The W stands for William H. Miner. An inventor, businessman and philanthropist, in 1903 he established the “Heart’s Delight Farm” in Chazy New York, a small hamlet about 50 miles south of Montreal, Canada, where he spent much of his childhood. His obituary, printed in the April 5, 1930 edition of the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press, described the start of the farm.
Mr. Miner was reputed to have amassed a fortune of $90,000,000 through the invention and manufacture of freight car couplings and other freight car equipment. He left Chazy 45 years ago to seek his fortune with $22 in his pocket.
He lived in Chicago until 28 years ago when, with Mrs. Miner he moved (back) to Chazy and established a residence there on a 40-acre farm. The following year he purchased 400 acres adjoining, and continued to add to his estate year by year until the entire property, known as “Heart’s Delight Farm” now consists of about 10,000 acres. On this farm is one of the show places of the “north country,” a large game reserve filled with herds of buffalo, elk and deer.
A September 22, 1912 story about Miner appeared in the Louisville, Kentucky’s Courier Journal. It contained a sketch that I presume represented the farm buildings around that time.
Excerpts from that story provide a description of the farm in 1912.
On his estate he employs 400 men. Three beautiful streams flow through the farm. There are hundreds of charming cottages and artistic farm structures. He has built miles of macadamized road through the property, and made the 11,000 acres, not only a paradise for man but a paradise for animals. There are herds of buffalo and herds of elk. Deer wander over the land, gentle and free. He has homes for the birds, wild and tame. There are flocks of golden pheasants and multitudes of partridges…
Black bass and trout abound in his lakes and brooks. He has five lakes on his estate. The largest, Lake Alice, is named in honor of his wife.
To get water power for generating electricity he has built a dam 5,700 feet long – the largest private dam in the world. Every mechanical appliance that can be employed on the farm to advantage he uses. He lights his roads and he lights all the buildings on his great estate by electricity. Not only that, but he furnishes light and power to the people of the little village of Chazy free…
He raises many thousands of bushels of corn, of wheat, of oats, of rye, of barley, of buckwheat and thousands of tons of alfalfa. All his grain is ground in his own grist mill and fed to the farm animals. He has perhaps the finest herd of Holstein cattle in the world. He has the champion bull and the champion butter cow of the universe. He has the champion Percheron stallion too. His Chesire White and his Yorkshire hogs have made a wide reputation…
The story also touches on Miner’s human side, describing how his employees were treated.
To those of his employees who are married he furnishes cottages rent free. His unmarried male employees live in clubs of fifteen. Each one of these clubs has a library, a reading room, a billiard table and a music room. He is a great believer in the virtue of water. There are lots of bathtubs in every dwelling house on his estate, and every house has plumbing that is high grade and sanitary. Every house, from his own down to that of the farm hand, has hot water, cold water and spring water taps.
According to the Miner Institute’s web site, by 1918 the farm had grown to 12,000 acres – 4,000 acres of tillable land, 2,000 acres of pasture, and 6,000 acres of woodland – and the farm:
had it’s own dairy, box factory, ice house, natatorium, greenhouses and grist mill. There was a 20 – bedroom guest house and an entertainment center called Harmony Hall, which included an auditorium complete with a stage that could accommodate 300 persons.
After his death in 1930, Miner’s will provided for the establishment of the Miner Institute, a school and farm devoted to teaching scientific and environmentally sound agricultural practices to the farmers and youth of northern New York. Today, the Miners Institute offers educational programs in dairy and equine management and environmental science. It also operates revenue producing dairy and equine farms.
The bottle I found is mouth blown with external threads and the cap is still mostly intact. It most likely dates to the first decade or two of the farm. I just can’t figure out what it might have contained.
Curtice Brothers, founded in 1868, by Simeon and Edgar Curtice, was one of the pioneers in the canning and preserving of food products.
The infancy of the company is described in the biography of Simeon Curtice contained in the “History of Rochester and Monroe County, New York, from the Earliest Historic Times to 1907, Vol. II”
In 1862 he concluded his studies and then established himself in the grocery business in Rochester in the old flat iron building at Main, North and Franklin Streets. In 1865 he was joined by his younger brother, Edgar, and they adopted the firm name of Curtice Brothers. They began a business association which continued until his death. It was in a room above their store that they commenced the canning of fruit in a small way, experimenting with the preserving of various fruits. In the autumn of 1868 they sold their grocery business, and purchased the property at the corner of Water and Mortimer Streets and devoted themselves entirely to the canning and preserving of fruits and vegetables. The rapidity with which their products found favor on the market led to the demand for increased space, causing them to purchase land and build on North Water Street between Andrews and River Streets.
They began operating at this North Water Street location on or about April 1, 1871. A description of this facility was found in the June 30, 1871 edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Yesterday we were surprised to find a four story building including basement, on North Water Street, below Andrews, devoted entirely to the business of canning and preserving fruits and vegetables…The Curtice Brothers commenced the business some three years ago, and they managed it so judiciously that they have met with unusual success. They have been encouraged to erect a building for this special business, and last March operations were commenced. An excellent cellar was built with a view of providing accommodations for this kind of trade. The structure is forty feet wide by 130 feet long, built of brick. About April 1st, the Curtice Brothers entered the building and began making cans for use the present season. They are now employing sixty-five hands in the various departments.
The Rochester city directories listed the Curtice Brothers at this location from 1871 through 1878.
According to Simeon’s biography, in 1880, the business was forced to move again due to the demand for still further increased space. This led to another location in Rochester on Livingston Street near St Paul Street where they built a plant that would remain operational until 1947.
An indication of the company’s size and importance to Rochester can be inferred by the fact that Livingston Street was apparently renamed Curtice Street. The company started using the new street name in the 1900 directory.
According to Simeon Curtice’s obituary in the February 16, 1905 edition of the Democrat and Chronicle, the business incorporated in 1889.
The Curtice Brothers copartnership continued until 1889, when the business was turned over to a corporation, organized for that purpose, under the name of Curtice Brothers Company, which continued until 1901, when it was consolidated with the Curtice Brothers Canning Company, of Vernon N.Y. to form the present company.
Simeone Curtice served as president until his death in 1905. At that point. Edgar succeeded him as president and ran the company until 1920, when he also passed away. By this time, in addition to Rochester, the company maintained plants in Indiana, Woodstown, N.J. and Vernon, N.Y.
According to a story marking the firm’s 90th anniversary in the November 23, 1958 issue of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, after Edgar’s death the controlling stock of the company was in the hands of the Security Trust Co.,until 1923 when Douglas Townson bought the stock and took control. Townson served as president and later as a director, and was still serving as a director of the company when the story was written.
By this time, according to the 90th anniversary story:
The company had about 150 permanent employees, and as many as 3,000 during the packing season, when factories operate in two shifts.
According to an April 2, 1961 story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the business was dissolved at that time.
A purchase price of $3 million has dissolved the 93 year old Curtice Brothers Co., of Rochester and the Burns-Alton Corp. of Alton and turned ownership of the firms’ assets to a growers organization.
Transfer of the food processing companies’ facilities to the Pro-Fac Cooperative , Inc., made up of about 5oo Western New York fruit and vegetable growers, took place here Friday. Payment will be made over a 10-year period.
It’s apparent that as far back as 1871, the Curtice Brothers operation was quite significant. The June 30, 1871 story in the Democrat and Chronicle goes on to say:
The firm is now engaged in canning cherries which are put up in two and three pound packages. After the cherry season is over, will come in their order, lima beans, string beans, green peas, tomatos, corn, plums, pears, and quinces.
The Curtice Brothers have exhibited much enterprise in thus building up a business that was entirely new to Rochester. They expect to can fifteen hundred bushels of cherries, and in all fruits and vegetables they will can very little, if any, short of half a million bushels this season
Their earliest newspaper advertisements from November/December of 1889 mentioned their canned fruits and vegetables as well as Red Current Jelly, Plum Pudding, “Pleasant Dreams” Mince Meat and “Blue Label” Ketchup.
In 1893, Curtice Brothers was a major food supplier for the Chicago World’s Fair. Under the heading “Hungry Folks at Chicago Will Never Forget the Name of Rochester, N.Y.,” the April 14, 1893 issue of the Democrat and Chronicle reported:
Upon investigation as to the the truth of a rumored large sale of food products, we find that with their usual enterprise, Curtice Brothers Co. have succeeded in making a contract with the Wellington Catering Company, which has the privileges of all the cafes and restaurants in the World’s Fair grounds at Chicago, to supply them to the exclusion of all other brands, with canned apples, squash and pumpkin (for pies); green corn and peas; preserved fruits; plum puddings, and “blue label” tomato ketchup, and when it is known that in the several cafes and restaurants there are lunch counters that aggregate over one and one-half miles in length and more than twelve hundred tables, at which can be seated at any one time to exceed fifteen thousand people (it is moderately estimated that more than one hundred thousand people will be fed during each day of the exposition), the magnitude of this contract can be easily imagined – better, perhaps when it is known that the estimate of wants already given is sufficient to make sixty-eight carloads.
The company marketed a number of items under their “Blue Label” brand including a line of “Blue Label” soups, but their most famous and recognizeable one was their ketchup.
It’s not clear when the company started making ketchup but advertisements referencing their “Imperial Tomato Ketchup” date back to at least 1879 and by 1889 advertisements referenced the “Blue Label” brand.
Immensely popular, the “Blue Label” brand lost market share to Heinz when the company refused to remove the preservative, benzoate of soda, from their ketchup recipe. In the early 1900’s there was a general trend away from food preservatives in the United States which sparked a great debate over the use of benzoate of soda. After a referee board appointed by President Roosevelt supported the use of benzoate of soda as a preservative, Curtice Brothers launched an advertising campaign in the spring of 1909 stating that “Blue Label Ketchup contained only those ingredients recognized and endorsed by the U.S. Government.”The advertisement below, from the May 20, 1909 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is typical of the campaign.
Although it was never banned in small quantities, scientific advancements and the court of public opinion had caused most companies to stop using benzoate of soda by 1915. Curtice Brothers however, refused. According to “Pure Ketchup: A History of America’s National Condiment with Recipes”
Curtice Brothers was the clear loser in the benzoate war. At the turn of the century their “Blue Label Tomato Ketchup” was among the most respected and well-liked condiments in America. By 1915 its prestige and popularity had fallen. W. Stanley Maclem, later the president of Curtice Brothers, disclosed that they had “received a great deal of unfavorable publicity from the benzoate issue,” and he believed that “this could have been one of the factors in explaining the decline of the company’s product in the catsup market.”
Nonetheless the “Blue Label” Ketchup brand appears to have outlasted the Curtice Brothers business. I’ve seen it referenced in advertisements as late as 1972, more than 10 years after the Curtis Brothers business was dissolved.
I found two bottles, both mouth blown with external threads and an improved tooled finish. One bottle is about 10 1/2 inches tall and the size of a typical ketchup bottle today. The other bottle is identical, only smaller, just eight inches tall. The lower half of each bottle is ribbed except for a flat square space where the label would have gone. “Curtice Brothers Co., Preservers, Rochester, N.Y.” is embossed within a small circle on the shoulder.
This type of bottle began appearing in their advertisements around 1890. The earliest one I could find was from a series advertisements in the Pittsburgh Dispatch in November/December of 1890.
It wasn’t until 1929 that the company unveiled a new bottle type, the wide mouth.
This likely dates the bottles I found sometime between 1890 and 1929. Recognizing that they’re mouth blown puts them on the early to mid-range of the time period.
I’ve also found an example of their wide-mouthed bottle shown in the above advertisement. Embossed “Blue Label Ketchup,” on the base, the bottle was made by the Owens Illinois Glass Company. The date code on the base indicates it was likely manufactured in 1933.