Born in 1860, Charles Mau was the proprietor of a New York City bottling business that was active in The Bronx during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
N.Y.C. directories first listed Mau in 1895 as a bottler of lager beer with an address of 561 East 156th Street. That address puts the business near the corner of St Ann’s Avenue and 156th Street, which was within or adjacent to the confines of the Ebling Brewery. This suggests, though I can’t confirm, that Mau may have started in business serving as a local bottler of the Ebling product.
In 1898 Mau moved to 687 East 159th Street but his relationship with Ebling may well have continued. Now located near the intersection of Eagle Avenue and 159th Street, it appears that the business was still within the same overall block as the brewery.
In 1907, things may have changed when the business moved again, this time several blocks away, to 429 East 159th Street. Around the same time directory references to beer were being replaced with “mineral waters.”
Thirteen years later, the 1920 “White-Orr Reference Register” continued to list Mau as a mineral water manufacturer with an address of 429 East 159th Street, however, census records that same year describe Mau as retired. This points to 1920 as the likely end date of the business.
The bottle I found is mouth blown, with a blob finish. It’s embossed with Mau’s initial address of 561 East 156th Street, dating the bottle sometime between 1895 and 1898 when he listed that address in the directories. It likely contained an Ebling brew.
In the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, the name “Camphorine,” was associated with a wide range of companies and products. So, recognizing that there’s no company name or address embossed on our bottle, more than just a few potential uses for it exist. The following turn of the century advertisements illustrate several of them. The obvious one is an insecticide for moths.
Others include a “Disinfecting Powder” and “Disinfecting Solution” manufactured by a British firm called the “Sanitary Dry Lime Company…”
…a toilet preparation called “Bishop’s Camphorine…
and even a “Camphorine Shampoo.”
With all these possibilities I had to narrow down the field, ultimately opting to research a purported ‘cure-all” simply called “Camphorine” that was concocted by a man named Reuben Hoyt. The patent medicine had its roots in Brooklyn, N.Y. and was later manufactured in Amityville, Long Island, within shouting distance of the Great South Bay where the bottle was found.
The name “Camphorine,” registered by Hoyt, appeared in the March 2, 1875 edition of the U.S. Patent Office’s “Official Gazette,” under the heading “List of Trademarks, Descriptions of Which Have Not Previously Appeared In Any Printed Publications.” This suggests that it was one of, if not the first product to actually exhibit the Camphorine name.
Hoyt was a New York City druggist dating back to the early 1850’s. Originally listed in the N.Y.C directories with an address of 537 Greenwich Street, sometime around 1855 he partnered with James Quinn and formed Reuben Hoyt & Company. The business remained listed at 537 Greenwich Street but was short-lived and ultimately dissolved three years later. The dissolution notice, dated February 9, 1858 was published in the February 11th edition of the “New York Times.”
Within two years Hoyt, still in the drug business, partnered with Sidney H. Blanchard under the name Hoyt and Blanchard. Throughout the 1860’s the partnership was located on Manhattan’s Fulton Street, initially at 215 Fulton Street (1860 to 1866) and later at 208 Fulton Street (1867 to 1868). Their business card appeared in the August, 1866 edition of the “Druggist Circular and Chemical Gazette.”
By 1870 the company moved again, this time to 203 Greenwich Street and it was around this time, five years before its name appeared in the U.S. Patent Office Gazette, that the partnership began advertising “Camphorine” as a “cure-all.” The earliest advertisement I can find was published in the July 5, 1870 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Shortly after these initial ads were published the Hoyt & Blanchard partnership apparently dissolved. As early as 1871 Blanchard was no longer listed at the 203 Greenwich Street address and “Camphorine” advertisements simply named Hoyt as the proprietor. An early example of the change is depicted in this December 12, 1872 advertisement published in the “Portchester (N.Y.) Journal.”
Between 1872 and 1874 “Reuben Hoyt” advertisements for “Camphorine” routinely appeared in newspapers throughout the northeastern United States from Maine on south to Maryland with many touting it as “The Greatest Discovery of the Age.”
After 1874, Hoyt’s advertisements for “Camphorine” drop off significantly but up through 1879 the N.Y.C. directories continued to list him at the 203 Greenwich Street address with the occupation “patent medicines.”
The following year, in 1880, the directory only listed Hoyt with a home address, and there was no longer any mention of “patent medicines,” or “drugs” as his occupation. Based on this its likely that the business did not survive into the 1880’s; a supposition that’s further supported by 1880 census records where Hoyt named his occupation as Custom House Officer. He ultimately passed away in February, 1896.
While this signaled the end of Reuben Hoyt’s association with “Camphorine,” it didin’t result in the end of the product as a “cure-all, when sometime in the late 1800’s its manufacture was apparently picked up by a man named Richard H. Williams. Also a New York City druggist, directories indicate that between 1875 and 1884 he was living in Brooklyn and working at 180 South Street in Manhattan. Then, according to his wife’s obituary, published in the February 3, 1911 edition of Babylon, Long Island’s “South Side Signal,” in 1886 the couple moved to the Long Island village of Amityville.
By 1900 Williams was certainly manufacturing “Camphorine” in Amityville and marketing it locally on Long Island, as evidenced by this story that appeared in the “South Side Signal,” on March 17, 1900.
Tomorrow (Saturday), weather permitting, our neighbor, R.H. Williams of Amityville, will be in town and will distribute at the residences in the village sample bottles of Camphorine and Silvershine, of which he is the manufacturer. Camphorine is a remedy with an established reputation as a pain reliever, and the Silvershine, as its name implies, is a preparation for cleaning silver. Both are good articles and well worthy of trial. When Mr. Williams or his representatives call on our readers we bespeak for him courteous treatment and counsel a fair trial for the articles he will leave. The goods are advertised in other parts of this issue, and will be placed on sale in Babylon and throughout the country.
The advertisement promised in the story also appeared in the March 17th edition of the “South Side Signal.” and bears a close resemblance to Reuben Hoyt’s previous advertisements, right down to the phrase “The Greatest Discovery of the Age,” strongly suggesting a connection between Reuben Hoyt and R.H. Williams.
While the above story appears introductory in nature, similar advertisements for “Camphorine” appeared sporadically in local Long Island newspapers dating back as far as the mid 1880’s. The earliest one I can find appeared in the December 11, 1886 edition of “The South Side Signal.”
Though none of these ads mention Williams by name, they’re almost identical to the one he published in advance of his sales trip to Babylon in 1900. This suggests that Williams may have begun manufacturing “Camphorine” as early as 1886 when he arrived on Long Island.
By the early 1900’s local newspaper advertisements for Camphorine as a ‘cure-all” disappear completely, a fact that’s not surprising considering that increased public awareness and stricter food and drug laws were clamping down on the outlandish claims of the patent medicine industry around that time.
This advertisement for “Camphorine” that appeared in Charles N. Crittenton’s 1902/1903 catalog of druggist sundries and proprietary medicines is one of the last ones I can find.
That being said, Williams was listed as a drug nanufacturer in the ERA druggist directories as late as 1911 and was still manufacturing ‘Camphorine” as late as 1920, as evidenced by its inclusion on this list of Price Changes published in the April 3, 1920 edition of the “Drug Trade Weekly” (at the bottom.)
The bottle I found is five inches tall with a 1-1/2 inch square cross-section. Mouth blown, its characteristics fit nicely into the late 1800’s/early 1900’s time period that “Camphorine” was manufactured and marketed on Long Island. Recognizing that Long Island is where the bottle was found, makes R.H. Williams a likely source.
That being said, he’s certainly not the only possible source. In addition to the varied uses mentioned at the start of this post, by the early 1900’s other companies were also manufacturing a patent medicine named “Camphorine.” Two even exhibited the Hoyt name. One was E. W. Hoyt & Co., of German Cologne fame and the other was the Hoyt Chemical Co., of Indianapolis, Indiana. As far as I can tell, other than their name, neither one bears any connection with Brooklyn’s Reuben Hoyt.
John E. Healy and Charles Bigelow were proprietors of a patent medicine business called the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company that sold several different concoctions under the “Kickapoo Indian” name in the late 1800’s. Later, the company continued to operate as a subsidiary of the William R. Warner Co. well into the 1900’s.
What they’d like you to believe about their line of patent medicines was spelled out in Healy & Bigelow’s “Family Cook Book,” published in 1890.
The Kickapoo Indian Remedies have acquired a wide spread fame, and have done more to help suffering humanity than any other medicines…
They have been born in nature’s bosom and reared in nature’s lap; hence the mysteries of all nature is an open book to them. They live up to nature’s laws and partake in nature’s remedies, and this gives them the healthy lungs, superb muscle power, strong constitution, luxuriant hair and sound white teeth for which they are noted. No-one has ever seen a deformed or bald headed Indian.
…None are more intellectual than the Kickapoo’s, and they have discovered superior medicinal qualities in certain barks, roots, herbs, gums and leaves, never ascertained or applied before…and the peculiar compounding of their medicines is known only to themselves. These Kickapoo doctors now manufacture five special remedies:
Their “Family Cook Book” went on to illustrate each medicine’s late 1800’s packaging.
The affectations supposedly cured by each of these remedies were spelled out in another 1890 advertisement, this one found in a publication called “Keeling’s Book of Recipes.”
The Kickapoo remedies were promoted by traveling medicine shows that featured both Native Americans and vaudeville performers. According to a book entitled “Snake Oil, Hustlers and Hambones,” by Ann Anderson:
Each traveling unit featured a “village” populated by varying numbers of Native Americans, several performers to entertain the audience with jokes and songs, and an agent who harangued the audience about the benefits of Kickapoo Indian Remedies during the performance.
This undated photograph of one such show was recently offered for sale on the internet.
According to a story in a Wisconsin newspaper called the “Steven’s Point Gazette,” in 1895 Healy & Bigelow had 100 of these shows operating throughout the country. The story was published on February 6th after one such show had just closed up and left Steven’s Point.
Dr. Percy Hudson and his Kickapoo medicine company closed a two weeks’ engagement, at Chilla’s Hall, last Saturday evening, giving good performances nightly and selling fair quantities of their Kickapoo remedies. Healy & Bigelow are the proprietors, and they have 100 companies on the road at present, covering the entire country, and they have been traveling continually for years. The size of these companies average a half dozen people, and it will be seen that the income from their sales and performances must be considerable.
In addition to saturating the United States the company put on their medicine shows in places as far away as South America, as evidenced by this item that appeared in the September 23, 1891 edition of New Haven’s “Morning Journal-Courier.”
Five colored men from the “sandy hollow” district of New Haven went to New York last night to sail for South America, where they are to do their musical acts in the employ of Healy & Bigelow.
The concept for the “Kickapoo Indian Medicine” operation was born in the late 1870’s when John E. Healy got together with a patent medicine manufacturer named E. H. Flagg who, early in the 1870’s, was hawking two patent medicines; a pain reliever called “Flagg’s Instant Relief,” and “Flagg’s Cough Killer.” This advertisement touting both appeared in the July 12, 1871 edition of Portland Maine’s “Daily Press.”
At around the same time, Healy was managing a traveling comedy company that performed an Irish themed variety show called “Healy’s Hibernian Gems.” Between 1874 and 1876 the troupe was criss crossing the country performing in various cities along the way. The following advertisement touting their San Francisco stay appeared in the September 3, 1874 edition of the San Francisco Examiner.
It follows quite naturally that Healy’s experience with traveling shows coupled with Flagg’s patent medicine business resulted in the traveling medicine show concept. In fact, its likely that Flagg’s “Instant Relief” became “Kickapoo Indian Oil” (both cured both internal and external pain), and Flagg’s Cough Killer became “Kickapoo Cough Cure.”
Now all they needed was a front man and Charles Bigelow fit the bill. According to the New England Historical Society, in the late 1870’s Bigelow was associated with a man named “Dr. Yellowstone” who had also concocted a line of Native American themed medicines called “Indian Herbs of Wonder,” so he was certainly familiar with the requisite “sales pitch.”
Early on the company headquarters was no more than a series of tents pitched in a major city where they put on extravagant medicine shows and coordinated the operations of their local traveling shows.
According to “Snake Oil Hambones and Hustlers”
Healy & Bigelow started the Kickapoo business in a Providence hotel storeroom and then moved to Boston where they pitched a tent in front of the train station and put on a show.
Not just a tent, as early as May 20, 1882 they were advertising it as an Indian Village in the “Boston Globe” .
The only mention of Healy & Bigelow in the Boston directories during this time appears in 1884 when they’re listed in the commercial directory under the heading “medicines,” with an address of 130 Commercial. There’s no mention of Flagg suggesting that he was out of the picture by then. The next year, in 1885, the Boston Directory simply stated: “Healy & Bigelow, patent medicines, removed to New York City.”
There, the city directories listed the business as John E. Healy, “pat meds,” (1885 to 1887) and later, “Healy & Bigelow” (1887 to 1888). Always listed with an address of 26 West Street, this is likely where they manufactured their medicines during this time.
Though not listed until 1885, as early as 1882 they were operating what they called “wigwams” in New York, as evidenced by this item that appeared in the November 12th edition of the “Boston Globe.”
John E. Healy of the Indian Village claims to be clearing $1,000 a week at his New York branch wigwam.
Apparently a seasonal operation, in the Spring of 1883 the New York “wigwam” was located on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and described like this in the May 13, 1883 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle:”
Three large tents have been erected here, in which are to be displayed, in the first a “real” Indian village populated by “real” Indians; in the second a museum which is claimed to be unequalled for the extent and variety of its curiosities and rare exhibits; while the third is fitted up as Summer theater, with a well appointed stage, comfortable sittings, etc., and which is to be devoted to acrobatic, gymnastic and specialty performances of the best class.
This advertisement for opening night appeared in the May 14, 1883 edition of the “Brooklyn Union.”
The next day, opening night, which included more than one appearance by Charles Bigelow (alias Texas Charlie), was described like this in the “Brooklyn Union.” Having bought in to Texas Charlie’s spiel, the reporter certainly appeared awed by the experience.
The Big Indian Wigwam
Mr. W. C. Coup opened his Indian wigwam at the corner of Flatbush and Fifth Avenues last evening, and the prevailing rainstorm, though making unpleasant for an opening night, did not very materially interfere with the attendance, as all the seats were occupied. The tent in which the performances are given is about 150 feet in diameter, having a circle of “circus seats” and the center is supplied with chairs. The interior is tastefully decorated with bunting and large squares of movable pictures of Indian warfare scenes are exhibited. Mr. Charles Bigelow (“Texas Charlie”) introduced fifty Indians to the audience and made a speech which was in reality an eloquent plea for the red man’s rights, and, coming from one who has had long experience on the border, carried a conviction with it. The audience heartily applauded the lecturer for his sentiments, which were given with an unmistakeable Western feeling. These Indians during the evening gave their war and medicine dances and peculiar chants, and the more intelligent among them welcomed visitors at the close of the performance to their tents. The variety show comprised a dog circus by Mr. Shedman’s trained canines, tight-rope gyrations by a trained monkey, banjo playing by Al Harris, horizontal bar acts by Currey and Avery, songs and dances by Saunders and Dean, musical selections by Pettingall and Frazer, acrobatic performances by the Sherman Brothers, and trapeze acts by Ella Zuila. The fancy shooting by Texas Charlie was excellent, shooting potatoes off a stick from almost every conceivable position, and ending up with two shots which made the audience feel somewhat awed, knocking off at the first shot the ashes from the cigar of a gentleman held between his lips and at the next shot cutting off the lighted portion.
The museum tent is about one hundred and thirty feet in diameter and is filled with one of the most remarkable collection of curios and antiques outside of the old-established museums of universities and scientific bodies. Mr. Coup intends to remain all summer and will add fresh novelties every week. Stage performances are given afternoons and evenings.
The following summer Healy & Bigelow were operating another “wigwam,” this one in Manhattan. According to a story published in the June 25, 1884 edition of the “New York Tribune,” it was not well received in the neighborhood.
A “Big Indian Wigwam” at One-hundred-and-sixteenth Street, between Second and Third Aves., has so far disturbed the usual quiet of that neighborhood that a petition signed by nearly a hundred residents was recently sent to District-Attourney Onley, asking if some action could not be taken against the proprietors. John Healy and Charles Bigelow – the latter known as “Texas Charlie,”- proprietors, and the manager, Thomas E. Hallock were indicted for keeping a disorderly public resort. Hallock was tried yesterday before Recorder Smyth. More than a score of businessmen living in One-hundred-and-fifteenth and One-hundred-and-sixteenth Sts. were called as witnesses. Some of them described the place as a nuisance and testified that the tent was nightly filled with a crowd, mostly boys, that yelled and hooted in applause at the performers, who were called by the Assistant District-Attorney “Sullivan St. Indians.” The jury convicted Hallock, and he was remanded for sentence.
At the same location, earlier that month, a June 6th “Brooklyn Union Story” announced that Bigelow had been fined $100…
for violating the Penal Code by giving an exhibition, in which a man stood against a wooden target while another threw daggers in close proximity to the man’s body.
The following summer, there were no Manhattan or Brooklyn newspaper advertisements for the “wigwam,” suggesting that by then Bigelow may have worn out his welcome there. At which point he apparently moved on to Chicago where a “Chicago Tribune” reporter found “Texas Charlie” in 1886. It’s clear from his July 5th story that the Tribune reporter was more skeptical than his Brooklyn counterpart.
PATENT MEDICINE MEN
Indians Employed to Advertise a Certain Sort of Alleged Medicines
An “Indian village” of about a dozen tents has been located for the last few weeks in the baseball park at Thirty-third street and Portland Avenue. The occupants are some ten to twelve Pawnee Indians and an equal number of more or less civilized whites. The whole is under the command of “Texas Charley,” formerly an Indian agent and now a patent medicine drummer. The Indian village is an advertising scheme for the medicine referred to – the medicine being advertised as of Indian origin – and the proprietors of the village and the manufacturers are a firm of New York druggists, whose concoctions have probably about as much connection with Indian herbs and simples as they have with the oyster-beds of Lake Michigan or the sugar-mines of Siberia.
“Texas Charley” was found at the village yesterday enjoying a sleep in the sunshine. He was pleased to talk to reporters about Kickapoos, and Pawnees, and Sioux, and Chipewas, and wigwams, and medicine men, and braves, and squaws, and chiefs, and happy hunting grounds, and all the romantic hocus-pocus appertaining to the poor Indian. He said the firm has about twenty bands of Indians out over the States advertising their medicine. Chicago was the headquarters; he kept the reserve forces here and directed the movements of each band. They gave free shows of a Buffalo-Bill sort of character, distributed advertising pamphlets to the crowds, and then induced the local druggists to keep a permanent stock of the medicine. Their expenses here at Chicago averaged $700 to $800 a week. They gave two exhibitions a day here, except Sundays, when the baseball clubs needed the park.
“Texas Charlie” went on to answer a few questions about the Native Americans that were part of the show.
“Where do you get the Indians?
“Off the reservations. We hire them and give bonds to the government to treat them well and send them home when we are through with them.”
“You pay them a salary?”
“Yes; $30 a month. The chiefs get a commission on the business to make them take an interest in the work, and we give them about $50 a month. Of course we feed them besides. They send home about half what they earn; we don’t let them spend it. The rest of their pay they spend on tobacco and trinkets.”
“What reservations do you get them from?”
“From everywhere and anywhere we please. These here now are Pawnees from the Kansas reservation.”
In 1887 and 1888, the Chicago city directories listed “The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company,” with an address of 174 W. Van Buren. which was likely used for storage.
In 1888 Healy and Bigelow moved their headquarters to New Haven, Connecticut where they were listed with an address on Grand Avenue.
They remained at that location until 1893 when they moved to larger quarters at 441 Chapel Street, also in New Haven. The March 1, 1893 edition of New Haven’s “Morning Journal-Courier” announced the move.
Yesterday the Healy & Bigelow company bought for about $25,000 the large brick factory at the corner of Chapel and Hamilton Streets, formerly occupied for years by the well remembered firm of Durham & Wooster, carriage makers. The property has a frontage on Chapel Street of 157 feet and 140 feet on Hamilton Street and is a valuable investment.
Healy and Bigelow remained the proprietors of the business up until 1895 when Healy retired. According to the February 26, 1895 edition of the “Morning Journal-Courier:”
The well known patent medicine firm of Healy & Bigelow, with headquarters on Chapel Street, has been dissolved, John E. Healy withdrawing… Mr. Bigelow retains the controlling interest.
A week later the business incorporated with Bigelow serving as its first president. The March 2, 1895 edition of the Morning Journal-Courier published the incorporation notice.
The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company of New Haven has filed a certificate of organization with the secretary of state, its capital stock being $72,000 and the shareholders, Charles Bigelow of this city, Lucius S. Davis of Northampton, Mass., and James K. Averill of New York City.
Four years later, the September 5, 1899 edition of the “M0rning Journal Courier” announced that Bigelow had sold the Chapel Street factory and was planning a move.
Charles Bigelow, president of the Kickapoo Medicine Company, who sold their factory at 441 Chapel Street last week, says a new factory will be built for the headquarters of the medicine company, as soon as a suitable site can be procured.
Another story, this one in the September 2, 1899 edition of the (Meridian Connecticut) Journal added:
The price paid was $28,000.
The medicine company has a lease on the property for a year with the privilege of an extension.
Bigelow took advantage of the additional time afforded by the lease, ultimately moving just outside New Haven, to Clintonville, in early 1901. The move was announced in the February 27, 1901 edition of the “Morning Journal Courier.”
The Kickapoo Medicine Company will soon remove to Clintonville, where a manufacturing building is being fitted up for the company. It is on the Air Line road and has ample facilities for shipping freight…It is expected that the company will remove prior to April 1.
By the time the company settled in Clintonville their menu of Kickapoo products had grown significantly. A February 13, 1902 price list that appeared in the “Pharmaceutical Era.” shows Kickapoo Indian Pills, Liverines, and Prairie Plant, along with Kickapoo Soap had been added to the original five.medicines.
Ultimately, ten years after moving to Clintonville, the corporation dissolved. The preliminary certificate of dissolution was published in the “Hartford Courant” on October 10, 1911.
Advertisements for their traveling shows, though less and less frequent, continued right up to the end. One of the last ones I can find, published in the December 1, 1908 edition of the “Waterville (Me) Seninel.” made it clear that their approach remained the same.
The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company which has been demonstrating the Indian remedies at Vose & Luques’ drug store for the past two weeks, has changed the window attraction for this week and has transferred here the little Indian family consisting of Chief White Horse, squaw Minnehaha and papoose Little Thunder.
Little Thunder is about eight months old and is strapped to the Indian cradle in the primitive way, and whenever he has appeared has attracted great crowds of all classes of people.
In addition to the Indian family there will be added two chiefs, Deep Sky and Deer Foot, and through efforts of Messrs. Rose & Luques the people of Waterville are to be given an opportunity to see and hear the Kickapoo Indians in some of their native songs and dances at the Silver Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon and evening, when will be given such songs as “Lake Side” and “Mosquito Song.” Among the dances will be the White Bean and War dances.
Indian courtship and marriage will be illustrated and also the raising of a man up to be a chief. The admission to the Silver Theater will remain the same.
While dissolution of the Connecticut corporation put an end to any connection Bigelow had with the business, it didn’t put an end to the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company or their products.
The next year, an item published in the June 6, 1912 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, announced that the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company had incorporated in Pennsylvania, with capital of $5,000. Now operating as a subsidiary of Wm. R. Warner & Co., between 1913 and 1919 their listed addresses coincided with Warner locations at 639 N. Broad in Philadelphia and 500 N. Commercial in St. Louis, Missouri.
The menu of Kickapoo products continued to expand under Warner as evidenced by this listing that appeared in the 1915 N.A.R.D. Journal.
Under Warner, their medicine shows vanished but newspaper advertisements continued through the mid-teens; most focused on their Kickapoo Worm Killer. The following, published in the May 28, 1914 edition of the “Oklahoma Register” was typical.
The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Co. remained in both Philadelphia and St. Louis up through the late teens at which time the William R. Warner & Co. consolidated in New York City. According to the November, 1916 edition of the “Practical Druggist:”
The formation of a new centre of New York chemical interests is heralded in the sale of the old B. Altman department store property, once occupied by the Greenhut Company, in the west side of Sixth Avenue, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets, New York City, to William R. Warner & Co., of Philadelphia, manufacturing pharmacists and wholesalers, for close to $1,100,000 in cash. The transaction means bringing 500 employees and their families to New York.
The Warner Company is one of the largest concerns of its kind in this country, controlling the local Richard Hudnut Company, the Searle & Herth Co., Sloan’s Liniment Co., Kickapoo Indian Medicine Co., the Haywood Family Remedies, the Kid-ne-oid Preparations, Meade & Baker Carbolic Mouth Wash Co., Morely Medicine Co., the Sutherland Medicine Company and others.
The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company (Pa.) was listed at William R. Warner & Co.’s New York City address of 113- 133 West Eighteenth Street from 1917 up through the early 1930’s, after which I lose track.
Advertisements for most of the Kickapoo named products had petered out by the 1920’s, however “Kickapoo Worm Killer” was still included in drug store price listings as late as 1942.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to find bottles that contained three of the five original Kickapoo products; Indian Sagwa, Indian Oil and Indian Cough Cure. In fact they’re the only three that came in bottles. They’re mouth blown and exactly match the bottles exhibited in the company’s 1890 “Cook Book.”
At first glance you would think this small 1-3/4 inch diameter jar contained some sort of medicinal or cosmetic cream but you’d be wrong. In fact, it served as the lower portion of a jar that contained oil and could be converted to an oiler by adding a nozzle at the top.
An example of the jar adapted for use as an oiler was recently offered for sale on the internet
Called the “Gem” Oiler, it was on the market from the late 1880’s up through the turn of the century when you could pick one up for between 10 and 15 cents.
Its story begins with a native Pennsylvanian named Reuben Ritter who in the mid to late 1800’s was listed in the directories with a wide variety of occupations that included patent med’s, insurance agent, salesman, foreman, oiler and watchman. That being said it’s clear that he could also have been listed with still another occupation, that of inventor. As early as 1874 he obtained a U.S. patent for what he called the “self sustaining paper box.” The July 14, 1874 edition of the “Scranton Republican” told the story.
On the 30th, Mr. Rueben Ritter of this city, was granted a patent upon a paper box, samples of which are to be seen at Peacock’s drug store. It is called the self-sustaining paper box, and its merits lie in its being composed of only one piece of paper, (ingeniously cut by a machine for the purpose of which is also the design of Mr, Ritter), and put together so that it cannot come apart, and will hold water, so perfectly is it cut, and yet no paste or any fastening substance is used. The box is called by all who examine it, an admirable invention, and when introduced, Mr. Ritter will not fail of securing an unlimited demand for it.
Six years later, on February 3, 1880 (the date embossed on the base of the subject jar), Ritter obtained a patent (No.234,041) for what he called his “Combined Oiler and Oil Bottle.” According to the specifications included with the patent application, in addition to serving as an oiler the bottle/jar could also be adapted for use as a night lamp.
The bottle may be made with very little cost, filled with oil, closed by a suitable stopper and sold as a bottle of oil.
The purchaser can, at the time of first purchase, procure the oiler nozzle and a night lamp. The device may then be used either as an oiler for machinery or a night lamp.
Both the nozzle and lamp configurations were illustrated on this drawing that was also part of the patent documents.
At around the same time that Ritter was obtaining his patent, George H. Paine was establishing George H. Paine & Co. in Philadelphia. The company was first listed in 1881 as “commercial merchants” with an address of 105 S Front. In 1883 William E. Diehl joined Paine and the company changed its name to Paine Diehl & Co. The company operated under that name up through 1894 utilizing several different Philadelphia addresses over that span including 105 S Front (1883), 7 Strawberry (1884 to 1885), 12 Bank (1886 to 1887) and 430 S Penn Sq. (1888 to 1894).
During this time the company marketed several unique household items. The one they advertised the most was called the “self-pouring coffee and tea pot.”
Another was their “Egg Beater and Cream Whip.”
Sometime in the mid-1880’s Paine, Diehl & Co. apparently obtained the rights to Ritter’s design and by 1889 they were running advertisements for what they called the “Gem” Oiler. One of the first ads I can find appeared in the June, 1889 edition of a publication called “The Iron Age.”
Turning to page 67 you found the following item that touted the oiler’s benefits and described how to use it.
Patented February 3, 1880
The oiler is made of heavy flint glass – strong, clean and durable; filled with the best of oil. It has a metallic top (the bottom is glass), with a flexible chamber with which to squirt the oil. The cap is screwed onto the bottle, making the oiler absolutely leakless.
Being transparent, the quantity of oil in or being poured into the oiler can be seen at a glance, thus enabling you to fill without spilling the oil. Having the bottom and sides all in on piece and of glass, they are perfectly clean, with no spring bottom to leak or come out.
They are sold so cheap that they can be sold at about the price of a bottle of good oil alone.
To the dealer it is a most convenient article and ready seller.
With the consumer it is a most desirable arrangement, as it enables him to get an oiler with his oil, and a splendid offer too.
In using – Place your thumb on the bottom of the oiler, letting the spout pass between the fingers. To squirt the oil, press down on the washer around the spout. This gives a better flow than a spring-bottom oiler, and is easily regulated.
They are sold by Grocers, Stationers, House-Furnishers, Druggists, Hardware Merchants, Novelty Dealers, Typo-writer Dealers and Sewing-Machine Dealers.
PAINE, DIEHL & CO.
Paine, Diehl & Co. was last listed in the 1894 Philadelphia directory, suggesting that the relationship between Paine and Diehl ended around that time. That same year Paine apparently associated with a man named Charles W. Asbury and they established the Asbury-Paine Manufacturing Company in Trenton, New Jersey.
Within a year, the November 9, 1895 edition of the “Philadelphia Times” announced that the company was set to move their headquarters to Philadelphia. The announcement was included under the heading “New Charters.”
The following foreign corporations have been licensed to do business in this State:…the Asbury Paine Manufacturing Company of Trenton, N.J., headquarters to be in Philadelphia.
The company remained headquartered at Wayne Junction (Wayne and Berkley) in Philadelphia up through the turn of the century with Paine named vice president and Asbury, treasurer. During this time, in addition to advertising many of the former Paine Diehl products, they added some new ones as well. One, that was advertised quite heavily was called “Witch-Kloth.”
Ashley-Paine also continued to market the “Gem” Oiler as evidenced by the following advertisement that appeared in several 1896 editions of the “Trenton Evening News.”
Apparently, the Asbury-Paine Manufacturing Company came to an end in 1900, at which time the company name vanished from the Philadelphia directories. That being said, the “Gem” brand of oilers survived well into the 20th century.
On November 27, 1899, the Gem Manufacturing Company was established in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. An announcement to that effect appeared in the November 7, 1899 edition of “The Pittsburgh Press.”
An application for a charter for the incorporation of the Gem Manufacturing Company will be filed at Harrisburg, November 27. The company will locate its plant in the building formerly occupied by the Bradley Stove Company, Second Avenue and Wood Street. The larger stockholders of the new company are men conversant with the machinery business and have already purchased the hydraulic presses and the die machinery required for the manufacture of the steel specialties. The incorporators of the company are: William H. Frick, John A. Clark, Edwin S. Fonnes, D.A. McCaffrey and W. D. Forsythe.. The two first named are the secretary and vice-president of the Frick & Lindsey Company, Water Street.
The official organization of the company will take place when the charter is received, about December 1, and the company expects to have the plant in working order not later than January 1.
What connection they had with the former Asbuury-Paine Manufacturing Company or, how they obtained rights to the “Gem” name, is not clear but almost immediately after the Gem Manufacturing Company was established they introduced a newly designed “Gem” Oiler. This advertisement touting its benefits can be found in the June 18, 1900 edition of a publication called “The Daily Railway Age.”
According to another introductory item, this one published in the April, 1900 edition of a publication called “Railway Master Mechanic,” the new design replaced the glass jar with a steel base and bottom.
A New Oiler
The Gem Manufacturing Co., of Pittsburg, Pa., presents a new device in the Gem oiler. The can itself is a departure from methods now obtaining, yet it still preserves the fundamental principle of the old.
In this oiler the bottom is constructed from high carbon spring steel. The body is made from the best grade of basic low phosphorus steel, pressed and drop forged into shape, and flared and spun firmly against the bottom proper. To further strengthen the cans and insure against any leakage whatever, the oilers are brazed upon the inside…
This August, 1900 advertisement in “Steam Engineering” called it “The Best Oiler Made.”
This example of their early steel oiler recently appeared for sale on the internet.
Later the company added the “Gem” Steel Tallow Pot and the”Gem” Engineer’s Set to the “Gem” family of oilers.
These additions, coupled with the company’s choice of publications in which to run their advertisements make it clear that the market for their oiler was expanding. Originally sold in local grocery, drug and hardware stores, Ashley-Paine simply targeted the customer who wanted to fix a squeaky door or oil his wheelbarrow. Under the Gem Manufacturing Company, much of their advertising was now directed toward the professional mechanic.
Another market for their oilers opened up with the proliferation of the automobile. According to this January 11, 1906 advertisement published in a magazine called “The Automobile:”
If you have a high-class car, you need a high-class Gem Oiler.
Not just oilers, in the early 1900’s the “Gem” name began to represent an entire line of products. As early as 1902, this May 26th advertisement in the “Birmingham (Alabama) News” referenced both a “Gem” flue scraper and a “Gem” flexible shaft in addition to the “Gem” oiler.
By 1925, this advertisement in “Hendrick’s Commercial Register” made it clear you needed a catalog to see the entire line of “Gem” Products.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s the company expanded into many other areas including the manufacture of automotive items such as mufflers. That being said, through it all they apparently continued to manufacture oil cans and oilers. As late as 1953 the company was included on a U. S. government listing under the heading: “Manufacturers of Lubricating Systems and Devices.”
In March, 1953 the company, still located in Pittsburgh, went into receivership. According to the March 6th edition of the “Pittsburgh Press:”
Uncle Sam today slapped a big tax lien on a Pittsburgh firm now in receivership.
The lien for $185,193 was filed against the Gem Manufacturing Co. Attorney J. Howard is the receiver…The lien covers income taxes for the years 1943 through 1946 which the Government claims the firm has failed to pay.
The business apparently reorganized and was still active in Pittsburgh in 1960 and possibly longer. Whether they were still manufacturing oil cans and oilers at this point is unknown.
Our subject jar held two ounces of oil. Embossing on the base includes the Asbury-Paine Mfg. Co. name dating it between 1895 and 1899 when they manufactured the oiler.
On a final note: Unlike most items presented on this site, this jar was not found in the Long Island bays. Instead it was found by one of my wife’s best friends while tending her beautiful northern Massachusetts garden. Thanks Di and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Established by Hartwig Kantorowicz, his liquor factory of the same name was located in Posen, Germany. Throughout much of the 1800’s and early 1900’s it was operated by three different generations of the Kantorowicz family. Once the largest and most important liquor factory in Germany, one history of the company summarized their turn of the century operation like this:
Around 1900, the Hartwig Kantorowicz liqueur factory was known world-wide and about as famous as Mercedes Benz or Coca Cola are today. In addition to liqueurs, fruit juices and jams were now also produced and sold on a large scale. It had its own line of cognac and whiskey with at least 50 different products, and German and international wines were also sold in large quantities. The company probably had around 1,000 different products in their portfolio.
The above quote was found on the web site of a liquor company called Alrich. They produce liquors from historical original recipes and their website includes the history of former liquor factories, one of which is Hartwig Kantorowiz. As a preface to the following post, quotes not specifically cited otherwise were found on the English translation of the Alrich website. https://www.alrich.eu
Born in 1806, Hartwig was the son of Joachim Bernard Kantorowicz who was the owner of a brewery and distillery in Posen that dated back to 1782. At a young age, Hartwig went into business for himself.
In a small house at Alter Market No. 10, the then 17 year old Hartwig Kantorowitcz modestly opened a retail distillation shop and initially offered a small selection of popular drinks at the time.
Advertisements published years later generally recognized 1823 as the year Hartwig founded the business.
Over the next quarter century the growth of the business ultimately led him to construct a new distillery in Posen at Wronkerstrasse No. 6
When a few years later, his business had experienced very good growth despite a variety of competition (there were 30 other distillery shops in Poznan around 1825) he moved it to the house at Wronkerstrasse No. 4 north of the town hall. A few years later the business expanded again and in 1843 it was relocated to Wronkerstrasse No. 6…A two-story building was erected in the yard of the property, where, among other things, a large new copper distillation plant could be put into operation…Around 1850 the total value of the company was estimated at around 75,000 thalers (the annual wage of a worker was around 200 thalers).
The following depicts the street front of the building at Wronkerstrasse No. 6 with their sign clearly visible above the entrance.
A biography of Hartwig Kantorowicz’s grandson entitled “Ernst Kantorowicz, A Life” written by Robert E. Lerner and published in 2017, described two of Hartwig’s mid 1800’s concoctions.
A document of 1862 referred to two of Hartwig Kantorowicz’s products: Kummelliqueur” and “Goldwassercreme.” The first, otherwise known as “Allasch,” was made primarily from caraway seeds, the second from an essence based on a mixture of herbs such as anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and peppermint (and always plenty of sugar).
It was also sometime in the 1860’s that Hartwig added the famous “Litthauer Bitters” to his menu.
In 1864, Hartwig hired the assistant Josef Loewenthal, who was trained as a journeyman distiller. He developed, probably on behalf of his employer , the very famous herbal bitter Litthauer Meganbitter, which he later marketed himself in Berlin and Cleveland.
After Hartwig’s death in 1871, management of the business passed on to three of his sons, Max (1843-1904), Edmund (1846-1904), and Joseph (1848-1919).
Under the management of the sons, the Hartwig Kantorowicz liqueur factory was constantly expanded. In the years 1871 and 1882 further buildings were erected, in which there was daily hustle and bustle. Building parts of different ages and sizes stood on the property, which in addition to the production areas, also housed an office wing, huge storage cellars, a carpentry shop and export rooms.
In 1895 the company added a retail shop and tasting room in Posen at Berliner Strasse 5, a view of which is presented below.
As early as 1874 the company had opened a Berlin branch and soon after was operating factories, warehouses and tasting rooms there as well.
By the 1880’s Hartwig Kantorowicz was exporting their liquors all over the world.
The company even delivered in the middle of the African bush. Letters from chiefs with liquor orders arrived, who also asked for other items to be sent, such as mouthwash, chocolate, clothespins, but also firearms – these were all sent at the same time. The goods were then paid for with mahogany blocks, palm kernels or palm oil. Since the Kantorowicz company had no use for it, a branch was opened at the port in Hamburg in order to “exchange” these things there for money.
Its clear that Hartwig Kantorowicz products were also making their way to America well before the turn of the century. According to the Lerner biography:
Sometime in the 1880’s he (Max) traveled to the United States to arrange for the regular exporting to Posen of fruit juices, which made for a more varied range of liqueurs. On the same trip he arranged for the regular purchase of California wines, which were extremely cheap, in order to introduce the sale of wines as a sideline to the Kantorowicz business. So far as is known, Max was the first to introduce California wines to Europe.
It would make sense that at the same time he was arranging for the importing of California’s fruit juice and wine to Posen, he was also arranging for the export of Hartwig Kantorowicz liquors to the United States. A supposition that’s bolstered by the fact that the earliest U.S. newspaper advertisements for Hartwig Kantorowicz that I can find appeared in several 1883 editions of California’s “San Francisco Chronicle.” The following was published in the May 24, 1883 edition.
Throughout the 1890’s, the company apparently increased their focus on the United States. This is supported by their advertisement that appeared in an 1897 German publication entitled the “Directory of German Export Co.’s.” that bragged:
Specialties known in nearly all transatlantic countries.
The ad went on to include a menu of their specialty products that was printed in both German (on the left) and English (on the right).
In the United States, up through 1898 they apparently did business with local sales agents who typically marketed Hartwig Kantorowicz liquors under the generic term, “Cordials.” as evidenced by the following advertisement found in several 1896 editions of the “Buffalo (N.Y.) Commercial.”
Another advertisement, this one in the August 15, 1893 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era” attached names to some of their cordials; Absinth, Blackberry, Creme de Minthe, Coca Liqueur Curacao, Kuemmel, Maraschino, Etc.
Advertisements for Litthauer Bitters continued to appear as well, with one January 24, 1894 ad in Washington D.C.’s “Evening Star” touting”
These world famous stomach bitters are unequalled for curing indigestion, flatulency, hysteria, colics, agues, colds, “La Grippe,” abdominal disorders, etc.
Around the turn of the century Hartwig Kantorowicz established a presence in New York City where the company was listed in the directories as liquor importers with an address of 32 Water Street. Likely a wholesale branch, the endeavor was short lived with the company only listed from roughly 1900 to 1903. No longer listed in the 1903/1904 directory, they apparently returned to the use of U.S. agents.
When Max and Edmund both passed away in 1904, Joseph Kantorowitcz, along with Max’s son Franz, became co-managers of the firm. Several years later continued growth demanded the construction of a new, modern factory.
Over the years, production continued to increase, so that the premises at Wronkerstrasse 6 gradually became too small.
The architect Martin Sonnabend was commissioned to build a new factory complex. The family bought a large piece of land on Sudstrasse opposite the slaughterhouse and cattle yard. After several years of construction, the company was able to move its headquarters to the more than 1,000 square meter production and administration building in 1908. The entire facility had a full basement and was built in reinforced concrete. It comprised four five-story factory buildings, several production and storage halls, all of which were connected to each other.
A pictorial representation of the complex, which also included housing for the workers is shown below.
Two years later when Joseph retired in 1910, the business was incorporated under the name “Hartwig Kantorowicz Actien-Gesellschaft.” Franz was named as director and a man named Hans Schuchard as managing director.
During World War I the business survived when providing supplies to the army compensated for the loss of foreign trade. After the war Franz, now living in Berlin, sold the business.
On the evening of November 5, 1920 he came from Berlin and sold the company for a total price of 20 million Reichsmarks, including 5 million Reichsmarks for the real estate alone, to the Unternehmerbank Posen. The contract…also included the handing over of the liqueur recipes, that had been closely guarded until then.
After the sale to the Unternehmerbank the company in Posen continued to exist under the name Hartwig Kantorowicz Folger AG from December 9, 1920.
They continued to produce liqueurs, other spirits, fruit juices and jams in Posen throughout much of the 1930’s. In fact, it appears that after Prohibition some of their product continued to make it’s way to the United States. An advertisement for their Vodka and Mountain Ash Brandy can be found in several 1936 editions of a Polish newspaper published in Omaha, Nebraska called “Gwiazda Zackodu.”
Ultimately in 1939 the Posen business was placed under German administration and during World War II their output went exclusively to the army.
After the war it operated as a stock company under the name “Obstdestillierie und Wodkafabrik Hartwig Kantorowicz SA” until September 18, 1951 at which time:
the entire alcohol production and thus also the Kantorowicz company was nationalized and placed under the central administration of the fruit and vegetable industry.
Meanwhile in Germany Franz Kantorowicz and Hans Schuchard continued to operate the former company’s German facilities.
After the sale of the parent company in Posen, the Hartwig Kantorowicz liqueur factory in Berlin remained a stock corporation and was temporarily located at Greifswalder Strasse 224 in 1919. The tasting rooms and the office continued to operate at their old locations.
Originally quite successful, in the early 1920’s they established a new German office and factory and:
In 1921 Kantorowicz had inventories worth 5.3 million Reichsmarks and a net profit of 3.2 million Reichsmarks.
That all changed with an economic crisis that began in 1925 and ultimately ended the Kantorowicz family’s long time association with the business.
It is highly probable that the sales and profits of Hartwig Kantorowicz AG had fallen so much between 1925 and 1927 that the company ran into difficulties and could only be saved by merging with the famous Berlin liqueur factory CAF Kahlbaum, which was also ailing. As part of the merger, the Kantorowicz family sold all their shares in the company…
The bottle I found is mouth blown, olive green in color and contains somewhere between a quart and a fifth. In addition to the company information embossed on the base, a unique trademark is embossed on the bottle’s shoulder. A trademark application included in U.S. patent records (No, 17889) described it as:
The representation of two triangles arranged to form a six-pointed star and a fish produced upon said star.
The U.S. trade mark application was filed on March 3, 1890 but the record indicates it had been in use since October 9, 1880, further suggesting that Hartwig Kantorowicz products began any significant appearance in the United States sometime in the early 1880’s.
The company used a wide variety of bottle styles.
From about 1880, the company also housed its own design department for bottles and labels and a packing station in which about 20 people worked. Large quantities of bottle labels were stored in a special room – there were always new designs so that, like in the fashion industry, the customer could always be addressed in a new way.
New bottle shapes were also constantly being invented, which were manufactured by various glassworks in the province of Posen, Silesia, Bohemia and the Kingdom of Saxony. There were always new bottle designs, such as round, square, triangular, bulbous, tower-like, pyramidal,shapes, but also small spiked helmets.
In the early 1900’s, the company employed at least 60 different bottle shapes all categorized by number. Our subject bottle closely, if not exactly, matches their Facon (Shape) Nr. 12.
Again thanks to Google Translate, the shape was referred to as the “Dutch Liqueurs Kind,” and was used for cherry brandy, curaçao, stoughton, half and half and anisette.
The bottle was produced in 860ml., 430ml., 120ml., and 60ml sizes. Our bottle is certainly 860ml.
Frederick C. M. Lendholt was born in Germany in the early 1870’s and arrived in the United States sometime in the mid-1880’s. As early as 1900, census records indicate he was living on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx with the occupation of “clerk.”
New York City directories continued to list his occupation as simply “clerk” up through 1908. I suspect for some, if not all of this time, he worked for long time Bronx druggist, Edward F. Miller. This 1899 advertisement described Miller’s business as:
The Oldest and Most Reliable Establishment in the Bronx
During much of the early 1900’s, in addition to 712 Tremont Avenue, which was also Miller’s home address, he also listed a second business address at 2007 Boston Road.
Towards the end of the decade, Miller incorporated the business as Edward F. Miller, Inc. By this time Lendholt, more than just a clerk, was apparently managing the business, as evidenced by the fact that Miller named him president of the new corporation. The incorporation notice was published in the March 24, 1909 edition of the “Paint, Oil & Drug Review.”
The N. Y. C. Copartnership and Corporation Directories continued to list the corporation in this fashion up through 1915. That year Lendholt left the Miller company and opened his own pharmacy on East Tremont Avenue. The announcement appeared in the May, 1915 edition of “The Practical Druggist.”
F. C. M. Lendholt has succeeded Wm. Isemann in the drug business at Bathgate and Tremont Aves., New York City. Until recently Mr. Lendholt was manager for E. F. Miller.
Located at 490 East Tremont Avenue, Isemann’s business had been listed there as early as 1907.
Lendholt continued in business for at least the next 18 years. As late as 1933 N.Y.C.’s business directory still listed him as a retail druggist at 490 East Tremont Avenue. Sometime after that he passed away, with 1940 census records listing Lendholt’s wife Katherine as a widow. That being said, the 1939/1940 Bronx Telephone Book continued to list the pharmacy, now F.C.M. Lendholt Inc., at the 490 East Tremont Avenue address. So, its likely that at some point after his death the business passed into the hands of a corporation. What became of it after 1940 is not clear.
Today, 490 East Tremont Avenue, at the corner of East Tremont and Bathgate Avenue is a vacant lot.
The bottle I found is a mouth blown prescription bottle made by the Whitehall, Tatum Co. (W.T.Co. embossed on the base). It exhibits Lendholt’s “490 East Tremont Avenue” address dating it no earlier than 1915 when Lendholt succeeded William Isemann at that address. Recognizing that it’s mouth blown, I don’t expect that it dates much later than 1915 after which I would expect a machine made bottle. This could put it in the initial batch of bottles ordered by Lendholt after assuming control of the business.
Prior to 1850, William B. Riker established a drug store on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan’s Flatiron District that he, and later, his son, William H. Riker, operated up through the early 1890’s. Subsequently, under several different management teams it would morph into the largest retail drug chain in the country all while continuing to exhibit the Riker name.
The senior Riker was a native of New York City who, according to his February 23, 1906 “New York Times” obituary was born in 1821 on Duane Street in lower Manhattan. Another obituary, this one published in the “New York Herald,” gets the story of his career started.
He entered the drug business early in life with John Meakin, then was associated with Dr. Hunter.
Riker likely served as a clerk for druggist Meakin, whose business was listed with an address of 511 Broadway during the early to mid-1840’s. His association with “Dr. Hunter” is less clear. There were two physicians named Hunter listed in Manhattan during the early to mid-1840’s. One, Adam T. Hunter, listed an address of 161 Hudson Street. The other, Galen Hunter, was located at 116 Sixth Avenue about a block or so from Meakin’s drug store, so I suspect he’s our Dr. Hunter.
According to most accounts, it was sometime in 1846 that Riker established his own drug store on Sixth Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets. That being said, he’s not mentioned in the NYC directories until 1848/1849 when he was listed as:
William B. Riker, apothecary, 353 Ave. 6.
So suffice to say, he was certainly in business by the late 1840’s.
Not long after, in 1850, Riker partnered with a man named George W. Berrian, Jr. and the business operated under the name “Riker & Berrian” for the next 10 years. This April 13, 1854 “New York Times” advertisement named Riker & Berrian’s drug store as the Manhattan depot for a proprietary product called “Lyon’s Magnetic Powder and Pills.”
Sometime in 1860 or 1861 the Berrian name was dropped and throughout the 1860’s the business was simply listed as William B. Riker. Then sometime around 1870 he added his son’s name to the listing, calling it W. B. Riker & Son. To the best of my knowledge it was first listed this way in the 1871 Goulding’s Business Directory.
Late in the 1870’s the Riker’s began to manufacture their own proprietary products (or at least products that included the Riker name in the title). The first Riker named product I can find advertised was “Riker’s American Face Powder.” The ad appeared in the September 1, 1878 edition of the “New York Herald.”
The ad made the point that their face powder was “endorsed by the leading dramatic artists.” Several years later another advertisement, this one in the November 7, 1882 edition of the “New York Tribune,” went on to name several of these artists.
By the early to mid 1880’s the company had added a few more products sporting the Riker name as evidenced by this October 21, 1883 “New York Sun” advertisement.
Although their list of proprietary products was growing, up through the mid-1880’s company advertisements continued to refer to the business as simply “druggists” with the single address of 353 Sixth Avenue. This suggests that any manufacturing was done on a limited scale and the operation was conducted at the retail location on Sixth Avenue. That changed in 1887 when, now calling themselves “druggists and manufacturing chemists,” the company began listing laboratory/factories on Manhatan’s Clarkson Street and Washington Street. Located at the intersection of Clarkson and Washington, I suspect it was actually one location with addresses on both streets.
A November 11, 1887 advertisement in New York’s “Evening World” made it clear that by then their “American Face Powder” was one of many “Riker Preparations.”
The same advertisement went on to list several perfumes manufactured by the company as well.
It was around this time that the senior Riker turned the business over to his son as evidenced by his own testimony in a court case (William Comyns against William H. Riker, William B. Riker & Son Company and William B. Riker).
Q. When did you dispose of or withdraw from the business?
Witness: I gave a bill of sale; I sold my business out in 1887, December 15th; but I had been previously out of business; I had nothing to do, my son did everything, and took the entire profits for at least a year previous to my giving the bill of sale, and a formal bill of sale was drawn up.
According to testimony in the above court case, sometime in 1891, with William H. Riker now running the business, he leased the adjacent store on the corner of 22nd Street (355 Sixth Avenue) and altered the two properties into “one large gigantic drug store” where he added a soda fountain. An announcement to that effect appeared in the April 24, 1891 edition of the “Evening World.”
The new soda fountain aside, the business was almost certainly mismanaged by the son and, in 1892, he sold it to a syndicate of four individuals, one of which was an employee. The sale was documented in the “Findings of Fact” associated with the above court case.
That on said 12th day of February, 1892, said William H. Riker…made and executed a bill of sale of his said business so carried out at No.s 353 and 355 Sixth Avenue, and at 588 Washington Street, and of his stock and fixtures and other assets, and transferred it to Edward D. Cahoon, at the time, and for some years prior thereto, one of his clerks, and to Joseph H. Marshall, William C. Bolton and Daniel K. Runyon…
The “Findings of Fact” went on to say:
That on said 12th day of February, 1892, and for a long time prior thereto, the said William H. Riker was hopelessly and wholly insolvent and unable to pay his debts in full.
On a side note: In lieu of paying off his creditors with proceeds from the sale, William H. Riker signed the money over to his father who paid down mortgage debt he held on the Sixth Avenue property. This resulted in several court cases, including the one referenced above.
All that aside, it’s clear that the Riker name continued to hold value within the drug community because the new syndicate retained it, subsequently incorporating the business as the “W. B. Riker & Son, Co;” simply adding “Co.” to the former name. The incorporation notice was published in the March 23, 1892 edition of a publication called the “Chemist & Druggist.”
In 1897 the company moved their Sixth Avenue store approximately one block north to the corner of 23rd street where it was then listed with an address of 373 Sixth Avenue. The move was reported in the August 1, 1897 edition of the “Merck Report.”
Rikers drug store, which for half a century occupied the same site on Sixth Avenue below Twenty-second Street, has been removed to the reconstructed store at the southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Twenty-third Street…
An early 20th century advertisement described the store like this:
Here five floors, devoted to the various departments of the Drug Store business, have probably accomodated more customers than have ever been served in a similar drug store space elsewhere in the same length of time.
In June, 1904 the company opened a second drug store in Manhattan, this one at Broadway and Ninth Street. Around the same time they also added five stores across the East River in Brooklyn when they consolidated their operation with that of the Bolton Drug Company. The consolidation was reported in the June 7th edition of Brooklyn’s “Times Union.”
The Riker drug stores of Manhattan and the Bolton drug stores of Brooklyn, have been consolidated. The change took place on Monday and was effected at a meeting of the Bolton Drug Company.
The combination made yesterday is enterprising and progressive, and a chain of fine establishments in Brooklyn will be one of the results. The main store of the Bolton Company is at 450-454 Fulton Street, and there are four other stores, each of which will be thoroughly remodeled and then operated along the lines of the Riker stores.
As promised, on November 12, 1904 the first remodeled Bolton store reopened under the management of the Riker Company. The public invitation appeared in the November 10th and 11th editions of several Brooklyn newspapers. It read in part:
We extend a cordial invitation to Brooklyn people – and to our Manhattan friends also – to visit the old Bolton Drug Store at 456 Fulton Street next Saturday, when it will be opened under the new Riker management.
The remodeled store will be beautifully decorated with flowers, an excellent orchestra will be in attendance all day, and there will be gifts worth coming from the ends of the town after. This opening is the first of several that are to take place in Brooklyn in the near future. The Bolton Drug Stores are now under the management of the Riker Drug Company, and are being remodeled and rearranged as rapidly as possible to conform to the Riker standards.
Don’t fail to call in at 456 Fulton Street on Saturday.
Beginning in 1907 the company also opened several additional stores in Manhattan: The locations and opening dates were summarized in a November 17, 1908 advertisement published in New York’s ” Evening World.” They were: 159 West 14th Street (May, 1907), 13 West 34th Street (Nov. 1907), 2 West 14th Street (Sept. 1908) and 6th Avenue and 42nd Street (Nov. 1908)
The lease of their 34th Street location set a record for rental prices on Manhattan’s 34th Street at the time. According to a May 8, 1907 story in the “New York Sun:”
RECORD LEASE NEAR WALDORF
RIKER COMPANY TO PAY $903,000 FOR WEST 34TH STREET STORE
Frank M. Winner, of the office of Alvan W. Perry, has leased for Bonwit Teller & Co. the first floor and basement of the building being erected at Nos. 13 and 15 West 34th St. to the William B. Riker & Son Company for a term of 21 years, beginning September 1, at a rental of $43,000. a year.
The building, which has been designed as a six story building for Bonwit, Teller & Co., will be altered to an eight story loft and office building, and the store, which is 40 feet in width by 125 feet in depth, is to have, in addition to this floor space, a mezzanine gallery throughout. The interior of the store is now in the hands of an architect, whose plans contemplate one of the largest and finest drug stores in the United States. The floors will be of mosaic, and the soda fountain, which will be the largest in the city, will cost $20,000 being finished in imported onyx.
Bonwit, Teller & Co. intended this building for their own use, but owing to the rapid increase in 34th Street values and the large rental offered by the Riker company they determined to turn the building into an investment.
This lease marks a still higher record price for stores in 34th St., being at the rate of about $1,100 a front foot, while the store at No. 1 West 34th St. recently rented by the same real estate office to the Mirror Candy Company, was at a rental of $1,000 a front foot.
An advertisement announcing the opening of the 34th Street store appeared in the November 1, 1907 edition of the “New York Times.” It serves to make the point that the Riker business offered much more than just drug prescriptions and cosmetics.
Among the features that make the new Riker Store the most complete and finest drug store ever operated are: a Soda Fountain that will be the handsomest and costliest in America; a complete Stationery and Engraving Dept. unsurpassed anywhere; an extensive Photo Supplies Dept., including expert developing and printing; a Hair Goods Dept. that will carry the most complete and finest line of human hair goods; a Cigar Dept. where all the best known brands will be sold at the lowest prices; a Candy Dept. where the finest confections will be sold at Riker prices; a Sub-Station of the Post Office, Telephone Books, and a Ladies Writing Room for the convenience of lady customers. Another feature will be the department of wines and liquors for home and medicinal purposes. The line of Toilet Goods will be unexcelled; the Prescription and Drug Dept. will be up to the high Riker standard; and a full line of rubber goods will be carried.
Integral to most, if not all of their stores, was the soda fountain. In 1906 a new fountain, called the “Innovation,” was constructed at their 23rd Street location, a description of which appeared in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record.” If anything, its clear that the fountain was certainly ornate!
This magnificent apparatus will cost $20,000. The dispensing counter will be 36 feet long, built of Pavonazzo or Rose Sienna Marble, trimmed with onyx, and with onyx pilasters having solid bronze bases and bronze capitals.The slabs of both the dispensing counter and of the display section are to be of Mexican onyx from the quarries of the New Pedrara Onyx Company, from which come large blocks of the choicest onyx of wonderful coloring and perfect soundness.
The display, or wall section, with its large French plate beveled mirrors, its gleaming onyx, with electrical illumination revealing the rich colors of the art glass and of the fine paintings above the mirrors, will be indeed a marvel of beauty. The refrigerator at the base of the wall section is to be of white Italian and Pavonazzo marble, relieved by onyx trimmings, and with silver-plated door frames enclosing panels of the French plate glass. The refrigerator is thoroughly insulated and equipped for cooling and storage purposes.
The mechanism of the fountain – its working parts – of draft tubes, coolers, syrup jars, work boards, etc., embody all that is latest and best in the soda fountain construction of the American Soda Fountain Company.
This photograph of the soda fountain appeared in a 1907 advertisement for the American Soda Fountain Company.
In 1907, at about the same time that the Riker Company was opening their new soda fountain, they acquired the Boston, Massachusetts business of Charles P. Jaynes & Company. The March 18th edition of the “Boston Evening Transcript” covered the announcement.
General Manager A. H. Cosden announces that the Riker Drug Company of New York has bought out the great Boston business of Charles P. Jaynes & Company, including all interests, assets, and retail drug stores. The corporate name of the new concern, it is announced, will be William B. Riker & Son Company.
The present retail business of the two companies is said to be in the neighborhood of $3,000,000 a year.
After the acquisition, the Riker company continued to open new stores in both New York and Boston. This advertisement announcing the opening of a new Brooklyn store appeared in the December 19, 1908 edition of the “Brooklyn Chat.”
In Boston, Riker advertisements continued to employ the locally familiar “Jaynes” name as evidenced by this May 18, 1909 “Boston Globe” advertisement that announced the opening of a new “Riker-Jaynes” drug store on Tremont Street. Not surprisingly, the new store included an onyx soda fountain.
The above advertisement put the mid-1909 Riker store count at 21; eight in Boston, seven in Manhattan and six in Brooklyn.
In 1910, the Riker business merged with a competing drug store chain called Hegeman & Co. The new company, called the “Riker-Hegeman Company” officially put an end to the “W. B. Riker & Son Company” name.
The merger announcement was included in the September, 1910 edition of the “Druggist Circular.”
The oft discussed and several times reported merger of the interests of Hegeman & Co. and the W. B. Riker & Son Company, both of this city, and the largest operators of chains of retail drug stores in the country, was consummated early in August. The new company formed by the union is known as the Riker-Hegeman Company. It is incorporated in this State with a capital of $15,000,000…
Competition between the two chains was most often suggested as the reason for the amalgamation. By then, according to an August 5th story in Patterson New Jersey’s “Morning Call,” the Riker chain included 25 stores in the Greater New York area alone, with 23 in Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as individual stores in the surrounding locales of Newark, New Jersey and Mt. Vernon, New York (Westchester County). At the same time, Hegeman operated 20 stores in the same area, many in close proximity to Riker stores.
This advertisement touting the drug chain appeared in the April 9, 1912 edition of the “Evening World.”
In 1916, the Riker-Hegeman stores were acquired by a newly formed company called the Liggett Company which in turn was owned by the United Drug Company. A cooperative controlled by over 7,000 retail druggists, the United Drug Company was the manufacturer of the “Rexall” product line.
The official announcement was published in the March 1916 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era.”
In the offices of the United Drug Company in Boston on Saturday February 12th, was completed the formation of the new L. K. Liggett Company, operating the Riker-Hegeman, Riker-Jaynes, and the Liggett drug stores in the United States and Canada.
The new Liggett Company will operate stores in New York, Boston, and all other leading cities from Bangor, Me., to Detroit, Mich.
The Riker-Hegeman and Riker-Jaynes stores number 107 and the Liggett stores 45; the total of 152 stores making it the largest retail drug association in America today.
The Liggett Company is owned by the United Drug Company of Boston, at the head of which is Mr. Louis K. Liggett, the newly elected president of the Boston Chamber of Commerce.
The United Drug Company in turn is owned and controlled by 7,000 retail druggists throughout the United States and Canada, now operating stores as the “Rexall Stores.”
The 53 stores in Greater New York and all others bearing the Riker-Hegeman name will be known as the LIGGETTS-RIKER-HEGEMAN DRUG STORES. The 20 stores in Boston bearing the Riker-Jaynes name will be called LIGGETT’S-RIKER-JAYNES DRUG STORES. The Liggett stores in cities in which no Riker stores are present will continue under the original name.
The Pharmaceutical Era story went on to say:
The Riker & Hegeman and the Riker-Jaynes stores will sell Rexall goods whenever this can be done without infringing on the right of an established Rexall store. All the Riker stores of New York and Boston will of course, carry Rexall goods. There are, however, some towns where Riker stores have been established in competition with existing Rexall stores. In such cases the Riker store would not carry the Rexall remedies.
Early on Liggett’s continued to use the Riker-Hegeman name as evidenced by this July 7, 1916 “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” advertisement. Also note that the soda fountain business was still alive and well!
By the early 1920’s any mention of Riker-Hegeman in Liggett’s advertisements was a simple reminder that some of their locations were “former Riker-Hegeman stores.”
Not long after, the Riker-Hegeman name disappeared completely from their drug store ads.
The company grew under Liggett as evidenced by this assessment that appeared 15 years later in a June 17, 1937 “Pittsburgh Sun” story. By then the number of Liggett owned stores had grown from 152 to 450 and the Rexall retailers from 7,000 to 10,000.
From a small beginning the Liggett Drug Company, has grown into one of the largest institutions of its kind. It is an integral part of the United Drug Company of Boston, which distributes merchandise of its own manufacture to 10,000 Rexall agents and to 450 Liggett drug stores in practically every state in the union.
The great business is headed by Louis K. Liggett, founder of the original Liggett Company and now president of the United Drug Company.The 450 Liggett stores are under the executive direction of George M. Gales, who is president of the Liggett Drug Company. It is estimated that approximately 150,000,000 people are served annually by the 450 Liggett stores.
In 1941, a man named Justin Dart took control of the organization. Prior to that Dart had been general manager of the Chicago-based Walgreen drug chain. A story in the March 19, 1977 edition of the Muscatine (Iowa) Journal picks up the story from there.
In 1941, Justin Dart…left Chicago and Walgreen for Boston and United Drug, where he took command of what was then the largest retail drug chain in the country.
Dart brought order and direction to United Drug, which was a losely organized holding company that included manufacturing, franchising and retailing through wholly owned stores operating under various names – Rexall, Liggett, Owl and Sontag were some of them.
Dart centralized operations around the Rexall name. He made Rexall a national advertiser. Then, in 1945, he moved himself – and the company’s headquarters – to Los Angeles. The corporate name was changed to Rexall Drug in 1947. Dart once ensconced in Los Angeles, proceeded to build an entirely different company.
Wheeling and dealing at a furious pace, he bought and sold companies, acquired others, disposed of others, merged others. He entered chemicals, plastics, cosmetics, glass containers and resort development.
It appears that the last vestige of the “Riker” name was one of the casualties of Dart’s “wheeling and dealing” when, in 1969, the company, now referred to as Dart Industries, sold their ethical drug division called Riker Laboratories to the 3M Company. The sale was reported in the July 9th edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”
Dart Industries and Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. officials have agreed in principle to purchase by Minnesota Mining of Riker Laboratories, Ethical Drug Division of Dart Industries, for 1,500,000 common shares of Minnesota Mining. The transaction has a value of slightly over $156 million…
Dart said the proposed sale of Riker would not materially affect 1969 earnings of Dart Industries and should contribute importantly to the company’s capital resources.
The 1977 “Muscatine Journal” feature went on to chronicle the last chapter of the story.
Rexall was dropped as a corporate name in 1969, replaced by Dart Industries
In 1972, 50 company owned Liggett drug stores were sold.
In 1973, 12 company owned Drug King stores in California and Oregon were sold.
In 1976, all of Rexall’s Canadian operations were sold.
And in 1977, the last of the lot went. Rexall’s manufacturing facilities in St. Louis, its franchise drug division and its contract manufacturing operations were all sold. They had sales of $50 million last year.
Justin Dart heads a company that will do better than $1.5 billion of business this year, none of it under the Rexall name.
While the Riker name is long gone, signs of the company’s existence still remain in the form of several current Manhattan buildings that once housed Riker stores.
Unfortunately, the building that housed Riker’s original location at 353 Sixth Avenue (now 675 Avenue of the Americas) is not one of them. Construction of the building located there today, called the “Mattel Building,” began in 1900, so it’s possible that its planned construction facilitated Riker’s 1897 move up Sixth Avenue to 373 Sixth Avenue (now 711 Avenue of the Americas). Located at the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue, the building there now almost certainly dates back to Riker. This rendering of it appeared in an 1899 publication called “A Pictorial Description of Broadway,” found in the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org
…and this description of it appeared in a 1907 advertisement:
Here five floors, devoted to the various departments of the Drug Store business, have probably accomodated more customers than have ever been served in a similar drug store space elsewhere in the same length of time.
This building located there today, sans a few architectural modifications at the roof level and a fire escape added on the 23rd Street side, certainly fits the bill.
It appears that at least two other Manhattan buildings that housed Riker stores remain to this day as well.
The building at 15 West 34th Street, expanded from six to eight stories by Bonwit Teller to accommodate the Riker store, was sometimes referred to in newspaper articles as the “Riker Building,” A sketch of the store front was included in this November 1, 1908 advertisement that announced its opening.
Below is a current view of the building courtesy of “Google Earth.” The only thing missing is the “Riker” sign above the store front.
Finally, here’s the September 18, 1908 advertisement announcing the opening of the store at 2 West 14th Street.
I’m pretty certain it was located somewhere in this row of stores that occupy the current building located on the south side of 14th Street just west of Fifth Avenue (possibly a combination of the 3rd and 4th store fronts from the corner).
The bottle I found is mouth blown and about three inches tall. The main body is two inches in diameter and it abruptly narrows to one inch near the lip. It’s embossing includes the name “W. B. Riker & Co.” as well as the original 353 Sixth Avenue address. This results in a very narrow date range for the bottle.
The presence of “Co.”in the embossed name dates it no earlier than 1892 when William H. Riker sold the business and the initial address of 353 Sixth Avenue dates it no later than their 1897 move to 23rd Street (373 Sixth Avenue).
Frank Parker was a pharmacist by trade who lived on New York’s Long Island in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. During this time he operated retail drug stores in Islip Village (1880 to 1884), Babylon (1884 to 1887), East Islip (1893 to 1897) and Central Islip (1906 to 1913). He also held several political positions in Islip including Town Supervisor from 1898 to 1902..
Born in 1850, census records indicate that Parker immigrated to the United States from England in 1869. His portrait appeared in the March 21, 1908 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
Parker began his pharmacy career not on Long Island, but in Brooklyn, New York where he was first listed in Brooklyn’s 1872/1873 Directory with the occupation “drugs.” Then, sometime in 1876 or 1877 he established his own drug store at 244 Broadway (corner of 8th Street) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The capital needed to support the business during these early days was provided by a man named Francis Fenelon Murray. Their limited partnership agreement naming Parker as “General Partner” and Murray as “Special Partner” was published in several September and October, 1878 editions of Brooklyn’s “Times Union.”
Among other things the agreement stated:
The amount of capital which the said FRANCIS FENELON MURRAY, as such special partner, has contributed to the common stock of said partnership, is the sum of one thousand dollars in cash.
The agreement associated the business with a second Brooklyn address of 118 Wythe Avenue. While Parker was never listed at this address in the Brooklyn directories, a notice announcing the drug store’s opening certainly confirms its existence.
A copy of the notice was supplied by Parker’s grandson after reading a previous version of this post.
More than just a druggist, at least by today’s standards, this December 9, 1878 advertisement in the Brooklyn “Times Union” made it clear that Parker’s inventory included a product called “Dr. Underhill’s Original Pure Wines” produced in Westchester, New York’s Croton Point Vineyard.
Imported wines were also sold as evidenced by this label also provided by Parker’s grandson.
In addition to being a retailer, Parker also manufactured his own line of patent medicines.
It was sometime in 1880 that Parker initiated a move from Brooklyn to Long Island’s Islip. That year the 1880/1881 Brooklyn directory continued to list his drug business at 244 Broadway however, it now listed his residence as “Islip, N.Y.” The following year neither his residence or business were mentioned in the Brooklyn directories.
That same year, a June 19, 1880 story in Amityville N. Y.’s local newspaper, the “South Side Signal,” made it clear that by then his drug business was up and running in Islip. The story appeared under the heading “Islip Village.”
Excitement runs high over the liquor license granted to Mr. Parker, the new druggist. Mr. Parker says, however, that he only intends to sell spirits as medicine. He claims to be alive to the fact that any other course would be suicidal to himself as a responsible druggist. He is not a believer in a tippler’s drug store, so he says. “We shall see what we shall see.” One thing is certain, if the place is kept as a liquor saloon, three fourths of the people here will move on him sharp, short and decisive. For our own part, we say let Mr. Parker have fair play. A drug store should sell spirits medicinally, and we have no good reason yet to believe that this one will do otherwise.
A story that ran almost three years later in the February 3, 1883 edition of the “South Side Signal” clearly demonstrated that he was still running his Islip business at that time so he apparently didn’t ruffle any feathers with alcohol sales. The story also provided some evidence of Parker’s marketing talents.
Mr Wilson is painting Hygeia, the goddess of health, on the side wall of Parker’s drug store. The painting is attracting considerable attention.
In March, 1884 Parker was one of three individuals from Islip that registered a trademark for a patent medicine with the name “Bait.” U. S. Patent Office records described it as “a perfume for the breath.”
A “Bait” label provided by his grandson exhibits Parker’s Brooklyn address of 244 Broadway, suggesting that sale of the product dated back to the late 1870’s.
In 1884 Parker moved west to Babylon N. Y. and opened a drug store there. An announcement to that effect appeared in the May 1, 1884 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
Another drug store on Deer Park Avenue is an assured fact. Frank Parker, lately located at Islip, assures us that he expects to build on his recent purchase and begin business without delay. “The more the merrier.”
True to his word, less than three months later the July 19th edition of the “South Side Signal” announced that construction was underway.
The contract for building the new drug store, on Deer Park Avenue, for Mr. Frank Parker, of Islip, has been awarded to Samuel M. Kellum. The building will be two stories in height and 20×40 feet in size. Ground has been broken.
Parker remained on Deer Park Avenue in Babylon for a little less than three years during which time he continued to exhibit a talent for drawing people to his store. One such example appeared in the June 12, 1886 edition of the “South Side Signal.”
The store of Frank Parker, on Deer Park Avenue, was crowded on Monday evening, with people who gathered to watch the unfolding of a night-blooming cereus. The beautiful flower began to unfold soon after 6 P.M. and continued to do so until about 9 o’clock when it was at its height of beauty. After that hour it would have gradually closed its petals, but Mr. Parker removed it from the plant, and placed it in alcohol thus preserving it in its full beauty. Mr. Parker who is an enthusiastic and successful florist, had for five years watched the growth and development of this plant, which had never blossomed until this week. His courtesy in permitting the public witness the unfolding of this beautiful flower was greatly appreciated by all present.
Ultimately Parker sold the Babylon drug business in 1887. The sale was reported in the April 9, 1887 edition of the “Suffolk Weekly Times.”
Frank Parker has sold his drug business at Babylon to Lester A. Wyatt of Islip.
According to his grandson he spent the next several years in New York City where he managed a drug store for the Lawrence Company at Sixth Ave and 26th St. and later at Broadway and 30th St. (Note: The 1887/1888 NYC directory listed a drug firm called Lawrence, Keyser & Co. with addresses on Sixth Avenue and Broadway. This is most likely the N.Y.C. company referenced by his grandson.)
His story returns to Long Island in 1893 when the March 11th edition of the “South Side Signal” ran this story under the heading “East Islip:”
Frank Parker, of Babylon, who some years ago was engaged in the drug business in Islip Village is about to embark in business in East Islip – or is at least reported to have leased the store of Thomas Walters for that purpose. He is desirous of being appointed Postmaster, and a petition is being circulated in his behalf.
Less than a year later the February 24, 1894 edition of the “South Side Signal” announced that Parker had been appointed to the postmaster position. It appears from the story that the appointment created quite a stir at the time.
The appointment of Druggist Frank Parker to be postmaster here (East Islip) was like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky to the unterrified Democracy of East Islip. To say the least it was unexpected. William H. Brady had received the unanimous endorsement of the County Committee and was the choice of a large portion of the Democracy of the village. There were a few of the followers of the ruling party who strenuously objected to Brady’s appointment, but as no third candidate was advanced it was thought by all that the latter would be appointed, or that Postmaster Frazer would hold over. Mr. Parker had never voted in the district until last fall, having been a resident of this vicinity about nine months…The giving of this office to a comparatively stranger and the “turning down” of a young man who was born and brought up here, and who has also been a worker for his party, and who in addition had the sanction of the County Committee is certainly strange politics.
For three years, Parker ran the post office while continuing to operate his East Islip drug business, both of which were apparently quartered in the space he originally rented from Thomas Walters. This all changed in 1897 when a June 26th story in the “South Side Signal” announced that he had just sold the drug business..
The drug business formerly conducted by Postmaster Frank Parker has been sold by the latter to Robert Topping, who will remove the same to the store of his brother, David H. Topping. An addition is now being built on the rear of the store to be used exclusively for the pharmacy. Mr. Topping has been in the latter business in the past and will no doubt do well here. Mr. Parker removed the post office on Thursday from the Walters Building to the store of David H. Topping, where he will remain during the balance of Postmaster Parker’s term.
Parker remained in East Islip for another seven years during which time he not only served out his term as postmaster, but three terms as supervisor and one as town clerk. He also ran for Assembly on two occasions but lost both times.
His only connection with the drug business during this time was filling in for drug store owners who were either ill or out of town. One such occasion, when he filled in for druggist Frank W. Race, was documented in the October 26, 1901 edition of the “South Side Signal,” under the heading “Islip.” Coincidentlly, Race’s pharmacy was at the same Islip location as Parker’s original Long Island drug store.
In the absence of Druggist Frank W. Race during the past week, Supervisor Parker has been compounding prescriptions at the latter’s pharmacy.
In 1905 Parker moved again, this time back to Central Islip where he ultimately bought Race’s drug business. The story begins with an October 14, 1905 story in the “South Side Signal.”
Former Town Clerk Frank Parker has decided to embark in the drug trade at Central Islip and will shortly open a store in the vicinity of the depot. We trust he may be successful in this venture.
The following spring this item appeared in the March 3, 1906 edition of the South Side Signal. It appears to have been written at the time he officially opened for business.
Frank Parker has purchased the pharmacy business formerly conducted by Frank W. Race and will hereafter conduct the same. The location is a good one and Mr. Parker will doubtless build up a profitable trade. It will be remembered that he conducted the same business at the same stand some twenty years ago.
An item published three months prior, in the November 14, 1905 edition of the “South Side Signal,” suggested that he built a new store at that location prior to his March, 1906 opening.
Boss Wright has the contract for the erection of the new drug store and residence of Frank Parker at Central Islip. The building will be 18×35 feet in size.
This undated post card, captioned “Parker Pharmacy, Central Islip,” fits the description.
Census records from 1910 indicate that Parker was still operating the drug store at that time.
Ultimately, Parker sold the Central Islip drug store in 1913 as evidenced by this item that appeared in the December 3, 1913 edition of a publication called the “Paint, Oil and Drug Review.”
Islip, N. Y. – John H. Allen of Central Valley, N. Y., bought the drug business of Frank Parker and will move his family here.
In 1916, the “ERA Drugggists’ Directory” named Harrison M. Jones as the proprietor so apparently it changed hands again shortly after.
On a personal note, according to an item published in the March 21, 1908 edition of the “South Side Signal,” Parker was twice widowed and about to be married for the third time.
Babylon friends of ex-supervisor Frank Parker of Islip will be interested in the announcement of his engagement to Miss Clara Woodworth of that place…Mr. Parker has been married twice previously. His first wife passed away while the couple were residents of Babylon, and his second wife, while they were making their home in East Islip.
1920 census records indicate that by then, Parker, along with his third wife Clara, had left Long Island and were living in Oakland, California. He passed away in 1930.
The subject bottle is roughly eight ounces in size with a tooled crown finish. It’s embossed with the East Islip location dating it between 1893 and 1897. Recognizing that the crown finish wasn’t patented until 1892 and likely took several years to gain popularity it’s likely that the bottle dates more toward the 1897 date. The bottle is shaped exactly like a mineral water bottle, suggesting that Parker bottled and sold mineral water as part of his East Islip business.
Fraser & Co. was a New York City based business that maintained both a drug manufacturing facility and a retail pharmacy. They were pioneers in the manufacture of measured doses of medicines in tablet form.
The founder, Horation Nelson Fraser, was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1851.
After spending much of his childhood in Davenport, Iowa, he returned to Providence where soon after he entered the pharmacy business. His early education, along with his early work history were summarized in a March 9, 1903 feature published in the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record.”
…he was apprenticed to the drug business, engaging with W. R. Blanding, at that time one of the foremost and most respected pharmacists in New England. When his term of apprenticeship ended he continued his studies and soon after matriculated at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. Immediately after obtaining his diploma he went to Chicago and became connected with the firm of E. H. Sargent & Co., then, as now, the leading firm of retailers in the West. After a brief experience in the Western metropolis he moved East and entered the employment of Caswell, Hazzard & Co.
It was while working for Caswell & Hazzard that the seeds of his future were sown when he met Dr.Robert M. Fuller who, at the time, was working on the idea of administering medicines in tablet form.
According to Fraser’s own words found in the May 11, 1899 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era.”
I think it was in the year 1879 that Dr. Robert M. Fuller invited me to call at his office at 136 West 42nd Street. On my arrival he told me that for sometime past he had been working on the subject of dividing medicines into quantities of desired size for exact and practical dispensing and administration.
For some reason, which I have never considered it proper to ask him, he confined himself in his conversation entirely to the mechanical part of the invention (for clearly it was an original idea) and thoroughly described to me the process and application of his method. It consisted first in thoroughly triturating the substances together, and second, in moulding this trituration into divisions to which he had already given the name “Tablet Triturates.”
The 1903 “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record” feature went on to explain that it was Fraser who was credited with manufacturing them in such a manner as to make their production commercially viable.
Mr. Fraser assisted him in the mechanical part of the work, and put the method into practical operation. After vainly endeavoring to get his employer, Mr. Hazzard, interested in the development of Dr. Fuller’s idea, Mr. Fraser decided to branch out into business for himself and start the manufacture of tablets by the Fuller process in connection with the conduct of a retail pharmacy. Leaving Caswell & Hazzard & Co. on July 21, 1881, he engaged in business by opening the pharmacy at 208 Fifth Avenue, and with a plant consisting of a mortar and pestle and twenty hard rubber molds he commenced the manufacture of tablet triturates, besides making a bid for such prescription business that might come his way.
An advertisement for Fraser’s Tablet Triturates found in the 1889 “Medical Directory of the City of New York” included his sales pitch to the medical profession:
According to this circa 1886 advertisement, the tablets were originally sold
in four ounce glass stop bottles each containing 1,000 tablets. They are all the same size but contain different doses.
For several years Fraser both manufactured tablet triturates and operated his pharmacy business out of the basement at 208 Fifth Avenue under the name Fraser & Co. This circa 1886 advertisement described the business as:
Manufacturers, Importers and Wholesale Dealers in Medicines and Physicians Supplies
Sometime in late 1887 or 1888 Fraser moved the tablet manufacturing operation to 311 West 40th Street and by 1890 had incorporated that piece of the business under the name of the “Fraser Tablet Triturate Mfg. Co.” That year, the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory named Fraser, president and Giles A. Manwaring, secretary of the newly formed corporation. Shortly afterwards the manufacturing operation moved again, this time to 23 Vandewater Street. By 1890, a wholesaler named Chas. Truax & Co. needed 15 pages in their catalog to cover the menu of Fraser’s Tablet Truturates. Here’s the first of the 15 pages:
Continued growth dictated another factory expansion in 1895, this time across the East River in Brooklyn. An April 10th story in the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” provided the details.
…The transaction which has just been completed is with the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Company, whose present place of manufacture is on Vandewater Street and which will within a few days take possession of the Brasher property on Ninth Avenue between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets. The property has a frontage of 200 feet on Ninth Avenue and a depth of 325 feet on Nineteenth Street and 275 feet on Eighteenth Street. The three story brick buildings and engine house will be put in order by the new owner for immediate use. The consideration is placed at $200,000.
Horatio N. Fraser, president of the manufacturing company, says in regard to his purchase: “I have sought Brooklyn as the scene of our industry as the most desirable within a reasonable distance from New York City. We will start work as soon as possible and will give employment to about two hundred and fifty Brooklyn people on an average. Our present place in New York is entirely inadequate for our business and, in my judgement, Brooklyn presents the most desirable attractions for manufacturing industries hereabouts. I feel that it will be only a very short time before many other New York concerns will do as we have done and secure a site in Brooklyn while they may.”
According to an item in the December 10, 1895 edition of the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record,” Fraser was up and running there by the end of the year. The story mentioned that their facility occupied 30 city lots and was three times the size of their Vandewater Street location.
Meanwhile, back in Manhattan the pharmacy portion of the business continued at 208 Fifth Avenue where it was listed under the name Fraser & Co. It remained there until the early 1890’s when the company leased an entire building further north at 262 Fifth Avenue.
In 1901 the Fraser Tablet Company was incorporated to take over both the pharmacy interests of Fraser & Co. and the manufacturing operations of the Fraser Tablet Triturate Mfg. Company. The September 14, 1901 edition of a publication entitled the “United States Investor” described Fraser’s operation at the time of incorporation.
The company was recently incorporated by Horatio N. Fraser, under New York state laws, his object being to unite the different branches of his business. These interests conducted under the names Fraser & Co., and the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Co., have been taken over by the new company. The company’s business not only includes the manufacture of drugs and medicines, as might be inferred from its name, but in addition, it engages in the preparation and sale of bags, chests, show cases, books, catalogues, sick room and medical supplies, etc.
New York City’s 1902 Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed the new company with capital of $1,500,000 and named Horatio N Fraser as president. The listing named “Fraser & Co.” as the Registered Trade Name (RTN) of the corporation.
Their retail pharmacy at 262 Fifth Avenue, which included both a prescription department and analytical department/laboratory was described in the 1903 “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record” feature.
Besides prescription compounding proper, which calls for the services of nine licensed pharmacists, an extensive department of analytical and bacteriological examination is conducted. The average monthly receipts from this department alone amount to $1,500.
The feature included this view of their laboratory…
…and the March, 1902 edition of a publication called the “Medical Examiner and Practitioner” laid out the services it provided.
The 1903 feature went on to say:
…the income from all departments of the retail pharmacy amounted to $85,000… The store is unique, original and complete – a prescription work shop, with all counters and work open to inspection: no fancy goods, no perfumes, no confectionary, no soda water, no trade sundries, but everything in the way of medicines and sick room comforts that a physician wants.
The feature also included this view of their prescription department…
In 1901 the company also established another pharmacy location, this one in Chicago, Illinois at 28 E. Washington Street.
The 1901 “United States Investor” story summed up their turn of the century operation like this.
The company states the assets are about $489,000. It also says that there is a $40,000 mortgage, but there has always been sufficient stock sold to clear it off. From what we can learn, the company appears to be in a prosperous condition, and is well thought of. The company is well known among the wholesale druggists, and the trade speaks well of Mr. Fraser and the company, of which he is the head.
The above turn of the century assessment appears to have been made around the time that the company was at its peak. Several years later a fire in their Brooklyn factory may have served as the catalyst for a downturn. The fire was reported in the February 22, 1904 edition of the “New York Sun.”
The three story brick factory building of the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Company on Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, Brooklyn was entirely destroyed last night by fire, which caused $350,000 damage, on which there is insurance for about $250,000. The damage to a large extent was due to the fact that there was an extremely small pressure of water. The property was on the highest point in Brooklyn and the water pressure was low anyway…
Mr. Fraser said that there were over 2,000,000 tablets in the factory. Two hundred persons are out of employment as the result of the fire.
Afterwards the company continued to list their address on 19th Street in the directories so they apparently rebuilt at either the same or an adjacent location. That being said, the fire certainly had an impact on the business as evidenced by this item that appeared in the September 15, 1905 edition of the “Wall Street Journal” under the heading “Answers to Inquiries”
Is there any market value for the stock of the Fraser Tablet Co., of New York? – F.N.C., Omaha
Answer – An official of the Fraser Tablet Company states that since their fire, which has put them back somewhat, there has scarcely been any demand for their stock, none of which however, has been sold by them below par. The company is making money but it will be impossible for them to pay dividends until some of their fire loss is paid up.
By 1908 their New York pharmacy business had moved out of 262 Fifth Avenue after which they moved around quite a bit, listing Manhattan locations at 563 Fifth Avenue (1908 to 1910), 583 Fifth Avenue (1911 to 1916) and 5 East 47th Street (1918 to 1919). This advertisement referencing their 583 Fifth Avenue location appeared in the December, 1916 edition of a publication called “Military Medicine.”
Throughout that period they continued to maintain their Brooklyn manufacturing site usually with the address of 453 19th St.
Sometime in the early 1920’s the company was sold to a cooperative concern of pharmacists called the Ruth-Patrick Drug Company. The sale was mentioned in a December 8, 1921 feature on Ruth-Patrick in “The Buffalo (N.Y.) American.”
A company started five years ago in San Francisco in a very small laboratory without a large capital. Today it is a $10,000,000 corporation, the third largest manufacturing drug concern in the world. It is now operating the largest pharmaceutical laboratory on the Pacific coast and another one in Chicago, besides the one in New York City. It has just purchased the Fraser tablet company one of the oldest and largest tablet concerns in the world.
At this point Fraser, according to his November 9, 1942 obituary published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, retired. He would live in retirement to the age of 90. The new management team listed in the 1922 Brooklyn and Queens Copartnership and Corporation directory consisted of H. Lees Smith as president and S. R. Break as secretary-treasurer.
Three years later, the company was declared bankrupt and sold at public auction. By then, the company’s menu of medical preparations had been reduced to medicated candies and mints. The December 2, 1925 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle”provided the details.
FRASER TABLET CO. SOLD AS BANKRUPT.
At a public sale before Bankruptcy referee Theodore Stitt, the Fraser Tablet Company, manufacturers of domino mints and medicated candies at 453 19th St., this boro, has been bid in for $111,000 by John J. McCue of west Orange N. J. The purchase price represented $40,000 cash and an assumption of $71,000 of obligations not dischargeable in bankruptcy…The Fraser Company was adjudicated bankrupt on Nov. 10 last.
Another December 2, 1925 story, this one in the Brooklyn “Times Union,” included this vague reasoning for the bankruptcy, which suggested mismanagement by the cooperative.
The Fraser Tablet Company was petitioned into bankruptcy about two months ago when its managers discovered that the working capital was insufficient to maintain it as a going concern. It has recently suffered somewhat from financial manipulation which had depleted its capital.
The next year McCue took out a mortgage on the Brooklyn factory as evidenced by this June 17, 1926 story in the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle.”
MORTGAGE ON SOUTH BROOKLYN PLANT
Robert A. Martin Company, Inc., has procured for Fraser Tablet Company, a first mortgage loan of $85,000 on the borrower’s chemical manufacturing plant located on 18th and 19th Sts., between Prospect Park West and 9th Ave., this boro, a plot fronting about 200 feet on each street.
Four years later, a notice published in several November, 1930 editions of the “Times Union” announced that a judgement of foreclosure had been issued on the property and it was being offered for sale on November 28, 1930.
The Fraser Tablet Company apparently survived and according to N.Y.S. Supreme Court records (Dr. Miles Laboratories, Inc. against American Pharmaceuticals Company, Inc. and Philip Kachurin), sometime in 1930 the company moved its plant and business to Manhattan, where they were listed under the heading “patent medicines” at 11 Park Place in 1932 and 1933. Later the company moved the plant to Queens where, throughout most of the 1940’s they’re listed in Richmond Hill with an address of 84-40 101st St. By the early 1950’s I don’t see them listed.
As far as I can tell the company continued to maintain a Manhattan pharmacy now listed again under the Fraser & Co. name, up through at least 1960. The location in the 1930’s was 251 4th Avenue and later from the 1940’s up through 1960 it was 502 Park Ave (59th St.and Park Ave).
Their long time pharmacy location at 262 Fifth Avenue was recently a vacant lot, this view of which is courtesy of Google Earth (on the right). The adjacent building (on the left) is clearly visible in both today’s photo as well as the 1903 Pharmaceutical Era photo.
In the future the site will accommodate one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan, a 1,043 foot residential tower currently under construction.
As far as I can tell, their Brooklyn factory site was ultimately incorporated within the right-of-way of the Prospect Expressway which was built in the late 1940’s and 1950’s so it was likely acquired and condemned by New York State around that time.
The bottle I found is mouth blown, no more than 2-1/2 inches tall and is embossed on one side “FRASER & CO.” Advertisements as early as 1886 were illustrating this type of bottle.
That being said, these early ads only mentioned a four ounce size containing 1,000 tablets. Later, according to this May 11, 1899 advertisement in the “Pharmaceutical Era,” they were packaging them in amounts as low as 100.
A labeled example containing 100 tablets that recently appeared on the internet appears to closely match our bottle.
“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.