“BB” (Bluthenthal & Bickart) Extra Superior Whiskey (Four Aces Whiskey)


The initials “B-B” embossed on the subject bottle represent the last name of proprietors Aaron Bluthenthal and Monroe L. Bickart. Their business, Bluthenthal and Bickart, was established in Atlanta, Georgia  sometime in the 1880’s. First listed in the 1887 edition of the Atlanta city directory with an address of 46 Marietta Street, the entry was included under the heading “Changes, Corrections and New Names Received Too Late for Regular Insertion.” This leads me to believe that 1887 was likely their first year of operation. In further support of this assumption, the earliest newspaper advertisements that I can find began appearing the following year in several October, November and December, 1888 editions of the Atlanta Constitution. Calling themselves “wholesale liquors and direct importers,” this initial advertisement included a second Atlanta address, possibly a retail location, on South Forsyth Street.

Another early Constitution advertisement, this one in their November 12, 1889 edition, pointed out that you could pick up your Cuban cigars there as well.

What put B & B on the map however was certainly their liquor business. This full page advertisement that appeared in the Georgia Pharmaceutical Association’s 1892 Annual Meeting Report, mentioned that they were associated with three distilleries at the time; two in Kentucky and one in Georgia.

The advertisement went on to mention whiskey brands Canadian Club, Old Oscar Pepper and Four Aces, all of which were advertised in the Atlanta Constitution during the 1890’s. Typical advertisements for “Canadian Club,” and “Old Oscar Pepper,” are shown below.


The company’s “Four Aces” brand made its appearance sometime in the early 1890’s. While it didn’t mention “Four Aces” by name, this initial advertisement that appeared in several March, 1891 editions of the Atlanta Constitution, left little doubt as to what image they wanted you to associate with their “Extra Superior Whiskey.”.

Within a year or so they were referring to it as “Four Aces” whiskey in their Atlanta Constitution advertisements.

four aces beats everything – our “four aces” whisky likewise beats everything:

More than just liquor dealers, the growth of B & B’s  business through the early 1890’s  is evidenced by two items that appeared in the Atlanta Constitution in the late spring of 1892. The first, published on May 19th discussed their import business.

One of the largest packages of sherry wine that was ever brought to the south, was landed through the Atlanta custom house yesterday. It is a “double butt” of extra pale, dry Manzanilla, coming direct from Cadiz, Spain to the Messrs. Bluthenthal & Bickart of this city. The capacity of the cask is over three hundred gallons, and its weight is about three thousand seven hundred pounds. It took a large double wagon to haul it from the car. The package is so enormous that it is quite an object of interest to everybody, nothing like it having been seen heretofore.

The Messrs. B & B are very enterprising merchants, and in their thrift and energy, have achieved a brilliant success in the wine and spirit trade. The importing business is one of the most important branches of their line, and they have a great many foreign connections, and buy all their European wines, gins, brandies, etc., direct from the first hands. Messrs.B & B have done a great deal to enhance the receipts of the Atlanta custom house, and to place this port in a good comparative position with the other southern ports of entry.

The second item, published a month later on June 15th, announced that they were in the beer business as well. It also suggests they likely had some influence on the Constitution’s copy writer.

Messrs. Bluthenthal & Bickart familiarly known as “B & B.,” have just received the agency of Schlitz’s famous Milwaukee beer, and are making arrangements to supply the people with it throughout this part of the country.

These gentlemen are pushing, energetic and active, and since coming to Atlanta have made a splendid business record. Now that they have absolute control of this brand of beer, it is reasonable to suppose, and is confidently predicted, that the sale of the Schlitz goods will be greatly increased.

That same month Bluthenthal & Bickart’s name was prominent in this June 19, 1892 Schlitz advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution.

Sometime in the early 1890’s they also established an Ohio branch located at 220 E. Front Street in Cincinnati.

By the turn of the century B & B was the largest dealer of its kind in Georgia, with its business extending throughout the south and as far north as Washington D. C. Notwithstanding, by 1907 the business was being threatened by Georgia’s upcoming prohibition legislation. The situation at the time was succinctly summed up in this quote by Bluthenthal’s son, Felix, that appeared in an August 3, 1907 Baltimore Sun story.

The law is so drastic and sweeping that there is no possible escape for the liquor dealer but to leave the State. While there had been local opposition in several counties of the State for some time, no one dreamed a few months ago that there was any strong sentiment throughout the State for prohibition. However, during the past few months such a temperance wave has swept over the State that it could not be counteracted.

At the time, Felix Bluthenthal was in Baltimore scouting out a new location for the business. Within two weeks, an August 20, 1907 story in the Atlanta Constitution announced that the firm had selected a site and was fully committed to Baltimore.

Driven from its home by the prohibition legislation in the State of Georgia, the large wholesale liquor house of Bluthenthal & Bickart, of Atlanta, Ga., has decided to move to Baltimore, and has made a long term lease with the trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital for the large building in course of construction at the corner of Exchange Place and South Street…

It will be occupied in its entirety by the liquor firm, which will make the building the largest whisky warehouse in the city…All of the heads of the departments are to be moved to Baltimore, with their families, making about forty people in all. The company will need 100 local employees, most of whom will be women and girls.

The importance of the acquisition to Baltimore cannot be overestimated. Last year the products of the firm exceeded $1,000,000 and indications this year are that this figure will be surpassed. Baltimore is now to be the distributing point for this immense production and the effect will be felt in all branches of trade.

In January they were in the process of moving when a January 11, 1908 story in the Baltimore Sun provided this description of their new home.

Messrs. Bluthenthal & Bickart, the wholesale whisky dealers, who were compelled to leave Atlanta Ga., because of the passage of the prohibition law, are occupying their new quarters at the southeast corner of Lombard and South Streets.

While some finishing touches are to be made to the handsome structure which has just been built, Mr. Monroe L. Bickart, of the firm says the firm is now ready to take care of all orders…

The building is six stories, of fire-proof material, and contains 50,000 square feet. The main offices of the firm are on the first floor. They will be fitted in handsome quartered oak. The bottling department is on the second floor. It is supplied with every modern device needed for the business. The third and fourth floors contain 32 large tanks in which whiskies are put through the blending processes. The tanks vary in size from 1,000 to 2,000 gallons each. All mixing is done with filtered air. The air is pumped through water and is free from impurities before it reaches the blending tanks.

The storage room and the room for aging whiskies will be on the top floor. The basement has been planned so that it can easily be transformed into a wine vault. The finest wines carried in stock by the firm will be placed in this vault…The firm will employ in all departments about 150 persons.

Around the same time, their Cincinnati branch disappeared from the Ohio directories so it appears that the company opted to consolidate both operations in Baltimore. That year the Baltimore directory listed Aaron Bluthenthal as president and his son Felix as vice-president. Monroe Bickart was named secretary and treasurer.  

This photograph of their Baltimore home, circa 1910, is courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Almost immediately after they were settled, B & B newspaper advertisements for their “Mark Rogers” brand began appearing in the Baltimore Sun. The ads referred to the address of their new building as simply “the great big house,” Baltimore.

Over the next several years, an unscientific review of their newspaper advertisements suggests that their market had expanded up the east coast, reaching as far north as the New England states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

In 1910 the company made what the Washington Post described as:

One of the biggest whisky deals ever made in America.

The July 30, 1910 edition of the Baltimore Sun described the deal like this.

The conditional sale of about 15,000 barrels of whisky by Messrs. Charles A. Webb, Sullivan Pitts and S. Johnson Poe, receivers of the Roxbury Company, to Bluthenthal & Bickart, the well known liquor dealers for about $345,000 is said to be the largest sale of its kind yet made in this city. The whisky is to be paid for in cash upon the ratification of the sale by the United States Court.

The purchasers are to have the right to use the name of the Roxbury Distilling Company and the brand Roxbury in bottling the whisky in bond.

Shortly afterwards, newspaper advertisements for Roxbury Rye can be found along the entire east coast and throughout much of the midwest. Remaining optimistic with regard to prohibition, as late as May 31, 1914 the company was advertising for a salesman in the Boston Globe.

Nevertheless, by the late teens the ads had dried up and Bluthenthal & Bickart was no longer listed in the Baltimore directories, a victim of national prohibition.

While prohibition put an end to Bluthenthal & Bickart, the “Four Aces” brand managed to survive when Canada’s British Columbia Distillery Company acquired rights to the name sometime in the late 1920’s.

Not surprisingly, by the early 1930’s the brand was making its way back into the United States, albeit illegally, as evidenced by this dramatic episode described in an April 11, 1931 Chicago Tribune story.

Boston Mass.. April 10. – Five men on a scuttled speed boat were captured under machine gun fire in Nantucket Sound, it was revealed today when coast guard patrol boat S-13 brought captives and liquor to the Woods Hole coast guard house.

The capture followed a mile chase during which two rounds, 78 shots, were sent by the pursuing guardsmen, disabling the fleeing craft. The scuttling followed.

The five were on the speed boat Hit Her, a twin screw craft that was a sister ship of her captor, the former rum runner Tramp.

More than 800 cases of Four Aces whisky and a quantity of other liquor valued at $25,000 were aboard the craft, coastguardsmen reported.

As prohibition came to an end the British Columbia Distillery Company registered the “Four Aces” name with the U. S. Patent office and they began distribution legally in the United States.

According to court documents (California Wine & Liquor Corporation vs. William Zakon & Sons, Inc., Supreme Jusicial Court of Massachusetts) U. S. distribution was originally split between two companies.  Much of the country was handled by the Standard Wine and Liquor Company who was described in one 1940 news item as “one of the largest liquor distributers in the middle west.” The exception was the New England States, whose rights were held by the California Wine & Liquor Corporation. In spite of their name, they were located at 43 – 47 Lansdowne Street in Boston as evidenced by this November 23, 1934 advertisement in the Boston Globe.

Bottles produced during this time appear for sale quite regularly on the internet.

Two years later, still located on Lansdowne Street, this May 5, 1937 advertisement suggested that the California Wine & Liquor Corporation had reorganized under the name of the “Four Aces Liquor Corporation.”

Soon after, a September 14, 1937 story in the Boston Globe announced the Four Aces Liquor Corporation had just introduced a blended whisky under the “Four Aces” name to go along with the bonded whiskey.


George Kravit, treasurer of the Four Aces Liquor Corporation, said yesterday that in addition to Four Aces bonded whisky, it has placed on the market Four Aces blended whisky, a blend of straight whisky. The blend is aged in the wood and is all whisky. It is on sale at leading package stores, clubs, taverns and restaurants…The Four Aces Liquor Corporation is at 43 Lansdowne St., Boston.

Bottles associated with their blended whisky have also recently appeared for sale on the internet.

After this I completely lose track. Sometime in the late 1930’s the Four Aces Liquor Corporation disappeared from the Boston directories and was replaced at the Lansdowne address with another liquor business called United Liquors, Ltd. While it’s possible that United Liquors took over distribution of the “Four Aces” brands in New England, I’ve been unable to make a definite connection.

Similarly, I’ve been unable to definitively connect the Standard Wine and Liquor Company with the “Four Aces” brands in other parts of the country. That being said, the “Four Aces” name continued to appear in liquor store sponsored newspaper advertisements up through the early 1970’s. In fact, this 1972 advertisement in Troy, New York’s Times Record indicated that at some point the brand name was expanded to include Vodka and Gin as well as Whiskey.

The bottle I found is mouth blown with a tooled brandy (or mineral?) finish. The embossed insignia just below the shoulder matches exactly the insignia displayed in the March 1891 Atlanta Constitution advertisement.


A labeled example of the bottle is displayed on a tin advertising sign recently offered for sale on the internet.


On a final note: Unlike others presented on this site, this bottle was not found in the Long Island bays. Instead, it belonged to John, the brother of one of my wife’s life long friends. An avid collector, John passed away several years ago. This post is dedicated to his memory…God Bless.

Marshall & Co., 1866

Although there’s no location embossed on the bottle, I’m quite sure Marshall & Co. was a short-lived New York City soda water manufacturer. In fact, the year 1866 embossed on the bottle could be the only year that the business was in existence.

There are only two directory listings that I can find for the business. The first was found in the 1866/1867 N.Y.C. Copartnership and Corporation Directory; the other in the 1867 New York State Business Directory (likely compiled in 1866). Both listings include the same address in lower Manhattan, 182 Thompson Street.

In further support of this supposition, the only advertisements I’ve been able to find for the business were all published in the New York City newspapers during July, 1866. One ad, found in the July 20, 1866 edition of the New York Daily Herald, was a collection of three adjacent items, each touting their Sarsaparilla as well as something called Mingo Beer.

Another, published in the July 12, 1866 edition of the Herald, identified hotels, saloons, fruit stores and the family trade as their targeted market.

Similar July, 1866 advertisements also appeared in the New York Times and New York Tribune.

The subject bottle is a pony with an applied blob finish that almost certainly dates to 1866.

Duhme & Meyer, 115 Christopher St., N. Y.


Duhme & Meyer was a New York City mineral water manufacturer and a bottler of soda and beer that operated in lower Manhattan during much of the 1870’s and 1880’s. The proprietors were German immigrants Henry Duhme and Wiliam Meyer.

Census records indicate that Duhme arrived in the United States  from Hanover, Germany in 1848. By the early 1850’s he had apparently joined his brother Martin in the grocery business under the name “Duhme & Brother.” The 1851 N.Y.C. directory listed the business in lower Manhattan with an address of 17 Grand Street. By the mid-1850’s the name “Duhme & Brother” had disappeared from the directories however, both Duhme’s continued to be listed as grocers at several lower Manhattan locations up through the mid-1860’s.

It was around this time that Henry Duhme opened a saloon at 198 Bleeker Street as evidenced by the occupation he listed in the 1870 census records: “Lagerbier Saloon.” This likely occurred in 1868 when his occupation in the directories changed from “grocer” to “liquor.”

Sometime in the early 1870’s Duhme partnered with William Meyer and together they established Duhme & Meyer. Meyer had immigrated to the United States from Prussia and I suspect he had recently arrived in New York City after first settling in New Jersey.

The business of Duhme and Meyer was initially listed in the 1871 N.Y.C directory at 112 Prince Street where they remained for over ten years. Early directories (1871 to 1875) referenced the company as a “soda” business while later directories called them “bottlers.” They were certainly bottling beer as well as soda in 1875 as evidenced by a Duhme & Meyer bottle found in a collection presented on brucemobley.com. The bottle is embossed “Lager Beer” on the front, with the year 1875 embossed on the back.


It wouldn’t be a surprise if the bottling business was actually an outgrowth of Duhme’s saloon business and they were bottling beer from the start but that’s entirely conjecture on my part.

Sometime in 1883 Duhme & Meyer moved to 115 Christopher Street where they were listed in the N.Y.C. directories until 1886 when Duhme apparently left the business. He ultimately moved to Brooklyn where 1900 census records listed his occupation as a real estate agent. He passed away in March 1909.

The bottling business continued to operate under the management of the Meyer family after Duhme’s departure. In 1887, both William Meyer and Henry W. Meyer, were listed with the occupation “waters,” at 115 Christopher Street. Henry was almost certainly William’s son, who, according to 1880 census records, was born in 1871.

The following year William Meyer was no longer listed, apparently leaving the business in the hands of his son who continued to operate it at 115 Christopher Street up until 1898.

A bottle embossed Henry W. Meyer exhibiting  the 115 Christopher Street address was found in the collection of Mike AKA Chinchillaman1 at http://mikesbottleroom.weebly.com (no relation to this web site).

Sometime in 1898 Meyer moved the business to 218 West 22nd Street. The move was almost certainly associated with New York State’s enactment of their 1896 liquor tax law, popularly referred to as Raines Law. Among other things, the law included an $800 license fee making it difficult for much of Meyer’s small business clientele to remain in business.

Shortly after the move the business came to a tragic end when Henry W, Meyer committed suicide. A story in the May 21, 1899 edition of the New York Tribune provided the sad details.

Henry W. Meyer, head of the firm Henry W. Meyer & Co., manufacturers of soda water, committed suicide yesterday afternoon at his home, No. 215 Tenth Ave., by taking muriatic acid. The shrinking of his extensive business to a condition of poor trade by the closing up of many small dealers with whom he had a monopoly of trade is thought to have caused Myer’s act. Myer lived with his wife and four children on the second floor of the Tenth Ave. house. His factory is in Twenty second Street between Tenth and Eleventh Aves. The man had built up a large business among the small saloons in the city, especially on the East Side. The Raines Law license drove a great many of these dealers out of business, and Meyer’s trade suffered, as he found himself unable to compete with the larger dealers.

The bottle I found is a pony with an applied blob finish that includes the embossed Christopher Street address. The monogramed back includes the embossed year 1883, suggesting it was manufactured specifically to reflect Duhme & Meyer’s move to new quarters that year.

Streeteasy.com reports that today the building at 115 Christopher Street was built in 1904, so it does not date back to the time frame of the business.

Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer

Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer was a patent medicine manufactured in Woonsocket, Rhode Island that was popular in the latter half of the 19th century.

It’s name alone touted it as a cure for just about all chest and lung related diseases but, by the time you were finished reading the fine print in this 1865 advertisement, you’d think it also cured everything from a headache to urinary tract issues. The advertisement appeared in the 1865 Woonsocket city directory.

Described as “A Pleasantly Flavored Syrup for Children or Adults,” the ad made no mention of the fact that the medicine contained the addictive drug morphine along with ethyl alcohol and chloroform.  As you’d expect, this resulted in unintended and sometimes drastic consequences, an example of which was poignantly documented in the May 3, 1878 edition of the (Darlington, Wisconsin) Republican-Journal.

On Thursday of last week Elsie, youngest daughter of T. J. Law, aged 17 months, met her death under the following sad circumstances: Her parents had procured a bottle of Arnold’s Cough Killer and, after administering the proper dose, put it away; the little child, unnoticed by her parents, got a chair, and, reaching the bottle, drank about three ounces of the mixture. The doctors were called and did all in their power to save her life, but in less than four hours after taking the medicine, the little child was a corpse.

Unfortunately individual stories like this were completely obscured by the plethora of “Cough Killer” advertisements, chock full of testimonials, found in newspapers and  reputable magazines like Good Housekeeping (top) and Lippincott’s (bottom).

Not to mention artistically done trading cards .

The back of this card described the “Cough Killer” as a family medicine.

Every family should keep some reliable cough medicine in their house, and for this special purpose we have prepared and confidently recommend Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer. The constantly increasing sale and the satisfaction it gives demonstrates its absolute merit. A single trial is sufficient to secure for it your commendation. Buy and keep a bottle on hand. We are all liable to catch a cold at any moment.

So it’s no surprise the medicine remained popular up through the turn of the century.

Originally I was skeptical that a Dr. Seth Arnold actually existed, figuring that, like many patent medicines back in the day, he was simply a fictional character under whose name the product was manufactured and sold. As it turns out, not only did he exist,  but his family was intimately involved with the founding of Woonsocket, Rhode Island and, in fact, their presence in that State dated back to the days of Roger Williams. According to the Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Rhode Island, published in 1881:

Arnold, Dr. Seth, son of Nathan and Esther (Darling) Arnold, was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, February 26, 1799, and is a descendant of William Arnold, who came in a canoe with Roger Williams to Providence. William Arnold’s son Thomas settled in Smithfield, Rhode Island, and had several children, one of whom, Richard, was the first settler of Woonsocket, and an officer in the English government most of his life. His son John built the first frame house in Woonsocket in 1711…

A 6th generation Rhode Islander, Seth Arnold  spent his early years occupied  in a wide variety of endeavors that included cotton mill worker and hotel keeper. His youth even included a five year stint as a traveling showman, described like this in the Biographical Cyclopedia of Rhode Island:

He travelled in various states with an exhibition of natural and artificial curiosities.

With this background it’s no surprise that his medical qualifications, as listed in the 1878/1879 New England Official Directory and Handbook, were quite thin by today’s standards.

…attending two courses of medical lectures at Woonsocket, R. I., in 1842; one course in Worcester, Mass., in 1843; and two entire courses in New York City during the year 1844.

Exactly when Arnold began manufacturing and selling patent medicines is not clear, however an early advertisement for Dr S. Arnold’s Balsam that appeared in several June/July, 1851 editions of the Hartford Courant suggested that it occurred approximately six years prior to the ad being published, making it sometime in the mid 1840’s.

This balsam has been sold in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut for six years and is now sold in almost every village of these states.

The advertisement went on to describe what were likely Arnold’s first two concoctions, his Balsam and another called “Compound Vegetable Sudorific Physical Pills.”


A SURE and safe remedy, and is warranted to cure in less than ONE HOUR, in their first stages, and in a short time after all other remedies have failed, if the patient has not mortified, or the money will be refunded, Cholera Morbus, Asiatic or Spasmodic Cholera, Dysentery and Diarrhea. My agents stand ready at all times to make good these assertions. It is also used with entire success for Tooth Ache and Burns, the pain of which it soon relieves, and heals the burn in a short time without leaving a scar.

Also the Compound Vegetable Sudorific Physical Pills. They are a pleasant, efficient, aperient, mild, gentle, efficacious cathartic, safe at all times and under all circumstances. They will be found to excel in Jaundice, Costiveness, Head-Ache, and all bilious and feverish habits, operating without pain or sickness to the stomach. The above medicine is worthy the notice of travelers and seafaring people.

It wasn’t until 1857 that his “Cough Killer” began to appear in newspaper published drug store advertisements, so I suspect he added this medicine to his menu a little later, likely sometime in the mid-1850’s.

In 1869 Arnold sold the rights to his Balsam to Gillman Brothers, a Boston wholesale druggist, for $12,500. Gilman Brothers continued to market the Balsam under Arnold’s name well into the 1900’s.

After the sale of the Balsam, Arnold  continued to manufacture and sell his “Cough Killer” and “Compound Vegetable Sudorific Physical Pills,” whose name was ultimately shortened to simply “Bilious Pills.”

Three years later, in 1872, he established the Doctor Seth Arnold Medical Corporation. According to the History of Providence County, R. I. Vol. II, published in 1891:

The Doctor Seth Arnold Medical Corporation was formed August 13, 1872, with a capital of $100,000, to succeed to the business of Doctor Seth Arnold, as manufacturers of proprietary medicines. The corporators were Doctor Seth Arnold, L. W. Ballou, James M. Cook, William G. Arnold, William M. Weeks. Doctor Seth Arnold remained at the head of the corporation until his death, October 31, 1883.

The History of Providence goes on to describe their Woonsocket facilities.

The first place of business was on Greene Street, but since 1875 the fine laboratory on Park Avenue has been occupied. The building has a fine site and is attractive in its appearance and surroundings. It is a frame 40 by 60 feet and contains fine offices and store rooms, in addition to the manufacturing departments.

A full page advertisement published in several editions of the Woonsocket city directory during the early 1880’s prominently featured their new building.

The building was listed with several different addresses over the years. Between 1877 and 1886 it was listed in the Woonsocket directory as 72 (sometimes 64) Sullivan Street, then sometime in the late 1880’s Sullivan Street was apparently renamed Park Avenue and between 1888 and 1891 it was listed as 72 Park Avenue. Later it would be listed as 158 Park Avenue (1892 to 1901) and 358 Park Avenue (1902 to 1905). The last two adress changes were likely due to changes in Park Avenue’s numbering system as opposed to a physical move by the company.

After the death of Seth Arnold the business remained under the control of the Arnold family with Seth’s sons Olney Arnold and later Alexander Streeter Arnold serving stints as president. According to Alexander Streeter’s biography published in “Representative Men & Old Families of Rhode Island,” Vol III, published in 1908, he was serving as president when the company was sold in 1905.

In 1900 he returned to Woonsocket and became the president of the Dr. Seth Arnold Medical Corporation, also holding the position of treasurer, and continued at the head of that concern until 1905, when they sold out to the Boston Drug Company.

The Dr. Seth Arnold Medical Company listing in the 1906 Woonsocket directory indicated that, by then, the business had “removed to Boston, Mass,” but who actually bought them is not clear. There’s no Boston Drug Company listed in the directories, but there is a Boston Chemical Company so that’s a possibility. It’s also possible that Gilman Bros, the company that bought Seth Arnold’s “Balsam” back in 1869 bought them and simply was referenced as “the Boston Drug Company” in Alexander Streeter Arnold’s biography.

Regardless of who bought them, by March 5, 1905 they had left Boston and their long-time headquarters on Park Avenue had been sold. According to the Fall River (Mass) Daily Evening News:

Frank Prue & Co., who operate a knitting factory in leased quarters on South Main Street, Woonsocket, have purchased the three-story Dr. Seth Arnold laboratory building on Park Avenue, Woonsocket, from the Dr. Seth Arnold Medical Corporation. Prue & Co will remodel the three-story wooden building into a knitting factory and will increase the scope of that plant.

After the move to Boston, “Arnold’s Cough Killer continued to appear, all but sporadically, in drug store advertisements up through the early 1920’s after which it vanishes.

The sale of the business and the subsequent disappearance of  Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer occurred around the same time that public awareness was generating investigations into the patent medicine industry. One result of these investigations was the 1906 Food and Drug Act  that required, among other things,  that the presence of habit forming drugs be declared on the labels of drug products. It certainly appears resistance to this legislation was a major contributor to the product’s downfall. While I can’t definitely prove this hypothesis, there are clues in the newspapers.

One is a June 1, 1911 story in the Selma (California) Enterprise:

The State Board of Health last week gave out a list of more than 100 alleged violates of the pure food law whom the district attorneys of the various counties will be asked to prosecute.

Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer was on the list of offenders.

Another was found in the L. A. Times on April 1st, that same year.

George A. Tilt of Gardena was said to have sold Dr. Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer without a label showing it to contain morphine, ethyl alcohol and chloroform.

Tilt was fined $25.

The bottle I found is a mouth blown medicine with a contents of less than 2 oz. Sold over the years in three sizes; small, medium and large, this is almost certainly the small size. Throughout most of the product’s history, this size was yours for 25 cents.

The bottle’s finish does not appear tooled so I suspect it dates to the late 1800’s.

CAWS Ink, New York

The Caws Ink brand dates back to the late 1870’s and a man named Alvah S. French, who was listed in the 1878 Philadelphia city directory at 302 Arch Street with the occupation “ink.” As early as 1877 he was manufacturing and distributing ink under the Caws’s name as evidenced by an advertisement that appeared in two December editions of Davenport, Iowa’s Morning Democrat. The advertisement reads:


Six Qualities never Before Combined: 1. It writes black instantly. 2. Does not fade. 3. Flows freely.  4. Does not thicken. 5. Does not mould. 6. Does not corrode metal pens. ALVAH S. FRENCH, Manufacturer, 302 Arch St., Philad’a. Sold by stationers everywhere.

Within a year of publishing that ad French was located in New York City  where, on November 25, 1878, he submitted an application to patent the Caw’s Ink label under the firm name of French & Gardner. It would be four years later before the label was fully registered and the announcement included in the November 21, 1882 edition of the “Official Patent Gazette; No. 2819.

Around the same time  that French began selling his ink in Philadelphia, a Canadian named Duncan MacKinnon was introducing his recently invented pen to the market. According to a story in the March 18, 1876 edition of the Manitoba Free Press:

THE MACKINNON PEN – One of the most convenient articles that has been brought before the notice of the public for some time is a writing pen on a new principle, the invention of Mr. D. Mackinnon, Stratford…It is just what has long been wanted by men whose business calls for much writing, and is certain to be appreciated. Mr MacKinnon has patented the pen in Canada, the United States and Great Britain, and we understand has been offered a large sum of money for an interest in his ingenious invention.

That “large sum of money” was apparently offered  by Francis Cashel Brown and Arthur Sutherland. Ultimately they bought out Mackinnon and by 1878 had established D. Mackinnon & Company and were manufacturing and selling “The MacKinnon Pen” at 21 Park Row in New York City.  One of their earliest newspaper advertisements appeared in the August 31, 1878 edition of the New York Times. Entitled “Writing Made Easy,” it reads in part:

The “MACKINNON PEN,” dispenses with the use of gold and steel pens, lead pencils and ink stands; is ready for use at all times and places and is the only perfect, self-feeding writing instrument in existence.

Every pen is pointed by a new process, with iridium, (diamond) and is warranted for three years…

Whether by chance or design, sometime in 1879 the Mackinnon Company and French’s business, now sans Gardner and called the French Manufacturing Company, were both located in lower Manhattan at the same address, 200 Broadway. Advertisements for both firms exhibiting that address were published directly adjacent to each other in the October 30, 1879  edition of the American Stationer suggesting  that by then they had established some type of business  relationship.

They had certainly formed an association by June 2, 1881 when this advertisement that appeared in the (Washington, D.C.) Critic announced that an agent for the Mackinnon Pen Co. was selling both the Mackinnon Fountain Pen and Caw’s Ink at factory prices. The agent was also selling a new Mackinnon item called the “Dashaway” Stub Pen.

Shortly after that advertisement ran, Brown and Sutherland sold the Mackinnon Pen Company to French. New York Superior Court Records (The MacKinnon Pen Co. v. The Fountain Ink Co.) tell the story.

The Mackinnon Pen Co. is a manufacturing corporation which makes and sells stylographic pens, under certain patents of the United States and other countries. Sutherland and Brown owned the entire capital stock of this company and its patents, and contracted, July 5, 1881, to sell the business and patents to French. French assigned portions of his contract to (George ) Carelton and ( Edmund ) Coffin and the contract was completed September 9, 1881.

This July 13, 1882 advertisement for the reorganized Mackinnon Pen Company listed Carelton, president, Coffin, vice president and French, general manager, secretary and treasurer.

Around the same time, Brown, no longer associated with Sutherland, established the Fountain Ink Company to manufacture and sell ink.

Brown has become the owner of almost all the stock of the Fountain Ink Co., which is a New York corporation, making and selling ink. He is the active manager of the company.

With French focused solely on pens, it was around this time that Brown apparently secured the rights to the Caw’s Ink trade mark. In fact it’s possible that he was the force behind the ultimate registration of the trademark in 1882, four years after the application was submitted by French & Gardner.

In 1882 both firms remained together on Broadway, their address now listed as 192 Broadway. That year, although he had a non-compete agreement with French, Brown began advertising a sales promotion for his ink that directly competed with the MacKinnon Pen business ultimately bringing about the lawsuit referenced above. The court records went on to explain the situation:

He (Brown) has undertaken to advertise and increase the sale of the ink by offering to give away a stylographic pen with each bottle, and is publicly representing that these pens, which do not cost forty cents, and are given away with a quart bottle of ink for $1, are equal to those which the Mackinnon Pen Co. sells at from $2 to $5.

Advertisements for the promotion were numerous in 1882, appearing primarily in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania newspapers. The following appeared in the Fall River (Mass) Daily Evening News.

In late December, 1882 Brown prevailed in the lawsuit but the decision was overturned on appeal the following year. Not surprisingly, in 1883 with the lawsuit still in the appeal process, the Fountain Ink Co. changed their address to 75  John Street.

That being said, it appears that the two firms maintained their business association for at least the early part of 1883 as evidenced  by this item that appeared in the American Stationer on February 15, 1883.

F. C. Brown, recently secretary of the MacKinnon Pen Company, but for some time with the Fountain Ink Company, has started on a trip with samples of the goods of both firms.

The future of the two firms however would turn out to be very different. According to an item in the May 15, 1883 edition of a publication called The American Bookseller, French left the MacKinnon Company around that time and went out on his own.

A.S. French formerly secretary and general manager of the Mackinnon Pen Company, has withdrawn from that company and taken quarters at 199 Broadway. Mr. French is now placing before the trade his new patent stylographic pen and pencil combination.

Less than a year later, in March, 1884, several newspapers reported that the Mackinnon Company was in receivership.

After separating from the Mackinnon Company French began operating as the A. S. French Company and continued to use the Mackinnon name as evidenced by this advertisement that appeared in the December 27, 1883 edition of Life Magazine.

The Life Magazine advertisements  continued regularly until April, 1884 when they ended abruptly. That same year all listings for French disappear from the New York City directories, suggesting the end of the French business in the U. S. (Its possible he continued in London for a while.)

On the other hand, Brown’s Fountain Ink Company and his Caw’s brand were apparently doing quite well. According to an item found in the July 5, 1883 edition of the American Stationer:

The Fountain Ink Company is reported to have sold ten thousand gallons of Caw’s black fluid ink last year.

If you still weren’t convinced, another item that appeared in the September 13, 1883 edition of the same publication served to reinforce the Fountain Ink Company’s success.

The manufacturers of Caw’s black fluid ink report that they never were in as good shape to fill orders promptly as now, and that they never had as many orders to fill. Since the organization of this business into a joint-stock company, with F. C. Brown as manager, which occurred less than three years ago, Caws Ink has been added to the stock of over twelve hundred stationers who have developed a large trade in their respective localities where the need was felt for a good black noncorrosive fluid ink.

In 1884 the Fountain Ink Company relocated to 62 Cliff Street where they were producing a copying ink along with their black fluid ink. Both were included in this list of  1886 prices found in Anderson & Crum’s  Catalogue of Stationary.

During this time they also developed and began marketing  a combined ink bottle and fountain pen filler. The unique bottle was highlighted in the September 18, 1884 edition of The American Bookseller.

Another want, which was becoming very pressing in consequence of the very general use of stylographic pens, is now supplied by the invention of a reliable and easy method of filling them. The old style of glass filler, imperfect as it is, has up to the present time supplied the only means known. Its place will now be filled by the “Combined Ink Bottle and Filler for Fountain Pens” handled by the Fountain Ink Company, 62 Cliff Street, New York. The accompanying cut represents a bottle of Caw’s Fountain Ink, with the filler attached.

The ink is pumped up through the neck of the bottle, and through a small tube that projects from the side of the stopper, into the pen; a bulb of rubber at the top, attached to the cork, supplying the motive power. Each bottle of Caw’s Ink is put up with one of the patent fillers attached, and is packed in a strong pasteboard box which can be carried with perfect safety in a trunk or valise.

The Fountain Ink Company remained in business on Cliff Street until the fall of 1886, when on November 5th and 6th, the following announcement appeared in newspapers across the country.

The Fountain Ink Company, 62 Cliff Street, manufacturers of “Caws Ink,” are advertised to be sold out by the sheriff. Liabilities about $30,000.

Likely the start of a planned reorganization, an announcement in the February 3, 1887 edition of the American Stationer made it clear that Brown was up and running under a new name, the Caws Ink and Pen Company. Having revived the “Dashaway” name, he was now selling pens as well as ink from a new location at 233 Broadway.

The Caw’s Ink and Pen Company has opened a store for the sale of its specialties at 233 Broadway, on the block next to the Astor House and just opposite the Post Office, where the trade are invited to call and where parties visiting the city will be ever welcome. For some months past the company has been giving special prominence to its new “Dashaway” fountain pen, which has been the subject of a number of complimentary notices in the daily papers…

Advertisements for the “Dashaway,” using their new Broadway address, appeared as early as December 19, 1886 in both the New York Times and New York Tribune.


What an excellent name “Dashaway” is for a pen, and how few pens there are with which you can dash away. We used to use a pencil until we recently had the good fortune to happen in at the headquarters of Caw’s Ink and Pen Company at 233 Broadway, opposite the Post Office. Since then we have been using Caws black writing fluid and Caw’s “Dashaway” pen.

The “Dashaway” was apparently their high end pen that according to advertisements got its name because it was:

The pen that you could dash away with over the paper without any of the annoyances of the pens in common use, and that will write for several consecutive hours – or for weeks if only used occasionally – without replenishing the ink.

The company also advertised a simpler, cheaper pen called the Caw’s “Stylographic” Pen.

In Caw’s Stylographic pen the writing is done with a circular point similar to a pencil. The stylographic pen carries ink in the holder the same as the fountain pen, and by many it is preferred to the ordinary split pen. It has a special device for cleaning and is a great favorite with bookkeepers and bankers for ruling purposes.

Both pens, along with their “Black Fluid Ink,” were highlighted in this March 15, 1890 advertisement found in a publication called “The Judge.”

A mainstay of Brown’s marketing strategy involved promotions (gimmicks?) similar to the one that got him in trouble with French. One that caught my eye required you to select the winner of the 1888 presidential election between Harrison and Cleveland prior to election day. An October 7, 1888 advertisement in the New York Times laid out the deal.

…the company proposes to stop at nothing short of supplying every man, woman and child “who do write” with a “Dashaway” pen. Here is their latest offer: They will send a $2.50 Dashaway pen to every one who will send them $1 and the name of the successful Presidential candidate. All that the applicant has to do is to write legibly on a piece of paper about three inches square his or her own name (both sexes are allowed to compete) and full address, and the name of the candidate he or she thinks will be elected our next President:

The ticket, together with $1, is to be brought or mailed to the Caw’s Ink and Pen Company, 189 Broadway, between Cortlandt and Dey Streets, and each applicant will receive a ticket like this:

It is not expected that everyone will name the successful candidate, therefore the company promises to apply the $1 received from those who name the defeated one toward the payment of a $4 Dashaway. That is, those on the defeated side can have a $4 pen by investing $3 more; everyone gets full value of the dollar which accompanies his guess, and if he guesses right he gets a $2.50 pen by mail free of further expense, or he can have a $4 for an additional $1.50.

Harrison defeated Cleveland in that election and, one way or another, Brown was able to get the “Dashaway” endorsed by Harrison. The promotional campaign was apparently so successful that Brown launched another “pick the president” contest in 1892 when Cleveland defeated Harrison. Obviously non-partisan, he got an endorsement from Cleveland as well. Both can be found in a December 12, 1897 New York World advertisement.

The company’s focus on pens had increased to such an extent that it ultimately resulted in a subtle but significant change in the name of the company. Sometime in 1893, Brown reversed the words ink and pen in the company name, now calling it the Caws Pen & Ink Company.

N.Y.C. directory advertisements in 1892 and 1894 bear this out, with 1892 on the left and 1894 on the right.


Shortly after their name change the company introduced another pen called the safety fountain pen and by 1896 they were advertising four brands including one, the “Lady,” later renamed the “Dainty,”  aimed directly at the women’s market  “Equal to the Best but Smaller.”

That’s not to say that their inks were forgotten. According to an 1894 advertisement in the Fall River (Mass) Globe:

Any good make of ink can be used in these pens, but Caw’s blue black, now in use all over the country, is the best to use in any fountain pen, when first used it writes a deep blue soon turning to intense and permeant black. It will not corrode the pen, and its many good qualities make it renowned.

They referred to their blue black ink as Caw’s Fountain Ink. It was included in this January 5, 1896 New York Sun advertisement along with their original Black Fluid Ink.


A description of the company’s exhibit at the Paris Exhibition in 1900 found in the March 19, 1900 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, made it clear that by then they had expanded their menu of ink types and colors even further.

CAWS PEN AND INK COMPANY, NEW YORK CITY – In addition to a full display of the various inks which the company manufactures there is exhibited a line of its Dashaway and Stylographic fountain pens, some of them handsomely and elabotately made and mounted. In the line of inks there are many varieties, including the black fluid, fountain, counting houses, stylographic, carmine, violet, green and blue, as well as samples of the firm’s combined ink bottle and filler for fountain and stylographic pens.

Up to the turn of the century, although they used several different addresses at different times, the company was always located along Broadway in lower Manhattan, . Their stay at the initial 233 Broadway location was short and by May 5, 1887 an item in the American Stationer announced that they had moved further south.

The Caw’s Ink and Pen Company, since its recent removal from 233 to 189 Broadway, has been doing a much larger retail business, and reports an increase in the wholesale trade as well.

Subsequently their Broadway addresses, along with approximate dates of occupancy, were: 189 Broadway (1887 to 1889); 157 Broadway (1889 to 1890); 104 Broadway (1891 to 1894); 168 Broadway (1895 to 1901) and 227 Broadway (1902 to 1903).  These locations were apparently retail stores/showrooms. Occasionally the directories also listed a factory location at 42 Dey Street (1890’s) and later at 53 Vesey (early 1900’s).

The company moved off Broadway in 1904 but remained in lower Manhattan through the mid 1920’s, during which time their newspaper and magazine advertising dropped off significantly. One ad I did find appeared in the June 20, 1916 edition of Paterson, New Jersey’s Morning Call. Run by a local hardware store, it touted the safety pen that was introduced 20 years earlier. This suggests that by then the company’s innovative years were behind them.

The Caw’s Pen & Ink Company was last listed in 1925, likely signaling the end of the business. That year, Brown, in addition to being associated with company, now located at 30 Church Street, was also listed individually at the same address with the occupation of “insurance.” Census records in 1930 included Brown’s occupation as “insurance salesman,” with no mention of ink or pens.

The bottle I found is mouth blown with a contents of 1-1/2 ounces. It’s similar to this labeled example recently offered for sale on the Internet.


I suspect that it contained either their Black Fluid Ink or Fountain Ink. According to pricing contained in a January, 1896 advertisement, either type, purchased in the 1- 1/2 ounce size, could be had for a nickel.


The bottle has an applied finish that’s not tooled so it could date to the 1890’s when the advertisement was published.

On a final note: All available N.Y.C Copartnership and Corporation directories that I can get my hands on named Francis Cashell Brown’s wife, Marie Brown, as the principal of the Caws Ink & Pen Company and later the Caws Pen & Ink Company, but it was certainly Francis Cashel Brown who, as manager, ran the show. A successful business man, he apparently had an eccentric side to him as well, crediting his youthful vitality at the age of 67 to what he called “walking on his head.” A story published in the November 10, 1918 edition of the Los Angeles Express fills in some of the details.

Brown was standing on his head – actually standing on his head in the private office; head on the ledger taken from a bookkeeper’s desk, ledger on a slim-legged very shaky cane-seated chair; position about midway between the safe and the roll-top desk; time about noon. Standing on his head and enjoying it.

Francis Cashel Brown, executive manager of an old established pen and ink concern, was standing on his head. Erect, straight-limbed, only a quarter of an inch less than six feet tall, abundantly thatched with iron gray hair and turned 65, he is old and experienced enough to know better, most people would say. But as he himself figures it, he is old enough to know, or feels that he knows, that physical topsy turvying, far from being a mere ebullition in a spectacular form, is a distinctly superior method of putting what is sometimes called pep in a tired business man.

“When I was a boy I used to turn handsprings and somersaults and stand on my head.” said he. And two years ago, when I was all bunged up with indigestion and catarrh, and had all sorts of kinks in my system, I figured out that something had to be done. I had never been an athlete, but I remembered how good I used to feel when I was kicking up my heels, and I went to it again.

I don’t know a thing about anatomy and physiology, which isn’t common knowledge to most people; and as to the why’s and wherefores of the doctors, I am densely ignorant. But it does seem to me that if we can keep the blood circulating through our arteries and veins as it does in youth we will escape many of the troubles which come after middle age…

There is no reason why a lot of us shouldn’t become centenarians. I myself feel that I am headed that way and going strong.”

Brown went so far as to write a 39 page booklet entitled “Walking on Your Head.” The booklet cost $3.00 which he said was not for the little book but for the “BIG IDEA.” This advertisement for it appeared in the October 4, 1917 issue of Life Magazine.

Brown passed away in February, 1939 at the ripe old age of 85. So while the concept did not make Brown a centenarian, there still may be something to it?

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

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

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

An effectual Cure for the Hooping Cough, Without Inward Medicine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Hawkins & Weeks, Bayport N. Y.

The Hawkins and Weeks story begins with a retired ship’s captain named Thomas E. Hawkins. A resolution honoring him was passed by the Bayport Fire Department shortly after his death on May 29, 1907. Published in the June 7, 1907 edition of the Suffolk County News, the resolution revealed a glimpse into his early life at sea.

RESOLVED that we record upon the minutes of this meeting an expression of our sorrow and our profound respect for his memory. Captain Hawkins was one of the last of the blue-water sailors who were once the boast of Suffolk County, and of whom, alas, there are now so few survivors. The title of Captain which is nowadays bestowed on every owner of a catboat, was earned and worthly maintained, by him on full rigged ships in every ocean of the world.

The resolution went on to say:

After his retirement from the sea, he displayed in his business the same energy and honesty that had combined with his coolness and courage to raise him to the quarter deck.

His business career began in 1880 when he purchased a half interest in what was referred to as a “gingerine business,” called Johnson & Bishop. A June 12, 1880 story in Amityville’s “South Side Signal,” under the heading “Bayport News” made it clear that his intent was to transform it into a bottling business.

CAPT. THOS. E. HAWKINS, of our village has purchased one half interest in the gingerine business. The firm will hereafter be known as Johnson & Hawkins, instead of Johnson & Bishop as heretofore. Everything will be put in order, a quantity of bottles purchased necessary to supply the trade, and hereafter hotel, store and saloon keepers and others have but to send a postal card to Johnson & Hawkins, when any quantity will be sent to their address.

Over the course of their first year, several items published in the South Side Signal provided evidence that while the business was small, it was apparently active and doing well.

May 14, 1881:

We notice in passing by the manufactory of Johnson & Hawkins they have increased their large stock of bottles, as we saw many cases filled with new ones recently purchased by them.

July 2, 1881:

Johnson & Hawkins’ business has increased to such an extent that they now employ two extra persons.

September 17, 1881:

Johnson & Hawkins have purchased a handsome wagon to be used in their soda water business.

A July, 8 1882 advertisement in the South Side Signal made it clear that while they focused on plain soda, sarsaparilla, ginger ale and lemon soda, their entire menu of carbonated  beverages was almost endless. The jingle at the end of the ad is worth a read!

Johnson & Hawkins continued to sporadically publish their business card in the South Side Signal up through March 23 1883. Then, on April 14, 1883 the firm name on their business card was changed to “Hawkins & Weeks.”

This suggests that James T. Weeks bought out Frank C. Johnson sometime in late March/early April 1883. Weeks and Hawkins would remain business partners for the next twelve years.

As early as January, 1888 their advertisements began to refer to the business as the Excelsior Bottling Company.

By this time, it appears that they began expanding their reach to the neighboring village of Bayshore as evidenced by advertisements that appeared in the Bayshore section of the Suffolk County News.

Hawkins and Weeks have established an agency at the saloon of Chas. Brown where any person wanting cases of soda, sarsaparilla or any mineral waters can leave their orders with the assurance that they will be filled at once

Another read:

Leave your orders for soda water, ginger ale, vichy, seltzer, and all the best brands of mineral and aerated waters manufactured by Hawkins and Weeks, at the barber shop of Wm. Thuring, which has been designated as a branch depot. The retail trade supplied here.

It was also around this time that the company expanded into the coal business. According to a story in the December 15, 1888 edition of the Suffolk County news:

In our town we have a number of businessmen who are worth recognition and public note. Of these none more so than Hawkins & Weeks, the widely known soda manufacturers, who have been in business here a number of years. Their success has been phenomenal from the outstart and this fact has caused them to enter into still another departure of business – that of coal dealers. In this new branch of industry we wish them a prosperous career. They have commenced the erection of a large coal house, which they will soon fill up with this needed article.

Updated advertisements referencing their new coal business began appearing in January, 1889.

That being said, a Suffolk County News story published on November 22, 1890 made it clear that the bottling end of the business was still going strong.

Hawkins & Weeks have enjoyed a good business this summer, owing to the superior quality of their mineral waters, root beer, soda water and sarsaparilla, together with the prompt manner in which they deliver goods. They have the latest and best machinery for the successful prosecution of their big business and both men are very popular with the public. It is quite interesting to watch the modus operandi of making and bottling at the factory. The material used is first class and everything about the premises is as neat as wax. Hawkins & Weeks goods consequently take the lead on Long Island. The factory is a help to Bayport.

In 1894 Weeks, in an effort to pursue other interests, sold his share of the business to Hawkins. The dissolution of their partnership was announced in the September 28, 1894 edition of the Suffolk County News.

Hawkins & Weeks who have been in the mineral water business for the past twelve years, have dissolved partnership, Mr. Jas. T Weeks having sold out his interest to Mr. Hawkins, since which he has bought the Bayport bakery of Geo. J. Mallmann. He expects to make many improvements in the same.

Hawkins continued the bottling/coal business ultimately partnering with his son, Clifton (sometimes Clifford) in 1896. A feature on the business, published in the August 13, 1897 edition of Suffolk County News told the story.

In the year 1894 Mr. T. E. Hawkins, better known as Captain Hawkins, became sole proprietor and conducted it successfully until one year ago, when he associated with his son Mr. Clifford Hawkins. The firm now being known as Hawkins & Son.

The story went on to say:

They have a large family trade as well as a wholesale business. Five large wagons are kept constantly on the road delivering their many orders. Messrs. Hawkins & Son also have a coal and wood business in connection with the bottling where all the best grades of coal and wood can be had at short notice.

According to his obituary, the senior Hawkins retired in July, 1906 and passed away 10 months later. Clifton Hawkins continued to run the company, ultimately selling the coal piece of the business. The sale likely took place in 1911 as evidenced by this advertisement that appeared in the October 6, 1911 edition of the Suffolk County News. It references C. K. Green as the “successor to Clifton W. Hawkins.”

Hawkins continued to operate the bottling business throughout the remainder of the decade, promoting what he called his “Premier Brand,” in this August 6, 1915 Suffolk County News story.  Note that by then, auto trucks had replaced his horse and wagons.


Absolutely Pure – Manufactured by C. W. Hawkins of Belport

For thirty-five years Mr. C. W. Hawkins, of Bayport has been established in the same location manufacturing charged waters and a complete line of beverages, non-intoxicant in character.

These products have achieved a wide popularity under the name of the “Premier” brand, and the growing demand for these beverages is eloquent testimony concerning their quality. At present the “Premier” plant has a capacity of 400 boxes per day.

All the syrups used in flavoring are made at the plant in Bayport, extracted under scrupulously clean and sanitary conditions. The supreme importance of this fact cannot be emphasized to forcibly for such beverages are largely consumed by children, and mothers may feel absolutely safe in allowing the kiddies to partake of “Premier” drinks. A specialty of the “Premier” brand is its ginger ale, delightful in flavor and purity.

Auto trucks make deliveries covering the territory between Brookhaven and Islip, a distance of twenty miles, serving family trade also, of which Mr. Hawkins makes a special feature.

A July 2, 1920 advertisement for a grocery business called Henry Borchers indicated that you could pick up “Premier” ginger ale or sarsaparilla for $1.80 a dozen (ninth one down).

Ultimately Hawkins sold the bottling business in 1920. The sale was reported in the November  5, 1920 edition of the Suffolk County News.

Clifton W. Hawkins, manufacturer of carbonated waters, who has had his business on the market for some time, this week sold it to Arthur Sherry of Patchogue. Mr. Sherry is to take possession of the plant on the 15th of this month and is to keep the present place as his headquarters for the time being. In the spring he intends to move the business to Patchogue.

A November 19th follow up story reported:

On Monday Arthur Sherry, of Patchogue, the new proprietor of C. W. Hawkins soft drink manufactory, took possession of the plant. In a week or so Mr. Hawkins, former owner, who manufactured and supplied this part of the county for the past 28 years with carbonated beverages, is to leave for Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he is to live and take charge of his oil interests.

The following summer, a June 21, 1921 article in the Patchogue Advance confirmed that Sherry followed through on his intentions to move the business to nearby Patchogue.

Arthur J. Sherry, who bought out Hawkin’s Bottling Works, of Bayport, has purchased a plot of ground from T. P. Marvin situated at the corner of Bay Avenue and Norton Street, for the purpose of erecting a factory for the manufacture of soft drinks. L. S. Fulton has the contract for building the plant and work is to be begun at once. Mr. Sherry proposes to put up a two story frame building, 25 x 50. New and modern machinery will be installed throughout and the business will be known as the Premier Bottling Works.

On a final note, according to a story in the June 9, 1922 LongIslander, on May 23, 1922 the Premier Bottling Works of Patchogue was taken over by Fred W. Wilson and incorporated under that name, with a capital of $50,000. Wilson was named president and Arthur Sherry remained with the corporation as a vice president.

So you ask…what became of James T. Weeks?

He took over management of the bakery, calling it the South Side Bakery as evidenced by this December, 1894 Suffolk County News advertisement.

The next summer another advertisement, this one in the June 14, 1895 Suffolk County News made it clear that by then he had established an ice cream business as well.

A feature on Weeks, published in the June 24, 1898 edition of the Suffolk County News picks up the story from there.

The bakery he disposed of the following year to Mr. Joseph Douglass but the ice cream business he retained. He removed his family to Rockville Centre where he is engaged in the business of bottling soda and mineral waters and has a large and growing trade.  He gives his personal attention to both establishments dividing his time between the places and his efforts to cater to the public are ably seconded by his estimable wife who resides in Bayport and has charge of the ice cream factory and of the parlors connected with it where ice cream, soda water, fancy cakes and confectionery are on sale.

There’s more on Weeks’ Rockville Centre bottling business elsewhere on this web site.  Jas. T. Weeks.

The bottle, found in the bays by a friend, is a mouth blown hutchinson embossed with the company name “Hawkins & Weeks.” This dates it between 1883 and 1894, when Weeks was associated with the business.



A dandruff remedy, Wildroot Hair Tonic debuted in 1911 and was the first of what would eventually become an entire array of Wildroot hair care products manufactured in Buffalo, New York.  An advertisement that appeared in the December 3, 1915 edition of the Buffalo Evening News was typical of the early sales pitch associated with the hair tonic.

We don’t say it will grow hair – nothing will do that but healthy hair roots. But we do say Wildroot will make sickly hair roots healthy and keep them healthy. Wildroot is a vegetable compound. It is sure death to dandruff germs, sure health to hair and scalp.

Give hair new life in both reality and appearance. Every hair can be saved if you start in time to use Wildroot – don’t delay. Thousands of users root for Wildroot.

A feature on Wildroot published in the December 19, 1921 edition of the Buffalo Commercial described how the business got its start.

The business was started by Robert J. Kideney and Morrell C. Howell. In fact in the early days Wildroot Hair Tonic was made in 5 gallon crocks in Mr. Howell’s home from the formula worked out by these men and first marketed to friends and acquaintances of the barber trade in the vicinity.

The 1908 Buffalo city directory listed  Kideney’s occupation as “manager” of the barber shop located in Buffalo’s Iriquois Hotel, so it’s a safe bet that the product was first used there. This circa 1908 post card depiction of the hotel is courtesy of the Buffalo History Museum.

The name “Wildroot” was filed as the trademark for a dandruff remedy on September 2, 1911 by a business called the “Retone Company.” The notice was printed in “The Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office,” dated October 11, 1911.

Retone was apparently short-lived as the company name. That same year the 1911 Buffalo directory named Kideney “president” of the Wildroot Chemical Company and the following year the company itself was listed with that name and an address of 45 North Division Street. Later in 1918 the company name was shortened to the Wildroot Company.

Wildroot Hair Tonic newspaper advertisements began appearing as early as 1912. Curiously, the first advertisements appeared not in the Buffalo Commercial’s advertising section where they might get overlooked, but in the paper’s “Lost and Found” section. The two notices below were typical of this rather unique approach.

The following year the business expanded their product line advertising “Wildroot Shampoo Soap” as “specially recommended for use with Wildroot.”

By 1914 the business had outgrown their Division Street location facilitating a move to Buffalo’s Sidway Building. Located at Goodall and Main Streets, the company occupied two floors there for the remainder of the decade. Around the same time Harry Lehman assumed the presidency, with Kideney remaining with the company as vice president. Over the next 44 years the business would flourish under Lehman’s leadership.

During much of its first decade the company associated their name with a beauty parlor (or parlors) called the “Wildroot Hair Parlors. The parlor was operated by a woman named Bertha Courtright whose advertisement in the 1915 Buffalo city directory mentioned services that included hairdressing, shampooing, manicuring, facial massage and scalp treatments. A November 28, 1915 item published in the Buffalo Times leads me to believe it served a high end, female clientele.

Thats not to say that women were their only target audience as evidenced by this November 19, 1915 advertisement found in the Buffalo Evening News.

One “over the top” advertisement found in the Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal targeted both men and women blaming dandruff on the hats they wore. Disguised as a news story the March 23, 1915 item was headlined:.

The following story read in part:

The tight fitting hats worn by men nowadays and women’s stylish but poorly ventilated hats are to blame for the hair-destroying dandruff germ. Lack of fresh air and the pressure of the hat band shuts off blood circulation from the arteries of the scalp. The scalp tissue then gets weakened and is attacked by the microbe. The truth of this statement is proven by the fact that leading scalp specialists all over America have accepted it…

Our great chemists have given the world one positive way of regaining long, heavy, wavy, silky hair in “Wildroot,” that wonderful old remedy that has never failed to destroy the dandruff germ. But “Wildroot” as made nowadays is lots quicker in action than it used to be, for its nourishing, cooling vegetable oils are at once absorbed into the hair pores, and its first few days’ use brings back a healthy scalp in which no dandruff germs can live…

Their advertising, while misleading, was successful to the point where by decade’s end an October 19, 1919 story in the Buffalo Courier announced that another move to still larger quarters was in the works.

To adequately care for their growing export trade and the nation-wide demand for their products they have been compelled to purchase a property which will permit of greater production.

Through Parke, Hall & Co. this firm has just purchased the premises of the Bison City Table Company…situated at 1490 – 1500 Jefferson Street. This property now consists of a large two-story brick building 90 x 170 and several smaller frame and brick buildings which give a floor area of about 50,000 square feet.

This photograph of the main building was included with the Buffalo Courier story.

The company immediately  set about remodeling the plant and by the time the December 19, 1921 Buffalo Commercial feature was published had increased the available factory space by 5o percent to 75,000 square feet. The feature went on to make it clear that the company had come a long way from their days at 45 North Division Street, where their entire work force initially numbered six.

80 x 260 feet ground space with a factory space of 75,000 square feet, giving steady employment to 100 people…

The concern is now doing an annual business of $1,000,000. The Wildroot line is being handled by 75,000 barber shops, some 50,000 drug stores, as well as being found on the toilet goods counters of the leading dry goods stores and hair dressing establishments of the country.

The concern maintains a staff of eighteen traveling representatives in the field, three men of which are engaged in New York alone. To assure prompt service and distribution to the trade, the company maintains seven warehouses in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City and San Francisco. Shipments are made to these points in car lots, from which spot distribution is carried on. The product is now likewise being exported to Great Britain, South America and several other foreign countries.

It was also around the end of the decade that the Wildroot Company made a little aviation history when they shipped 600 pounds of their product from Buffalo to New York City by air. According to a story in The (Carlisle, Pennsylvania) Sentinel:

“It was the first aerial freight trip across the state,” said W. G. Richardson. Other short trips have been made around the state, but it was the first time that the state was crossed by air with a load of freight.”

The trip took place on October 20, 1919 and the following day this photo, shot just before take-off, appeared in the Buffalo Courier.

The details surrounding the flight were included in the Sentinel’s story and are worth a read.

This was the situation that cropped up for the Wildroot Company:

An advertising campaign that it is conducting in New York made it extremely necessary that a quantity of its product be sent there as soon as possible. The railroads were tried and found wanting. Strikes on the express companies and other strikes forbade their use as a messenger.

“We didn’t know what to do at first,” said Robert J. Kideney, vice president of the company…” Then we thought of sending it by air and the Cuttiss company supplied an aeroplane and a pilot. That did the trick.”

Captain Chase took the air at the Curtiss field at Buffalo and planned to make the trip by way of Syracuse and Albany, because of the stops provided there. He had to descend at Troy, because of slight engine trouble, but he got started again.

The Wildroot product line grew throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s over which time some non-hair related products were added. One, advertised in the early 1920’s was a liniment called “Lincohol’ that got its name from “Lin,” meaning liniment and “cohol,” meaning alcohol. Others included a concentrated mouth wash called “Five Star Anteseptic Powder,” and another simply called “Wildroot Skin Lotion.”

That being said their main focus remained hair products as evidenced by this advertisement entitled “12 Best Sellers,” found in the August, 1941 edition of a publication called Chain Store Age. All twelve were hair related products.

World War II and the need to ration alcohol served as a catalyst for what would become Wildroot’s biggest seller during the 1940’s and 1950’s, Wildroot Cream-Oil. The June 13, 1943 edition of the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle told the story.

Introduced at a time when the hair tonic business was at its wits end to devise means of getting around alcohol rationing, Wildroot Cream-Oil got off to a head start because it contains no alcohol. Instead it contains Lanolin, a well-known and frequently prescribed soothing ingredient which closely resembles the natural oil of the human skin. The product is homogenized for uniformity and what the customer buys is a pleasant smelling cream that flows readily – only a few drops being required to keep the hair in place, relieve dryness and remove loose dandruff.

The story went on to say:

Few products have ever hit a market as much “on the nose” as the new Wildroot Cream-Oil formula according to J. Ward Maurer, advertising manager for the Wildroot Company who today announced an extension of advertising plans with the Wichita Eagle. Intensive advertising in newspapers rounds out the heaviest campaign in the annals of the company.

That fall several versions of this advertisement appeared in newspapers across the country.

A story in the October 19, 1946 edition of the Pittsburgh Courier made it clear that print was only a part of their overall marketing strategy when they hired Nat King Cole as the headliner for a national radio program to be aired on a weekly basis.

In the first move of its kind in more than ten years, the Wildroot Company signed the King Cole Trio to an indefinite contract to headline their own nationally aired commercial program.

Scheduled every Saturday via the NBC chain, the new commercial will be given its airing this Saturday at 5:45 P.M. EST. For several weeks it will present a stage, screen or radio famous star. It’s initial broadcast will be guest teed-off by song sensational Jo Stafford, the internationally known radio and recording artist.

The program’s debut was publicized in newspapers nation wide. In Minnesota, radio station KSTP’s promo was included in the Minneapolis Tribune and looked like this:

The Pittsburgh Courier story went on to say:

The program long under wraps in New York as executives of both the radio chain and Wildroot cleared the way for a national airing, will be presented as a musical show spotlighting the trio. They will be presented as star entertainers, America’s number one musical outfit without racial or religious tags.

The King Cole commercial will be aired for fifteen minutes and will not be an audience show. It will follow through with the usual product announcements and be heard on every NBC station in the country.

The program, well received, went on to broadcast weekly for well over a year. An April 23, 1948 story in the Lincoln (Jefferson City, Missouri) Clarion served to underscore the popularity of the venture even while reporting its demise.

The King Cole fans received quite a shock this week to learn that the famous trio has been dropped recently by the Wildroot Hair Oil Co., after 78 consecutive weeks of broadcasting. Reason for the latest venture on the part of the Wildroot Company was that the company budget had allotted the radio spot to a series of commercials. Doesn’t make much sense in view of the fact that the trio figuratively “sunburned” from spotlight honors this year, to say nothing of the tremendous popularity of the radio spot itself.

The company’s innovative advertising campaigns continued into the 1950’s with print, radio and television commercials. They even had famous cartoonist Al Capp come up with a character named “Fearless Fosdick,” who promoted their cream oil in a comic strip. Here’s an example from the March 1, 1954 issue of Life Magazine.

The company even sponsored one of, if not the first, give-away at a major league baseball game. According to the July 19, 1950 edition of the (Bucyrus, Ohio) Telegraph Forum:

Barbers Have Day At Tribe Stadium Aug. 2

It will be the well-groomed man, complete with hair shampoo and sheared looks, that attends the Cleveland Indians – Washington Senators night game here Aug. 2.

Some 4,000 barbers minus their shears, will converge on the stadium as the guest of the Wildroot Company.

To make sure the barbers feel at home, the company will hand out a regular bottle  of the new Wildroot cream shampoo to the first 20,000 males to pour through the gates.

The company remained at their Jefferson Avenue location until 1946 when the need for expansion forced another move. According to preservationready.org, at that time they took over the former Grennan Bakery building located at 1740 Baily Avenue.

Wildroot took over the former bakery and connected two warehouses on Fay Street with a second story bridge. Wildroot also constructed a three-story administration building that connected the original warehouse to Baily Avenue.

By 1959 the company was topping $60,000,000 in sales but that same year Lehman, then 76, sold the company to Colgate-Palmolive.  The March 2, 1959 edition of the Charlotte (N. C.) News reported the sale.

Colgate Buys Wildroot Firm

The Colgate-Palmolive Co. has announced that it has completed negotiations for the purchase of the Wildroot Co. The formal signing took place in Buffalo N.Y.

The Wildroot Co. will now operate as a subsidiary of Colgate-Palmolive. Manufacture of the Wildroot products will be continued at the Wildroot plant in Buffalo, but marketing will be taken over by the toilet articles division of Colgate-Palmolive April 1.

Lehman would pass away later that same year on October 29, 1959.

Despite their commitment to keep the Buffalo plant open, two years later the Rochester (N. Y.) Democrat and Chronicle reported the plant’s closing in their April 13, 1961 edition.

Buffalo Plant to Be Closed

The Colgate-Palmolive Co. yesterday said it will close its Wildroot Division plant here by mid-July.

The company which purchased the hair tonic business two years ago for $14 million from the Wildroot Co., said production would be shifted to other Colgate-Palmolive plants.

A spokesman for the company said “rising freight and re-shipping costs, plus duplication of operations,” were responsible for the shutdown.

About 90 persons are employed at the Buffalo plant. There was no indication that transfers would be made of the personnel.

Colgate-Palmolive continued to manufacture Wildroot products until 1995 when they sold several brands, including Wildroot to a Florida firm called Stephan for $12 million. According to a story that appeared in the January 3, 1996 edition of the South Florida (Fort Lauderdale) Sentinel.

The name Wildroot hair tonic conjures up images of the 1950’s: the stuff that teenagers oiled their hair with in those days.

What most people don’t know is that the brand name is alive, still on store shelves, and is now owned by a Fort Lauderdale based maker of skin and hair care products, Stephan Co.

“It has market, it has sales and it has earnings,” said Stephan spokesman Chuck Walsh.

On Tuesday, Stephan closed a deal to buy Wildroot and five other personal care brands from Colgate-Palmolive Co.

Colgate-Palmolive spokesman Bob Murray said the company sold the brand names because it wants to focus on its core brands such as Colgate toothpaste, Palmolive soap and Mennen deodorant.

The brand name is still visible today as both a hair tonic and hair cream.


The company’s last Buffalo home at 1740 Baily Avenue remains standing to this day, though its been unoccupied for years. This relatively current picture is courtesy of Google Earth.

I’ve found two Wildroot bottles, both machine made. The first appears to be an early hair tonic bottle with Wildroot embossed along both sides. A labeled example recently appeared for sale on the internet.


The second bottle has a one inch square cross-section with slightly sloped sides and a screw-top. Two sides are embossed “Wildroot.” On the other two sides, one is embossed “Special Wave Set,” and the other “Extra Heavy.”

I actually found a 1930 advertisement touting the two products side by side.

Owen Clark, 23 Jackson Ave., L. I. City


Owen Clark operated a mineral water manufacturing and bottling business in Long Island City, New York from the early 1870’s through the turn of the century. Over the life span of the business Clark was forced to completely start over on two separate occasions as a result of devastating fires.

Census records indicate that Clark, an Irish immigrant, arrived in the United States in 1849. While his first decade in the United States is a mystery, by the early 1860’s he was serving as a Union officer in the Civil War. According to his obituary, published in the October 17, 1906 edition of the Brooklyn Times Union:

He served through the Civil War as a second lieutenant of Company C, Seventy-seventh Regiment, N. Y. V.

After the war he settled in Long Island City, New York. Located just across the East River from Manhattan, Long Island City operated independently of New York City at the time. It wasn’t until 1898 that it was consolidated with New York City becoming part of Queens County.

Clark’s Obituary went on to say:

In old Long Island City he served several terms as Alderman, and also served as Police Commissioner under former Mayor Petry, and was a member of the General Improvement Commission under former Mayor Gleason. He conducted a bottling business and owned considerable real estate in Long Island City and vicinity.

As early as 1868, Curtin’s Long Island  Directory listed Clark with an address of “Jackson Avenue, near 5th Street,” and the occupation “liquors.”  It’s not clear if the bottling business was up and running at this point but it was certainly active by the early 1870’s.

The business listed that address until 1875 when a fire swept through the facility. The June 15, 1875 edition of the New York Times reported on the blaze.

About 2:20 o’clock yesterday morning a fire was discovered in the mineral water establishment of Mr. Owen Clark, on Jackson Avenue, Hunter’s Point, and before assistance could be rendered the building, together with two others adjoining, were enveloped in flames…

The loss is estimated at $14,500. Mr. Clark’s establishment, together with two horses and a crate of bottles valued at $3,000 was totally destroyed; there was no insurance.

Afterwards Clark re-established the business. Likely nearby or at the former location, it was listed at 53 Jackson Avenue in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s. (I don’t have access to any directories from the early 1880’s).

Tragically another fire claimed this facility as well. The blaze was described in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s July 21, 1893 edition as “the most disastrous conflagration that ever occurred in Long Island City.”

The most costly square block in the city was entirely wiped out with the exception of a few gutted buildings and standing walls, which today tower above the smoldering debris. The loss is very heavy and roughly estimated by the sufferers at between $500,000 and $600,000 of which fully two-thirds is covered by insurance in the various companies. Beside the entire square block obliterated two other blocks were partially destroyed…

The story went on to describe the fate of Clark’s property.

…At this point the wind shifted a little to the east and the fire swept down Fifth Street in the direction of Jackson Avenue, where two three two story frame dwelling houses owned by Samuel Dennison helped the flames creep down to the new $75,000 triangle building of Colonel H. S. Kearney that was nearly completed on the corner of Jackson Avenue and Fifth Street.

Around the doomed triangle building the flames burned fiercely and communicated with Clark’s soda water establishment, a two story frame dwelling and sheds. The fire spread to Clark’s brother’s house, a three story tenement adjoining on Jackson Avenue, and from there to a new four story brick house owned by Owen Clark…

Clark once again rebuilt nearby, now listing his factory and home address as 130 5th Street (now 49th Ave.). A news item published in the January 22, 1905 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle indicated that the Clark family lived on the second floor above the business. This coupled with the fact that 1900 census records reported that two of Clark’s sons, James and Edward, were also involved in the business, all lead me to believe that it was a small family run operation.

The business was still located at 130 5th Street at the time of Owen Clark’s death in October, 1906. I suspect that he remained active in the business until the end as evidenced by an item that appeared a little over a year before his death in the March 15, 1905 edition of the American Bottler.

OWEN CLARK, the worthy veteran bottler, 130 Fifth Street, Long Island City, N.Y., still marches right along with the boys and never gets left.

After Clark’s death the business was not listed in the directories under the Clark name and 1910 census records don’t appear to connect any of his sons with the business. This all suggests that the family was not involved after 1906. That being said, an item published in the American Bottler noted that on April 21, 1908 detectives  raided the 5th Street location, levying a fine against the company for using bottles owned by another business.

April 21st: made a seizure of ten filled siphons from Owen Clark’s mineral water establishment at No. 130 5th Street, Long Island City; he was fined $15 by our Board of Directors. This was his second offense.

Recognizing that Owen Clark had passed away over a year earlier, it’s not clear who was actually operating the business at that point.

The found bottle is a mouth blown pony with a blob finish. It includes the embossed address of 23 Jackson Avenue. This address doesn’t correlate with any of the addresses that are associated with the business in the directories or newspapers. This leads to several possibilities:

1. The bottle is associated with the earliest location listed for the business; simply referenced in the directories as “Jackson Ave near 5th Street” (early to mid-1870’s) or

2. The embossed 23 is a typo and should have been a 53 with the 5 mistaken for a 2 by the bottle maker (late 1870’s to 1893).

That being said, the company included Jackson Avenue within their address from the early 1870’s up through 1893, so I suspect it’s safe to say that the bottle’s manufacture falls somewhere within that time frame.

T. L. Neff’s Sons, 179 – 181 Powers St. Brooklyn N. Y.


Theron L. Neff, and later T. L. Neff’s Sons (sometimes T. L. Neff & Sons) were soft drink bottlers that operated in Brooklyn, New York from approximately 1869 to 1935.

Theron Neff was born in Windham Connecticut in 1842. His obituary, published in the April 5, 1906 edition of the Brooklyn Times Union, mentioned that his arrival in Brooklyn came after his service in the Civil War.

When the Civil War broke out, Mr. Neff enlisted with Company H, of the Twenty -fifth Connecticut Volunteers, and during a number of engagements served as corporal in the Department of the Gulf under General Hanks. He participated in the Battle of Baton Rouge and Port Hudson.

The obituary goes on to say that after the war he settled in Brooklyn and joined the business of Mason O. Fuller, an old-time Brooklyn bottler whose business dated back to the late 1850’s. M. O. Fuller  Neff ultimately took over the business in the late 1860’s.

Mr. Neff came to Brooklyn in 1865. He went to live in the Fifteenth Ward and accepted a position with Mason O. Fuller, who was the originator of the soda water business. The plant at that time was located in Grand Street near Graham Avenue. Mr. Neff worked for Mr. Fuller for three or four years, and finally took control of the business and afterwards conducted it under the name of T. L. Neff.

Neff’s obituary also credits him as being the originator of bottled root beer.

At that time yeast was used in the making of root beer and the beverage was put in stone jugs. Mr. Neff originated the idea of putting the root beer in bottles under the present carbonated system.

By 1875, and possibly earlier, the company’s factory was located at 105 Maujer Street where according to their 1889 “bottle registration notice, they bottled and sold soda water, root beer and other beverages.

Theron conducted the business until 1895 when he retired. At that point he turned the company over to his sons Lewis and Edwin, changing the name to T. L. Neff’s Sons. Lewis was in charge of the business end of the house, while Edwin oversaw manufacturing.

A story featuring Brooklyn’s mineral water industry published in the July 7, 1912 edition of the “Brooklyn Citizen” provided this early  1900’s snapshot of the business:

In the manufacture of soft drinks T. L. Neff & Sons, Inc., 105 Maujer Street, Brooklyn, N. Y., is one of the largest and most prominent in the city.

They occupy a two-story building 25 x 100, used exclusively for bottling their drinks, and also maintain a stable at 52-54 Ten Eyck Street where their many horses and wagons are kept.

The plant has capacity of fifteen hundred boxes of soda per day, and employs about thirty men. The business was established about 1858, and has served one customer for forty-six years.

A May 12, 1914 Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertisement, made it clear that the Neff company, with large contracts up and down the east coast, served more than just the New York City area.

Among the customers they are serving are the New England Navigation Company, which operates the Fall River Steamers, the Panama Steamship Company, the Central Hudson Steamboat Company and the U. S. Government Reservations between West Point and Governor’s Island, as well as the American Sugar Refining Company.

The Brooklyn Citizen feature went on to say that the company was in the process of planning the construction of a new modernized factory.

They are at present planning a new three-story building of concrete construction, and upon its completion they will have one of the finest plants for the manufacture of soft drinks in the country. The new plant will be equipped with all new and model machinery for the washing and sterilizing of bottles, which is one of the most important features of the business.

The company  moved to their new accommodations, located at 179-181 Powers Street sometime in mid-1914.

According to a July 17, 1921 Brooklyn Citizen story, by the early 1920’s their daily output had increased from 1500 to 2,000 boxes and the  business had established an international clientele.

Not  only in Brooklyn are the products of the company supplied to hundreds of dealers in the city, but they are shipped throughout the country and Europe. Steady customers are on the company’s books with their business houses in Japan and other Asiatic countries.

The Neff’s Sons apparently remained in business until 1935 when the corporation was dissolved. The dissolution notice was printed in several November, 1935 editions of the Brooklyn Times Union.

Edwin Neff’s obituary published in the March 10, 1940 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle mentioned that he retired in 1935 so it’s possible that his retirement triggered the ultimate dissolution of the corporation.

The bottle I found is machine made with a crown finish and an approximate capacity of 28 ounces. “T. L. Neff’s Sons”is embossed on the front, along with their Powers Street address. This dates the bottle no earlier than 1914.

The back of the bottle exhibits their trademarked case of soda bottles.


Today, the building located at 179 – 181 Powers Street appears to be the same building built and occupied by the the company in 1914.