossed Kellogg’s on its base which leaves several turn of the century products that it could possibly have contained.

One was “Kellogg’s Whiskey,” but the size and shape of the bottle certainly say medicine, not whiskey flask. Another, Kellogg’s Ant Paste, also fits the time frame but was sold in what was marketed as “the jar with the rattle cap,” not in a bottle

         

The fact that both businesses were located on the west coast and focused their advertising in that area further raised doubt that they hit the mark.

That left the linseed oil manufacturing company of Spencer Kellogg & Sons who in the mid-teens began manufacturing a product called “Tasteless Castor Oil,” whose bottles best fit the bill. In fact, the subject bottle looks quite similar to the bottle illustrated in this 1913 advertisement.

The business of Spencer Kellogg & Sons incorporated in Buffalo, New York in 1912 but the Kellogg family had been in the business of crushing and recovering products from various oil bearing seeds for two generations prior. The family’s start in the business was described years later in the December 31, 1939 edition of the Decatur, Illinois “Herald and Review.”

History records the erection of the first linseed oil mill by a member of the Kellogg family in 1824. It was in that year that Supplina Kellogg, grandfather of the founder of the present company, great grandfather of a present president, made the decision at the age of 35 to embark in the linseed oil business.

The first linseed mill erected on the Chactanunda Creek, West Galway in the Mohawk Valley near Amsterdam, N.Y., was a modest affair with a capacity of two barrels daily. In a few years, its production expanded to six barrels daily.

The first motive power at this “plant” was furnished by a blind mule. The maximum output was obtained when the mule was good and fresh.

According to the “Genealogical and Family History of Western New York,” by William Richard Cutter, published in 1912, Supplina passed away in 1845 and subsequently the business, operated by his two sons, Lauren and John, moved to Amsterdam, New York  in 1852. A year later Lauren Kellogg passed away and his place in the firm was taken by his wife’s brother, James A. Miller, changing the firm to Kellogg and Miller.

The “Genealogical and Family History of Western New York” goes on to say that in 1868 Spencer Kellogg entered the picture.

Spencer Kellogg, at the age of seventeen, began working for the firm and displayed so much business ability that four years later, in 1872, on his coming of legal age, was admitted to the firm…

Spencer remained with the firm for another five years. Then, in 1877 sold his interest in the business and relocated to Des Moines, Iowa before ultimately settling in Buffalo, New York. The reasoning behind his move from Des Moines to Buffalo was explained in “A history of the City of Buffalo Its Men and Institutions,” published in 1908.

…he entered into a partnership to erect a linseed oil mill in that town, which was to compete with one already established there. One day Mr. Kellogg was struck with the idea that the flax crop which had progressed steadily in a northwesterly direction, and from having originally been chiefly grown in the vicinity of Philadelphia, had moved through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and was now largely located in Iowa, must almost of necessity proceed further westward, and would, therefore, eventually leave Des Moines, out of its radius, as it had already left Amsterdam.

Further investigation convinced him that the flaxseed which was the raw material of his proposed mill, would in the end be grown principally in the Dakotas. But the principal markets for linseed oil were in the East. Hence the question arose, How will the flaxseed be brought to the Eastern mills? and putting his finger on the map where Buffalo was marked, he said to his partner, “That will be the great distributing point, and that is the place for our mill.

Acting on this theory, the Des Moines project was abandoned and in 1879 Kellogg, in partnership with Sidney McDougall, erected a mill in Buffalo, New York. Located on an island in Buffalo Harbor, a February 22, 1881 story in the “Buffalo Commercial” described their location as “the south side of the creek, opposite the foot of Illinois Street.” The 1880 Buffalo Directory simply used the address, “on island.”

The early history of the business included a building collapse and two fires but the company survived and grew steadily during their first decade  ultimately incorporating in 1887 under the name  of the Kellogg & McDougall Linseed Oil Company. The incorporation notice was published in the January 14, 1887 edition of the “Buffalo Times.”

A feature on the business published in the October 2, 1892 edition of the “Buffalo Sunday Morning News” provided this snapshot of their oil manufacturing works as the business entered the 1890’s.

The office of the works is at 351 Main Street, while the works on the island at the foot of Main Street occupy a two story building 50 x 130 feet, a six story building 40 x 150 feet, and an elevator of 100,000 bushels capacity. Twenty presses are operated, crushing 750,000 barrels annually, the daily capacity being for 120 barrels of oil and 57 tons of oil cake, the latter being exported, while the oil is sold through New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

As early as 1884 the company was not only producing oil from the crushed flaxseed but, based on this May 3, 1884 news item, was growing a portion of the flaxseed crop as well, not surprisingly, in the Dakotas.

The enterprising firm of Kellogg & McDougall of Buffalo have 2000 acres of land in Dakota now under cultivation for flaxseed. This is the greatest number of acres ever sown to flaxseed by any one firm in the United States. The farm is under the management of Lauren K. Lee, a cousin of Spencer Kellogg. He has 180 head of horses and from 80 to 100 men employed by the undertaking. The land is located around Valley Springs, is very rich and will yield a handsome crop.

In addition to expanding their oil works the company was also branching out during their first decade. The 1892 “Buffalo Morning News”  feature went on to enumerate several other companies/businesses established under Kellogg and McDougall during that period. One was the Kellogg Oil, Paint and Varnish Company.

The Kellogg Oil, Paint and Varnish Company was incorporated in 1887, the officers being Spencer Kellogg, president; Sidney McDougall, treasurer and Robert M. Walker, manager, with office at 351 Main Street and their four story factory with warehouse adjoining is on Elk Street and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railway, South Buffalo.They manufacture ready-mixed paints, colors ground in oil, shingle stains and buggy and floor paints, all of superior quality and largely sold throughout the country.

Their incorporation notice was published in the June 11, 1887 edition of the “Buffalo Commercial.”

1889 newspaper advertisements for their paints indicate that the company may have had a retail location at 609 Main Street as well as their 351 Main Street office.

The 1892 feature went on to say:

Mr. Kellogg in 1888 established a large business as a dealer in linseed oil, making a specialty of aging these oils to give them a superior body, adapting them for use for varnish, grinding, patent leather, printers’ ink and other purposes, this business also occupying commodious premises on Elk Street, South Buffalo.

Another of these enterprises is that of the Spencer Kellogg Company, organized in the present year with Spencer Kellogg, president, and Sidney McDougall secretary, this company opened for business Aug 1, 1892, an elevator of 600,000 bushels capacity on Ganson Street, the canal, the river and the Buffalo Creek Railway.

The Spencer Kellogg Company’s incorporation notice, published in the February 5, 1892 edition of the “Buffalo morning Express,” provided the following description of the elevator business.

The Spencer Kellogg Company is the name of an organization the certificate of incorporation of which was filed with the County Clerk yesterday. The object of the company is the purchase of cereals, grain and seeds and grinding and milling the same, manufacture of flour and meal, the receiving, elevating, storing and transporting of grain….

The capital stock is $100,000, all of which shall be common stock, and the company of 50 years duration. There are five directors as follows: Spencer Kellogg, Sidney McDougall, Robert M. Walker, Albert J. Warwick and Charles S. Wright.

An anecdote published in the August 9, 1892 edition of the “Buffalo Morning Express” provided an idea of the elevator’s size without mentioning a single dimension.

“I’m glad that stack is finished,” said contractor James Boland yesterday as he looked at the big brick smokestack of the new Kellogg & McDougall elevator. “It was intended to make it round, but that was so expensive and would take so much time that a square stack was decided on instead. It’s rather an expensive job. The men went up in the morning and did not come down until night, because I found it much cheaper to feed them at the top. An hour’s nooning would take a man two hours away from his work. I guess he could go to Black Rock in the time it would take him to go up and come down the stack.”

This construction photograph of the elevator appeared in the June 12 1892 edition of the Buffalo Morning Express.

If that wasn’t enough, Kellogg & McDougall also established a broom factory as part of their operation. According to the 1892 “Buffalo Sunday Morning News” feature:

Under the firm name of Kellogg & McDougall, these gentlemen conduct on Elk Street and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railway in South Buffalo an extensive broom manufactory which they established in 1886. They produce 200 dozen brooms daily, making a specialty of the best grades.

Well respected in their own right, the brooms were exhibited in the Paris Exposition in 1889. In fact, not only were they included in the U. S. exhibit  but, according to a June 30, 1889 item in the Buffalo Morning Express, they also kept the floors of the entire U. S. portion of the exposition swept clean..

Opposite the exhibit of Buffalo tools, on the wall, is a big palm-leaf fan, projecting high above everything. It is made entirely of brooms, as are also the two pyramids in front of it, and the whole is placarded, in big labels, “These brooms are from the works of Kellogg & McDougall, Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.A.” This firm supplies all the brooms used by the United States Commission in keeping clean its 80,000 square feet of floor space. An exhibit of linseed oil cake, in a prominent place near by, is also from the firm.

That being said, the manufacture of raw linseed oil was their primary business, operating independently until sometime in 1889 or 1890. At that time it appears that the business joined a linseed oil trust, reorganizing as a branch of the National Linseed Oil Company of Chicago Illinois. A feature on the business in the October 2, 1892 edition of the “Buffalo Sunday Morning News” described the reorganization.

One of the most interesting groups of important industries is that of which Spencer Kellogg and Sidney McDougall are the controlling heads. In 1879 they became associated under firm name of Kellogg & McDougall to manufacture pure linseed oil, carrying on the business thus until two years ago, when a reorganization was effected, the business since then being conducted as a branch of the National Linseed Oil Company of Chicago, Ill., under the direction of the original proprietors, Mr. Kellogg being manager and Mr. McDougall assistant manager, and the establishment being known as the Kellogg & McDougall Linseed Oil Works

Spencer Kellogg’s association with the Trust was short lived and in 1894 the April 26 edition of the “Buffalo Morning Express” announced that he was leaving the trust with plans to construct a new plant and proceed independently.

Spencer Kellogg who has been connected with the National Linseed Oil Company of Chicago for more than a year, or since the Trust assumed control of the different plants of that kind in the country is about to sever his connection with the Trust and to engage in the manufacture of these products on his own account. He was the owner of the plant in this city until the time when it went into the hands of the Trust and since that time has managed the concern…

The new plant will be a model one of the kind, it is promised. It will be located on the lot adjoining the Kellogg Elevator and will be one of the most modern and best equipped in the country. It will have a capacity for crushing 4,600 bushels of flaxseed a day and 1,400,000 a year, which makes  a very large output at the present price of flaxseed…

The mill will contain 36 presses and the machinery will be of the latest design. At the beginning there will be in the vicinity of 40 men employed and this number will probably be increased after a short time…

Over the next six years Kellogg’s new plant was almost continuously being enlarged. An October 4, 1900 story in the “Buffalo Morning Express” documented the additions.

The Kellogg plant originally had 36 presses. Twenty-four more were added in March, 1899. The work of intstalling 30 more was begun about July, 1900.

The story went on to call it the largest linseed oil plant in the world and they weren’t done. Three years later, in 1903, another addition increased the number of presses to 138.

The business incorporated in 1904 as the Spencer Kellogg Company. The incorporation notice was published in the May 7, 1904 edition of the “Buffalo Courier.”

The Spencer Kellogg Company capitalized at a million dollars has been incorporated according to papers filed yesterday. The concern deals in and refines oil in Buffalo. The directors are Spencer Kellogg, Spencer Kellogg, Jr., and Howard Kellogg.

Later, in August, 1912, they would reincorporate as Spencer Kellogg & Sons, with $6,000,000 capital.

The incorporation notices included Kellogg’s two sons but made no mention of  Sidney McDougall  who apparently ended his business relationship with Kellogg in 1898. At that time, it appears he left the manufacture of linseed oil to Kellogg and took complete control of the “Kellogg Oil, Paint and Varnish Company,” changing its name to the “Buffalo Oil, Paint and Varnish Company,” on December 27, 1898. According to his May 18, 1919 obituary in the “Buffalo Courier,” he remained president of that firm until his death.

In 1907 Kellogg announced plans for a second plant in Minneapolis Minnesota that would double their output. Later, in 1909, a December 27 story in the “Buffalo Evening News” announced that the Spencer Kellogg Company was in the process of establishing still another plant; this one in the New York City area. The story quoted Spencer Kellogg, Jr.

The Spencer Kellogg Company has a mill in Minneapolis, and we are now building another plant in New York, consisting of a mill, concrete elevators, refineries, etc., which will cost $500,000, exclusive of the site. The purpose of this plant at New York is to crush and treat the seed that is imported.

The plant was actually located directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, in Edgewater, New Jersey. The following aerial and river views of the facility that date to the late 1940’s are courtesy of the Library of Congress.

According to “The Chemical Industry of Shadyside (Edgewater) New Jersey – A History” by Robert J. Baptista, (December 16, 2012 update):

The deepwater dock allowed ocean going ships from India and Argentina to come directly to the plant to discharge cargoes of flaxseed, which was pressed into Linseed Oil. In 1913 the plant started crushing castor beans from India. The castor oil was used in the textile industry to soften fibers and impart luster to synthetic dyes.

It was at the New Jersey location that their “Tasteless Castor Oil” was manufactured. It apparently hit the market sometime in 1913 with newspaper advertisements first appearing in August of that year. Several ads, disguised as newspaper articles, appeared that year that were certainly introductory in nature.

BUFFALO FIRM PERFECTS THE FINEST LAXATIVE IN 3,000 YEARS

Kellogg’s Tasteless Castor Oil is Pure Castor Oil Without Taste or Smell

For 3,000 years castor oil has been the world’s best laxative, but until now an offensive, sickening taste has limited its use.

For 3,000 years chemists have tried to remove the taste.

It remained for Spencer Kellogg & Sons of Buffalo to solve the problem.

Kellogg’s Tasteless Castor oil is just what the name means – a pure, clear, refined oil without any taste. Doctors are prescribing it already.

Anybody can disguise the taste of castor oil by mixing it with alcohol, wintergreen, peppermint, or other flavors, but it required real genius to keep the oil pure and make it tasteless. Kellogg’s Tasteless Castor Oil works even better than the old evil dose, without pain or griping.

Your dealer has Kellogg’s Tasteless Oil, or can get it quickly. 25c and 50c. Ask for Kellogg’s and look for the trade mark on the label – the Kellogg signature over a green castor leaf. Spencer Kellogg & Sons, Inc., Buffalo N.Y.

At the same time the company was reaching the general public with newspaper advertisements they were also pitching the medical profession through a series of 1914 advertisements in the New York State Journal of Medicine.

The advertisements said, in part:

The attending physician can now prescribe pure castor oil in cases of temporary indisposition, with the feeling that he will not be working a hardship upon his patient – whether man, woman or child – because it is now made in absolutely tasteless form and no cathartic is quite so meritorious.

Realizing the great demand for an absolutely TASTELESS Castor Oil –  without the unpleasant flavor and odor of castor – we experimented with and finally announce the complete perfection of Kellogg’s Tasteless Castor Oil.

Its simply good old-fashioned Castor Oil without the unpleasantness. Absolutely nothing added – nothing taken away except the odor and taste. Not to be confused with so-called “palatable” or “aromatic flavored” Oils which are heavily adulterated with strong flavoring which greatly compromises the properties of the Oil.

You can now prescribe KELLOGG’S TASTELESS CASTOR OIL freely for children and fastidious adult patients without working a hardship on them. You’ll find they welcome this king of all cathartics – if you see that they get Kellogg’s.

Their oil continued to be included in advertised drug store  price listings as late as the early 1970’s and over the years their message remained quite consistent. Advertisements from 1926 and 1939 bear this out, although by 1939 it was called Kellogg’s “Perfected” Tasteless Castor Oil.

 

Spencer Kellogg passed away in 1922. That left his son Howard as president ushering in a fourth generation of Kellogg’s to a leadership position. Later a fifth generation, in the person of Howard Kellogg Jr., would serve as president. By 1957, according to a March 20 story in the ‘Binghamton (New York) Press and Sun-Bulletin,” the company employed about 1,200 persons at 15 plants in the country. Over the years their plant locations included Superior, Wisconsin, Chicago and Decatur, Illinois, Des Moines, Iowa, Bellevue, Ohio, Long Beach California, as well as Rotterdam Holland and Manilla in the Philippines.

The Kellogg business also maintained sales offices at various locations across the country, with one in New York City listed consistently from 1886 up until 1960. Initially located at 102 Barclay Street, they remained in lower Manhattan, at 59 Maiden Lane and later 100 William Street, until sometime around 1920 when they moved to midtown where they occupied several different locations in the East 40’s over the next 40 years.

In 1961 Spencer Kellogg & Sons merged with Textron Inc. The merger was reported in the July 28, 1961 edition of the “Decatur (Illinois) Daily Review.”

Spencer Kellogg & Sons, Inc. is now a part of Textron, Inc.

Textron a diversified company supplying industrial, consumer and defense products is based in Providence R. I.

Spencer Kellogg is a producer of vegetable oils and meal, special chemical products and animal feed.

Textron will acquire Spencer Kellogg’s assets, properties and business by swapping six-sevenths of a share of its stock for a share of Spencer Kellogg.

Last year Spencer Kellogg had assets of $52,459,000 dropping it to 465th place from 446th place in the national rankings of Forbes Magazine.

Spencer Kellogg employs 1,772 persons making it 487th in size.

The bottle I found is machine made with Kellogg’s (in script) embossed on the base. It likely dates as early as 1913 when their Tasteless Castor Oil was introduced up through the late 1920’s when they likely transitioned to a screw top finish.

During this period the company offered both a three ounce and seven ounce size as evidenced by this 1915 advertisement.

The subject bottle is certainly the three ounce version.

A 1924 advertisement in a publication called “The Public Health Nurse,”demonstrated that the company was also offering a sample size around that time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lavoris Chemical Co., Minneapolis

Beginning around the turn of the century, the Lavoris Chemical Company, whose name was later changed to the Lavoris Company in 1932, manufactured their staple product, Lavoris Mouthwash, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Active for fifty plus years, the company was acquired by the Vick Chemical Company of New York in 1958. An August 13, 1958 Minneapolis Star story provided this snapshot of the company at the time of the acquisition.

Lavoris is described as one of the largest independent manufacturing chemists’ firms in the industry. Although it has only the one plant in Minneapolis, it sells its product in all 48 states and many foreign countries.

A paradox in this modern age of salesmanship – the Lavoris Company has no salesman and no sales agents and has had none for more than forty years.

Its business is entirely by mail order.

Today the company has one of the most modern bottling and packaging plants in the nation.

Established in 1902, the company’s incorporation notice was published in the August 7, 1902 edition of the Minneapolis Journal.

The notice announced three incorporators, Charles E. Leigh, William H. Levings and Weed Munro. Leigh owned a Minneapolis drug store located at Seventh and Nicolette and is generally credited as the originator of “Lavoris” mouthwash. He served as president of the firm up until 1940. Levings served  as the company’s secretary and treasurer up until his death in 1930. Sadly Weed Munro, a lawyer by trade, passed away in early 1907 after suffering a serious head injury in September of 1905.

A March 1903 Lavoris advertisement (shown further down in this post) listed the company’s initial address  as 3 So Sixth St., on the corner of Hennepin Avenue. However, within several months the business had moved across Hennepin Avenue to 8 N. Sixth St., where they rented space from the local Masonic Temple Association. According to a May 2, 1903 story in the Minneapolis Journal.

Secretary H. M. Meyers of the Masonic Temple Association has rented the corner used by the Minneapolis Gas Light Company to J. F. Gage, dealer in desks, and the Lavoris Chemical Company. The Lavoris company will have the rear occupied by the gas company as a shop.

It wasn’t long after they moved to this location that a December 5, 1903 story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune announced that Leigh had sold his drug store in order to focus on the new business.

An important deal in the drug business was consummated yesterday when the papers were signed which converted into the possession of Voegell Bros. Drug Company, the large drug store of Charles E. Leigh, Nicolette Avenue and Seventh Street. The sale was made to enable Mr. Leigh to devote his entire attention to the manufacture of “Lavoris…” The consideration, it is understood, was between $10,000 and $12,000.

Over the next several years demands for expansion would uproot the business several times. Sometime around 1909 the business moved to the Burd building at 318 First Avenue where they occupied the entire fifth floor. The ERA Druggist Directory listed them at that address as late as 1911.

According to the 1913 ERA Druggist Directory by then they had moved again, this time to Western Avenue and N. 10th Avenue. Here they continued to expand until by October of 1919 they were leasing the entire building. According to a story published that month in the Northwestern Druggist:

The Lavoris Chemical Company, 52,54,56,58 Western Avenue, Minneapolis, which one year ago enlarged its headquarters to take care of increased business, has again effected an expansion and now occupies the entire building at Western and Tenth. The building, which is pictured below, is modern in every respect and is strictly fireproof. The facilities provided by the expansion represent an extension of approximately fifty percent.

Tired of leasing, on October 30, 1922 the company was issued a building permit to erect a new $150,000 factory on North Third Street. A rendering of the new building which included frontage of 110 feet on Third Street and 149 feet on Tenth Avenue, was featured in the November 5, 1922 edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The caption below the rendering read:

The Lavoris Chemical Company will erect a three story building, on Third Street and Tenth Avenue North, the frontage to be on Third Street. The building is expected to be completed before May 1. The new site will have the benefit of rail trackage of the Great Northern and Burlington lines.

The exterior will be of Bedford stone, brick and terra cotta. The structure will be fire proof. Provision has been made for lounge and rest rooms. Two freight elevators will be installed.

The laboratory space will be increased and more equipment added. Floors will be cement.

Supplementing their Minneapolis expansion, the company  incorporated a Canadian subsidiary in Toronto. The incorporation notice appeared in the October 12, 1921 edition of a trade publication called “Drug and Chemical Markets.”

According to the 1958 Minneapolis Star story, when Leigh stepped down as president in 1940, he continued to serve as a vice president in an advisory capacity until his death in 1947. He was replaced as president by Greenly Ladd who, in 1954, retired and was replaced by Harold C. Keen. Keen was still president when the company was acquired by the Vick Chemical Company in 1958.

Vick’s acquisition of the Lavoris Co., as reported in the Minneapolis Star, was finalized on October 1, 1958.

The Lavoris Co., which has made Lavoris mouthwash in Minneapolis for 56 years, today became a part of the Vick Chemical Co. of New York.

Signing of final papers took place this morning at Lavoris headquarters, 918 N. 3rd St.

Signing for Lavoris was H. C. Keen, president. Acting for Vick were Kirby Peake, president; J. G. Morrison, vice president of Vick’s products division; R. P. Powell, assistant secretary of Vick.

Lavoris stockholders ratified the sale of the company to Vick on Sept. 9.

Peake said the acquisition is part of Vick’s expansion and diversification program in all phases of the drug industry. The firm now has 12 divisions and subsidiaries.

Peake said the Lavoris Co. will continue to manufacture its mouthwash in Minneapolis and Keen will continue as president of the subsidiary.

Vick’s intent to keep the business in Minneapolis was certainly not a long term proposition.  Within three years of the acquisition, this November 20,1961 story in the Minneapolis Star made it clear that the Lavoris Division of Vicks had abandoned their long time Minneapolis headquarters.

Home of a departed Minneapolis industry, Lavoris Co., at 3rd St. and N. 10th Ave., has been purchased by Flour City Brush Co. for $235,000…Lavoris moved after it was absorbed by Vick Chemical Co.

The structure itself still exists to this day. A photograph of the building taken around the time it opened and published in the May 13, 1923 edition of the Star Tribune, as compared with today’s Google Earth version clearly demonstrates that the building’s exterior has changed very little over almost 100 years.

Over its lifetime, the Lavoris company’s existence was primarily devoted to the manufacture and sale of one single product, Lavoris Mouthwash. Originally marketed to the dental profession. the earliest Lavoris advertisements I can find appeared in the February and March 1903 editions of a technical publication called the “Dental Cosmos.” The March 1903 advertisement is shown below.

By 1910, advertisements targeting the general public began appearing in some daily newspapers. Their marketing “pitch” went like this:

The Guardian of Teeth, Gums and General Health

Lavoris used daily will keep your mouth and throat always sweet, clean and free from germs and gases that cause decay and bad breath. It will harden the gums and delicate throat tissues and keep them firm and healthy to resist colds, catarrh and other infections.

If your gums are receding, indicating Pyorrhea or Riggs Disease; if your teeth are loose or your gums soft, spongy or swollen; if tartar forms rapidly, or if you notice an unpleasant, acid-like taste in the morning –

Start the Regular Use of Lavoris Today

Not just a dental product it was also advertised as a topical antiseptic.

Lavoris is the favorite antiseptic preparation among physicians also. For cleaning and dressing cuts, burns, insect bites, wounds of all kinds. It removes the danger of infection – blood poisoning – at the same time soothing and healing the affected parts.

The company claimed their essential ingredient was chloride of zinc.

Zinc Chloride is the most cleansing, soothing, healing agent known to science. Your dentist uses it – so does your doctor. Lavoris is the only preparation on the market containing Zinc Chloride in soluble form so you or anybody can use it in the home.

The American Medical Association wasn’t convinced. In their November 1, 1919 Journal they presented an analysis of Lavoris that showed it did contain zinc chloride but in such a small dose as to be ineffective.

It is generally held that zinc chloride solutions which possess a strength of from 1 to 200 up to 1 to 500 exercise a weak antiseptic action. The strength of zinc chloride in Lavoris is approximately 1 to 1,000. The directions for its use recommended that Lavoris should be diluted. A dilution of 1 to 4 is recommended for a variety of mouth conditions while for cystitis irrigations and as a vaginal douche, it is recommended that one tablespoonful be added to a quart of warm water or salt solution. The strength of zinc chloride in the last suggested dilution would approximate 1 to 64,000. It is evident that no antiseptic action could be expected from such dilutions.

Regardless, the product was marketed as a mouth wash and gargle up to and following their acquisition by the Vick Company. The following Life Magazine advertisements are from 1957 and 1959 respectively.

 

The Lavoris brand went through a number of ownership changes after the Vicks acquisition. Today the Lavoris trademark is held by Evergreen Consumer Products, Inc. and the mouthwash is still available on Amazon and in stores like Walgreens.

Over the years I’ve found both three and eight ounce, machine-made bottles that exhibit the word “Lavoris on the shoulder. This same design was employed for most of the product’s history. Look closely and you can see the words Lavoris on the shoulder of the bottle in this January 1905 advertisement found in a publication called “The Bur.”

Other than transitioning from cork to screw top, their bottle design in this 1960 Life Magazine advertisement remained relatively unchanged with “Lavoris” still embossed on the shoulder.

Based on an unscientific study of their advertising, the company transitioned from cork top to screw top bottles sometime around 1935.  Both types can be found in their advertisements that year.

It wasn’t until sometime after 1960 that their actual bottle design changed as evidenced by this 1966 Life Magazine advertisement.

Both bottles I found are also embossed on the base with the “Lavoris Chemical Co.” name. This dates them between the early 1900’s and the 1932 name change to the Lavoris Company.

On a final note, the Masonic Temple where the fledgling Lavoris Chemical Co. rented space back in the early 1900’s remains to this day. It’s now the Hennepin Center for the Arts.

There’s a good chance that this alleyway at the rear of the building on N. Sixth St. provides access to the former shop area once rented by the Lavoris Chemical Company.

 

Clicquot Club

 

The Clicquot Club story can also be billed as the story of ginger ale in America.

According to an article in the January, 1928 edition of a publication called the “American Exporter,” when the Clicquot Club business was founded the American market for ginger ale could be divided into two groups. One was the Belfast people, whose products were high grade and high priced, and sold almost exclusively to hotels, clubs, bar-rooms and cafes. The other group consisted of the local “pop-bottlers” who operated in practically every town that the annual circus visited or county fairs were held. Both groups depended on selling to people who were traveling or otherwise on parade.

Cliquot Club, while not neglecting the traveling public, focused their marketing and sales efforts on home consumption and ultimately revolutionized the industry.

According to a recent article in the September 15, 2011 edition of the Boston Globe, the Ciccquot Club story started with a sparkling cider that was produced locally by Charles LaCroix of the LaCroix Fruit Farm. The farm was likely located somewhere on or neighboring the estate of Lansing Millis for whom the town of Millis, Massachusetts was ultimately named.

Sometime in the early 1880’s LaCroix partnered with Lansing Millis’s son, Henry Millis, and began bottling the cider under the name “Aqua Rex Bottling Works.”

The Boston Globe story goes on to say:

In the 1880’s, Henry Millis suggested he call it “Cliquot” after a famous French champagne, Veuve Clicquot.

Local advertisements for Millis’s Oak Grove Farm suggest that the name change to Clicquot may have taken place sometime in 1887. A March 27, 1887 advertisement in the Boston Globe mentioned an item they called “Refined Cider.” By the end of the year, their December 24, 1887 Christmas advertisement called it Clicquot Club Cider.

    

When Henry Millis incorporated several local businesses and utility systems under the “Millis Company” in June, 1891, the Aqua Rex Bottling Works was one of them.  The description of the bottling works included in the Millis Company stock offering, published in the July 11, 1891 edition of the Boston Globe, made it clear that by then the focus of the business had shifted from cider to ginger ale.

The Aqua- Rex Bottling Works who manufactures the well known “Cliquot Club Ginger Ale.” Actual profits for the first 19 days in June were $1,000.

Newspaper advertisements for their ginger ale began appearing at around that time. The first one I could find was printed in the August 1, 1891 edition of the Boston Globe.

In fact, a bottle from this era, embossed “Aqua Rex Bottling Works Millis, Mass” that likely held their ginger ale recently appeared on an internet sale site.

A year later, a June 28, 1892 advertisement in the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant provided evidence that they had quickly added birch beer, orange soda and sarsaparilla to their menu. It also suggested that by then they had started to use a pint bottle, something they would continue to use throughout their history.

By 1894, the Millis Company, as well as Henry Millis’s other financial interests, were in such serious financial trouble that it ultimately resulted in the failure of his businesses and the personal loss of over half a million dollars.

After failure of the Millis Company management and ownership of the bottling business during the 1890’s is unclear. Suffice to say,  Clicquot Club continued to be advertised throughout the decade and the Aqua Rex Bottling Company was still listed in the New England Business Directory and Gazetteer in 1896.  Up to that point the state of the business was best described in a feature published in the April 21, 1921 edition of an advertising publication called “Printers Ink.” It was written by Edward S Price who in 1921 was the manager of Clicquot Club’s advertising.

During its first fifteen years this was an honest, straightforward, but slow growing, small, countryside bottling business; handicapped at times by lack of capital and other annoying troubles due to lack of experience in buying, selling, manufacturing and exploiting.

The now famous Clicquot Club blend was there, however, and by sheer force of its goodness, the business grew. Then came a man who believed in advertising, a man who had the courage of his convictions.

That man was H. Earle Kimball whose father, Horace A. Kimball of Rhode Island, acquired the controlling interest in the business in 1901. He put his son in charge who would then manage the business until his death in 1952.

Shortly after the Kimball’s took control, their 1901 patent applications referred to the business as the Clicquot Club Bottling and Extract Company but soon after the name was shortened to the Clicquot Club Company.

Under Kimball’s management, the Millis plant grew quickly. A March 1906 feature in the “National Magazine” described the early 1900’s plant as three buildings with a floor space of 45,000 square feet.

In 1915, Clicquot Club advertisements in the January and February editions of the American Bottler mentioned that by then the plant had grown to 100,000 square feet and had a capacity of 60,000 bottles per day. The advertisements included this photograph of the plant presumably taken at around that time.

Documenting the company’s continued growth, the October, 1923 edition of the RE-LY-ON Bottler provided this description of an even larger plant.

The plant itself, located about 20 miles from Boston, on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, is situated on a 17 acre tract of land and is housed in fire-proof brick buildings, consisting of the main bottling plant, 200 by 175 feet; four warehouses, from 100 by 180 to 100 by 280 feet; one three story building, 150 by 50 feet; a modern power house, 50 by 70 feet, containing two boilers, two generators and two engines; and the two story office building, containing 5,400 feet of space and given over to the administrative, advertising and clerical forces. Three railroad sidings, with a total trackage of 3,070 feet, make for speedy loading and unloading.

The growth of the business into a national concern under Kimball was in no small way the result of their advertising campaigns. Situated between Providence and Boston they were quite successful in those markets but had fewer dealers elsewhere. Nonetheless in 1907 they began advertising on a national scale. According to the 1921 Printer’s Ink story:

We did our first national advertising in 1907, using a large list of magazines and accepted “waste circulation” – waste circulation on account of our lack of distribution. We bought space in national magazines and considered it a profitable investment for the good it did us where we did have dealer distribution.

Many advertising theorists have contended that one should have distribution first, but it was not so with us. Consumer demand was created in many places where we had no distribution, that is true; but a big consumer demand was created where we did have distribution. Perfectly logically, demand created distribution, and now one may, in normal times, purchase Clicquot Club ginger ale in almost any community from Maine to California.

Our selling scheme was about like this: A salesman was to go to the wholesale grocer and say in effect, “Here is our ginger ale which is good enough and made by a concern big enough to advertise in all the leading national publications.”

This full page advertisement printed in the April, 1908 edition of McLure’s Magazine was surely part of their initial 1907 national advertising campaign.

In May, 1913 their long time “Eskimo Boy” trademark began to appear in newspaper advertisements. One of the first ones I could find was in the  May 23, 1913 edition of the Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel. The “Eskimo Boy” would go on to become the nationally recognized symbol of the company.

Their advertising wasn’t just limited to print and 10 years later, the Cliquot Club “Eskimo Boy” found himself on the world’s largest electric advertising sign smack dab in the middle of Times Square, New York. The sign was described in this June 18, 1924 story in the (Binghamton N.Y.) Press and Sun Bulletin, written around the time that the sign was illuminated for the first time.

BROADWAY’S GREATEST SIGN NOW ADVERTISES CLICQUOT CLUB PRODUCT

The largest electric sign in the white light history of Broadway was turned on last week at Times Square. The sign, advertising Clicquot Club ginger ale stretches a full city block and is over 50 feet high. Almost 20 miles of copper wire, tons of wrought iron, sheet metal and solder, hundreds of gallons of paint and nearly 20,000 electric bulbs contribute their parts to this colossal illiumination. Very striking design and ingenious action as well as gigantic size distinguish the Clicquot Club sign from all other Broadway displays. The Cliquot Club Eskimo Kid, whose face is so familiar in magazines and newspapers, sits on a dog sled behind a huge bottle of his ginger ale. His scarf flying in the Arctic breeze, he whizzes through the snow, drawn by three joyous little Eskimos. And as he rides, his great electric whip strikes the name of Clicquot Club Ginger Ale, one word at each illuminating crack.

The Clicquot Club company has erected this sign largely as a symbol of its entry into its 40th year of service to the American public.

This photograph of the sign is courtesy of the New York State Historical Society.

Cliquot Club was also a trailblazer in radio advertising. As early as 1925 it sponsored a radio program featuring a banjo orchestra called The Clicquot Club Eskimos. This photograph of the band appeared in the March 21, 1926 edition of the Pittsburgh Post and also appeared in several other newspapers that month as far west as Wyoming.

The caption under the photograph reads:

Picture in costume of the Clicquot Club Eskimos led by Harry Reser (seated in front). This banjo ensemble is making a great name for itself over the air every Thursday night. It is sponsored by the Clicquot Club Ginger Ale Company. The Eskimos are heard over 15 stations.

This description of the Eskimos appeared in the August 11, 1926 edition of the (Lancaster Pa.) Intelligencer Journal. They, and along with them the Clicquot Club name, entered homes across the country every week.

These remarkable producers of popular music under the leadership of Harry Reser primarily consist of solo banjo, plectrum banjo for rhythm,, two mandolin banjos, saxaphone, trombone, trumpet, tuba, violin, piano, drums.

When occasion requires, banjos are shifted to wood lutes, mandolins, guitars, ukuleles, an extra viola, cello and there are even further combinations sometimes worked out with this able group of four stringed instrument men.

An interesting feature has been added to the program of the Clicquot Club Eskimos of snappy popular songs handled mostly as chorus accompaniment  to the orchestra or with banjo and guitar accompaniment.

The radio program ran until the Mid-1930’s and the orchestra continued to make live appearances up through the late 1930’s. Here they are, sans costume, circa 1936.

By the late 1920’s, their advertising had literally woven Clicquot Club ginger ale into the fabric of the nation. Consider a story in the October 15, 1929 edition  of the (Caruthersville Mo.) Democrat-Argus about the Graf Zeppelin completing what they called “its epochal globe-girding flight.” The story marveled at the fact that “Such extraordinary events and apparently incredible achievements have been piling up (and) the world has come to take these marvels as accustomed events.” With the help of Cliquot Club the story went on to emphasize their point.

Curiously enough the man on the street was no more casual about the event than the Graf Zeppelin passengers. What do you think was on their minds as they approached the last leg of their trip around the world? Nothing more important than the replenishment of the steward’s supply of ginger ale. H. Earle Kimball, president of the Clicquot Club Company, tells me that his West Coast representative had to go to no end of trouble about it.

Dr. Eckener had instructed his steward, Hendrick Kubik, to lighten the load to facilitate the ship’s crossing of the Rocky Mountains, and as ginger ale comes in heavy glass bottles, Herr Kubik appealed to the Clicquot people and they proposed supplying it in gallon aluminum containers, used for quite another purpose, but which had a spigot attachment. Herr Kubik objected that as part was drawn off the balance would become flat and useless. But the Sec brand was so dry that it could be de-cantered without loss of carbonation. This was proved by a hurried experiment and the Zeppelin passengers enjoyed their ginger ale, avoided airsickness, and Herr Kubik’s reputation as the best steward on the round-the-world air service was maintained.

It was sometime in the mid-1920’s that they began marketing their ginger ale in multiple brands, initially adding a second brand of ginger ale called “Pale Dry” to their menu.

One advertisement described the distinction between the two different brands, both of which they called thirst-erasers:

Wherever you go this summer from Bar Harbor Maine to Coronado Beach in California, you will find these two thirst-erasers. Choose Cliquot Club Ginger Ale, Regular, to get that rare and spicy flavor that is real ginger ale. Uncap Cliquot Club Pale Dry for a drink that is as delicate and subtle as Regular Cliquot is vigorous and full flavored. Both are full of life. Both have that famous Cliquot Club taste – the taste that, forty years ago, taught America what real ginger ale is like.

By the late 1920’s it appears that their original ginger ale named “Regular” in the above advertisement had acquired the more consumer friendly name of “Golden.” They had also added a third brand by then called “Sec,” describing it as:

The supremely dry ginger ale, a favorite in clubs, hotels, and wherever people of discriminating taste gather. Sec is the rarest ginger ale flavor in America!

During the 1930’s the company updated their packaging, adding a quart bottle to their long time pint and a canned option as well.

The quart was added in 1934 and was extensively advertised throughout that year starting in May/June.

Cans became available in 1938. This July 1938 advertisement exhibits a cone-shaped type can and it certainly appears introductory in nature.

The advertisement goes on to say that it was the first ginger ale offered in a can.

This fine old ginger ale is the first to come to you in cans. You’ll like the new way of buying Cliquot Club – because it’s so handy, and because it’s the same delicious ginger ale as Cliquot Club in bottles.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s the company was no longer manufacturing and bottling their beverages exclusively at their Millis, Massachusetts plant. By then they were establishing regional bottling plants in an effort to bottle and distribute their products closer to their end user. In the late 1940’s the New York City franchise was called the Clicquot Club Bottling Company of Manhattan, although it was actually located across the East River in Long Island City Queens, at 5-16 47th Avenue. Clicquot Club bottlers in upstate New York were located in Cairo and Binghamton.

According to a June 6, 1953 story in the Kingston (N.Y.) Freeman, by this time their advertising strategy was no longer national in scope but focused primarily on local newspaper advertisements in an effort to best service these regional bottlers.

Clicquot Club Selects Newspaper Advertising

Newspapers have been selected as the principal medium for the advertising and promotion of Clicquot Club ginger ale and other sparkling soft drinks for 1953, it was announced by Alton T. Barnard, vice president in charge of sales for the Clicquot Club Bottling Co., Millis, Mass…

Barnard, who has recently completed a coast-to-coast tour of Clicquot Club bottling plants, pointed out that regional bottlers were highly enthusiastic about this years sale possibilities and the advertising campaign which he outlined for them.

Ninety percent of the entire 1953 appropriation will be spent in local newspapers to bring the Clicquot Club story to the public.

“We believe that by placing our advertising directly in the newspapers in the areas serviced by Clicquot Club bottlers, we can best tell the American public about the goodness of our ginger ale and other drinks,” Barnard said.

After Kimball’s death on November 26, 1952, his lawyer, Thomas F. Black, Jr. assumed the presidency at Kimball’s request. The H. Kimball Foundation web site completes the story.

In the late fifties, officials of Veuve Clicquot (after whom the ginger ale had been originally named by Millis) threatened court action if the American soft drink manufacturer didn’t cease using the name Clicquot. Black traveled to France and a meeting was held at which it was agreed that the Millis based company would drop the name at an agreed upon future date.

Declining sales, increased competition and the thought of losing their long held name, probably had a lot to do with the company being sold to Cott Beverage of Connecticut in 1960.

The company operated a number of years under the direction of John Cott who continued to bottle Clicquot until the name change agreement went into effect. Cott Beverage was later sold to Canada Dry and the plant closed.

The Cliquot Club name completely disappeared from grocery store advertisements and price lists sometime in the early 1980’s.

Today, a smokestack associated with their plant still exists in Millis. Sadly, though not a surprise, this google maps image indicates that it’s now functioning as a cell phone tower.

The bottle I found is a machine made pint, typical of the bottle they used throughout much of their existence. The base of the bottle is embossed with a likeness of their trademark “Eskimo Boy.” The letters “A” & “B” are embossed on either side of the figure, suggesting it may have been made by the American Bottle Company. A “25” embossed below the “A” could indicate a 1925 manufacture date. The bottle appears identical to this one that appeared in a 1922 advertisement.

       

The presence of the Eskimo certainly dates it no earlier than 1913.

Empire Bottling Works, Rockaway Beach, New York

    

The Empire Bottling Works was established in June, 1905. Nathan Goldberg was named as one of the four original directors and apparently the one actively involved in the management of the business. A Russian immigrant, prior to establishing the bottling business Goldberg lived on Second Street in Manhattan where he listed his occupation as  “hotel keeper” in the 1900 census records.

The company’s incorporation notice was published in the June 10, 1905 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

The 1913/1914 Copartnership and Corporation Directory of Brooklyn and Queens continued to associate Nathan Goldberg with the business listing him as president of the company. His son Samuel, a lawyer by trade was named vice president.

The business was located in a small portion of Rockaway Beach called Hammels for most if not all of their history.

Initially, a September 5, 1906 story in the Times Union mentioned that the Empire Bottling Works was located at 23 and 25 South Hammel Avenue (later named Beach 85th Street), which they went on to say was also the dwelling of Nathan Goldberger.

Later directories and tax certificates between 1906 and 1927 listed the business on Division Avenue (later named Beach 82nd Street) near Boulevard.  At times they also used a Boulevard address (both 497 and 522 were listed at various times).

Their 1905 incorporation notice only mentioned mineral waters but the company certainly bottled beer as well. This is confirmed by a labeled bottle that recently appeared for sale on the internet. The label named the Empire Bottling Works of Rockaway Beach as the local bottler for Koehler & Co.s Fidelio Beer.  Information on Koehler & Co.and Fidelio Beer is available in more detail within another post on this site.  Fidelio Brewery, New York

   

By 1928 the business was listed at 75-18 Rockaway Beach Boulevard which was technically just outside of Hammels. As far as I can tell Goldberg’s wife Yetta was listed as a widow in the 1930 census records so its quite possible that the business ended around that time. The company was not listed in the 1940 Queens phone book. (I don’t have access to any directory information from the 1930’s.)

The bottle I found is 27 ounces and machine made.

 

Union Hill B. B. Co., 6 – 8 Monitor St., Brooklyn N. Y.

The Union Hill Birch Beer Company was listed in the Brooklyn directories from 1904 t0 1951, always with an address of 6 Monitor Street.

Edward C. Hindermann was named as the owner of the business in his October 30, 1959 obituary that was printed in the Geenpoint Weekly Star.  Born in 1872, 1910 census records indicate that he immigrated to the United States in 1901. The 1904 Brooklyn Directory listed Hindermann’s residence as 8 Monitor Street, right next door to the business, suggesting that it was a relatively small operation.

The 1910 census records also listed a Dieterich Benken living at the same 8 Monitor Street address. Benken, like Hindermann, listed his occupation as a birch beer manufacturer so he was likely associated with the business, but in what capacity is unknown.

Hindermann was still living at 8 Monitor Street when he died on October 24, 1959.

There’s not much information available on the company which is another indication that it was not a large business. I did find one reference to it in a column entitled “I Remember Old Brooklyn,” in the March 22, 1965 edition of the New York Daily News. A reader had submitted this story to the newspaper.

PICNIC LUNCH

When the St. Nicholas Band struck up a tune with fifes, drums and bugles, that was a signal that we St. Nicholas pupils were starting off on a picnic to Washington Park on Grand St., Elmhurst.

The band would parade through the neighborhood and stop at Grand and Olive Sts. We would pile aboard chartered trolley cars at 7 A.M. with shoe boxes full of lunch, enough for all day.

Our tickets cost 15 cents, including three stubs, each good for a glass of Union Hill birch beer. The beer was on tap at the park for us. Then the trolleys would take us back at 7 P.M.

Today 6 – 8 Monitor Street does not date back to the early 1900’s

The bottle I found is 27 ounces and machine made. A monogram is embossed on the back of the bottle that, as far as I can tell, represents Hindermann’s initials “E H.”

Fidelio Brewery, New York

 

In name, the Fidelio Brewery, dates back to 1916 when the well established brewing business of H. Koehler & Co. changed their name to the Fidelio Brewing Co., Inc. The company had been brewing beer under the “Fidelio” brand name, since at least the late 1890’s and likely much earlier. The name change announcement was printed in the February 21, 1916 edition of the “Evening World.”

ANNOUNCEMENT

To-day this sixty-four-year-old business, with all its traditions and enviable reputation for ideals of quality, is launched under a new name-

Fidelio Brewing Co.

…Formerly H. Koehler & Co.

The announcement stated that Koehler & Co. was a 64 year old business but, in fact, the roots of the business dated back even further to a brewer named Alexander Gregory who was listed in Manhattan at 6 Sheriff Street in the early 1840’s.

In 1843 Gregory partnered with Phillip C. Harmon and for the next ten years their brewery business was listed as Gregory & Harmon. The Harmon family apparently bought Gregory out in 1852 (the year that coincides with the reference to the business being 64 years old) and renamed it Harmon & Company. The business was listed as Harmon & Co. up through 1862 when a notice in the May 27, edition of the New York Times indicated that both the brewery and its contents were up for sale at that time.

It was at that point the Koehler name entered the picture when three brothers, Herman, Joseph M. and David M. Koehler, bought the brewery. The 1864/65 NYC Directory listed the business as the Koehler Brothers, and it was still located at the 6 Sheriff Street address. Then sometime between 1865 and 1867 the brewery moved to First Avenue between 29th and 30th Street where it would remain until the late 1940’s or 1950.

In the early 1870’s Joseph and David Koehler were no longer associated with the brewery address and the Koehler Brothers name had been dropped from the directories. This apparently left Herman in charge of the entire operation until sometime in 1883 or 1884. At that time he partnered with Samuel Goldberger, changing the name of the business in the directory listings to Herman Koehler & Co.

Koehler and Goldberger continued to be listed as partners until Koehler’s death on April 16, 1889. The following year the 1890 Copartnership and Corporation Directory named Samuel Goldberger as the sole principal of the business and shortly afterward the name of the company was shortened to H. Koehler & Co. Goldberger, according to his June 15, 1905 obituary published in the (Long Branch N. J.) Daily Record, remained owner and president up until the time of his death, after which his son Norman S. Goldberger took over. It was Norman who changed the company name to the Fidelio Brewing Company in 1916.

It’s not clear to me exactly when their famous “Fidelio” brand name was introduced.  By 1898 they were using local distributors to sell it in neighboring New Jersey so it was almost certainly available in New York prior to that. This advertisement printed in the December 23, 1898 edition of the (New Brunswick N. J.) Daily Times also mentioned Koehler’s ale and porter in addition to their Fidelio Beer.

Based on this March 22, 1905 advertisement published in the Evening World I think it’s safe to assume that they had added a bottling operation to the brewery at around that time. Introductory in nature, the advertisement made it clear that Fidelio Beer “can now be obtained directly from our brewery,”

From Brewery to Home

We have just established a delivery service for the prompt distribution of our pure FIDELIO BEER fresh to your door. Not a flat bottle in the lot, our beer is thoroughly pasteurized, is absolutely pure and can now be obtained directly from our brewery.

Shortly after the start of National Prohibition the company, now operating under the Fidelio Brewing Co. name, held a “voluntary dissolution sale.” The notice of the sale, printed in the October 10, 1920 edition of the New York Tribune, provided a good description of the brewery operation at that time.

Lot-1 Fidelio Brewing Co., Inc., plant (with all permanent fixtures), complete brewery comprising whole front on 1st Avenue, 29th to 30th Streets, and adjoining on each street, nearly 14 lots in all, together with garage, complete bottling unit, 60 ton ice making plant, etc.

Lot 2 – About 6,500 Barrels Fidelio brew, malt, hops and sundries brewing materials, also about 500 tons coal.

Lot 3 – Good will, chattel mortgages, book value $133,000; leases, bottles, cases, crowns, draught-packages, shop supplies, etc.

Lot 4 – Auto trucks, automobiles

Lot 5 – Real estate, free and clear, at 316 Oakland Street, corner Huron Street, building with lot 25 x 100 ft., Brooklyn N.Y.

The sale was held on October 13, 1920 with previous president, Norman S. Goldberger, the successful bidder. The result was printed in the October 22, 1920 edition of the New York Tribune.

Buyer of Brewery Property

Deeds just recorded reveal that Norman S. Goldberger, president of the Fidelio Brewing Company, was the successful bidder at the recent auction of the company’s brewing plant on First Avenue, Twenty-Ninth and Thirtieth Streets. L. J. Phillips &Co. acted as auctioneers.

The company was listed as Fidelio Brewery, Inc. in the 1925 New York City Directory, so it appears that Goldberger incorporated the business under that name after the sale.

According to an article published in the June 27, 1932 edition of the Cincinnati Chronicle Goldberger’s brewery had been turning out near beer and malt tonic at the rate of 15,000,000 to 20,000,000 bottles annually during Prohibition. Another article published around the same time in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle mentioned that this equated to roughly 10 to 15 percent of the brewery’s capacity.

Their Prohibition brews were listed in the June 30, 1932 edition of the Hartford Courant.

Approximately 25 percent of the brewery’s present business is represented in the sale of Fidelio Purity Brand Malt Tonic, which commands higher price than any other malt tonic sold as a cereal beverage. Other brands at the company are Fidelio Old Lager, Fidelio Double Brew, Fidelio Red Label and New Yorker Brew.

This advertisement for their Purity Brand Malt Tonic and New Yorker Brew appeared in the July 9, 1931 edition of the (Bridgewater N. J.) Courier News.

The Hartford Courant story went on to say:

These products are sold in more than 20,000 stores in the Metropolitan District through chain stores and independent dealers. The largely localized character of the business is a major factor in economical distribution by the company’s own fleet of trucks.

In 1932, with the repeal of the Volstead Act looming the company reorganized again, this time inviting public investment. The June 27, 1932 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced the reorganization.

Fidelio Brewery To Be Reorganized

Fidelio Brewery, Inc. has been organized and incorporated under the laws of New York to take over the business heretofore conducted by Norman S. Goldberger, under the name of Fidelio Brewery…Mr. Goldberger will head the Fidelity Brewery, Inc…

The need for public investment was explained in the June 27, 1932 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Available brewing equipment would be insufficient to quench the thirst of the millions in the metropolitan district, should beer be legalized, the announcement said, adding “Realization by the management that the legalization of the brewing and sale of beer would necessitate bringing production up to brewing capacity has influenced the decision to invite public participation in the business.

This advertisement promoting the stock offering appeared in the November 10, 1932 Long Branch (N.J.) Daily Record.

As the date ending Prohibition neared, the Fidelio Brewery was included in a March 15, 1933 New York Daily News pictorial essay entitled “Happy Days Are Here Again…Well, Almost Anyhow.” It featured a photo with the caption “Master Brewer Henry E. Kayan (left) of Fidelio Brewery superintends repair of beer kegs as brewery begins to hum.”

…and the following month this April 20, 1933 advertisement for Fidelio Beer appeared in the New York Daily News.

Nathan S. Goldberger died in March 1936 at the age of 52 at which point Goldberg’s brother in law, Frank Deitsch, assumed the presidency until the late 1930’s.

The end of the Fidelio Brewery name came on November 15,1940 when the company changed its name to the Greater New York Brewery, Inc. A November 16, 1940 Brooklyn Daily Eagle item made the announcement.

Brewery Changes Name

Edgar H. Stone, chairman of the board, announces that effective November 15 the name of the corporation was changed from Fidelio Brewery, Inc., to the Greater New York Brewery, Inc.

Around that time Lowell Birrell became involved with the business and by 1942 he was serving as president and chairman of the Greater New York Brewery. During this period the company acquired three additional breweries – Horton Pilsner, City Brewing and Lion Brewing. In December, 1944 he changed the company name to Greater New York Industries and expanded into other fields.

According to an April 24, 1964 article in the New York Times Birrell was later accused of being one of history’s great stock swindlers, accused of looting a dozen or more corporate treasuries of $40 million. The article went on to say that he had been tabbed by the Securities and Exchange Commission as “the most brilliant manipulator of corporations in modern times. He spent several years in the 1950’s and early 1960’s exiled in Cuba and Brazil until finally returning to the United States to face trial.

Needless to say, the history of the business after Birrell got involved is confusing and unclear, at least to me. What I do know is this.

The Greater New York Brewery survived and apparently moved their operation to Brooklyn where they remained operative or at least maintained facilities up through 1950 or 1951. In 1942 the company listed their office on First Avenue in Manhattan but their plant was now listed at the previously acquired City Brewing plant address of 912 Cypress Avenue in Brooklyn. The First Avenue office listing was dropped the following year but the Brooklyn plant address remained listed in the NYC Telephone Book through 1951. This November 13, 1947 Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertisement confirmed that they were still brewing beer at that time.

The plant in Manhattan was apparently acquired by another NYC brewer named Louis Hertzberg who renamed it the Metropolis Brewery. Hertzberg at one time or another was also connected with the Old Dutch Brewery and North American Brewery in Brooklyn and the Pilser Brewery in the Bronx. He also ran the Metropolis Brewery of Trenton New Jersey.

The Metropolis Brewery of New York was listed at the old Fidelio address of 501 First Avenue in the 1945 Manhattan Telephone Book where it remained through the early 1950’s. An advertisement from the November 1, 1948 edition of the New York Daily News showed at that time he was brewing his Pilser brand at the Metropolis Brewery. He also brewed Champale Malt Liquor during this period.

By 1953, the brewery had been converted into a warehouse and much of its equipment had been shipped half-way around the world to Israel. The surprising story was told in the July 20, 1953 edition of the Berkshire Eagle.

Transplanted N. Y. Brewery Lick’s Israel’s Beer Shortage

All Israel languished over the weekend in searing heat ranging from 90 degrees in Haifa to 115 in Elath. All except Louis Hertzberg, 65, a brewer of Trenton N.J. who has just transported to the Holy Land the old Fidelio Brewery from First Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets, opposite Bellvue Hospital in New York…

To set up the brewery here cost about $2,300,000, of which Mr. Hertzberg put up most and two United States and three Israeli associates smaller sums. In addition to parts of the First Avenue brewery, he brought over equipment from three other New York properties he formerly operated – the Old Dutch Brewery in Flatbush, the North American Brewery on Green Avenue in Brooklyn and Pilser Brewery of 161st Street. Not to mention 2,000,000 amber bottles to supplement Israeli production.

The story went on to say that they intended to continue making the old Fidelio brew under a new name.

New Yorkers who wonder what happened to the familiar landmark of First Avenue – now a warehouse – may be interested to know that as the result of the brewery’s removal, the Israelis, who are accustomed to being short on nearly everything, need never be short on beer again.

Nor need Manhattanites despair of ever again drinking the old Fidelio brew. For under the name of Abir (meaning Knight in Hebrew), beer from the National Brewing Company of Israel will be exported to the United States. Mr. Hertzberg thinks the novelty of beer from Israel will make it easy to sell enough Abir through the distribution network of his Metropolis Brewery of New Jersey to cover his new enterprise’s needs in foreign exchange.

A little over a year later, in August of 1954, Abir was being imported to the United States where I found it listed for sale under the heading “Something New” at a local liquor store in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

This labeled Abir bottle was recently offered for sale on the Internet. Amber, it certainly could have been one of the 2,000,000 bottles that Hertzberg brought with him from the United States during the start-up of the Israeli operation.

   

The Fidelio bottle I found is 12 ounce, export style, machine made and embossed “Fidelio Brewery, New York.” The business specifically included “Fidelio” in the company name from 1916 up through 1940, so the bottle almost certainly dates somewhere within that period.

I couldn’t end this post without mentioning Fidelio’s bond with McSorley’s Ale House. Established in 1854, McSorley’s is one of the oldest and most famous saloons in New York City. An April 14, 1940 story in the New Yorker Magazine explained their relationship with Fidelio.

Except during prohibition, the rich, wax-colored ale sold in McSorley’s always has come from the Fidelio Brewery on First Avenue; the brewery was founded two years before the saloon. In 1934, Bill (McSorley) sold the brewery the right to call its ale McSorley’s Cream Stock and gave it permission to use Old John’s (McSorley) picture on the label; around the picture is the legend “As brewed for McSorley’s Old Ale House.”

Advertisements for McSorley’s Cream Stock Ale were plentiful in 1937 and 1938 editions of the New York Daily News.

       

According to the McSorley’s web site they continued to use the company’s brew after the name change to Greater New York Brewery and did so until the business went into receivership. This likely happened in the late 1940’s or 1950. PABST now services McSorley’s.