Frederick C. M. Lendholt was born in Germany in the early 1870’s and arrived in the United States sometime in the mid-1880’s. As early as 1900, census records indicate he was living on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx with the occupation of “clerk.”
New York City directories continued to list his occupation as simply “clerk” up through 1908. I suspect for some, if not all of this time, he worked for long time Bronx druggist, Edward F. Miller. This 1899 advertisement described Miller’s business as:
The Oldest and Most Reliable Establishment in the Bronx
During much of the early 1900’s, in addition to 712 Tremont Avenue, which was also Miller’s home address, he also listed a second business address at 2007 Boston Road.
Towards the end of the decade, Miller incorporated the business as Edward F. Miller, Inc. By this time Lendholt, more than just a clerk, was apparently managing the business, as evidenced by the fact that Miller named him president of the new corporation. The incorporation notice was published in the March 24, 1909 edition of the “Paint, Oil & Drug Review.”
The N. Y. C. Copartnership and Corporation Directories continued to list the corporation in this fashion up through 1915. That year Lendholt left the Miller company and opened his own pharmacy on East Tremont Avenue. The announcement appeared in the May, 1915 edition of “The Practical Druggist.”
F. C. M. Lendholt has succeeded Wm. Isemann in the drug business at Bathgate and Tremont Aves., New York City. Until recently Mr. Lendholt was manager for E. F. Miller.
Located at 490 East Tremont Avenue, Isemann’s business had been listed there as early as 1907.
Lendholt continued in business for at least the next 18 years. As late as 1933 N.Y.C.’s business directory still listed him as a retail druggist at 490 East Tremont Avenue. Sometime after that he passed away, with 1940 census records listing Lendholt’s wife Katherine as a widow. That being said, the 1939/1940 Bronx Telephone Book continued to list the pharmacy, now F.C.M. Lendholt Inc., at the 490 East Tremont Avenue address. So, its likely that at some point after his death the business passed into the hands of a corporation. What became of it after 1940 is not clear.
Today, 490 East Tremont Avenue, at the corner of East Tremont and Bathgate Avenue is a vacant lot.
The bottle I found is a mouth blown prescription bottle made by the Whitehall, Tatum Co. (W.T.Co. embossed on the base). It exhibits Lendholt’s “490 East Tremont Avenue” address dating it no earlier than 1915 when Lendholt succeeded William Isemann at that address. Recognizing that it’s mouth blown, I don’t expect that it dates much later than 1915 after which I would expect a machine made bottle. This could put it in the initial batch of bottles ordered by Lendholt after assuming control of the business.
Prior to 1850, William B. Riker established a drug store on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan’s Flatiron District that he, and later, his son, William H. Riker, operated up through the early 1890’s. Subsequently, under several different management teams it would morph into the largest retail drug chain in the country all while continuing to exhibit the Riker name.
The senior Riker was a native of New York City who, according to his February 23, 1906 “New York Times” obituary was born in 1821 on Duane Street in lower Manhattan. Another obituary, this one published in the “New York Herald,” gets the story of his career started.
He entered the drug business early in life with John Meakin, then was associated with Dr. Hunter.
Riker likely served as a clerk for druggist Meakin, whose business was listed with an address of 511 Broadway during the early to mid-1840’s. His association with “Dr. Hunter” is less clear. There were two physicians named Hunter listed in Manhattan during the early to mid-1840’s. One, Adam T. Hunter, listed an address of 161 Hudson Street. The other, Galen Hunter, was located at 116 Sixth Avenue about a block or so from Meakin’s drug store, so I suspect he’s our Dr. Hunter.
According to most accounts, it was sometime in 1846 that Riker established his own drug store on Sixth Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets. That being said, he’s not mentioned in the NYC directories until 1848/1849 when he was listed as:
William B. Riker, apothecary, 353 Ave. 6.
So suffice to say, he was certainly in business by the late 1840’s.
Not long after, in 1850, Riker partnered with a man named George W. Berrian, Jr. and the business operated under the name “Riker & Berrian” for the next 10 years. This April 13, 1854 “New York Times” advertisement named Riker & Berrian’s drug store as the Manhattan depot for a proprietary product called “Lyon’s Magnetic Powder and Pills.”
Sometime in 1860 or 1861 the Berrian name was dropped and throughout the 1860’s the business was simply listed as William B. Riker. Then sometime around 1870 he added his son’s name to the listing, calling it W. B. Riker & Son. To the best of my knowledge it was first listed this way in the 1871 Goulding’s Business Directory.
Late in the 1870’s the Riker’s began to manufacture their own proprietary products (or at least products that included the Riker name in the title). The first Riker named product I can find advertised was “Riker’s American Face Powder.” The ad appeared in the September 1, 1878 edition of the “New York Herald.”
The ad made the point that their face powder was “endorsed by the leading dramatic artists.” Several years later another advertisement, this one in the November 7, 1882 edition of the “New York Tribune,” went on to name several of these artists.
By the early to mid 1880’s the company had added a few more products sporting the Riker name as evidenced by this October 21, 1883 “New York Sun” advertisement.
Although their list of proprietary products was growing, up through the mid-1880’s company advertisements continued to refer to the business as simply “druggists” with the single address of 353 Sixth Avenue. This suggests that any manufacturing was done on a limited scale and the operation was conducted at the retail location on Sixth Avenue. That changed in 1887 when, now calling themselves “druggists and manufacturing chemists,” the company began listing laboratory/factories on Manhatan’s Clarkson Street and Washington Street. Located at the intersection of Clarkson and Washington, i suspect it was actually one location with addresses on both streets.
A November 11, 1887 advertisement in New York’s “Evening World” made it clear that by then their “American Face Powder” was one of many “Riker Preparations.”
The same advertisement went on to list several perfumes manufactured by the company as well.
It was around this time that the senior Riker turned the business over to his son as evidenced by his own testimony in a court case (William Comyns against William H. Riker, William B. Riker & Son Company and William B. Riker).
Q. When did you dispose of or withdraw from the business?
Witness: I gave a bill of sale; I sold my business out in 1887, December 15th; but I had been previously out of business; I had nothing to do, my son did everything, and took the entire profits for at least a year previous to my giving the bill of sale, and a formal bill of sale was drawn up.
According to testimony in the above court case, sometime in 1891, with William H. Riker now running the business, he leased the adjacent store on the corner of 22nd Street (355 Sixth Avenue) and altered the two properties into “one large gigantic drug store” where he added a soda fountain. An announcement to that effect appeared in the April 24, 1891 edition of the “Evening World.”
The new soda fountain aside, the business was almost certainly mismanaged by the son and, in 1892, he sold it to a syndicate of four individuals, one of which was an employee. The sale was documented in the “Findings of Fact” associated with the above court case.
That on said 12th day of February, 1892, said William H. Riker…made and executed a bill of sale of his said business so carried out at No.s 353 and 355 Sixth Avenue, and at 588 Washington Street, and of his stock and fixtures and other assets, and transferred it to Edward D. Cahoon, at the time, and for some years prior thereto, one of his clerks, and to Joseph H. Marshall, William C. Bolton and Daniel K. Runyon…
The “Findings of Fact” went on to say:
That on said 12th day of February, 1892, and for a long time prior thereto, the said William H. Riker was hopelessly and wholly insolvent and unable to pay his debts in full.
On a side note: In lieu of paying off his creditors with proceeds from the sale, William H. Riker signed the money over to his father who paid down mortgage debt he held on the Sixth Avenue property. This resulted in several court cases, including the one referenced above.
All that aside, it’s clear that the Riker name continued to hold value within the drug community because the new syndicate retained it, subsequently incorporating the business as the “W. B. Riker & Son, Co;” simply adding “Co.” to the former name. The incorporation notice was published in the March 23, 1892 edition of a publication called the “Chemist & Druggist.”
In 1897 the company moved their Sixth Avenue store approximately one block north to the corner of 23rd street where it was then listed with an address of 373 Sixth Avenue. The move was reported in the August 1, 1897 edition of the “Merck Report.”
Rikers drug store, which for half a century occupied the same site on Sixth Avenue below Twenty-second Street, has been removed to the reconstructed store at the southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Twenty-third Street…
An early 20th century advertisement described the store like this:
Here five floors, devoted to the various departments of the Drug Store business, have probably accomodated more customers than have ever been served in a similar drug store space elsewhere in the same length of time.
In June, 1904 the company opened a second drug store in Manhattan, this one at Broadway and Ninth Street. Around the same time they also added five stores across the East River in Brooklyn when they consolidated their operation with that of the Bolton Drug Company. The consolidation was reported in the June 7th edition of Brooklyn’s “Times Union.”
The Riker drug stores of Manhattan and the Bolton drug stores of Brooklyn, have been consolidated. The change took place on Monday and was effected at a meeting of the Bolton Drug Company.
The combination made yesterday is enterprising and progressive, and a chain of fine establishments in Brooklyn will be one of the results. The main store of the Bolton Company is at 450-454 Fulton Street, and there are four other stores, each of which will be thoroughly remodeled and then operated along the lines of the Riker stores.
As promised, on November 12, 1904 the first remodeled Bolton store reopened under the management of the Riker Company. The public invitation appeared in the November 10th and 11th editions of several Brooklyn newspapers. It read in part:
We extend a cordial invitation to Brooklyn people – and to our Manhattan friends also – to visit the old Bolton Drug Store at 456 Fulton Street next Saturday, when it will be opened under the new Riker management.
The remodeled store will be beautifully decorated with flowers, an excellent orchestra will be in attendance all day, and there will be gifts worth coming from the ends of the town after. This opening is the first of several that are to take place in Brooklyn in the near future. The Bolton Drug Stores are now under the management of the Riker Drug Company, and are being remodeled and rearranged as rapidly as possible to conform to the Riker standards.
Don’t fail to call in at 456 Fulton Street on Saturday.
Beginning in 1907 the company also opened several additional stores in Manhattan: The locations and opening dates were summarized in a November 17, 1908 advertisement published in New York’s ” Evening World.” They were: 159 West 14th Street (May, 1907), 13 West 34th Street (Nov. 1907), 2 West 14th Street (Sept. 1908) and 6th Avenue and 42nd Street (Nov. 1908)
The lease of their 34th Street location set a record for rental prices on Manhattan’s 34th Street at the time. According to a May 8, 1907 story in the “New York Sun:”
RECORD LEASE NEAR WALDORF
RIKER COMPANY TO PAY $903,000 FOR WEST 34TH STREET STORE
Frank M. Winner, of the office of Alvan W. Perry, has leased for Bonwit Teller & Co. the first floor and basement of the building being erected at Nos. 13 and 15 West 34th St. to the William B. Riker & Son Company for a term of 21 years, beginning September 1, at a rental of $43,000. a year.
The building, which has been designed as a six story building for Bonwit, Teller & Co., will be altered to an eight story loft and office building, and the store, which is 40 feet in width by 125 feet in depth, is to have, in addition to this floor space, a mezzanine gallery throughout. The interior of the store is now in the hands of an architect, whose plans contemplate one of the largest and finest drug stores in the United States. The floors will be of mosaic, and the soda fountain, which will be the largest in the city, will cost $20,000 being finished in imported onyx.
Bonwit, Teller & Co. intended this building for their own use, but owing to the rapid increase in 34th Street values and the large rental offered by the Riker company they determined to turn the building into an investment.
This lease marks a still higher record price for stores in 34th St., being at the rate of about $1,100 a front foot, while the store at No. 1 West 34th St. recently rented by the same real estate office to the Mirror Candy Company, was at a rental of $1,000 a front foot.
An advertisement announcing the opening of the 34th Street store appeared in the November 1, 1907 edition of the “New York Times.” It serves to make the point that the Riker business offered much more than just drug prescriptions and cosmetics.
Among the features that make the new Riker Store the most complete and finest drug store ever operated are: a Soda Fountain that will be the handsomest and costliest in America; a complete Stationery and Engraving Dept. unsurpassed anywhere; an extensive Photo Supplies Dept., including expert developing and printing; a Hair Goods Dept. that will carry the most complete and finest line of human hair goods; a Cigar Dept. where all the best known brands will be sold at the lowest prices; a Candy Dept. where the finest confections will be sold at Riker prices; a Sub-Station of the Post Office, Telephone Books, and a Ladies Writing Room for the convenience of lady customers. Another feature will be the department of wines and liquors for home and medicinal purposes. The line of Toilet Goods will be unexcelled; the Prescription and Drug Dept. will be up to the high Riker standard; and a full line of rubber goods will be carried.
Integral to most, if not all of their stores, was the soda fountain. In 1906 a new fountain, called the “Innovation,” was constructed at their 23rd Street location, a description of which appeared in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record.” If anything, its clear that the fountain was certainly ornate!
This magnificent apparatus will cost $20,000. The dispensing counter will be 36 feet long, built of Pavonazzo or Rose Sienna Marble, trimmed with onyx, and with onyx pilasters having solid bronze bases and bronze capitals.The slabs of both the dispensing counter and of the display section are to be of Mexican onyx from the quarries of the New Pedrara Onyx Company, from which come large blocks of the choicest onyx of wonderful coloring and perfect soundness.
The display, or wall section, with its large French plate beveled mirrors, its gleaming onyx, with electrical illumination revealing the rich colors of the art glass and of the fine paintings above the mirrors, will be indeed a marvel of beauty. The refrigerator at the base of the wall section is to be of white Italian and Pavonazzo marble, relieved by onyx trimmings, and with silver-plated door frames enclosing panels of the French plate glass. The refrigerator is thoroughly insulated and equipped for cooling and storage purposes.
The mechanism of the fountain – its working parts – of draft tubes, coolers, syrup jars, work boards, etc., embody all that is latest and best in the soda fountain construction of the American Soda Fountain Company.
This photograph of the soda fountain appeared in a 1907 advertisement for the American Soda Fountain Company.
In 1907, at about the same time that the Riker Company was opening their new soda fountain, they acquired the Boston, Massachusetts business of Charles P. Jaynes & Company. The March 18th edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” covered the announcement.
General Manager A. H. Cosden announces that the Riker Drug Company of New York has bought out the great Boston business of Charles P. Jaynes & Company, including all interests, assets, and retail drug stores. The corporate name of the new concern, it is announced, will be William B. Riker & Son Company.
The present retail business of the two companies is said to be in the neighborhood of $3,000,000 a year.
After the acquisition, the Riker company continued to open new stores in both New York and Boston. This advertisement announcing the opening of a new Brooklyn store appeared in the December 19, 1908 edition of the “Brooklyn Chat.”
In Boston, Riker advertisements continued to employ the locally familiar “Jaynes” name as evidenced by this May 18, 1909 “Boston Globe” advertisement that announced the opening of a new “Riker-Jaynes” drug store on Tremont Street. Not surprisingly, the new store included an onyx soda fountain.
The above advertisement put the mid-1909 Riker store count at 21; eight in Boston, seven in Manhattan and six in Brooklyn.
In 1910, the Riker business merged with a competing drug store chain called Hegeman & Co. The new company, called the “Riker-Hegeman Company” officially put an end to the “W. B. Riker & Son Company” name.
The merger announcement was included in the September, 1910 edition of the “Druggist Circular.”
The oft discussed and several times reported merger of the interests of Hegeman & Co. and the W. B. Riker & Son Company, both of this city, and the largest operators of chains of retail drug stores in the country, was consummated early in August. The new company formed by the union is known as the Riker-Hegeman Company. It is incorporated in this State with a capital of $15,000,000…
Competition between the two chains was most often suggested as the reason for the amalgamation. By then, according to an August 5th story in Patterson New Jersey’s “Morning Call,” the Riker chain included 25 stores in the Greater New York area alone, with 23 in Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as individual stores in the surrounding locales of Newark, New Jersey and Mt. Vernon, New York (Westchester County). At the same time, Hegeman operated 20 stores in the same area, many in close proximity to Riker stores.
This advertisement touting the drug chain appeared in the April 9, 1912 edition of the “Evening World.”
In 1916, the Riker-Hegeman stores were acquired by a newly formed company called the Liggett Company which in turn was owned by the United Drug Company. A cooperative controlled by over 7,000 retail druggists, the United Drug Company was the manufacturer of the “Rexall” product line.
The official announcement was published in the March 1916 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era.”
In the offices of the United Drug Company in Boston on Saturday February 12th, was completed the formation of the new L. K. Liggett Company, operating the Riker-Hegeman, Riker-Jaynes, and the Liggett drug stores in the United States and Canada.
The new Liggett Company will operate stores in New York, Boston, and all other leading cities from Bangor, Me., to Detroit, Mich.
The Riker-Hegeman and Riker-Jaynes stores number 107 and the Liggett stores 45; the total of 152 stores making it the largest retail drug association in America today.
The Liggett Company is owned by the United Drug Company of Boston, at the head of which is Mr. Louis K. Liggett, the newly elected president of the Boston Chamber of Commerce.
The United Drug Company in turn is owned and controlled by 7,000 retail druggists throughout the United States and Canada, now operating stores as the “Rexall Stores.”
The 53 stores in Greater New York and all others bearing the Riker-Hegeman name will be known as the LIGGETTS-RIKER-HEGEMAN DRUG STORES. The 20 stores in Boston bearing the Riker-Jaynes name will be called LIGGETT’S-RIKER-JAYNES DRUG STORES. The Liggett stores in cities in which no Riker stores are present will continue under the original name.
The Pharmaceutical Era story went on to say:
The Riker & Hegeman and the Riker-Jaynes stores will sell Rexall goods whenever this can be done without infringing on the right of an established Rexall store. All the Riker stores of New York and Boston will of course, carry Rexall goods. There are, however, some towns where Riker stores have been established in competition with existing Rexall stores. In such cases the Riker store would not carry the Rexall remedies.
Early on Liggett’s continued to use the Riker-Hegeman name as evidenced by this July 7, 1916 “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” advertisement. Also note that the soda fountain business was still alive and well!
By the early 1920’s any mention of Riker-Hegeman in Liggett’s advertisements was a simple reminder that some of their locations were “former Riker-Hegeman stores.”
Not long after, the Riker-Hegeman name disappeared completely from their drug store ads.
The company grew under Liggett as evidenced by this assessment that appeared 15 years later in a June 17, 1937 “Pittsburgh Sun” story. By then the number of Liggett owned stores had grown from 152 to 450 and the Rexall retailers from 7,000 to 10,000.
From a small beginning the Liggett Drug Company, has grown into one of the largest institutions of its kind. It is an integral part of the United Drug Company of Boston, which distributes merchandise of its own manufacture to 10,000 Rexall agents and to 450 Liggett drug stores in practically every state in the union.
The great business is headed by Louis K. Liggett, founder of the original Liggett Company and now president of the United Drug Company.The 450 Liggett stores are under the executive direction of George M. Gales, who is president of the Liggett Drug Company. It is estimated that approximately 150,000,000 people are served annually by the 450 Liggett stores.
In 1941, a man named Justin Dart took control of the organization. Prior to that Dart had been general manager of the Chicago-based Walgreen drug chain. A story in the March 19, 1977 edition of the Muscatine (Iowa) Journal picks up the story from there.
In 1941, Justin Dart…left Chicago and Walgreen for Boston and United Drug, where he took command of what was then the largest retail drug chain in the country.
Dart brought order and direction to United Drug, which was a losely organized holding company that included manufacturing, franchising and retailing through wholly owned stores operating under various names – Rexall, Liggett, Owl and Sontag were some of them.
Dart centralized operations around the Rexall name. He made Rexall a national advertiser. Then, in 1945, he moved himself – and the company’s headquarters – to Los Angeles. The corporate name was changed to Rexall Drug in 1947. Dart once ensconced in Los Angeles, proceeded to build an entirely different company.
Wheeling and dealing at a furious pace, he bought and sold companies, acquired others, disposed of others, merged others. He entered chemicals, plastics, cosmetics, glass containers and resort development.
It appears that the last vestige of the “Riker” name was one of the casualties of Dart’s “wheeling and dealing” when, in 1969, the company, now referred to as Dart Industries, sold their ethical drug division called Riker Laboratories to the 3M Company. The sale was reported in the July 9th edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”
Dart Industries and Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. officials have agreed in principle to purchase by Minnesota Mining of Riker Laboratories, Ethical Drug Division of Dart Industries, for 1,500,000 common shares of Minnesota Mining. The transaction has a value of slightly over $156 million…
Dart said the proposed sale of Riker would not materially affect 1969 earnings of Dart Industries and should contribute importantly to the company’s capital resources.
The 1977 “Muscatine Journal” feature went on to chronicle the last chapter of the story.
Rexall was dropped as a corporate name in 1969, replaced by Dart Industries
In 1972, 50 company owned Liggett drug stores were sold.
In 1973, 12 company owned Drug King stores in California and Oregon were sold.
In 1976, all of Rexall’s Canadian operations were sold.
And in 1977, the last of the lot went. Rexall’s manufacturing facilities in St. Louis, its franchise drug division and its contract manufacturing operations were all sold. They had sales of $50 million last year.
Justin Dart heads a company that will do better than $1.5 billion of business this year, none of it under the Rexall name.
While the Riker name is long gone, signs of the company’s existence still remain in the form of several current Manhattan buildings that once housed Riker stores.
Unfortunately, the building that housed Riker’s original location at 353 Sixth Avenue (now 675 Avenue of the Americas) is not one of them. Construction of the building located there today, called the “Mattel Building,” began in 1900, so it’s possible that its planned construction facilitated Riker’s 1897 move up Sixth Avenue to 373 Sixth Avenue (now 711 Avenue of the Americas). Located at the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue, the building there now almost certainly dates back to Riker. This rendering of it appeared in an 1899 publication called “A Pictorial Description of Broadway,” found in the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org
…and this description of it appeared in a 1907 advertisement:
Here five floors, devoted to the various departments of the Drug Store business, have probably accomodated more customers than have ever been served in a similar drug store space elsewhere in the same length of time.
This building located there today, sans a few architectural modifications at the roof level and a fire escape added on the 23rd Street side, certainly fits the bill.
It appears that at least two other Manhattan buildings that housed Riker stores remain to this day as well.
The building at 15 West 34th Street, expanded from six to eight stories by Bonwit Teller to accommodate the Riker store, was sometimes referred to in newspaper articles as the “Riker Building,” A sketch of the store front was included in this November 1, 1908 advertisement that announced its opening.
Below is a current view of the building courtesy of “Google Earth.” The only thing missing is the “Riker” sign above the store front.
Finally, here’s the September 18, 1908 advertisement announcing the opening of the store at 2 West 14th Street.
I’m pretty certain it was located somewhere in this row of stores that occupy the current building located on the south side of 14th Street just west of Fifth Avenue (possibly a combination of the 3rd and 4th store fronts from the corner).
The bottle I found is mouth blown and about three inches tall. The main body is two inches in diameter and it abruptly narrows to one inch near the lip. It’s embossing includes the name “W. B. Riker & Co.” as well as the original 353 Sixth Avenue address. This results in a very narrow date range for the bottle.
The presence of “Co.”in the embossed name dates it no earlier than 1892 when William H. Riker sold the business and the initial address of 353 Sixth Avenue dates it no later than their 1897 move to 23rd Street (373 Sixth Avenue).
Frank Parker was a pharmacist by trade who lived on New York’s Long Island in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. During this time he operated retail drug stores in Islip Village (1880 to 1884), Babylon (1884 to 1887), East Islip (1893 to 1897) and Central Islip (1906 to 1913). He also held several political positions in Islip including Town Supervisor from 1898 to 1902..
Born in 1850, census records indicate that Parker immigrated to the United States from England in 1869. His portrait appeared in the March 21, 1908 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
Parker began his pharmacy career not on Long Island, but in Brooklyn, New York where he was first listed in Brooklyn’s 1872/1873 Directory with the occupation “drugs.” Then, sometime in 1877 or 1878 he established his own drug store at 244 Broadway (corner of 8th Street) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The capital needed to support the business during these early days was provided by a man named Francis Fenelon Murray. Their limited partnership agreement naming Parker as “General Partner” and Murray as “Special Partner” was published in several September and October, 1878 editions of Brooklyn’s “Times Union.”
Among other things the agreement stated:
The amount of capital which the said FRANCIS FENELON MURRAY, as such special partner, has contributed to the common stock of said partnership, is the sum of one thousand dollars in cash.
The agreement associated the business with a Brooklyn address of 118 Wythe Avenue. That being said, the business was never listed with that address in the Brooklyn directories and, as far as I can tell, never operated from that location. Instead it continued to operate at the 244 Broadway location.
More than just a druggist, at least by today’s standards, this December 9, 1878 advertisement in the Brooklyn “Times Union” made it clear that Parker’s inventory included a product called “Dr. Underhill’s Original Pure Wines” produced in Westchester, New York’s Croton Point Vineyard.
It was sometime in 1880 that Parker picked up and moved his home and business from Brooklyn to Islip. That year the 1880/1881 Brooklyn directory continued to list his drug business at 244 Broadway however, it now listed his residence as “Islip, N.Y.” The following year neither his residence or business were mentioned in the Brooklyn directories.
That same year, a June 19, 1880 story in Amityville N. Y.’s local newspaper, the “South Side Signal,” made it clear that by then his drug business was up and running in Islip. The story appeared under the heading “Islip Village.”
Excitement runs high over the liquor license granted to Mr. Parker, the new druggist. Mr. Parker says, however, that he only intends to sell spirits as medicine. He claims to be alive to the fact that any other course would be suicidal to himself as a responsible druggist. He is not a believer in a tippler’s drug store, so he says. “We shall see what we shall see.” One thing is certain, if the place is kept as a liquor saloon, three fourths of the people here will move on him sharp, short and decisive. For our own part, we say let Mr. Parker have fair play. A drug store should sell spirits medicinally, and we have no good reason yet to believe that this one will do otherwise.
A story that ran almost three years later in the February 3, 1883 edition of the “South Side Signal” clearly demonstrated that he was still running his Islip business at that time so he apparently didn’t ruffle any feathers with alcohol sales. The story also provided some evidence of Parker’s marketing talents.
Mr Wilson is painting Hygeia, the goddess of health, on the side wall of Parker’s drug store. The painting is attracting considerable attention.
In March, 1884 Parker was one of three individuals from Islip that registered a trademark for a patent medicine with the name “Bait.” U. S. Patent Office records described it as “a perfume for the breath.”
It’s possible that Parker manufactured “Bait” as part of his retail drug business however, the fact that I can’t find any local advertisements touting it indicates that any manufacturing was likely small in scale and short term, if at all.
In 1884 Parker moved west to Babylon N. Y. and opened a drug store there. An announcement to that effect appeared in the May 1, 1884 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
Another drug store on Deer Park Avenue is an assured fact. Frank Parker, lately located at Islip, assures us that he expects to build on his recent purchase and begin business without delay. “The more the merrier.”
True to his word, less than three months later the July 19th edition of the “South Side Signal” announced that construction was underway.
The contract for building the new drug store, on Deer Park Avenue, for Mr. Frank Parker, of Islip, has been awarded to Samuel M. Kellum. The building will be two stories in height and 20×40 feet in size. Ground has been broken.
Parker remained on Deer Park Avenue in Babylon for a little less than three years during which time he continued to exhibit a talent for drawing people to his store. One such example appeared in the June 12, 1886 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
The store of Frank Parker, on Deer Park Avenue, was crowded on Monday evening, with people who gathered to watch the unfolding of a night-blooming cereus. The beautiful flower began to unfold soon after 6 P.M. and continued to do so until about 9 o’clock when it was at its height of beauty. After that hour it would have gradually closed its petals, but Mr. Parker removed it from the plant, and placed it in alcohol thus preserving it in its full beauty. Mr. Parker who is an enthusiastic and successful florist, had for five years watched the growth and development of this plant, which had never blossomed until this week. His courtesy in permitting the public witness the unfolding of this beautiful flower was greatly appreciated by all present.
Ultimately Parker sold the Babylon drug business in 1887. The sale was reported in the April 9, 1887 edition of the “Suffolk Weekly Times.”
Frank Parker has sold his drug business at Babylon to Lester A. Wyatt of Islip.
After the sale of his business Parker remained in Babylon but his story goes cold, with very little mention of him for several years. It picks up again in 1893 when the March 11th edition of the “South Side Signal” ran this story under the heading “East Islip:”
Frank Parker, of Babylon, who some years ago was engaged in the drug business in Islip Village is about to embark in business in East Islip – or is at least reported to have leased the store of Thomas Walters for that purpose. He is desirous of being appointed Postmaster, and a petition is being circulated in his behalf.
Less than a year later the February 24, 1894 edition of the “South Side Signal” announced that Parker had been appointed to the postmaster position. It appears from the story that the appointment created quite a stir at the time.
The appointment of Druggist Frank Parker to be postmaster here (East Islip) was like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky to the unterrified Democracy of East Islip. To say the least it was unexpected. William H. Brady had received the unanimous endorsement of the County Committee and was the choice of a large portion of the Democracy of the village. There were a few of the followers of the ruling party who strenuously objected to Brady’s appointment, but as no third candidate was advanced it was thought by all that the latter would be appointed, or that Postmaster Frazer would hold over. Mr. Parker had never voted in the district until last fall, having been a resident of this vicinity about nine months…The giving of this office to a comparatively stranger and the “turning down” of a young man who was born and brought up here, and who has also been a worker for his party, and who in addition had the sanction of the County Committee is certainly strange politics.
For three years, Parker ran the post office while continuing to operate his East Islip drug business, both of which were apparently quartered in the space he originally rented from Thomas Walters. This all changed in 1897 when a June 26th story in the “South Side Signal” announced that he had just sold the drug business..
The drug business formerly conducted by Postmaster Frank Parker has been sold by the latter to Robert Topping, who will remove the same to the store of his brother, David H. Topping. An addition is now being built on the rear of the store to be used exclusively for the pharmacy. Mr. Topping has been in the latter business in the past and will no doubt do well here. Mr. Parker removed the post office on Thursday from the Walters Building to the store of David H. Topping, where he will remain during the balance of Postmaster Parker’s term.
Parker remained in East Islip for another seven years during which time he not only served out his term as postmaster, but three terms as supervisor and one as town clerk. He also ran for Assembly on two occasions but lost both times.
His only connection with the drug business during this time was filling in for drug store owners who were either ill or out of town. One such occasion, when he filled in for druggist Frank W. Race, was documented in the October 26, 1901 edition of the “South Side Signal,” under the heading “Islip.” Coincidentlly, Race’s pharmacy was at the same Islip location as Parker’s original Long Island drug store.
In the absence of Druggist Frank W. Race during the past week, Supervisor Parker has been compounding prescriptions at the latter’s pharmacy.
In 1905 Parker moved again, this time back to Central Islip where he ultimately bought Race’s drug business. The story begins with an October 14, 1905 story in the “South Side Signal.”
Former Town Clerk Frank Parker has decided to embark in the drug trade at Central Islip and will shortly open a store in the vicinity of the depot. We trust he may be successful in this venture.
The following spring this item appeared in the March 3, 1906 edition of the South Side Signal. It appears to have been written at the time he officially opened for business.
Frank Parker has purchased the pharmacy business formerly conducted by Frank W. Race and will hereafter conduct the same. The location is a good one and Mr. Parker will doubtless build up a profitable trade. It will be remembered that he conducted the same business at the same stand some twenty years ago.
An item published three months prior, in the November 14, 1905 edition of the “South Side Signal,” suggested that he built a new store at that location prior to his March, 1906 opening.
Boss Wright has the contract for the erection of the new drug store and residence of Frank Parker at Central Islip. The building will be 18×35 feet in size.
This undated post card, captioned “Parker Pharmacy, Central Islip,” fits the description.
Census records from 1910 indicate that Parker was still operating the drug store at that time.
Ultimately, Parker sold the Central Islip drug store in 1913 as evidenced by this item that appeared in the December 3, 1913 edition of a publication called the “Paint, Oil and Drug Review.”
Islip, N. Y. – John H. Allen of Central Valley, N. Y., bought the drug business of Frank Parker and will move his family here.
In 1916, the “ERA Drugggists’ Directory” named Harrison M. Jones as the proprietor so apparently it changed hands again shortly after.
On a personal note, according to an item published in the March 21, 1908 edition of the “South Side Signal,” Parker was twice widowed and about to be married for the third time.
Babylon friends of ex-supervisor Frank Parker of Islip will be interested in the announcement of his engagement to Miss Clara Woodworth of that place…Mr. Parker has been married twice previously. His first wife passed away while the couple were residents of Babylon, and his second wife, while they were making their home in East Islip.
1920 census records indicate that by then, Parker, along with his third wife Clara, had left Long Island and were living in Oakland, California.
The subject bottle is roughly eight ounces in size with a tooled crown finish. It’s embossed with the East Islip location dating it between 1893 and 1897. Recognizing that the crown finish wasn’t patented until 1892 and likely took several years to gain popularity it’s likely that the bottle dates more toward the 1897 date. The bottle is shaped exactly like a mineral water bottle, suggesting that Parker bottled and sold mineral water as part of his East Islip business.
Fraser & Co. was a New York City based business that maintained both a drug manufacturing facility and a retail pharmacy. They were pioneers in the manufacture of measured doses of medicines in tablet form.
The founder, Horation Nelson Fraser, was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1851.
After spending much of his childhood in Davenport, Iowa, he returned to Providence where soon after he entered the pharmacy business. His early education, along with his early work history were summarized in a March 9, 1903 feature published in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record.”
…he was apprenticed to the drug business, engaging with W. R. Blanding, at that time one of the foremost and most respected pharmacists in New England. When his term of apprenticeship ended he continued his studies and soon after matriculated at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. Immediately after obtaining his diploma he went to Chicago and became connected with the firm of E. H. Sargent & Co., then, as now, the leading firm of retailers in the West. After a brief experience in the Western metropolis he moved East and entered the employment of Caswell, Hazzard & Co.
It was while working for Caswell & Hazzard that the seeds of his future were sown when he met Dr.Robert M. Fuller who, at the time, was working on the idea of administering medicines in tablet form.
According to Fraser’s own words found in the May 11, 1899 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era.”
I think it was in the year 1879 that Dr. Robert M. Fuller invited me to call at his office at 136 West 42nd Street. On my arrival he told me that for sometime past he had been working on the subject of dividing medicines into quantities of desired size for exact and practical dispensing and administration.
For some reason, which I have never considered it proper to ask him, he confined himself in his conversation entirely to the mechanical part of the invention (for clearly it was an original idea) and thoroughly described to me the process and application of his method. It consisted first in thoroughly triturating the substances together, and second, in moulding this trituration into divisions to which he had already given the name “Tablet Triturates.”
The 1903 “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record” feature went on to explain that it was Fraser who was credited with manufacturing them in such a manner as to make their production commercially viable.
Mr. Fraser assisted him in the mechanical part of the work, and put the method into practical operation. After vainly endeavoring to get his employer, Mr. Hazzard, interested in the development of Dr. Fuller’s idea, Mr. Fraser decided to branch out into business for himself and start the manufacture of tablets by the Fuller process in connection with the conduct of a retail pharmacy. Leaving Caswell & Hazzard & Co. on July 21, 1881, he engaged in business by opening the pharmacy at 208 Fifth Avenue, and with a plant consisting of a mortar and pestle and twenty hard rubber molds he commenced the manufacture of tablet triturates, besides making a bid for such prescription business that might come his way.
An advertisement for Fraser’s Tablet Triturates found in the 1889 “Medical Directory of the City of New York” included his sales pitch to the medical profession:
According to this circa 1886 advertisement, the tablets were originally sold
in four ounce glass stop bottles each containing 1,000 tablets. They are all the same size but contain different doses.
For several years Fraser both manufactured tablet triturates and operated his pharmacy business out of the basement at 208 Fifth Avenue under the name Fraser & Co. This circa 1886 advertisement described the business as:
Manufacturers, Importers and Wholesale Dealers in Medicines and Physicians Supplies
Sometime in late 1887 or 1888 Fraser moved the tablet manufacturing operation to 311 West 40th Street and by 1890 had incorporated that piece of the business under the name of the “Fraser Tablet Triturate Mfg. Co.” That year, the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory named Fraser, president and Giles A. Manwaring, secretary of the newly formed corporation. Shortly afterwards the manufacturing operation moved again, this time to 23 Vandewater Street. By 1890, a wholesaler named Chas. Truax & Co. needed 15 pages in their catalog to cover the menu of Fraser’s Tablet Truturates. Here’s the first of the 15 pages:
Continued growth dictated another factory expansion in 1895, this time across the East River in Brooklyn. An April 10th story in the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” provided the details.
…The transaction which has just been completed is with the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Company, whose present place of manufacture is on Vandewater Street and which will within a few days take possession of the Brasher property on Ninth Avenue between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets. The property has a frontage of 200 feet on Ninth Avenue and a depth of 325 feet on Nineteenth Street and 275 feet on Eighteenth Street. The three story brick buildings and engine house will be put in order by the new owner for immediate use. The consideration is placed at $200,000.
Horatio N. Fraser, president of the manufacturing company, says in regard to his purchase: “I have sought Brooklyn as the scene of our industry as the most desirable within a reasonable distance from New York City. We will start work as soon as possible and will give employment to about two hundred and fifty Brooklyn people on an average. Our present place in New York is entirely inadequate for our business and, in my judgement, Brooklyn presents the most desirable attractions for manufacturing industries hereabouts. I feel that it will be only a very short time before many other New York concerns will do as we have done and secure a site in Brooklyn while they may.”
According to an item in the December 10, 1895 edition of the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record,” Fraser was up and running there by the end of the year. The story mentioned that their facility occupied 30 city lots and was three times the size of their Vandewater Street location.
Meanwhile, back in Manhattan the pharmacy portion of the business continued at 208 Fifth Avenue where it was listed under the name Fraser & Co. It remained there until the early 1890’s when the company leased an entire building further north at 262 Fifth Avenue.
In 1901 the Fraser Tablet Company was incorporated to take over both the pharmacy interests of Fraser & Co. and the manufacturing operations of the Fraser Tablet Triturate Mfg. Company. The September 14, 1901 edition of a publication entitled the “United States Investor” described Fraser’s operation at the time of incorporation.
The company was recently incorporated by Horatio N. Fraser, under New York state laws, his object being to unite the different branches of his business. These interests conducted under the names Fraser & Co., and the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Co., have been taken over by the new company. The company’s business not only includes the manufacture of drugs and medicines, as might be inferred from its name, but in addition, it engages in the preparation and sale of bags, chests, show cases, books, catalogues, sick room and medical supplies, etc.
New York City’s 1902 Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed the new company with capital of $1,500,000 and named Horatio N Fraser as president. The listing named “Fraser & Co.” as the Registered Trade Name (RTN) of the corporation.
Their retail pharmacy at 262 Fifth Avenue, which included both a prescription department and analytical department/laboratory was described in the 1903 “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record” feature.
Besides prescription compounding proper, which calls for the services of nine licensed pharmacists, an extensive department of analytical and bacteriological examination is conducted. The average monthly receipts from this department alone amount to $1,500.
The feature included this view of their laboratory…
…and the March, 1902 edition of a publication called the “Medical Examiner and Practitioner” laid out the services it provided.
The 1903 feature went on to say:
…the income from all departments of the retail pharmacy amounted to $85,000… The store is unique, original and complete – a prescription work shop, with all counters and work open to inspection: no fancy goods, no perfumes, no confectionary, no soda water, no trade sundries, but everything in the way of medicines and sick room comforts that a physician wants.
The feature also included this view of their prescription department…
In 1901 the company also established another pharmacy location, this one in Chicago, Illinois at 28 E. Washington Street.
The 1901 “United States Investor” story summed up their turn of the century operation like this.
The company states the assets are about $489,000. It also says that there is a $40,000 mortgage, but there has always been sufficient stock sold to clear it off. From what we can learn, the company appears to be in a prosperous condition, and is well thought of. The company is well known among the wholesale druggists, and the trade speaks well of Mr. Fraser and the company, of which he is the head.
The above turn of the century assessment appears to have been made around the time that the company was at its peak. Several years later a fire in their Brooklyn factory may have served as the catalyst for a downturn. The fire was reported in the February 22, 1904 edition of the “New York Sun.”
The three story brick factory building of the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Company on Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, Brooklyn was entirely destroyed last night by fire, which caused $350,000 damage, on which there is insurance for about $250,000. The damage to a large extent was due to the fact that there was an extremely small pressure of water. The property was on the highest point in Brooklyn and the water pressure was low anyway…
Mr. Fraser said that there were over 2,000,000 tablets in the factory. Two hundred persons are out of employment as the result of the fire.
Afterwards the company continued to list their address on 19th Street in the directories so they apparently rebuilt at either the same or an adjacent location. That being said, the fire certainly had an impact on the business as evidenced by this item that appeared in the September 15, 1905 edition of the “Wall Street Journal” under the heading “Answers to Inquiries”
Is there any market value for the stock of the Fraser Tablet Co., of New York? – F.N.C., Omaha
Answer – An official of the Fraser Tablet Company states that since their fire, which has put them back somewhat, there has scarcely been any demand for their stock, non of which however, has been sold by them below par. The company is making money but it will be impossible for them to pay dividends until some of their fire loss is paid up.
By 1908 their New York pharmacy business had moved out of 262 Fifth Avenue after which they moved around quite a bit, listing Manhattan locations at 563 Fifth Avenue (1908 to 1910), 583 Fifth Avenue (1911 to 1916) and 5 East 47th Street (1918 to 1919). This advertisement referencing their 583 Fifth Avenue location appeared in the December, 1916 edition of a publication called “Military Medicine.”
Throughout that period they continued to maintain their Brooklyn manufacturing site usually with the address of 453 19th St.
Sometime in the early 1920’s the company was sold to a cooperative concern of pharmacists called the Ruth-Patrick Drug Company. The sale was mentioned in a December 8, 1921 feature on Ruth-Patrick in “The Buffalo (N.Y.) American.”
A company started five years ago in San Francisco in a very small laboratory without a large capital. Today it is a $10,000,000 corporation, the third largest manufacturing drug concern in the world. It is now operating the largest pharmaceutical laboratory on the Pacific coast and another one in Chicago, besides the one in New York City. It has just purchased the Fraser tablet company one of the oldest and largest tablet concerns in the world.
At this point Fraser, according to his November 9, 1942 obituary published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, retired. He would live in retirement to the age of 90. The new management team listed in the 1922 Brooklyn and Queens Copartnership and Corporation directory consisted of H. Lees Smith as president and S. R. Break as secretary-treasurer.
Three years later, the company was declared bankrupt and sold at public auction. By then, the company’s menu of medical preparations had been reduced to medicated candies and mints. The December 2, 1925 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle”provided the details.
FRASER TABLET CO. SOLD AS BANKRUPT.
At a public sale before Bankruptcy referee Theodore Stitt, the Fraser Tablet Company, manufacturers of domino mints and medicated candies at 453 19th St., this boro, has been bid in for $111,000 by John J. McCue of west Orange N. J. The purchase price represented $40,000 cash and an assumption of $71,000 of obligations not dischargeable in bankruptcy…The Fraser Company was adjudicated bankrupt on Nov. 10 last.
Another December 2, 1925 story, this one in the Brooklyn “Times Union,” included this vague reasoning for the bankruptcy, which suggested mismanagement by the cooperative.
The Fraser Tablet Company was petitioned into bankruptcy about two months ago when its managers discovered that the working capital was insufficient to maintain it as a going concern. It has recently suffered somewhat from financial manipulation which had depleted its capital.
The next year McCue took out a mortgage on the Brooklyn factory as evidenced by this June 17, 1926 story in the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle.”
MORTGAGE ON SOUTH BROOKLYN PLANT
Robert A. Martin Company, Inc., has procured for Fraser Tablet Company, a first mortgage loan of $85,000 on the borrower’s chemical manufacturing plant located on 18th and 19th Sts., between Prospect Park West and 9th Ave., this boro, a plot fronting about 200 feet on each street.
Four years later, a notice published in several November, 1930 editions of the “Times Union” announced that a judgement of foreclosure had been issued on the property and it was being offered for sale on November 28, 1930.
The Fraser Tablet Company apparently survived and according to N.Y.S. Supreme Court records (Dr. Miles Laboratories, Inc. against American Pharmaceuticals Company, Inc. and Philip Kachurin), sometime in 1930 the company moved its plant and business to Manhattan, where they were listed under the heading “patent medicines” at 11 Park Place in 1932 and 1933. Later the company moved the plant to Queens where, throughout most of the 1940’s they’re listed in Richmond Hill with an address of 84-40 101st St. By the early 1950’s I don’t see them listed.
As far as I can tell the company continued to maintain a Manhattan pharmacy now listed again under the Fraser & Co. name, up through at least 1960. The location in the 1930’s was 251 4th Avenue and later from the 1940’s up through 1960 it was 502 Park Ave (59th St.and Park Ave).
Their long time pharmacy location at 262 Fifth Avenue was recently a vacant lot, this view of which is courtesy of Google Earth (on the right). The adjacent building (on the left) is clearly visible in both today’s photo as well as the 1903 Pharmaceutical Era photo.
In the future the site will accommodate one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan, a 1,043 foot residential tower currently under construction.
As far as I can tell, their Brooklyn factory site was ultimately incorporated within the right-of-way of the Prospect Expressway which was built in the late 1940’s and 1950’s so it was likely acquired and condemned by New York State around that time.
The bottle I found is mouth blown, no more than 2-1/2 inches tall and is embossed on one side “FRASER & CO.” Advertisements as early as 1886 were illustrating this type of bottle.
That being said, these early ads only mentioned a four ounce size containing 1,000 tablets. Later, according to this May 11, 1899 advertisement in the “Pharmaceutical Era,” they were packaging them in amounts as low as 100.
A labeled example containing 100 tablets that recently appeared on the internet appears to closely match our bottle.
“Bromo Caffeine” was a headache remedy manufactured by the firm of Keasbey and Mattison from the early 1880’s up through at least the late 1930’s.
Keasbey & Mattison opened its doors as a patent medicine manufacturer in Philadelphia, Pennslvania sometime in 1873. According to a feature on the business published in the October 10, 1899 edition of the “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record:”
An unusual combination of commercial sagacity and technical skill was brought together when Henry G. Keasbey and Richard V. Mattison both of whom graduated in the class of 1872 of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, entered into a partnership and opened a laboratory on North Juniper Street, above Arch, shortly after graduation. Dr. Mattison (he later earned a medical degree in 1879) undertook the introduction of their granulated effervescent salts to the medical profession, and traveled all over the United States interviewing physicians and druggists.
One of their granular effervescent salts, Citrate of Caffeine, was apparently the predecessor to Bromo Caffeine. As early as 1875, Citrate of Caffeine was promoted in medical publications with names like the “Baltimore Physician and Surgeon,” where advertisements began appearing in May of that year.
The small print went on to say:
We ask the special attention of our medical friends to our Granular Effervescent preparation of Citrate of Caffeine. Its recent and extensive usage in cases of Neuralgic and Sick Headaches has caused us to place it upon our list and direct special attention to it. A teaspoon full, containing one grain of the Citrate of Caffeine, in half a glass of water, should be given in Neuralgic and Sick Headaches, and repeated, if necessary during the paroxysm. The satisfaction found attending its use is so general, and the many favorable reports from the Physicians who have prescribed it, warrants us to strongly recommend it to the notice of the Profession.
Very respectfully, KEASBEY & MATTISON, Chemists, Philadelphia.
As far as I can tell, sometime in the early 1880’s Keasbey & Mattison combined their citrate of caffeine with potassium bromide and sodium carbonate and began advertising it under its long time and more marketing friendly name, “Bromo Caffeine.” This April 1, 1884 advertisement in the “Leavenworth (Kansas) Times” is one of the earliest newspaper advertisements for “Bromo Caffeine” that I can find.
A more detailed description of its supposed benefits can be found in a feature on Keasbey & Mattison published in the December 31, 1896 edition of “The Pharmaceutical Era.” It referred to “Bromo Caffeine” as “the best general remedy for nervous headaches ever devised,” and went on to say:
It has had, as it now enjoys, an immense sale through the channels of its employment by the most renowned medical men upon this continent, and is today the most universally used remedy for nervous headaches. For overworked brain-workers it is almost indispensable, its physiological action being that of a primary and direct stimulant to the nerve centers, and, through these, a stimulant in the entire muscular and vascular system and upon the brain. While not a hypnotic in the true sense of the word, it produces a calming effect on the nervous system and produces and maintains that tranquillizing condition most favorable for quiet rest and refreshing sleep. In the countries of the East it is the remedy most depended opon by Europeans, and is widely used in cases of heat exhaustion, sunstroke, etc.
The 1901 “Spatula Soda Water Guide” suggested that you could administer it by mixing it with soda water.
as a medicinal drink for headache; “put a tablespoon full of bromo caffeine granules in mineral glass. Fill another half full with soda and mix by pouring.”
Or, you could just head down to the local drug store as this July 18, 1886 advertisement in the Wilmington (N. C.) Morning Star suggested, where it was available on draught at the soda fountain.
Originally manufactured in Philadelphia, Keasbey & Mattison maintained facilities there for 15 years, where expansion forced them to relocate several times. Philadelphia directories listed them at 117 Filbert in 1875 and 332 N. Front Street between 1876 and 1885. Sometime in the early 1880’s, the company added the adjoining properties at 328 and 330 Front Street and established a factory for the manufacture of quinine, where by 1883, according to an August 1oth story in the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” they were one of only four quinine manufacturers in the United States. The company was last listed in Philadelphia directories at 9 North 5th Street from 1886 to 1888.
Sometime in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s the company began migrating to what would become their long-time home in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The following excerpt from a story published in the January 27, 1915 edition of “The (Perkasie Pa.) Central News” suggested that the migration started in 1879 when they built a factory there to manufacture magnesia, an ingredient found in many medicines.
The Keaseby & Mattison Co., located in Ambler in 1879 building a branch factory at the start for the manufacture of magnesia. Dr. Mattison himself selected Ambler as the location for for the firm’s future operations because of the water, free from iron salts which would injure the magnesia product.
The manufacture at Ambler proved to be so satisfactory that other departments of the Philadelphia laboratory were moved from time to time to the Montgomery County works until finally all of the manufacture was centered in Ambler…
Their move to Ambler was accomplished in its entirety by 1888 after which the business can no longer be found in the Philadelphia directories.
Around the turn of the century, the company was certainly well established in the pharmaceutical industry and advertising a wide variety of effervescent salts as evidenced by this 1903 price list, published by the Stein-Gray Drug Co., of Cincinnati.
In addition to “Bromo Caffeine,” several other effervescent salts were also marketed under proprietary names. They included “Alkalithia,” “Cafetonique” and “Salaperient.”
It was “Bromo Caffein” however, that was, according to an October 10, 1899 feature in the “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record,” their signature pharmaceutical product.
It is as the manufacturer of Bromo Caffeine, that the Keasbey & Mattison Co. have become most widely known among the trade. There is probably no other preparation which has been so widely imitated as has been Bromo Caffeine. In the line of pharmaceuticals the Keasbey & Mattison granulated effervescent salts are probably more widely known than those of any other makers.
Another “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record” story, this one in their December 31, 1896 edition, made it clear that by then the remedy was available world-wide. The message however, was delivered with a little more flair.
We say world-renowned for the reason that “Bromo-Caffeine” can be found under the burning rays of an Egyptian sun, upon India’s coral strand, among the ruins of the ancient capital of the Roman Empire, or in the gayest city of modern civilization, as well as in the country doctor’s modest office.
That being said, by the turn of the century, the manufacture of pharmaceuticals was only half of the Keasbey & Mattison story. It was in Ambler that the company established another completely distinct line of business. A story published years later in the September 8, 1986 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” tells the story.
In 1886, Mattison discovered the insulating properties of magnesium carbonate and began to manufacture insulated pipes.
Mattison experimented with magnesium carbonate, from which he developed asbestos, a fire-retardant. He discovered that asbestos could be used for various products, including paper and millboard, textiles and shingles that can still be seen on Ambler homes built during that era.
According to the 1896 “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record” feature, with quinine in decline the decision was made to repurpose their quinine plant to focus on this new line of business.
However,the future course of acting having been decided upon, the manufacture of alkaloids was abandoned and the splendid plant ruthlessly dismantled, to be as promptly replaced with vats and tanks, engines and pumps, condensers and motors and other machinery, which now contribute toward making up the largest plant in the world for the manufacture of non-heat conducting products for technical purposes.
The feature went on to say:
The decision marked an epoch in the history of the business and the art of preserving heat and the economical distribution of it, has since had that close attention formerly given to the manufacture of chemical products.
In 1892, Keasbey retired and the business incorporated. By the late 1800’s, with Mattison now president, the company was well on its way to becoming one of the largest asbestos manufacturing operations in the world. The extent of their growth can be gauged by this description of their clientele which included all the major railroads. The description appeared in the December 31, 1896 “American Drug and Pharmaceutical Record” feature.
The Keasbey & Mattison Company’s magnesia products for the drug trade are doubtless well known to and sold by every reader of this sketch, but it is probably not generally known to apothecaries that a large number of the locomotives running on such representative roads as the Pennsylvania Railroad, Lehigh Valley, Grand Trunk, Rock Island, Illinois Central, Union Pacific, etc., etc., are covered with magnesia lagging, which is a commercial product made of about ninety parts of carbonate of magnesium and ten parts of fine, silky asbestos fiber. This mixture is pressed into blocks, and these are fashioned to fit the boilers of the ordinary locomotives, instead of the wood lagging formerly used, and the magnesia after being applied, is then covered with planished sheet iron.
The story went on to include the U.S. Navy as a client as well.
The war vessels of the United States Navy, the Philadelphia, New York, Yorktown, Bennington, Miantonomah, Charleston, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Newark, Massachusetts, the so called “pirate,” the armored Columbia, and its sister ship, the Minneapolis, etc., etc., as well as the dynamic cruiser Vesuvius, all have their boilers, steam pipes and other radiating surfaces covered with magnesia from this Ambler plant.
At this juncture the company’s Ambler complex encompassed three and a half acres whose buildings totaled over 15 acres of floor space. The feature provided this view of the main building which was 625 feet long by 75 feet wide.
In case you’re interested, it also included a view of Mattison’s office.
The company’s menu of asbestos products was certainly expanding during the first decade of the 1900’s, as evidenced by this December 17, 1904 item in the (Duluth Minnesota) “Labor World.”
The firm of Keasbey & Matron company are manufacturers of the only pure and genuine magnesia pipe coverings, containing 85 percent of pure carbonate of magnesia, Ambler asbestos air cell sectional covering, asbestos air cell fire board, asbestos corrugated paper for furnace pipe covering, asbestos papers, (all thicknesses) asbestos cement, (all grades) asbestos wick packing, magnesia cement, wool felt of all kinds, hair felt, sectional covering and all kinds of asbestos materials, roofing, etc.
A story that appeared in the “Minneapolis (Minnesota) Journal” on October 22, 1904 suggested that there were also some unique products such as theatre curtains.
Absolute fire protection is afforded the audience between the stage and auditorium by the Asbestos Fire Proof Curtain furnished by the Keasbey & Mattison Co. This firm is well known for their extensive manufacture of fire curtains from asbestos and have supplied the Orpheum with one of their best makes, which is second to none in the country. The cloth is made of fine strands of brass wire insulated by a heavy coating of asbestos tightly wound, and then woven closely, thus forming a protection which no fire can overcome. As a demonstration of this a blowpipe was used against the curtain for a period of one and one quarter minutes last week. The curtain became red hot from the intense heat, but remained intact in every detail, the spot not being detected after cooling. This exhibition was witnessed by Mayor Haynes, Chief Canterbury, the owners of the theater, architects and builder, all expressed their approval of the qualities existing.
If that wasn’t enough, the January 14, 1904 edition of “The (Perkkasie Pa.) Central News” announced that the company was building another factory in Ambler, this one specifically to manufacture asbestos shingles.
The Keasbey & Mattison Company, of Ambler, who was recently negotiating for a site along the Delaware for the erection of a plant to manufacture asbestos shingles, have resolved to locate the new industry at Ambler in connection with their extensive plant for the manufacture of other products. The first part of the building has been completed. The building which will be nearly 300 feet long, will be sheathed and covered with asbestos shingles. Dr. Mattison, president of the company, some time ago inspected a site at New Hope for the location of the plant, but the railroad facilities there were not considered as favorable.
This advertisement for their Asbestos “Century” Shingles appeared in 1908/1909 Oklahoma newspapers.
Ultimately with demand for their products exponentially increasing, the company acquired the largest asbestos mine in the world. A May 3, 1906 story in “The Central News” told the story.
The Keasbey and Mattison Company of Ambler, has purchased the largest asbestos mine in the world, with associated rights and property. This valuable accessory to the large local plant is located at Thetford, Quebec, near the Quebec Central Railroad. Despite the enormous output of this mine, it will require about one half again as much more asbestos to supply the needs of the Ambler plant, which is the largest of its kind in the world.
Just as pressing as the need for raw materials was the need for a local labor force. Consequently, on January 5, 1908, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced that Mattison was building a village in Ambler to house them.
AMBLER, Jan 4. – Dr. Richard W. Mattison, owner of Lindenwold Farm, at this place, and with a villa at Newport, where he spends his summers will, it is said, build a village here for the men in his employ at the extensive Keasbey-Mattison plants and at his other interests. It is understood, that with this object in view, and to make the proposed village as idealistic as possible, Dr. Mattison will sail for Italy in the early spring, and will spend a couple of months in that country to procure detail to make the projected operation a complete success.
A story in the Philadelphia Inquirer published years later, on September 5, 1999, made it clear that Mattison made his plan a reality.
Italian stone masons were brought over to build homes for his employees. They constructed about 400 homes within the borough, which were rented out to company executives, foreman and blue collar workers at reasonable rates.
Another story, this one in the March 28, 1985 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, further explained:
The street on which the employee lived indicated his position in the company, with blue collar workers on Church Street in row houses, supervisors on Highland Avenue in twin houses and executives on Lindenwold Terrace in mansions.
The story included this photo of Mattison’s home (in 1936) at 1 Lindenwold Terrace.
It appears that the Keasbey & Mattison business peaked sometime in the late teens when advertisements concisely summarized their menu of products like this:
That success continued until the late 1920’s when Keasbey, long retired but still a partner in the firm, charged Mattison with unlawful mismanagement of the business. According to a June 23, 1928 story in “The Bristol (Pa.) Daily Courier:”
Charges of unlawful acts on the part of its president, Richard V. Mattison, and mismanagement of the affairs of the Keasbey and Mattison Company, of Ambler, are made in a bill in equity filed in the office of the Prothonotary by Attorneys High, Dettra and Swartz in behalf of Henry H. Keasbey, owner of almost half of the stock in the firm, against the Keasbey and Mattison Company and Richard V. Mattison.
In May, 1927, Mr. Keasbey states, he returned from a sojourn abroad and because of information received by him concerning the management of the company by Mattison he made an investigation and as a result avers that Mattison has not managed the business and affairs of the company “fairly, lawfully and efficiently, but for many years has managed the affairs of the defendant company inefficiently and unlawfully to the personal gain of the defendant, Mattison, and to the loss and disadvantage of the plaintiff, Keasbey.
The suit, settled out of court, was followed closely by the stock market crash and “Great Depression,” all of which led to a bank takeover in 1931. A little over two years later the company was acquired by the British firm of Turner and Newall. “The Birmingham (England) Gazette” reported the acquisition on January 13, 1934.
The very sharp rise in Turner and Newalls sharers during the last few weeks has been latterly accompanied by rumors and important developments were pending. These are now publicly announced in the course of a letter to the stockholders. The board have entered into an agreement to purchase a controlling interest in the businesses of the Keasebey and Mattison Company and the Ambler Asbestos, Shingle and Sheathing Company.
The Keasbey and Mattison Co., established in 1873, manufactures asbestos textiles, friction linings, magnesia and other insulation and pharmaceutical products, and also owns and operates the well-known Bell asbestos mine at Thetford, Quebec, Canada. The Ambler Asbestos, Sheathing and Shingle Co. was established about 25 years ago, and although closely associated with the businesss of the Keasbey and Mattison Co., is not a subsidiary company but owns, in its own right, and operates factories for the manufacture of asbestos cement products.
It is proposed to merge the business of the Ambler Asbestos, Shingle and Sheathing Company with that of the Keasbey and Mattison Company, after which Turner and Newell, Ltd., will acquire 60 percent of the capital stock of the enlarged Keasbey and Mattison Company…The Keasbey and Mattison Company will remain under American management and Mr. A. S. Blagden, who has been president since 1931, will continue in that capacity.
A January 16, 1934 “Philadelphia Inquirer” story on the merger added that:
The enlarged business will retain the name of the Keasbey & Mattison Company.
After the acquisition, the company continued the pharmaceutical branch of the business, at least for a short while, manufacturing “Bromo Caffeine” up through at least the late 1930’s as evidenced by this advertisement that continued to associate Keasbey & Mattison with the product. It appeared in several editions of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” during the Spring of 1937.
In 1940, several years after these ads appeared, Keasbey & Mattison renewed the “Bromo Caffeine” and “Alkalithia” trademarks but assigned both to the Alkalithia Company of Baltimore, Maryland. The renewal/assignment notice appeared in the June 18, 1940 edition of the U.S. Patent Gazette. I suspect that this marked the end of Keasbey & Mattison’s pharmaceutical division.
This bottle of “Alkalithia,” recently offered for sale on the internet, exhibits the Alkalithia Company name and listed their address as 220 W. Lombard Street in Baltimore.
How long the Alkalithia Company continued to manufacture Bromo-Caffeine is not clear. The product disappeared from newspaper advertisements for drug stores in the early 1940’s, however, the following “Question & Answer” column found in the October 11, 1967 edition of Long Island’s “Newsday” stated that the company manufactured Bromo Caffeine as late as 1950.
Q. In a box od sea shells left from an estate, I found three small, corked blue bottles marked “Bromo Caffeine.” Can you tell me when this was made and if the bottles have any value?
A. This product, similar to another bromo fizz cure for upset stomachs, indigestion or hangovers, was made from 1941 to 1950 by the Alkalithia Co. of Baltimore, Md., which is no longer in existence…
Keasbey & Mattison’s asbestos line continued well into the 1960’s under Turner & Newall’s ownership. According to a story in the March 21, 1960 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” at that time the company had five major product lines – asphalt roofing, asbestos and glass textiles, asbestos-cement pipe, asbestos-cement building materials and industrial products. They employed about 900 people in Ambler and 8oo at other plants that were located in Santa Clara, California, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Meredith, New Hampshire and St. Louis Missouri.
Ultimately the company was sold again in the early 1960’s, at which point the Keasbey & Mattison name came to an end. The March 28, 1985 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” provided the details.
The business was sold again in 1963, bringing an end to the 90 year-old Keasbey & Mattison company. Two businesses succeeded the company: One, Nicolet Inc., made millboard and other products; CertainTeed Corp. made asbestos cement plates. CertainTeed went out of business in 1981. Today (1985) only Nicolet remains. It has stopped manufacturing asbestos products and instead makes Formica.
A story in the September 5, 1999 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer picks up the story from there.
In 1987 Nicolet Industries went bankrupt, citing the burden of more than 61,000 asbestos-related lawsuits against it. Left behind was a 22-acre asbestos dump that was treated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program. EPA built large mounds of earth over it and planted trees and shrubs there. The dump was removed from the Superfund list in 1993. Yet the asbestos remains.
The asbestos was still there in late 2017 when a November 29th “Philadelphia Inquirer” story referred to the site as “Ambler’s White Hills.” As far as I can tell, today the dump site continues to remain vacant and undeveloped.
I’ve found three Bromo Caffeine bottles over the years, all mouth blown, three inches tall and a little more than one inch in diameter at the base. Each is a different shade of blue ranging from a deep cobalt to a cornflower. The 1904 Stein-Gray Drug Co. price list pictured previously listed three sizes being offered around the turn of the century: $1.25, $0.75 and $0.10. Recognizing the rather small size of the bottles, they’re almost certainly of the $0.10 variety.
The French phrase, “Huile D Olive,” translates to “Olive Oil,” so it’s apparent that the subject bottle contained olive oil produced in Grasse, France by the firm of Bertrand Freres (Bertrand Brothers).
Founded in 1858 by two brothers, Baptistin and Emelien Bertrand, this 19th century engraving of their factory found in the Municipal Archives of Grasse, described the business as:
Fabricants D’ Essences Fines & De Matieres Premieres Pour Parfumerie
or, courtesy of “Google Translate:”
Manufacturers Of Fine Essences & Raw Materials for Perfumery
The business would operate in Grasse under the Bertrand Freres name for well over 100 years.
Located in Southern France, an August 24, 1926 story found in a publication called “Drug Markets,” referred to Grasse as “the heart of the world’s perfume industry.” The story opened with this description of the town which serves to provide some context to the company’s history.
Located about 20 kilometers from Cannes, with an altitude of 692 feet, the town of Grasse is situated in the heart of the flower-growing district of France, and hence might very well be considered the center of France’s perfume industry. And to the extent that other countries depend on France for their oils, pomades and concentrates for their raw materials in manufacturing perfumes, this town of 19,700 inhabitants may be called the heart of the world’s perfume industry…
In this town are located such well-known French houses as Etablissement Antoine Chris, Charabot & Co., Lautier Fils, Pilar Freres, Roure-Bertrand Fils, Bertrand Freres, and others.
Plants are located in Grasse, and these houses either buy their flowers from the peasants, or grow them themselves, and here manufacture their oils, concentrates or pomades as the case may be.
An advertisement that appeared in the May 1, 1865 edition of a British publication called the “Pharmaceutical Journal & Transactions,” provided this menu of products the company manufactured during its first decade.
While the above menu fails to mention olive oil, Bertrand Freres was certainly producing it from the very beginning as evidenced by what has to be one of the company’s earliest directory listings found in the 1859 Industry Trade Directory-Almanac under the heading “District of Grasse.”
Translated, the listing reads as follows:
Bertrand Brothers, new improvements for the rectification of essences of mint, anise, etc., distilled waters of bitter orange blossoms, lemons from Portugal; olive oils and all the products of the South.
Sometime in the early 1870’s the Bertrand brothers turned control of the business over to a partnership headed by Hubert Schlienger. He, and later his son Emile Schlienger, would serve as senior partners in the firm up through at least 1940.
It appears that it was also in the 1870’s that the business began to focus their attention on the U. S. market as evidenced by this news item that appeared in the March 21. 1878 edition of the “Detroit Free Press.”.
Henry Fielding, representative of the essential oil house of Bertrand Freres, Grasse, France, was in the city yesterday. He received several large orders from some of the wholesale drug and perfumery establishments of the city.
It was also in the 1870’s that the company’s products began appearing in United States newspaper advertisements. An advertisement touting their “concentrated essences” appeared in the March 9, 1876 edition of the “Yorkville (York, S. C.) Enquirer.”
Another, this one headlining their olive oil, appeared in the March 25, 1878 edition of Connecticut’s Hartford Courant.
In 1898 and 1899, Fraser, Viger & Co., a self described “grocer and wine merchant” located in French speaking Montreal, Canada, advertised their olive oil using the French wording embossed on the subject bottle:”HUILE d OLIVE.”
A feature on the business published in the May 11, 1911 edition of the “American Perfumer,” depicted their turn of the century Grasse factory, and made it clear that by then their distribution was “world-wide,” specifically referring to the United States and Canada as two of their “chief markets.”
The house of Bertrand Freres, which has won such an enviable reputation in the perfumery trade, was founded in 1858 by two brothers named Baptistin and Emilien Bertrand, who laid the foundation upon which a world-wide trade of extensive proportions has since been built. The chief markets catered to however are Paris, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States…
The house has long had agents practically all over the world, and more recently has invaded South America, where headquarters for the continent have been established in Santiago de Chile…
The spacialties manufactured by the firm are extracts, solid and liquid concretes, floral ottos for confectioners and most of the high grade essential oils.
The company’s U. S. agent at the turn of the century was Clayton Rockhill who, according to his biography published in the 1918 edition of “The Cyclopedia of American Biography, Volume VIII, founded his business in 1884. In 1895, the New York City Copartnership and Corporation Directory identified Rockhill as the “agent for Bertrand Freres, Grasse, France.” The 1890 Copartnership and Corporation Directory simply referred to him as a merchant so it’s likely that their relationship began sometime in the early 1890’s.
This early advertisement associating Rockhill with Bertrand Freres appeared in the April 1, 1897 edition of the “American Soap Journal & Perfume Gazette.
Originally located at 30 Platt Street, Rockhill’s business moved to 114 John Street around 1900. Then in 1906 he formed a partnership with Carl Louis Vietor. Their partnership notice appeared in the March 1, 1906 edition of the “Soap Gazette and Perfumer.”
A copartnership has been formed between Clayton Rockhill and Carl L. Vietor, both of this city, under the firm name of Rockhill & Vietor, to carry on the general shipping and commission business which has been carried on by Mr. Rockhill. Mr. Vietor, who is the son of George F. Vietor, a well-known dry goods merchant of this city, has been with Mr. Rockhill for two years.
An advertisement in the same March 1 edition of the “Soap Gazette and Perfumer” made it clear that their business relationship with Bertrand Feres remained unchanged.
Sometime in 1912 Rockhill & Vietor moved to 22 Cliff Street where the company was listed up through 1921. During this time, Bertrand Freres apparently managed a separate olive oil branch managed by importer Chandros Weddle at his office at 100 Hudson Street. This entry in the 1915 Copartnership and Corporation Directory associated Rockhill and Vietor with the perfume business and Weddle with olive oil, and was typically how Bertrand Freres was listed beginning in 1912.
In 1922 Rockhill & Vietor announced a move to new quarters in the February edition of the “American Perfumer.”
Rockhill and Vietor, established in John Street (actually 30 Platt) in 1884 by the late Clayton Rockhill and now at 22 Cliff Street, will move to new quarters in the near future, combining the oil department with its other branches at 62 Grand Street.
Two months later, Rockhill & Vietor was dissolved (Rockhill had passed away in 1918), and replaced by a new firm, P. R. Dreyer, located not on Grand Street but Beekman Street.
Confused? Hopefully this May 1, 1922 story in the “Soap Gazette and Perfumer” will serve to clarify.
Due to the liquidation of the firm of Rockhill & Vietor, New York, P. R. Dreyer, who has been manager of the essential oil department of the company for several years, has been appointed American and Canadian agent for Bertrand Freres, Grasse, France, and American agent for N. V. Chemische Fabric Naarden, Bussum, Holland, which firms Rockhill and Vietor represented heretofore.
Mr. Dreyer has been associated with the essential oil industry for more than twenty years and enjoys an extensive acquaintance among the members of the soap, perfume and allied trades, particularly in the East and Middle-West.
The new headquarters of Mr. Dreyer are located at 109-111 Beekman Street, New York City.
Up through 1925 and possibly longer, NYC directories continued to associate Chandros Weddle with Bertrand Freres at his 100 Hudson Street location so it appears that the olive oil business remained separate and distinct.
Meanwhile, back in Grasse at around the same time, the company was in the process of expanding their physical plant. According to the French “Ministre De La Culture” web site:
Like other perfumery companies the company Bertrand Freres had an annex site built in the early 1920’s dedicated to extraction by volatile solvents. There are two main reasons for the construction of this new site: to move the extraction workshops away from the inhabited areas and to avoid overloading the site of the parent plant with its already very dense buildings by adding new constructions. The annex establishment is built on a rose plantation that the company owned.
The new facility, constructed adjacent to their existing facility, was described in a December, 1922 feature published the American Perfumer.
Bertrand Frteres are now occupying their enlarged factory at Grasse, France, which was completed last Spring, thus adding with a modern concrete fire-proof structure, another fitting milestone in the history of this well known concern…
The new factory has three stories appropriately arranged to carry on manufacturing processes with the least waste of effort. Perhaps the most striking things to catch the eye of the visitor are the tiled walls, the abundance of natural light and the scrupulous cleanliness maintained throughout the factory. The most modern machinery and equipment have been installed, it is stated, and safety devices are freely employed. Above the third floor there is an oriental pavilion for entertaining guests. The boiler house occupies a unit by itself quite distinct from the factory proper and the fluted smoke stack rises far above the highest point in the factory where any manufacturing processes are conducted, preventing any possible damage by smoke.
The feature included several views of the newly enlarged factory.
Shown clockwise from the top left are: rectifying stills; general view of the plant; a group of stills; volatile solvent extracting apparatus; entrance to the offices and vacuum stills.
P.R Dreyer advertisements in several 1922 editions of the “American Perfumer” featured the enlarged facility.
Four years later, in 1926, the August 24th edition of “Drug Markets” announced that Bertrand Freres had established an American corporation with Dreyer serving as president.
Bertrand Freres, well known Grasse, France, essential oil house has formed an American branch with headquarters in New York. P. R. Dreyer, of P. R. Dreyer, New York, who has been representing the French company in this country is president of the new company. E. Schlienger, senior partner of the French house is vice president, A. Mueller, a member of the parent concern is secretary-treasurer, and O. C. Ispell is assistant secretary-treasurer. By this division of officers, the American company is able to function in this country with a certain degree of independence while actual control of the company is maintained by the parent concern in Grasse. A more active participation in the American essential oil market is anticipated by this step, and the French company looks for an increased and larger business following this active and aggressive step.
Whether Weddle continued his association with Bertrand Freres and their olive oil after the U. S. incorporation is unclear, however, he continued to be listed at 100 Hudson Street with the occupation of “food products” until he ultimately passed away in 1933. . That being said, I suspect, but can’t confirm, that by the end of the 1926 to 1933 time frame, the company was focused solely on perfumes and essential oils and the distribution of olive oil was all but forgotten in the United States.
Shortly after the incorporation, the November edition of “Drug Markets reported that a fire had forced P. R. Dreyer to move to a new location.
P. R. Dreyer, New York, whose place of business was damaged by fire recently, has leased a 3 – story building at 26 Cliff Street.
Sometime in the late 1930’s they apparently relocated to 12 East 12th Street before moving to 119 W 19th Street, where both Bertrand Freres and P. R. Dreyer were listed together throughout most of the early 1940’s. By the late 1940’s’s the companies were listed with separate addresses with Bertrand Freres located at 111 Broadway in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, and 443 Fourth Avenue in the late 1950’s up through at least 1960.
In 1973 the Bertrand Freres business moved across the Hudson River to Maywood, New Jersey to serve as the U. S. distributor for a Unilever company called Proprietary Perfumes Ltd.. The September 2, 1973 edition of “The (Hackensack, New Jersey) Record” told the story.
New Jersey alone has more than 50 perfume compounding companies. The state has become a center for the industry.
One of the latest entrants into the already crowded New Jersey field is Bertrand Freres Ltd., which moved from New York City to 17 Brook Ave. in Maywood earlier this year.
The firm is the American subsidiary of Bertrand Freres S. A. of Grasse, France – Grasse, north of Cannes, is in an area that has been the perfume center of the world for several centuries.
Bertrand Freres Ltd. moved to New Jersey after getting what its managers referred to as a new lease on life. That lease came in the form of U. S. distribution rights for Proprietary Perfumes Ltd (PPL) of Kent, England. PPL is the perfuming subsidiary of the giant multinational conglomerate Unilever, which is also the parent of Lever brothers, the soap and cosmetic company.
Subsequently Bertrand Freres merged with PPL and another Unilever subsidiary forming “PPF International.” The merger was reported in the February 2, 1982 edition of several U. S. newspapers.
A merger of two British companies and a French firm to form one of the world’s largest fragrance and flavor producers, with annual sales of $200 million was announced yesterday.
Gerald Landers, appointed director of fragrance operations of the company, to be called PPF, said “the U.S. market will be our key growth market,” although the new company’s headquarters will be in Ashford, Kent, England. Landers is marketing director of Ashford’s Proprietary Perfumes Ltd., one of the three merging companies and the fifth largest supplier of fragrance compounds in the world. The other two firms are Food Industries Ltd. of Bromborough, England, and Bertrand Freres of Grasse, France.
As far as I can tell this marked the end of the Bertrand Freres company name.
Later, in 1986, Unilever set it sights on another firm, Naarden International with the intent of merging it with PPF. According to an August 19, 1986 story in London’s “Daily Telegraph:”
Unilever, the Anglo Dutch consumer products group, aims to boost the international status of its specialty chemicals division with a 110 million pound bid for Naarden International, the major Dutch producer of industrial fragrances.
Unilever hopes to combine Naarden with PPF International, its own fragrance group formed in 1982…
The merger was finalized several months later and the following year Unilever combined Naarden and PPF under the name of “Quest International.” According to the the French “Ministre De La Culture,” web site, Quest continued to occupy the Grasse factory site until 1998.
The bottle I found is 10 ounces in size and was blown in a “turn mold.” It sports a blob seal on which the product and company information is presented.
This likely dates it sometime around the turn of the century. Strangely, newspaper advertisements for their olive oil make no mention of a 10 ounce size. In fact, there’s no mention of sizes smaller than a pint. The following is from 1897/1898,
The name “Burnett” embossed on the subject bottles is short for Joseph Burnett, a Boston druggist, who established an apothecary and later manufacturing business in Boston during the mid 1800’s. He’s generally credited with manufacturing and marketing the first commercially available flavoring extracts in the United States.
His chief product, Burnett’s Vanilla Extract, was still being offered for sale under his name in the late 1970’s.
A story in the November 1, 1881 edition of The Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel relayed this commonly held version of the product’s origin.
The extensive business of this house, which has extended to nearly every civilized country in the world, had its origin in what might be called an incident, or an accident some thirty years ago. At that time Mr. Joseph Burnett, the founder of the house was doing a large apothecary business on Tremont Street, opposite the Boston Museum.
A lady who had lived in France and had become accustomed to French methods of cookery, came into Mr. Burnett’s store one day and asked him if he could not make a decent Flavoring Extract for her, as she found those in common use abominable. She wanted an extract of vanilla. This was made which pleased the lady very much, and from this simple beginning has grown a business…
Likely some combination of both fact and legend, the above serves as a good background for Burnett’s story, a story that starts not with him, but another New England druggist named Theodore Metcalf, who gave Burnett his start in business.
Born in Dedham, Massachusetts on January 21, 1812, Metcalf began his career in the Hartford Connecticut apothecary of E. W. Bull where he initially served as an apprentice and later as Bull’s partner. That partnership was dissolved in January, 1836 with the dissolution notice appearing in the January 23, 1836 edition of the “Hartford Courant.”
According to Metcalf’s obituary, published in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record,” he subsequently moved to Boston and in the Spring of 1837 established an apothecary business at 33 Tremont Row (later called Tremont Street). Not long after he opened the doors Metcalf hired Burnett as a clerk, jump-starting what would ultimately be a long and successful career. A feature on Burnett, published in the October, 1894 edition of a publication called “The Spatula” provided some early details.
Mr. Burnett who was born in Southboro, Mass., in 1819, received as good an education as the schools of those days afforded, and began his career as a pharmacist in 1837 as a clerk in the store of Mr. Metcalf. It was not long before the latter saw the advisability of taking him into partnership which continued until Mr. Burnett became entire owner of the establishment
A notice announcing the transfer of ownership from Metcalf to Burnett, dated January 1, 1845, was published in several January editions of the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal.”
N0. 33 TREMONT ROW, JANUARY 1, 1845
The subscriber has disposed of his stock and place of business to Mr. Joseph Burnett, his principal assistant for the past six years.
To his regular customers no commendation of his successor is necessary, as his competency and accurateness are well known to them, and he respectfully solicits a continuance of their favors to the establishment.
To the medical profession he takes pleasure in saying that the duty of conducting the business could not fall into hands more capable.
JOSEPH BURNETT respectfully informs the medical profession, that he will endeavor, by close attention to business, to sustain the reputation of the old establishment, and to deserve their confidence and favor.
Over the course of the next ten years the business was listed in the Boston directories as simply “Joseph Burnett.” As far as I can tell Burnett operated the business as a sole proprietorship until 1853, at which time he admitted two partners, William W. Goodwin, and Peter J.Hassard. The partnership announcement, dated January 1, 1853, appeared in several January and February editions of Boston’s “Daily Evening Transcript.”
During this ten year period the business primarily served as an importer/wholesaler/retailer for a wide variety of items as evidenced by their advertisement that appeared within Boston’s 1851 Commercial Directory.
Several of the company’s late 1840’s to early 1850’s newspaper advertisements provide a sampling of the products they carried at the time.
The company also marketed a variety of items directly to the medical profession. According to the following 1853 advertisement that appeared in the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal” this included:
genuine drugs, pure chemicals, select powders, superior extracts (both solid and fluid), and other desirable pharmaceutical preparations
In fact, a story written years later in the October 13, 1946 edition of the “Boston Globe” credits Burnett with supplying the “pure sulphuric ether” used by W. T. G. Morton when he performed the first successful operation under anesthesia in 1846.
If that wasn’t enough, you could stop by his apothecary and have a flavored soda if you were so inclined.
Finally, their 1851 directory advertisement also mentioned “extracts for flavoring pies, jellies, etc.,” so they were certainly manufacturing them, though likely on a small scale, during the early 1850’s (some accounts say as early as 1847). That would all change on January 1, 1855 when, in an effort to focus on the manufacturing side of the business, Burnett sold the apothecary back to Theodore Metcalf. A notice announcing the sale appeared in the January 10, 1855 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript.”
Directly adjacent to the dissolution notice was an advertisement for Metcalf’s reacquired apothecary.
Soon after, Burnett partnered with William Otis Edmunds and established the firm of Joseph Burnett & Co. Within a year the company was manufacturing ten different varieties of flavoring extracts as evidenced by this December 20, 1855 advertisement in the “Boston Evening Transcript.”
FLAVORING EXTRACTS. Messrs. Joseph Burnett & Co., Tremont Street, manufacture very superior Flavoring Extracts of perfect purity, and great strength. The articles are guaranteed to be free from the poisonous oils and acids which enter so largely into the composition of many of the fruit flavors now so freely offered in the market. The varieties are Lemon, Orange, Nectarine, Peach, Celery, Vanilla, Bitter Almond, Rose, Nutmeg and Cinnamon. For family use in blanc mange, custards, pies, etc., or for confectioners and hotel keepers to use in ice creams, jellies, etc. They are not only true to their names but are prepared from fruits of the best quality, and are so highly concentrated that only a small quantity is required. They have all the freshness and delicate flavor of the choice fruits from which they are prepared.
A list published in a July, 2, 1859 “Boston Evening Transcript” advertisement, indicated that by then the menu had been upped to 12 by adding ginger and cloves.
More than just flavoring extracts, by the late 1850’s the company was also manufacturing several medicines and toiletries, all of which were advertised together as “Burnett’s Standard Preparations.”
In case you’re interested here’s an alphabetized list of uses that “Burnett’s Standard Preparations” were touted to address. The list appeared in the 1866 edition of their annual marketing publication called “Burnett’s Floral Handbook and Ladies Calendar.” .
Joseph Burnett & Co. was initially listed in 1856 and 1857 at 41 Tremont where they were literally next door to (or cohabitated with?) Metcalf’s apothecary. In fact, this early Burnett advertisement for “Kalliston,” that appeared in the April 14, 1856 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” named Metcalf as one of Burnett’s first retailers.
That being said, Burnett apparently outgrew his Tremont facilities rather quickly and by 1857 moved the company to 27 Central Street where, by 1881, a November 1st feature on the business in the “Fitchburg Sentinel” described a company whose production of vanilla extract alone consumed one fourth of the entire Mexican product. The feature went on to say:
Some fifty persons are now directly employed by the concern in the varied work of bottling, labeling, packing and boxing their various Flavoring Extracts and Toilet Preparations, all of which are of altogether superior nature.
By this time, Burnett’s sons Harry, and John M. were actively involved in the business and in fact as early as 1882 the Boston directories name them, not Joseph, as the company principals. This suggests that while it was likely that Joseph continued to oversee the business, by then it was his sons who were running its day to day operations.
Ultimately full authority passed to the brothers in 1894 when Joseph Burnett died in a tragic accident. The August 13, 1894 edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” told the story.
Dr. Joseph Burnett of Southboro, well-known in Boston, was fatally injured at Marlboro yesterday afternoon. He was driving on Maple Street and when near the electric car station his horse became frightened by an electric car and Dr. Burnett was thrown out, striking upon his head. He was taken to his country home at Southboro in an unconscious condition and died at seven o’clock last evening.
That same year the business moved again, this time to 36 India Street, where, now incorporated, it was listed in the 1895 Boston directories with a new name; the Joseph Burnett Company. The directories named John M., president and Harry, treasurer, that first year.
It was also in the early 1890’s that the company began advertising a line of food coloring’s called “Burnett’s Color Pastes.”
For coloring Ice Creams, Frostings, Jellies, Custards and all kinds of confectionery.
This 1898 advertisement that appeared in the “Boston Cooking School Magazine” advertised their Extracts and Color Pastes side by side. The advertisement provided this menu of their colored pastes: Leaf Green, Fruit Red, Golden Yellow, Damask Rose, Carmel, Chestnut, Imperial Blue and Mandarin Orange.
By the turn of the century the business was emphasizing their extracts and color pastes at the expense of their medicines and toilet preparations, some of which were likely being scrutinized as a result of the food and drug laws being enacted around that time. One clue supporting this shift in focus is evident in the font size used in the company’s advertisement that appeared in Boston’s 1905 Commercial Directory. By this time the medicinal and toilet items appear in the advertisement as no more than afterthoughts.
Nine years later only their extracts are mentioned in the 1914 directory advertisement.
Although their line of extracts included many flavors, by the early 1920’s according to a feature on the Burnett business in the November 3, 1921 edition of an advertising trade magazine called “Printers Ink”
The company is chiefly known to advertisers as makers of Vanilla Extract. Vanilla has been the advertised leader for many years.
The “Printers Ink” feature went on to say:
The line includes, however, many other flavors as well as spices and color pastes. Burnett’s spices are a comparatively recent addition to the line and they are being featured in the advertising this fall.
As promised their fall advertising campaign included their new line of spices as evidenced by an advertisement that appeared in the December, 1921 edition of “The Ladies Home Journal.”
It was also in 1921 that the company moved again, this time to a new factory at 437 D Street in South Boston.
Later, in the mid 1930’s they added several products having to do with ice cream, “Burnetts Liquid Ice Cream” and “Burnett’s Ice Cream Mix.” The Ice Cream Mix was advertised in the “North Adams (Mass.) Transcript” on May 23, 1935.
Up through the mid-1940’s, the Burnett family continued to remain heavily involved in the management of the company. John T. Burnett succeeded his brother John M. Burnett as president in 1906, serving in that capacity until his death in 1929. He was succeeded as president by Henry P. Kidder, with a third generation of the Burnett family, George H. Burnett, serving as treasurer. This arrangement continued until 1946 when the company was sold to American Home products. The sale was reported in the May 2, 1946 edition of the Boston Globe.
Am. Home Products Acquires Burnett Co.
H. W. Roden, vice president of American Home Products Corporation, announced today acquisition of the Joseph Burnett Company of Boston, for 8,918 capital shares of American Home Products, parent of American Home Foods, Inc.
The newly acquired company was the outgrowth of a Boston drug store, founded by Joseph Burnett, who, in 1847, produced vanilla flavoring as an experiment.
Less than a year after the acquisition a fire caused significant damage to the company’s D Street factory. The fire was reported in the April 2, 1947 edition of the “Boston Globe.”
Seventy-five persons, many of them women were driven out of the building at 437 D St., South Boston, today when fire caused damage of more than $50,000 to the building and extract stores of the Joseph Burnett Company.
The fire started when a spark from an electric motor ignited alcohol fumes, fire officials said. It started on the fourth floor of the seven story brick building and spread along pipes down to the third floor.
It appears that the fire put an end to Burnett’s manufacturing operations in Boston. The following year, in 1948, the Joseph Burnett Co., was listed in the Boston directories as a division of American Foods with simply an office address at 43 Leon, Rm 310, in Roxbury. That same year their D Street factory was no longer listed.
On a side note, the structure apparently survived and today is called the Seaport Lofts. Here’s a recent photograph courtesy of Google Earth.
Where American Home Products moved Burnett’s manufacturing arm is not clear, but in the 1950’s they did put out several new products under the Burnett name. One advertised in the early 1950’s was Burnett’s Instant Puddings.
As far as I can tell, the Burnett brands were later acquired by the Doxsee Food Corporation. One last mention of the brand that I can find appeared in a July 29, 1987 “Boston Globe” feature entitled “Ask the Globe,” where one question/answer item made it clear that by then Burnett’s Vanilla Extract, and likely the entire Burnett brand, had been discontinued.
Q. My wife prefers to use Burnett’s Pure Vanilla Extract in her cooking but has been unable to find it in local stores. Can it be purchased anywhere? – C.C., Milton.
A. Ed Lindsay of the customer service department at Doxsee Food Corp. in Baltimore says his firm no longer produces Burnett’s, but instead makes an imitation vanilla extract.
The last newspaper advertisement for “Burnett’s Vanilla Extract” that I can find appeared in March, 1979, suggesting that the late 1970’s/early 1980’s is the product’s likely end date. The advertisement, for a grocery store called Warehouse Foods, listed it along with several other products under the heading “Baking Time.” The ad appeared in the March 19th edition of a Wisconsin newspaper called the “Oshkosh Northwestern.”
I’ve found two Burnett bottles. One is two ounces in size, the other four ounces. Each is mouth blown with a tooled finish, likely putting their manufacture date somewhere in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.
In the 1870 Floral Handbook and Ladies Calendar the company advertised that their flavored extracts were available in five sizes, one of which is two ounces.
Coupled with the fact that the smaller bottle matches almost exactly the vanilla extract bottle exhibited in this 1902 advertisement found in a publication called the “American Kitchen Magazine” leads me to believe it contained some variety of flavoring extract.
The four ounce bottle does not fit one of the advertised sizes so, assuming they didn’t add a four ounce size in the late 1800’s, it likely contained one of Burnett’s other “Standard Preparations.” The bottle closely resembles the size and shape of the bottle in this 1879 Kalliston advertisement found in their Floral Journal and Ladies Calendar so I’m leaning in that direction.
It certainly did not contain their Cocoaine or Cologne Water as both were sold in uniquely shaped bottles.
John J. Kane was a bottler in New York’s Far Rockaway during the first two decades of the 1900’s. During much of the same time he was also associated with hotels located in both Far Rockaway and nearby Arverne, Queens.
Kane’s bottling operation was first listed under the heading “Wine, Liquor and Lager Beer,” in the 1904 Trow Business Directory for the Borough of Queens. He was not listed in the 1903 directory, suggesting that the business was established at around that time. Up through 1907 he just bottled beer then, according to an item in the April 15, 1907 edition of the “American Bottler, he expanded his operation to include soda water as well.
John J. Kane, a beer bottler at Far Rockaway, is going to engage in the soda water and siphon trade as well.
Queens directories and New York State liquor tax records always listed the business with a White Street (now Beach 21st Street) address in Far Rockaway; typically “White Street 200 feet south of Mott.” Likely a saloon as well as a bottling operation, Queens telephone books between 1910 and 1920 described the business as both a “cafe” and bottling establishment. No longer listed in the early 1920’s, the business was likely a victim of prohibition.
New York State liquor tax records also name Kane’s wife, Minnie, the certificate holder for a Far Rockaway Hotel located at Remson and McNeil (now Redfern and McNeil) from 1911 to 1914.
In addition to his Far Rockaway business endeavors, a 1910 report prepared by the New York State Superintendent of Elections, named Kane as the proprietor of a hotel in nearby Arverne, located at the northwest corner of Bouker Place (now Beach 64th Street) and the Long Island Rail Road tracks.
Back in the day many hotels included a bottling operation so it wouldn’t surprise me if Kane was bottling beer in Arverne as part of his hotel operation there. At the very least, he was certainly supplying that location from Far Rockaway.
It’s possible (but I haven’t been able to confirm) that both the bottling and hotel businesses involved other members of the Kane family besides his wife. A bottle, similar in style to Kane’s, but embossed “Kane Brothers, Far Rockaway,” can be found in the collection of Mike AKA Chinchillaman1 at http://mikesbottleroom.weebly.com (no relation to this web site).
In further support of this supposition, liquor tax records for the Arverne hotel list other Kane’s as the certificate holders; namely James P. Kane in 1907 and later, Andrew Kane in 1913 through 1917.
It’s not clear exactly how long the Kane’s continued in the hotel business. Census records in 1920 named John J. Kane’s occupation as the: “Proprietor of Hotel,” but by 1930, census records indicate that he and his wife Minnie, were living in Miami Florida.
I’ve found two identical bottles, each with a blob finish and embossed with both a Far Rockaway and Arverne location. They could date as early as 1903 (when the bottling business began) but likely closer to 1907 (the date of the earliest liquor tax certificate I can find for the Arverne location). Anything much later and I would expect a crown finish.
The town of Bad Kissingen, located in the heart of Germany, has a reputation for its mineral waters that dates back to the mid-16th century. Over 170 years ago, the 1850 edition of the “Handbook for Travelers in Southern Germany” described Kissingen like this:
Kissingen is a town of about 1,500 inhabitants pleasantly situated on the Franconian Saale. It possesses 3 mineral springs. The Rackoczy and Pandur Brunnen furnish saline and chalybeate waters, which are tonic and aperient without flying to the head; the Rakoczy is used for drinking, the Pandur for baths: they are highly recommended as a remedy for chronic diseases, gout and complaints of the stomach; 40,000 bottles of Rakoczy are exported annually.
Around the same time that the above description was written, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Samuel Smith, who referred to himself by his middle name Hanbury, began to artificially reproduce the water from Kissingen’s Radoczy Spring. He would go on to artificially manufacture a host of other natural spring waters as well including the well known Vichy and Congress waters that, according to his advertisements, were:
Identical with the natural in composition and effects, more effervescent, and less liable to change.
The motivation for Smith’s endeavor was the medicinal properties that these waters were thought to possess. In a paper authored by Smith, published in the January, 1856 edition of the “Cincinnati Medical Observer” he explained:
Whenever a novelty is pressed upon his notice, the Anglo-Saxon instinctively puts the question, “Cui bono?” “What is the use and the value of the thing?” The question I will endeavor to answer in the following lines…
That there is a large series of chronic diseases, and anomalous disordered conditions, best cured by the use of mineral waters, and a similar series often incurable by any other known means is a postulate which will undoubtedly be granted by every practitioner of reputation throughout the whole continent of Europe . That, moreover, in another series of cases, mineral waters efficiently aid ordinary therapeutic measures, and that in a fourth the effects produced by their employment afford a valuable source of diagnosis, will be readily granted. The well established facts, the long catalogue of observations recorded by competent observers, leave no room for dispute or cavil about the truth of these propositions…
An April, 1858 editorial in the Cincinnati Lancet and Observer credited Smith with introducing this thinking, which was prevalent in Europe at the time, into the United States. Written several years after Smith established his business, the Lancet editorial opined:
Carlsbad. Spa – We take pleasure in calling the attention of our readers to the effort which has been persistently made for nearly two years, by Dr. S. Hanbury Smith, to introduce to the notice of the profession and the public the factitious Mineral Waters. We have always thought it strange that an art so important to the development of the therapeutics of chronic diseases, should have so long remained a terra incognita on this side of the Atlantic, awaiting the advent of some adventurous pioneer…
…At the “Carlsbad Spa,” as Dr. Smith has christened his establishment, the waters of the most celebrated springs of Continental Europe are reproduced with wonderful exactness. Many of our physicians have already prescribed them quite extensively, and they are on sale by most respectable apothecaries in this city, especially Kissingen, a water resembling Congress – tonic, alterative, aperient and depurative, but very much stronger.
One of Smith’s early advertisements listed several disorders that his mineral waters were specifically prescribed to address.
So, with that as background, here’s Hanbury Smith’s story which according to his obituary found in the September 15, 1894 edition of the “Brooklyn Citizen,” began “across the pond” in 1810.
He was born in England in 1810 and studied medicine in a London college, from which he graduated in 1831. He continued to study in a college in Stockholm, Sweden, and during the cholera epidemic in 1834 was senior physician of the cholera hospital in that city. He came to America in 1847…
In the United States he settled in the State of Ohio where he remained for the next 13 years. His time there included stays in Columbus, Hamilton and Cincinnati were, among other things he served as editor of the “Ohio Medical and Surgical Journal,” and superintendent of the Ohio State Lunatic Asylum. It was also in Ohio where Smith began to manufacture his artificial mineral waters
According to later advertisements, it was in 1855 that Smith established what he called the “Carlsbad Spa,” in Cincinnati. An introductory story on the business appeared in the July, 1856 edition of the Western Lancet.
We deem it an agreeable duty to call the attention of our readers to the establishment which, under this name, Dr. Hanbury Smith has opened at the N. E. corner of Walnut and Seventh Streets, in this city. Here, by ingenious processes, are reproduced in the laboratory exact imitations of the more active and valuable medicinal mineral waters of the known world; and thus an opportunity is afforded to the large class of sufferers in whose cases mineral waters are especially indicated, to avail themselves of them at comparatively very small cost of money, time or labor, – and to the physicians of the country to make themselves practically acquainted with a series of remedies heretofore out of their reach.
The story went on to present the spa’s varied menu of mineral waters.
The waters are drank at the Spa, as a rule, early in the morning, say between five o’clock and eight, directly out of the apparatus in which they are prepared and preserved. Among those to be procured are Carlsbad, Eurs, Marienbad, Pyrmont, Vichy, Ergs, Spa, Kissingen, Heilbrunn, Hombourg, Fachingen, Geilnau, Selters, Seydschutz, Pullna, etc. Some of these are purgative, others deobstruent, some tonic, others alterative; and yet others are possessed of two, three or more of these properties in a large series of varied combinations, thus affording advantages of choice and change unknown at any one watering place, and an inexhaustible store of therapeutic resources.
This initial story did not mention bottling so it’s not clear if Smith bottled his waters from the start. That being said, by the following year he was certainly bottling and distributing Kissingen Water locally, as evidenced by this August 16, 1857 advertisement in the Cincinnati Enquirer that listed several Cincinnati drugstores and one, across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky, where Hanbury Smith’s “Kissingen Water” was available.
Sometime in the late 1850’s the business moved from their original 7th Street location to the Burnet House on Third Street where they were listed in the 1858 Cincinnati directory. In late 1858 an item in the October edition of the Lancet announced that they moved again, this time to 128 West Fourth Street.
Dr. Hanbury Smith. – The Carlsbad Spa of Dr. Smith is removed from the Burnet House basement, on Third Street to rooms in Neaves’ building, corner 4th and Race. This is quite an improvement, giving our friend, Dr. Smith, the advantages of a much better location, and more pleasant rooms.
An advertisement featuring this new location appeared in the 1860 edition of Cincinnati’s city directory.
These physical moves implemented over a short period of time were likely necessitated by the growth in popularity of both their spa and bottling business; a fact made clear in the April, 1858 Lancet editorial.
We are agreeably surprised to learn that the quantity consumed last year, partly in bottles, and partly direct from the fountains, considerably exceeded 30,000 pints.
The editorial then went on to say:
This seems a large quantity, but at the low rate at which it is sold, and in view of the very heavy expense attending the enterprise a much larger consumption will be required to prove remunerative. Fifty thousand bottles per annum is a common sale at quite insignificant European establishments , exclusive of the quantity drank out of the apparatus, and we should not be so sorry to learn that the “Carlsbad Spa” rivals these already the coming year.
Sometime in 1859 the growth and economic realities mentioned in the editorial forced Smith to establish an operation in New York City. He apparently left Cincinnati’s “Carlsbad Spa” in the charge of a man named Alex M. Berger; a fact confirmed in this May 11, 1860 item found in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Who actually owned the Cincinnati spa at this point is unclear, however, what is clear is that Berger continued to advertise the Hanbury Smith mineral waters up through the end of the decade, as evidenced by this September 18, 1869 Cincinnati Enquirer advertisement.
Meanwhile, Smith was up and running in New York City in the summer of 1859; a fact confirmed in this August, 1859 announcement published in the “New York Monthly Review and Buffalo Medical Journal.”
The Spa. – Under this name, Dr. S. Hanbury Smith has established at 833 Broadway, near 13th Street, fountains of artificial mineral waters, several of the most valuable of the German springs being reproduced as regards chemical composition and temperature. Four springs, models of different classes, have been selected by Dr. Smith, and the waters exactly imitated. They are, first, the Carlsbad Spring, which is hot and alkaline, the sulphate of soda being the largest medicinal ingredient; second, the Manerbad, which is cold, and resembles closely, in other respects the Carlsbad; third, the Kissingen, in which the muriate of soda is the most prominent ingredient, resembling in this respect, the Saratoga waters; and fourth, the Pyrmont, a chalybeate spring.
Advertisements in the medical journals soon followed.
Not long after Smith had settled at 833 Broadway, he opened what he called a “Branch Spa” in Caswell, Mack & Co.’s Drug Store located in the Fifth Avenue Hotel.
At the time, the hotel was located on Broadway between 23rd and 24th Streets.
Not long at 833 Broadway, sometime in 1862 Smith moved his primary location to 808 Broadway where it remained listed through 1866.
A description of 808 Broadway, included in an 1860’s “tourist” publication called “American Travel,” revealed that it was as much a “destination” as it was a manufacturing facility.
To the citizens of New York, not less than to those visiting it during the spring and early summer months, mineral waters and baths have become a necessity. Dr. Hanbury Smith’s famous mineral water establishment, “The Spa,” is pleasantly and centrally located at 808 Broadway, near its intersection with Eleventh Street. Its health-giving waters, agreeable shade, and proximity to other objects of interest, combine to make it one of the pleasantest lounging-places of the metropolis.
During this time, Smith continued to operate branch locations as well. The 1867 N. Y. C. directory listed two; one at 32 Pine Street and the other at 83 Wall Street. Smith’s waters were also available, on draught or in bottles, at local drug stores around town. A May 9, 1865 Brooklyn Daily Eagle item highlighted a Williamsburg, Brooklyn drug store named Jenson’s as one such location.
By the late 1860’s and early 1870’s, its apparent that Smith’s distribution network had grown well beyond the New York metropolitan area with mention of his mineral waters now appearing in drug store advertisements of other major U. S. cities including Baltimore, Md., Washington D. C., Hartford Conn., Richmond Va., and even New Orleans, La.
In May, 1868 an item in the New York Medical Journal announced the business had moved again, this time to 35 Union Square.
Not long after he moved, Smith partnered with William S. Hazard changing the company name to Hanbury Smith & Hazard. The name change was reflected in both N. Y. C.’s 1870 directory and this early 1870’s advertisement that appeared in the The Pharmacist and Chemical Record.
The business operated as Hanbury Smith & Hazard for 15 years adding a second location at 309 Broadway in the early 1870’s and a third at 39 West 4th Street in 1882. It was during this time, they introduced the manufacture of their “granular effervescing salts to compliment the mineral water business. An advertisement announcing this addition appeared in the 1877 Vermont Medical Register.
Sometime in 1883 or 1884, the partnership with Hazard was apparently dissolved and the business was once again listed in the directories as simply Hanbury Smith. With Smith in his 80’s, the business was last listed in 1892 with only one address; 39 West 4th Street. At that point, Smith was living in Brooklyn, where he passed away in September, 1894.
The history of the business during the rest of the 1890’s is sketchy. According to a classified item appearing in the January 26, 1899 edition of The (New York) Sun, a man named John Morgan claimed to have acquired the rights to Smith’s formulas.
Then, less than two years later, in 1901, Moody’s reported that Hanbury Smith was one of several firms consolidated under the name John Matthews, Inc. The Mathews business was a long established soda water operation that dated back to 1832.
The consolidation was likely the end of “Hanbury Smith” as a company name but not as a brand name. Hanbury Smith’s mineral salts appear in a Fuller & Fuller Co. price list as late as 1906/1907. Both Matthews Inc. and John Morgan were still in business at that time but who actually had rights to the brand at that point is not clear, at least to me.
The subject bottle is mouth blown with a crudely applied finish. It’s embossed with both the “Hanbury Smith” name and the words “Kissingen Water.” It’s doesn’t have a pontil mark so I suspect it dates from the late 1860’s to the mid 1880’s, likely from the Hanbury Smith & Hazard era. (I’ve never seen an example that included the Hazard name in the embossing, so that’s no help.)
Typically supplied in two bottle sizes; half-pint and pint….
…this is certainly the half-pint size.
In addition to “Kissingen Water,” recent examples of Smith’s bottles, similar in shape and size, that are are embossed “Vichy Water” and the generic “Mineral Water,” have recently appeared for sale on the internet.
Finally, if I’m to believe this advertisement found in the August, 1868 edition of the Druggist Circular and Chemical Gazette, he also sold “Soda Water in a “torpedo” shaped bottle.
Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery, was the first of many proprietary medicines manufactured under the name Dr. R. V. Pierce. Thanks to a heavy dose of advertising, these products occupied millions of shelves and medicine cabinets for almost 100 years from the late 1860’s up through the early 1960’s. According to the September 4, 1901 edition of an advertising trade magazine called “Printers Ink:”
When Dr. Pierce made his first advertising contract, more than a third of a century ago, he with the J. C. Ayer Company, had the proprietary field practically entirely to himself. Since then he has spent many millions of dollars to secure publicity for the merits of his proprietary remedies, and his business has increased from year to year until it is now second to no other “patent medicine” company.
It was also this commitment to advertising that transformed a local country doctor into a well respected national figure on several fronts. In addition to being one of the largest patent medicine manufacturers of his time, Pierce went on to become proprietor of a world renowned medical facility, widely read medical author, hotel owner and prominent New York State political figure, serving a term as state senator in 1877 and U. S. Congressman in 1879.
Born in upstate New York in 1840, a year later his family moved to Western Pennsylvania. According to a feature on Pierce written years later in the March 31, 1960 edition of his hometown newspaper, the Titusville (Pa) Herald, that’s where his story begins.
When R. V., whose full name was Ray Vaughn Pierce, was about one year old, the family moved to Plum Township, settling in present Chapmanville…Before reaching adulthood, young Ray taught school for awhile. Being interested in medicine, he then borrowed money from an old gentleman northwest of Diamond named George Smith. He used this loan to enter medical school and in 1862 he received his M. D. degree from the Eclectic Medical College, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Titusville Herald went on to address the embryonic stage of Pierce’s “Golden Medical Discovery.”
Young Dr. Pierce began the practice of medicine in Titusville. He set up a small laboratory over the E. K. Thompson Drug Store, then located on Diamond Street…
Dr. Pierce experimented with various ingredients and came up with a remedy which he induced Mr. Thompson to put on his shelf to sell. After a few days a bottle was sold, and when Thompson reported this to Dr. Pierce, the latter gleefully exclaimed: My fortune is made!
It is said that the herbs and ingredients for this first preparation of the remedy was ground over the burrs of the old Grove gristmill, located between Diamond and Wallaceville.
For some time Dr. Pierce peddled his “Golden Medical Discovery” through the country and sold it from a wagon. He put up a number of kinds of proprietary medicines while in Titusville…
From the revenue derived from selling his tonics here, plus the fact that he borrowed $1,000, he departed Titusville in 1867 and moved to Buffalo, N. Y., where he more widely advertised his medicines.
According to a story in the July 20, 1922 edition of the Buffalo Commercial, his reason for leaving Buffalo had nothing to do with the goal of growing his patent medicine business.
If Dr. R. V. Pierce had been fond of horseback riding, the world would have lost one of its largest patent medicine factories.
Being one of the few physicians in that part of the country, Dr. Pierce was doing very well, but because of the aforementioned antipathy to riding a horse, which was his only means of transportation through the bushy trails that led from one community to another, Dr. Pierce moved to Buffalo.
We’ll probably never know how much of the above two stories is fact and how much is legend, but what we do know is that Pierce did arrive in Buffalo where he was first listed in the 1868 Buffalo city directory as an M. D. at 321 Main Street. That year his long time patent medicine business was apparently jump started, not with his “Golden Medical Discovery,” but with another proprietary medicine called “Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy.” This advertisement for the remedy appeared in the June 27, 1868 edition of the Buffalo Commercial.
A WONDERFUL MAN – Dr Sage has discovered a perfect specific which never fails to cure catarrh in any stage or form. Dr. Sage & Co., of Buffalo, the proprietors offer a reward of $500 for a case of catarrh that they cannot cure. Dr. Sage’s remedy is the cheapest and best remedy ever offered to the public. Ask the druggist for Dr. Sage’s Remedy and take no other.
Up through November 7, 1868, advertisements for “Dr Sage’s Catarrh Remedy” appearing in the Buffalo Commercial named the Proprietor as Dr. Sage & Co., of Buffalo N. Y. Then, less than a week later, on November 11, 1868, an advertisement for “Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy” in the same newspaper named Dr. R. V. Pierce, M. D., Buffalo N. Y., as the proprietor. So, it’s almost certain that Pierce obtained the rights to the remedy in early November, 1868.
Within several months, a July 30 1869 story in the Buffalo Morning Express announced that thanks to the catarrh remedy Pierce had just moved to new quarters and his business was booming.
Dr. R. V. PIERCE’S NEW AND ATTRACTIVE BUSINESS OFFICE, NO. 395 MAIN STREET. We noticed that at No. 395 Main Street (Arcade Block) the other day, the new and very tastefully fitted up store, laboratory and packing rooms of Dr. R. V. Pierce, the enterprising proprietor of Dr. Sage’s celebrated Catarrh Remedies…
The demand for the very valuable medicines of which Dr. Pierce is proprietor, has so largely and rapidly increased so as to necessitate this increase of his business facilities. His wholesale trade is very large and is constantly increasing, and his retail custom is also very large.
Not long after the move, in addition to the Dr. Sage remedy, Pierce began advertising his “Golden Medical Discovery.” According to a feature on his business published under the heading “Prominent Business Houses of Buffalo,” in the February 15, 1871 edition of the Buffalo Commercial.
His means were quite limited when he became the proprietor of Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy, but so sanguine was he that its effectiveness would, if properly set before the public, bring it into general use, that he embarked in it, afterwards adding to his business the manufacture and sale of his Golden Medical Discovery, a good companion remedy for the other.
It’s almost certain that Pierce was advertising his preparations from the very beginning. The September 4, 1901 edition of “Printers Ink,” described his initial approach.
He began advertising his Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery for blood disorders in a small way, using his Dr. Pierce’s Memorandum and Account Book, distributing and mailing it to homes of the people in the surrounding country. Very soon there became a demand for this book, which had white pages for memoranda, and it was distributed in larger and larger territory.This book remains today (1901) in exactly the same form and shape as it was printed thirty-five years ago, and farmers and mechanics and clerks find it very useful for memoranda.
As early as the summer/fall of 1869, advertisements for Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery, sounding introductory in nature, began appearing in northeast and upper midwest newspapers.
The 1871 Buffalo Commercial feature went on to say that thanks to a heavy dose of advertising, the business continued to grow over the next three years.
He now advertises in over 2,000 papers in the United States alone, and liberally at that…
As a natural result of the widespread advertising which we have above alluded the business is constantly increasing, and not only do the remedies have great sale in the more thickly populated parts of the country, but they are distributed all along the Pacific coast and in the newly organized states. California alone contributes many thousands dollars worth of trade…His advertising bills for the past year will amount to upward of $65,000, and he proposes in the ensuing year to double that amount.
Growth led to another move within a year, this time to a four-story brick building at 133 Seneca Street. Now combining his medical practice and patent medicine business under one roof, the 1871 Buffalo Commercial feature was nice enough to give us a tour!
Let the reader take a walk through the place with us, and join us in the expression of surprise at the extent to which an establishment of but three years existence has grown.
THE BUSINESS OFFICE
is on the ground floor entrance from the street, and here general matters are handled by a competent force.
THE PACKING ROOM
is in the rear, and there all stamping, packing, labeling and shipping is done, the remedies being packed in different conveniently sized boxes of dozen, or gross, as the case may be, while the catarrh remedy is also, in the form of a powder, to which pure water is afterward to be added, packed in tin foil for shipment by mail.
IN THE BASEMENT
the bottling is done and more rapidly than the uninitiated would suppose it could be done, by means of what is known as the “Automatic Bottle Filler,” so contrived that a half dozen bottles can be filled at one time, and by the means of a “float”to only the capacity of the bottle; an expert can fill from forty to fifty bottles per minute by the aid of this contrivance. The bottles are made purposely for this establishment, and the title is blown on the glass. A steam engine pumps the water for washing the bottles, and also drives a mill stone for grinding the herbs and extracts used. The boilers furnish the steam for heating the building.
THE CONSULTATION ROOMS
Upon the second floor, entrance by a stairway that leads from the street, are Dr. PIERCE’S sanctum and rooms for consultation; for, be it known, that he is a regular practicing physician, and has many patients who come to him for treatment of chronic diseases.
THE UPPER FLOORS
are used for storeroom and for drying and preparing the medicated roots, herbs, etc., used in compounding the remedies, and it is unnecessary to say that although large quantities are used, the utmost nicety and uniformity is manifest in the mixture of the remedial agents.
THE ADVERTISING ROOM
In this room a Gordon press is kept in constant use.
It wasn’t long before the business apparently moved again and by 1873 their address was listed as 80 to 86 West Seneca Street.
That first year in new quarters, Pierce’s advertisement in Buffalo’s city directory now referred to his facility as the “World’s Dispensary.”
The ad certainly suggested that the medical consultation aspect of the business had grown considerably; a point further emphasized in a full page advertisement found in an 1876 publication associated with the dedication of Buffalo’s new City and Town Hall.
Established for the cure of all Chronic (or lingering) Diseases of either Sex, particularly those of a Delicate, Obscure, Complicated or Obstinate Character, also for the skillful performance of all Surgical Operations, and as a headquarters for Dr. Pierce’s Family Medicines, it is the largest establishment of its kind in the world. It is organized with an eminent corps of Physicians and Surgeons, each devoting his whole time and attention to some particular branch of practice, by which the greatest skill is attained, while Dr. R. V. Pierce, M. D., is the Physician and Surgeon in-chief, and is consulted in all important cases. Thousands of cases are annually treated, and each has the advantage of an educated and eminent Council of Physicians.
A May 9, 1875 feature on Pierce in the Buffalo Sunday Morning News actually included this sketch of a patient consultation room…
…and in case you’re interested, here’s a look at Dr. Pierce’s private office.
Thats not to say that the manufacturing aspect of the business had taken a back seat. In fact, the 1876 advertisement goes on to provide this description of their expanded menu of patent medicines, now referred to as “Dr. Pierce’s Family Medicines.”
If you would patronize medicines, scientifically prepared by a skilled physician and chemist – use Dr. Pierce’s Family Medicines. Golden Medical Discovery is nutritious, tonic, alterative, or blood cleansing and an unequalled cough remedy; Pleasant Purgative Pellets, scarcely larger than mustard seed, constitute an agreeable and reliable physic; Favorite Prescription – a remedy for debilitated females; Extract of Smart-Weed, a magical remedy for pain, bowel complaints and an unequalled liniment for both human and horse flesh; while his Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy is known the world over as the greatest specific for Catarrh and “cold in head,” ever given to the public.
The Sunday Morning News feature included this view of their packing and shipping department.
As if manufacturing and consulting weren’t enough, in 1874, a June 27th item in the Springville (N. Y.) Journal announced that Pierce was getting ready to publish a book entitled “The Common Sense Medical Advisor.”
The Common Sense Medical Advisor, in Plain English for All People, or Medicine Simplified, is the comprehensive and expressive title of a forthcoming work of from seven to nine hundred pages, bound in cloth, from the pen of Dr. R. V. Pierce of the World’s Dispensary, Buffalo N. Y. Price, $1.50, post paid, to any address within the United States…
The book will be illustrated with numerous original wood engravings, will contain a fine steel portrait and autograph of the author, and altogether will be the most comprehensive, plainly written, and practical medical advisor for both young and old, male and female, single and married, ever published.
First appearing in the spring of 1875, the book included over 900 pages and 280 illustrations and quickly became the center piece of his advertising effort. In just over three years, a December 23, 1877 item in the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News announced he had sold over 100,000 copies.
Remarkably, Pierce did most, if not all, the printing, of both the book and his other advertising materials in house. A September 3, 1876 item in the Buffalo Sunday Morning News mentioned that by then his printing facilities included eight printing presses and 50 employees. The story went on to say:
…5,500 reams book paper and 1,000 reams print and other paper being consumed annually; 600 pounds of printing ink used monthly. How’s that for a medical man?
The sale of his book, coupled with his passion for advertising was drawing people to the “World’s Dispensary,” from all over the country, such that by 1876, Pierce was planning a new hotel in Buffalo to accommodate them.
According to the advertisement in the 1876 City Hall dedication:
…We understand that it is the intention of Dr. Pierce to erect a hotel at the cost of at least two hundred thousand dollars, where those who come to enjoy the benefit of his treatment may find all desired accommodations under one roof, instead of being scattered over the city, as at present.
Designed to accommodate non-patients as well, it was called the “Invalids and Tourists Hotel.” Built in what the newspapers called the “Modern French” style of architecture, the building encompassed the entire block bounded by Prospect Avenue, Connecticut Street, Fargo Avenue and Peter Avenue.
Here’s the May 1, 1878 New York Times story that covered its opening. (As you read the story, note that, not unlike today, the construction cost estimated at $200,000 in 1876 had ballooned to $500,000.)
THE INVALIDS HOME IN BUFFALO
Dr. R. V. Pierce’s Invalids and Tourists’ Hotel, in Buffalo N. Y., was formally opened on Monday evening last. Patients will be admitted there on Friday, and thereafter. It is said that the building was erected at a cost of nearly $500,000. The site is healthful and agreeable, and the plazas of the house command fine views of Lake Erie and Niagra River. The hospital department is distinct from the hotel proper, and it is the desire of the founder of the institution that the place shall be patronized by summer tourists as well as by invalids. Chronic diseases of every description will be treated in the sanitarium. The house is tastefully furnished throughout, the furniture being of antique and Oriental design, and the carpeting and upholstery of rich materials and patterns…A steam elevator conveys inmates to the upper floors, and the house is provided with bath appliances of all sorts and a well-furnished gymnasium.
This early advertisement listed their rates between $2.50 and $3.50 per day.
The tourist business apparently took off because shortly after the hotel opened, Pierce built an extension for the sick, completely separating them from the tourists, and renamed the hotel “Pierce’s Palace.” The new name was reflected in this August 30, 1879 advertisement.
It was around the same time that newspapers all over the country reported that Pierce had incorporated his entire business under the name: “World’s Medical Dispensary Association.”
Dr. R. V. Pierce, having acquired a reputation in the treatment of Chronic Diseases resulting in a business far exceeding his individual ability to conduct, some years ago induced several medical gentlemen to associate themselves with him, as the Faculty of the World’s Dispensary, the Consulting Department, of which has since been merged with the Invalid’s Hotel. The organization has now been completed and incorporated under statute enacted by the Legislature of the State of New York, under the name and style of the “World’s Dispensary Medical Association.”
The story went on to say that the business was establishing a branch overseas in London.
A branch of the “World’s Dispensary Medical Association” is to be established in London, Eng., a step which the continually increasing European business of the Dispensary has been found to warrant, and next week Dr. B. T. Bedortha will sail for the great metropolis named, to superintend the organization of the new institution…Heretofore the foreign business of the World’s Dispensary has been transacted through the agency of prominent druggists, but it has assumed such proportions as to require more direct care.
Tragically, on February 16, 1881, less than three years after it opened, Pierce’s Palace Hotel, including the invalid’s extension, was destroyed by fire; thankfully with no loss of life. A lengthy story describing the fire in the February 17, 1881 edition of the Buffalo Morning Express opened like this:
A storm of wind and snow, with severe cold, reached and swept over the city early yesterday afternoon as if a designed accompaniment for the work of the more destructive element of fire. An alarm sounded shortly after two o’clock and soon news flew through the streets and into people’s homes that one of the most splendid elements of Buffalo, Pierce’s Palace Hotel… was in flames and its rescue hopeless.
The same story concluded like this:
Thus stood the Palace Hotel yesterday forenoon, proud and beautiful, the admiration alike of resident and stranger, a magnificent monument to the broad enterprise and public spirit of an honored citizen. By its destruction the most attractive to the eye of all the buildings of Buffalo has disappeared and our people will not only sympathize with Dr. Pierce for his misfortune, but each will feel that a part of the loss is his or her own. The loss of hardly any other edifice within our city’s limits could cause such a general feeling of regret.
After the fire, ads in Feb/March, 1881 made it clear that Pierce remained in business at the World’s Dispensary’s 80 W Seneca location, apparently making hotel accommodations “catch as catch can.”
Subsequently on May 19, 1882 a Buffalo Commercial story announced that Pierce had consolidated the business in two newly erected buildings. The buildings were situated back to back with the Invalids Hotel and Surgical Institute located at 663 Main Street. Behind it, the World’s Dispensary was located at 660 to 670 Washington Street. A view of the Invalids Hotel with the World’s Dispensary visible in the background was included in later editions of Pierce’s Medical Advisor.
The hotel building was described in the following advertisement as:
Not a Hospital But a Pleasant Remedial Home.
Sketches in the Medical Advisor reveal that not only was the facility pleasant but high end as well. The grand main entrance was described like this:
The entrance to the Invalid’s Hotel and Surgical Institute is covered by a lofty porch of beautiful design, the roof of which is supported upon heavy iron columns. Above the massive double doors, through which the visitor enters, are large heavy panels of stained glass, on which the words “Invalids Hotel and Surgical Institute” stand out conspicuously.
Inside, the first floor included, among other rooms, ladies’ and mens’ parlors, described like this:
The wood-work is mainly of hard woods, oak and cherry predominating. In a large part of the house the floors are of oak, with a cherry border, neatly finished in oil and shellac, and covered with rich rugs and elegant carpets of the very best quality.
Here’s a sketch of the ladies’ parlor.
Upstairs, the patient rooms appear just as ornate.
The third floor accommodated the treatment rooms which according to the Medical Advisor contained “apparatus and appliances for the successful management of every chronic malady incident to mankind.”
Electrical apparatus of the latest and most approved kinds some of it driven and operated by steam power, dry-cupping and equalizing treatment apparatus, “vitalization” apparatus, numerous and most ingenious rubbing and manipulating apparatus and machinery, driven by steam power….
Another floor accommodated the Surgical Department, which thankfully they don’t describe in any detail!
Not only did Pierce treat patients in person at the Institute but if you couldn’t make it to Buffalo he’d treat you by mail. (Tele – medicine 150 years before its time?) That operation, performed by what Pierce called their Bureau of Medical Correspondence, was also housed in the hotel and was described like this:
…From ten to twelve physicians, with their stenographers or short-hand writers are constantly employed in attending to the vast correspondence received from invalids residing in all parts of the United States and Canada. Every important case receives the careful consideration of a council composed of three to five of these expert specialists before finally being passed upon and prescribed for.
Fronting on Washington Street and connected to the hotel via a main floor corridor was the World’s Dispensary.
According to the Medical Advisor it was here that:
wherein are manufactured our Dr. Pierce’s Family Medicines, as well as all the various tinctures, fluid extracts and other pharmaceutical preparations used by the staff of the Invalids’ Hotel and Surgical Institute in their practice…
The extent of the operation might best be judged by this sketch of their wrapping and mailing room.
Just as important, if not more so, was their printing department, a sketch of which is included below. It had certainly come a long way since the single Gordon printing press they operated at 133 Seneca Street.
On this (third) floor are the Association’s extensive printing and binding works. Thirteen large presses, driven by power, with numerous folding machines, trimming, cutting, and stitching machinery, are constantly running in this department. Here is printed and bound Dr. Pierce’s popular work of over 1,000 pages, denominated “The People’s Common Sense Medical Advisor,” over 250,000 copies of which have been sold. Millions of pocket memorandum books, pamphlets, circulars and cards are also issued from this department and scattered broadcast to every corner of the globe.
The importance Pierce continued to place on print advertising can be gauged by the fact that the printing and mailing operation consumed well over one entire floor of his new building, and by then even that wasn’t enough, a fact Dr. Pierce’s son, Valentine, made clear in an interview with “Printers’ Ink” that was published in their November 16, 1898 edition.
But even with these facilities we cannot do all our own printing. Some of it is done in Chicago and some in Philadelphia. Every day we use about $300 worth of one cent stamps for mailing memorandum books and ladies note books. To this you may add a force varying from 20 to 25 of our own distributors, who are traveling, and who put out about 20,000 more books daily in different states.
Around the turn of the century Pierce added another facet to the business when he decided that instead of just filling medicine bottles, he’d manufacture the bottles as well. So, in 1905 he established and incorporated the Pierce Glass Company. The incorporation notice was published in the August 8, 1905 edition of the Buffalo Commercial.
According to a May 4, 1906 story in the Buffalo Evening News, Pierce had leased the bankrupt “Mansfield Glass Company,” in nearby St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania. Another story, this one published under the heading “Of Interest to Glassworkers,” in the September 19, 1906 edition of the Independence (Kansas) Daily, announced that Pierce was scheduled to “put his plant in operation” sometime around October 15, 1906, “to manufacture bottles exclusively.”
Later it was destroyed by fire after which, the June 11, 1911 edition of the Buffalo Times reported that Pierce was to rebuild his factory in Hamburg, New York.
The company’s plant at St Mary’s Pa., was recently destroyed by fire and after looking over various places Dr. Pierce decided on Hamburg. The Business Men’s Club took the matter up and procured a site adjacent to the Susquehanna Station and here the new plant of the Pierce Glass Company will be erected. It will cover four acres of ground and have switches running into the plant from the B&S Railroad.
This photograph of their Hamburg plant appeared years later in a story headlined “Out of the Past” in the July 24, 1986 edition of the Hamburg Sun and Erie County Independent.
The June, 1911 story went on to say that Pierce wasn’t just making bottles for his own purposes.
The glass works make bottles for Dr. Pierce’s World’s Dispensary and for many other proprietary medicine concerns, including Dr. Kilmer, Lydia Pinkham, Omega Oil, Pond’s Extract and Dr. Tenner and, will ship many carloads every week to various parts of the United States. The factory buildings will be completed in August and glass blowing will start September 1st. The company will employ 130 people and the payroll will amount to $3,000 a week, as blowers receive $10 to $15 a day.
Subsequently, the March 17, 1917 edition of the Buffalo Commercial announced that the factory had moved again, this time to Port Alleghany, Pennsylvania.
The Pierce Glass Company have dismantled the plant and moved to Port Alleghany…The factory was located on the Buffalo & Wellsville railroad line and was closed because the railroad was closed.
Meanwhile, back in Buffalo, R. V. Pierce passed away in 1914 and his son, Valentine Mott Pierce, who had apparently been running the show for a while, assumed the presidency.
He continued to operate the Invalids’ Hotel and Surgical Institute at its Main Street location for several decades, sometimes referring to it as a “Clinic.”
In 1934 they celebrated their 60th anniversary.
Advertisements commemorating the event touted a couple of new features.
A new department in which sun treatment is given has recently been opened. This is used in nearly all cases and helps in restoring health.
There is a complete X-ray laboratory, as well as a clinical laboratory for microscopic examinations, where many otherwise obscure cases are made perfectly clear for accurate diagnosis.
The beginning of the end for Pierce’s Invalids Hotel and Surgical Institute likely came on December 13, 1939 when the Federal Trade Commission included this “cease and desist” order in a stipulation (No. 02482) dated December 13, 1939 .
It is further agreed that the World’s Dispensary Medical Association in connection with the dissemination of advertising by the means or in the manner above set out will cease and desist from representing –
By use of the word “association” or word or words of similar import or meaning in its corporate title or otherwise that it is an association of doctors or medical men;
that complete medical advice is given those persons who write for the same.
Not being able to call themselves doctors or call their advice “medical advice” must have been a lethal blow, and a little over a year later, on August 1, 1941, the Invalids’ Hotel and Surgical Institute discontinued operations.
Valentine Mott Pierce passed away in 1942 and two years later, the July 21, 1944 edition of the Kane (Pa.) Republican announced that Pierce’s estate had jettisoned the glass works.
A deal was closed in Port Alleghany whereby Howard C. Herger, superintendent of the Pierce Glass Company, purchased the common stock of the V. M. Pierce estate in the company. As a considerable majority of the stock had been owned by the Pierce interests, the transaction is said to involve the transfer of a large amount of money.
The Dispensary on the other hand continued in business until sometime in the early 1960’s under the direction of R. V. Pierce’s grandson, also named Ray Vaughn Pierce. Sometime around 1950 the business changed its name to “Pierce’s Proprietaries,” and by 1951, they were no longer located at their long time Washington Street home, now listing their address as 127 Kehr Street.
A labeled example of “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” that dates to this era recently appeared for sale on the internet.
As late as March 31, 1960, the feature on Dr. Pierce published in his home town newspaper, the Titusville (Pa.) Herald, stated that Pierce’s Proprietaries was still in business on Kehr Street, Buffalo and that Pierce’s grandson Ray Vaughn Pierce was still serving as president.
It’s not exactly clear when the manufacturing piece of the business came to an end. As late as January 22, 1965, a pharmacy called Nitzel’s in Muscatine, Iowa was still advertising both Pierce’s Favorite Prescription and Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery under the heading “Do You Remember These Family Remedies”(listed on the left side – 4th and 5th from the top). While still in stock there, the headline certainly suggested that if they were still being manufactured at that point, it was just barely.
Like the Pierce business, their first preparation, “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery,” underwent numerous changes over the course of its near century life span. Initially, late 1860’s advertisements primarily touted it specifically for lung related diseases.
For the cure of all Bronchial and Throat diseases and consumption in its early stage nothing equals Dr. Pierce’s Alterative Extract or Golden Medical Discovery.
Less than a decade later, advertisements, circa 1878, claimed it cured just about everything under the sun.
By reason of its Alterative properties, cures diseases of the Blood and Skin, as Scrofula, or King’s Evil; Tumors; Ulcers, or old Sores; Blotches; Pimples; and Eruptions.
By virtue of its Pectoral properties, it cures Bronchial, Throat and Lung Affections; Incipient Consumption; Lingering Coughs; and Chronic Laryngitis.
Its Cholagogue properties render it an unequalled remedy for Billousness, Torpid Liver or “Liver Complaint;” and its
Tonic properties make it equally efficacious in curing Indigestion, Loss of Appetite and Dyspepsia.
Sometime in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s the ingredients of this so-called “miracle” drug came into question when published formulas for both “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” and “Pierce’s Favorite Prescription,” indicated that they contained opium and alcohol. Over the next two decades these formulas would occasionally appear in publications with names like “An Encyclopedia of Practical Information,” and “Dr. Chase’s Book of Recpies.”
Pierce typically denied the accusation, usually with a sworn statement to the contrary. However, when the more widely read Ladies Home Journal published the formula for “Pierce’s Favorite Prescription,” Pierce sued the magazine’s editor and ultimately forced a retraction. The suit focused on “Pierce’s Favorite Prescription” but was certainly applicable to his “Golden Medical Discovery” as well. According to the May, 1905 Merck Report:
It will be recalled that some months ago, Dr. Pierce brought suit against Editor Bok, of the “Ladies Home Journal,” for publishing what purported to be the results of an analysis by the German chemist, Hager, of Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription, which analysis made it appear that it contained certain harmful ingredients. As a result of this suit, Editor Bok’s journal later published a retraction, stating that Hager’s analysis had been made twenty-five years before, and that analyses made by three leading chemists employed by defendants showed conclusively that no digitalis, opium or alcohol is contained in Dr. Pierce’s Prescription.
The Editorial Board of a publication called “The Medico-Pharmaceutical Critic & Guide” wasn’t convinced. They wrote:
Suppose Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription does not contain any opium, digitalis, opium or alcohol. First, this does not mean that it never contained any. It is more than probable that when the original report, from which Mr. Bok quoted, was printed, the preparation did contain those ingredients. That is just the curse of the secret nostrum business, that the manufacturers can change the composition at their will and pleasure. “There is an outcry against alcohol – well, we will leave it out, or diminish the proportion in our next batch. There is an outcry against morphine and cocaine, let us leave out those alkaloids for a while. Quinine is too high now – we will put in half the amount.” And so on, and so on. I therefore say that its more than likely that “Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription” did originally contain the poisonous ingredients.”
…In fighting humbug and quackery we need aid from all quarters and the Ladies Home Journal is an extremely welcome, because an extremely useful, ally. Mr. Bok, the Critic & Guide welcomes you into its ranks.
Pierce responded by releasing the formulas in, you guessed it, a series of newspaper advertisements with eye catching headlines.
To refute the many false and malicious attacks, bogus formulas and other untruthful statements published concerning Doctor Pierce’s World-famed Family Medicines the Doctor has decided to publish all the ingredients entering into his “Favorite Prescription” for women and his equally popular tonic alterative known as Dr. Pierces Golden Medical Discovery. Hereafter every bottle of these medicines, leaving the great laboratory at Buffalo, N. Y., will bear upon it a full list of all the ingredients entering into the compound. Both are made entirely from native roots, barks and herbs.
Many advertisements went on to list the “1905” ingredients for both preparations. The purported ingredients of “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” were described like this:
Briefly then let us say that the ‘Golden Medical Discovery” was named from the sturdy little plant Golden Seal, the root of which enters largely into its composition. Besides this most valuable ingredient, it contains glyceric extracts of Stone root, Black Cherrybark, Bloodroot and Mandrake root.
Several years later, a 1912 analysis by the State of Connecticut confirmed there was no alcohol or opium present, however what they went on to say in their report couldn’t have pleased Dr. Pierce.
While it was impossible to determine the presence of the various alterative vegetable drugs claimed in the preparation, the total amount of vegetable extractives found was 11.2 per cent, hardly entitling it to be called “a very concentrated, vegetable extract.” The constituent drugs claimed to be present have a recognized therapeutic value, but hardly entitle it to the “cure all” properties claimed for it in its advertising literature. That these well known drugs by a mysterious combination, the result of ” a tedious course of study and experiment, extending over several years,” can become a “superior remedy” for coughs, bronchitis, laryngitis, weak lungs, sore throat, biliousness, dyspepsia, general debility, nervous prostration, blood diseases, skin diseases, catarrhal affections of all organs, heart diseases, malaria, constipation, kidney and bladder affections, etc., etc. is certainly a strain on one’s credibility.
It wasn’t just his ingredients that were under fire. As early as 1906, the American Medical Association was challenging some of his more outrageous curative claims. That year, their January 20th Journal included this item regarding the ability of the Golden Medical Discovery to cure consumption (Tuberculosis).
From the imposing book published by the R. V. Pierce Company of Buffalo I took a number of testimonials for investigation; not a large number, for I found the consumption testimonials very scarce. From fifteen letters I got results in nine cases. Seven of the letters were returned to me marked “unclaimed,” of which one was marked “Name not in the directory,” another “No such post office in the state,” and a third “Deceased.” The eighth man wrote that the Golden Medical Discovery had cured his cough and blood-spitting, adding: “It is the best medicine I ever used for lung trouble.” The last man said he took twenty-five bottles and was cured! Two out of nine seems to me a suspiciously small percentage of traceable recoveries… In the full appreciation of Dr. Pierce’s attitude in the matter of libel, I wish to state that in so far as its claim of curing consumption is concerned his Golden Medical Discovery is an unqualified fraud.
Apparently bowing to pressure from the medical community and the court of public opinion, not to mention food and drug legislation, by the 1920’s advertisements for the Golden Medical Discovery, while still stressing it was made from native roots and alcohol free, now touted it as a tonic, not a “cure-all.” This toned down approach is evident in this 1922 advertisement.
That being said, the Federal Trade Commission’s December 13, 1939 stipulations, also addressed the World’s Dispensary’s advertising of the “Golden Medical Discovery.”
World’s Dispensary Medical Association, a corporation, 665 Main Street Buffalo, N. Y., vendor-advertiser, was engaged in selling medicinal preparations designated Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery and Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription and agreed, in connection with the dissemination of future advertising to cease and desist from representing directly or by implication – that a medicinal preparation now designated “Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” or any other medicinal preparation containing substantially the same ingredients or possessing the same properties, whether sold under that name or any other name –
Will keep the digestive system in tune regardless of the system’s requirements; is an anti-acid or will counteract excess acidity of the stomach; will of itself build up the human system, relieve a weakened condition, tired run-down feeling, increase weight, pep, energy, vigor or vitality; or is the one and only recognized tonic.
Nonetheless, using phrases like “Promotes more normal stomach activity,” and “helps you avoid gas pains, heartburn and sour stomach,” they continued to advertise their “Golden Medical Discovery” up through the late 1950’s, as evidenced by this 1958 advertisement.
The bottle I found is mouth blown with a tooled finish and approximately 10 ounces in size. The bottle does not exhibit the Pierce Glass Company’s makers mark of a circled “P” on its base, suggesting that it was blown prior to 1906 when that company began operations.
The front panel is embossed: “Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery,” while one side panel is embossed: “R. V. Pierce, M. D.” and the other: “Buffalo, N. Y.” The embossing is very faint so you’ll need to take my word for it.
This labeled example of a similar bottle is courtesy of the New York Heritage Digital Collection.
At some point “Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” also became available in pill form as well. Based on an unscientific review of their advertisements, I suspect this occurred sometime in the early teens, but don’t hold me to it.