E. W. Hoyt & Co.’s signature product was called Hoyt’s German Cologne which they began producing in Lowell Massachusetts around 1870.
The company was named after its founder and initial proprietor, Eli Waite Hoyt. His biographical sketch in the “History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, by D. Hamilton Hurd, published in 1890, stated that he was born in Alexandria, New York in 1838 and moved to Lowell when he was eight years old.
The biographical sketch went on to describe the start of the business.
At the age of about fourteen years he became a clerk in the drug-store of E.A. Staniels, on the corner of Central and Middlesex Streets, and at length was received as partner in the business. Upon the death of Mr. Staniels, in 1861, Mr. Hoyt, then twenty-three years of age, became sole proprietor.
Lowell directories from the 1860’s listed his business as an “apothecary,” located at Central, corner of Middlesex, where they also served as a sales agent for various products. The first newspaper advertisement that I can find for E. W. Hoyt & Co. named them as an agent for “Wilder’s Crow Killer.” The advetisement first appeared in the April 22, 1865 edition of the “New England Farmer.”
According to Hoyt’s biographical sketch, it was around this time, in the mid 1860’s, that Hoyt’s German Cologne was in its infancy.
About 1866 he began, in a small way, the manufacture and sale of cologne, declaring that the first thousand dollars he should earn he would devote to that enterprise. This purpose he fulfilled. In 1870 Freeman B. Shedd, who, for several years had served as clerk in the store, was received as partner, and the firm began the extensive manufacture and sale of “Hoyt’s German Cologne.”
Initial newspaper advertisements for it began appearing in 1871. The first were in Bangor, Maine where it was being sold by someone named Chas. Hight.
Very quickly the business outgrew the old Staniel’s apothecary, such that in 1873 another building was constructed on the adjoining lot. An item announcing the new building was printed in the July 17, 1873 edition of the Boston Globe.
Messers. E.W. Hoyt & Co., druggists, have recently erected a large four-story brick edition to their store, on the corner of Central and Middlesex Streets. This addition is to be used by this firm for the manufacture of their celebrated German cologne.
Ultimately, Hoyt and Shedd sold the retail portion of the business so that they could focus entirely on the manufacture of their cologne. According to Shedd’s obituary in the March, 1913 issue of “American Perfumer:”
In 1877 Hoyt & Shedd’s German cologne had become so high in popular favor throughout the world that the drug business was given over to the two head clerks and the attention of the two partners was given entirely to its manufacture.
Based on the 1880 Lowell Directory, the clerks were named Charles H. Crowell and A. J. Harrison and the drug store continued in business on Central Avenue under the name of Crowell & Harrison.
Shedd’s obituary goes on to say that E. W. Hoyt & Co. outgrew their Central Avenue building and in 1884 constructed a new building at Church and George Streets. By then, the company had also established a branch in Montreal, Canada.
By the mid to late 1880’s, in addition to Hoyt’s German Cologne, the company was also manufacturing several new products, the most notable being Rubifoam for the Teeth. This advertisement, printed in the 1890 edition of “Keesling’s Book of Recipes and Household Hints,” touts both Hoyt’s German Cologne and Rubifoam.
Eli Hoyt passed away in February, 1887 after which Shedd continued to run the company until his death in March, 1913. At that point, according to a March 17, 1913 story in the Boston Globe, the estate sold the business to his secretary, Alexis D. Sargent.
(to) Alexis D. Sargent, his secretary, he left his business, to be paid for at an assessed valuation, but no charge will be made for the good will.
Around the time that Sargent assumed control of the company their address in the Lowell directories changed to 295 Central, Room 8. I assume, but cannot confirm, that this was an office address and the manufacturing continued to occur at their facility at Church and George. Between 1901 and 1914 the company also included an address in New York City where they used local perfumers named A. B. Calisher & Co as their agent.
Lowell directories continued to list Sargent as manager of the business until his death in September 1926. Afterwards, the directories associated a Mary Sargent with the company so it appears that the business remained closely held by the Sargent family. The company was listed in Lowell, with Mary as manager, up through 1952. That year it was still listed in the Lowell business directory under the heading “Toilet Preparations – Mfrs.”
Other than it’s name, the cologne had no connection with Germany whatsoever. According to the “statement of facts” in court records associated with a trademark case that occurred years later:
The name “German”had been selected merely to give a definite title to the cologne, and they did not intend to offer it as bearing any semblance to German cologne.
The court records went on to say that:
They designed three sizes of bottles for this cologne, calling them large, medium and trial size, which retailed for $1, 50 cents and 25 cents respectively. The large and trial size they designed in 1870, and the medium in 1876.
Later, in the early 1900’s the company introduced Hoyt’s Nickel and Ten Cent colognes as well. Apparently the name was more of a size designation than an indication of cost because there were a lot of deals to be had out there. One 1908 advertisement for a store called Efird’s in Concord, North Carolina offered up nickel and dime bottles for three and seven cents respectively. Better yet in Washington, D.C., in 1911 at Goldeberg’s, you could get a ten cent bottle for a nickel and a coupon!
The company was a big believer in advertising through the use of trading cards and, taking it a step further, they soaked their cards in perfume. An example that recently appeared for sale on the Internet is presented below.
They apparently made these cards available to both the general public as well as in bulk to their retail agents. One advertisement, in the June 1888 edition of “Atlantic Monthly” aimed at the general public, actually promoted the perfume as well as the card which they would send to you if you provided them a two cent stamp.
Another advertisement, this one, aimed at dealers and printed in “Weeks and Potters Revised Catalog of Foreign and Domestic Drugs -1879,” offered to include the dealer’s business card information on the trading card.
We will send free of charge, to any dealer who applies to us, a supply of cards advertising “Hoyt’s German Cologne,” and perfumed with it, and in order that the distribution of them may be mutually profitable, we print the business card of the party on these cards…
According to www.cliffhoyt.com the company produced over 50 unique trading cards related to “Hoyt’s German Cologne.” In addition to trading cards, over the years the company also produced calendars and cardboard fans with advertising material printed on them. Visit www.cliffhoyt.com for some great photographs and additional information on E W Hoyt & Co. and their advertising materials.
The cliffhoyt website goes on to say that around 1918 the company dropped the word “German” from the name of the cologne, changing it to Hoyt’s Eau de Cologne.
This was certainly done in an effort to disassociate the product from its perceived German connection as a result of World War I. The need to do this, while obvious, was exemplified by a news story about a U.S. soldier who survived a gas attack during the war. Printed in the July 8, 1918 edition of the Chattanooga (Tennessee) News, it was entitled: Whiff of “German Cologne,” Now Recovering.
Fred L. Schwab, of the 117th engineers in France, is Chattanooga’s second boy to be gassed “over there.” In a letter to his mother, Mrs. J. M. Schwab, 220 East Main Street, he tells of his experience with a whiff of “Hoyt’s German Cologne,” as he pleasantly calls the gas bomb.
“Dearest mother,” he says in a letter dated June 1, “I am in the hospital now. No, nothing serious – just a whiff of German perfume. Don’t be alarmed, for I am O. K. now…
Believe it or not, Hoyt’s Cologne is being manufactured again today by Indio Products, Inc. According to their web site Indio maintains manufacturing, packaging, logistics and wholesale distribution facilities in Commerce, California. Indio has over 10,000 products and various trademarks, one of which is “Hoyt’s Cologne.”
Indio describes themselves as “the world’s most complete manufacturer and distributor of religious, spiritual, mystical and decorative products,” and their site implies that the cologne delivers good luck. One of their distributors, Wisdom products, Inc., describes it like this:
Hoyt’s Cologne developed in 1868 is truly an old fashioned fragrance reminiscent of early American colognes. A clean and refreshing scent with fragrance notes of citrus and floral. Hoyt’s is widely believed to bring good luck. Splash on your hands and body before playing games of chance.
I’ve found two Hoyt bottles, both mouth blown and about 3.5 inches tall. Their appearance matches a description provided in the trademark court records.
In 1870 the plaintiffs (Hoyt) designed a bottle of peculiar shape, having a depression or panel upon one side of it, in which were blown in the glass, in block letters, the words “Hoyt’s German Cologne, E. W. Hoyt & Co., Lowell, Mass.”
I suspect that both bottles are the 25 cent trial size.
On a final note, the trademark case previously referred to in this post made its way through the courts between 1885 and 1892 and involved E. W. Hoyt & Co. and a Philadelphia based company called F. Hoyt & Co. At the time, both companies sold cologne in three sizes of bottles whose appearance and labeling were very much alike except that the wording embossed on F. Hoyt’s bottles was “Hoyt’s Egyptian Cologne, F. Hoyt & Co., Philada., Pa.” In fact, F Hoyt & Co. went even further, also imitating E. W. Hoyt’s pictorial cards and the wooden boxes in which the bottles were packed. E. W. Hoyt & Co. brought legal action against F Hoyt & Co. based on the premise that:
many people are liable to be deceived thereby, and buy the defendants goods under the belief that they are getting those of the plaintiffs.
The lower courts granted E. W. Hoyt & Co. an injunction restraining the other Hoyt from imitating their bottles, boxes or labels and later, went further, restraining them from associating the word Hoyt’s with their cologne.
Ultimately however, the lower court decisions were overturned by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court based on the fact that their indented panel bottle design was not patented and , in fact, the bottle could actually be purchased, off the shelf, “by anyone who fancied its use.” Likewise, their cap label was not originated or patented by them and their adoption of it gave them no title to it.
The entire case history is summarized in a document entitled “Weekly Notes on Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the County Courts of Philadelphia and the United States District and Circuit Courts for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania, January 29, 1892.”
As a result of this decision, imitation of E. W. Hoyt’s packaging by F. Hoyt & Co. continued into the next decade as evidenced by this October 7, 1907 advertisement in a publication called “Fancy Goods and Notions,” where F. Hoyt & Co. went even further, calling their cologne “Hoyt’s Genuine German Cologne.”
Most drug and department store price listings printed in newspapers during the early 1900’s simply list “Hoyt’s German Cologne,” so it’s not really clear which brand they were actually selling.