W. B. Riker & Son, Co., Druggist, 353 6th Ave., N. Y. C.

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).

Murray & Lanman, Druggists, New York, Florida Water

Murray and Lanman’s Florida Water has been sold as a toilet water or perfume for almost two centuries. This 1885 advertisement called it the “universal perfume,” advertising it “for the handkerchief, the toilet and the bath.”

According to one advertisement, printed in the February 6, 1880 edition of the Oakland Tribune:

The pleasure of bathing is greatly increased by mixing in the tub half or even a quarter of a bottle of Murray & Lanman’s Florida Water. Instantly the whole atmosphere of the bath-room is as fragrant as a blooming flower garden, the mind becomes buoyant, and the body emerges refreshed and strengthened.

Other advertisements from the same era add that it’s also:

delightful and healthful in the sick room, relieves weakness, fatigue, prostration, nervousness and headache.

Some say that Florida Water has “magical” properties as well. Over the years it’s been used in Hoodoo, Voodoo, Santeria and Wicca practices for ritual offerings and purification among other things.

Murray and Lanman’s Florida Water is still made today by the firm of Lanman & Kemp-Barclay, who was featured in a February 7, 1999 article in the New York Daily News. According to that article:

Despite it’s name, Florida Water was never made in Florida. In fact, Florida wasn’t even a state when the company began. The word simply means “of flowers.”

The article went on to touch on the start of the business.

“We go way back,” says Stephen Cooper, president of Lanman & Kemp-Barclay, its makers. “Our company was founded in 1808 by Robert Murray. In the 1830’s, he got together with Lanman and that’s when they began our main product, which is Florida Water”

The earliest NYC directory I could find, Longworth’s New York Register and City Directory, published July 4, 1808, listed Robert J. Murray as a druggist located at 313 Pearl Street in lower Manhattan. In 1813 both Robert and his brother Lindley Murray were listed as druggists with different Pearl Street addresses and by the 1820’s both were listed at 263 Pearl Street under the name Robert & Lindley Murray, druggists.

In 1835, it was Lindley Murray (not Robert) who, along with David Trumball Lanman, established the partnership of Murray & Lanman. The business was first listed in the 1835 NYC Directory as druggists at 69 Water Street. Lindley Murray was also listed individually as a druggist at the same address. Robert Murray was not listed, either individually as a druggist or as a proprietor of the business.

Murray & Lanman was listed at 69 Water up through 1847. Then, in May of 1848, several legal notices printed in the Buffalo Courier named David T Lanman as the “surviving partner” of Murray & Lanaman, so Lindley Murray apparently passed away sometime in 1847 or early 1848.

Lanman remained listed individually as a druggist at 69 Water and apparently operated as a sole proprietor until 1853 when he formed a partnership with George Kemp called David T. Lanham & Co. The copartnership notice establishing the business was printed in the January 3, 1853 edition of the New York Times.

Five years later, another copartnership notice, this one printed in the January 1, 1858 edition of the New York Times, indicated that the name of the partnership was changed to D. T. Lanman & Kemp.

The company was listed in the NYC directories this way between 1858 and 1861, then in the 1862 directory they shortened the name to simply Lanman & Kemp. During this period, the business was apparently focused primarily on the foreign market. This advertisement, in the October 22, 1861 edition of the New York Times, called them “wholesale export druggists” further stating; “special attention paid to the execution of drug orders for the markets of Cuba, Mexico, West Indies and South Central America…”

It appears that by the early 1860’s, Lanman was no longer associated with the business. The 1862 NYC Directory no longer listed D.T. Lanman individually at the company’s Water Street address, and by 1865 the company listing in the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory included the phrase “George Kemp only” as proprietor.

Lanman & Kemp remained listed at 69 Water Street until 1871 when they moved to 68-70 William Street. It was around this time that George’s brother, Edward, joined him in the management of the business and he continued to run the business after George Kemp’s death in 1893. According to Edward’s January 2, 1902 obituary he facilitated the construction of their long time headquarters at 135 Water Street.

In 1870 he became associated with his late brother George in the firm of Lanman & Kemp, his knowledge of commercial affairs and accurate judgement assisting greatly in making the business highly successful. It was he who built the fine building at No. 135 Water Street, in which the firm’s offices are now located.

The company was first listed at this location in the 1900 directory and they remained there through the mid to late 1950’s when they moved to New Jersey.  The 1957 NYC telephone book listed their general offices at 15 Grand Avenue, Palisades Park N.J., although it still included their 135 Water Street address as well. By 1959, the Water Street address was no longer listed.

They were first listed as Lanman & Kemp- Barclay & Co. in 1933. Today the company is located on Woodland Avenue in Westwood N.J.

Despite the many company name changes over the years, their florida water was always sold under the Murray & Lanman name and in fact, it’s still sold under that name today.  According to Lanman & Kemp-Barclay & Co.’s web site, the product was available in the United States as early as 1808.

Murray & Lanman Florida Water was introduced into the United States market on February 14, 1808. Immediately it gained popularity and approval from the consumer and became a woldwide, well-known cologne, not only because of it’s delightful fragrance, but also because of the more than twenty uses attributed to it.

Although the Murray’s may have been selling their florida water locally in the early 1800’s, a series of D. T. Lanman & Kemp advertisements from the late 1850’s indicate that the product wasn’t widely available in the United States until around that time. This advertisement which appeared in several Ohio newspapers between April 1857 and July 1858 stated under the heading “What Are Its Antecedents” that it was being sold in the Latin American countries for twenty years before being introduced in the United States.

For twenty years it has maintained its ascendency over all other perfumes throughout Cuba, South America and the West Indies. It has been introduced into the United States in response to the earnest demand growing out of its southern reputation.

Another advertisement from the same era stated:

Murray & Lanman’s Florida Water from its great celebrity in the South America and West Indian markets, for which for twenty years it was exclusively manufactured has been extensively imitated in the United States. Now however, the original article has been introduced throughout the Union, and as it bears the distinctive trade-mark of the proprietors, may be readily distinguished by its externals from the simulated preparations.

So, if you believe their own advertising, Murray & Lanman’s Florida Water was being exported to the West Indies and South America as early as the mid to late 1830’s, around the time the company was first established in 1835 and introduced in the United States sometime in the mid to late 1850’s. Recognizing the company’s focus on foreign markets this seems to make a lot of sense.

Like most successful patent medicines of the day, much of their popularity can be attributed to advertising.  Murray & Lanman’s Florida Water along with several of the company’s other products were advertised in their own publication called “Bristol’s Illustrated Almanac.” According to the 1999 Daily News feature:

…these products have been advertised for almost eight generations in Bristol’s Illustrated Almanac, the free booklets Lanman & Kemp give out each year. “Up until a short time before the Second World War, I think, it was published in Spanish, Portuguese, German, French and English,” says Cooper. The 1999 version marks 167 years of continuous publishing.”

And what publishing it is! Interspersed with page after page of shameless product endorsements are poems, recipes, weather predictions and jokes older than Florida water itself. “How to raise beets,” begins one seemingly serious entry in a turn of the century almanac. “Take hold of the tops and pull.”

What strikes me most about this product and the various companies that produced it over the years is the consistency of the image they have portrayed. The cover of their almanac hasn’t changed in over 100 years. Likewise, their bottle and its label have changed little, if at all.  Advertisements from 1887 and 1946 bear this out.

             

Finally, here’s today’s version.

On a final note, while it has the word “water” in its name, Florida Water has more alcohol than water in its formula. In 2004, after a woman, performing a Santeria cleansing ritual involving florida water and candles died tragically  in an apartment fire, the Daily News performed a test comparing the flammability of florida water to rubbing alcohol, paint thinner, nail polish remover and lighter fluid. According to the story, published in their February 26 edition:

In an indoor, controlled setting, Daily News reporters timed how long it took each product to turn a large cotton sweatshirt into a ball of flames.

About 4 ounces of each product was sprinkled on identical sweatshirts suspended on a wire coat hanger and ignited with a candle.

The sweatshirt doused in Murray & Lanman Florida Water was engulfed in flames in 10 seconds.

At 15 seconds, flames were shooting up 2 feet from the shoulders and by 40 seconds the sweatshirt was completely burned off the hanger.

The complete results of the experiment were published in the story.

The bottle I found is the typical florida water shape and is mouth blown. It’s embossed “Florida Water/Murray & Lanman/ Druggists/New York.” I’ve seen examples on the internet that also include the  69 Water Street address so it was most likely manufactured at the William Street location or right after the move to 135 Water Street.

Roller’s Pharmacy, Amsterdam Ave. & 88th St.

 

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Emil Roller, drugs, was first listed in the 1889 NYC Directory at 1441 First Avenue.  Over the next ten years, between 1890 and 1899, he both lived and worked as a druggist on First Avenue between East 75th and East 77th Streets in Manhattan. Whether or not he operated his own business during this period is not clear.

Around 1900 he opened a drug store on the west side of Manhattan. Between 1900 and 1908,  he was listed with the occupation “drugs”at 864 Ninth Avenue. The 1905 ERA Directory indicated that his drug store provided services in the following categories: drugs and medicine, drug sundries, tobacco or cigars, books or stationary and that the business had a soda fountain.

In 1908 Roller sold the Ninth Avenue business and purchased another one on Amsterdam Avenue. On October 14, 1908, the “Pharmaceutical Era” reported that:

Francis Zitz, Amsterdam Avenue and 86th Street has been succeeded by Emil Roller. Mr. Roller recently sold his store at 56th Street and Ninth Avenue to S Beck.

Between 1908 and 1914 the business was listed as “Roller’s Prescription Pharmacy” at 535 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street. Then in 1915 they moved to 574 Amsterdam Avenue on the southwest corner of West 88th Street  

The business incorporated in 1918. A notice in the September 27 issue of the New York Times listed them as a new corporation:

Emil Roller Pharmacy, Manhattan, $6,000; E.Roller, J. Hundy, Martha Hundy, 220 West 88th Street.

The Roller Pharmacy was listed at this location through at least 1925.

It’s not clear when the business ended. By 1933 Roller is still listed with the occupation of “drugs” but I can’t find a listing for the pharmacy. In 1948 Emil Roller is no longer listed as well.

Roller developed a few products that he sold under his own name. A series of advertisements in the April and May, 1910 issues of the New York Age touted “Emil Rollers Unrivaled Skin Balm”

Apparently he sold stomach and liver pills under his name as well. A 1911 issue of the American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record printed the following lyric that they said Roller included in packages to his customers:

Hark, our Stomach, Liver Pills                                                                                      Highly Recommended!                                                                                                          Will relieve all minor ills                                                                                                           In proper time attended

They restore your appetite,                                                                                          Liberate bad gases,                                                                                                                  And make life a real delight,                                                                                                  A joy in all its phases

You won’t have to hang around                                                                              Without spunk, ambitions;                                                                                            You’ll feel active, safe and sound,                                                                                  Alert in all conditions

Nausea, Headaches, Dizziness                                                                                    Disappears like wonder;                                                                                              Billousness and pains, distress                                                                                          Will also have to wander

And all troubles, and all ills,                                                                                         Caused by indigestion,                                                                                                           You can right by Roller’s Pills                                                                                        Quite surely without question

They are to our best belief                                                                                                    Just the medication                                                                                                             When you look for help, relief                                                                                              In Chronic Constipation

Therefore give them a fair trial                                                                                                 Without hesitation;                                                                                                                Buy of Roller’s Pills a vial                                                                                                   And you’ll obtain salvation

Roller, in addition to having a good sense of humor, was apparently a pretty smart guy. A chemist, in 1914 he was part of a team that studied the treatment of malignant growths with Colloidal Glyco-Sulpher-Seleno Preparations. He was also working on a new urinary test for syphilis that “threatens to superseed the Wasserman”. (This probably didn’t happen because the Wasserman test was still quite popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s).

He was also heavily involved with the German Apothecaries Society and at one time was Chairman of the Scientific Committee.

The bottle I found is a small (approximayely 4 oz) medicine with a tooled finish. It has the Amsterdam Avenue and 88th Street address embossed on it so it dates to no earlier than 1915. Embossing on the base indicates it was made by Whitehall Tatum Company (W.T. Co). The fact that there’s no ampersand (between the T and Co) indicates it was made after the business incorporated in 1901. A web site article on Whitehall Tatum puts the specific embossing in the 1901 to 1924 time frame. So it looks like the bottle was made between 1915 and 1924. Recognizing that the bottle is mouth blown I’d say it’s manufacture is within a year or two of 1915.

R. W. Robinson & Son, New York

 

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R W stands for Russel W Robinson. According to an article in the January to June 1907 records of the “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, Robinson entered the drug business in the late 1840’s and formed the firm of R W Robinson & Son in 1870. He died in 1883.

The NYC directories support and add to this information.

  • Russel W Robinson was first listed in the 1847/1848 City Directory (the earliest one I could find) at 214 Fulton Street with the occupation of “drugs.”
  • Robinson moved to 182 – 186 Greenwich Street in and around 1857/1858.
  • The firm of R W Robinson and Son first appeared in the 1870/1871 Directory at the Greenwich Street address. Russel W Robinson continued to be listed individually at that address as well. The business was also listed in the 1877 Rands NYC Business Directory under “wholesale drugs”
  • Russel W Robinson was still listed individually in the 1883 directory but was not listed in 1886 (the next directory I have access to). The business continued to be listed at Greenwich Street.
  • In the 1897 and 1898 Trow Business Directories for Manhattan and the Bronx, the company remained listed at the Greenwich Street address and an address at 228 Fulton Street was added.

A notice in the November 28, 1903 edition of the New York Times announced that the business had incorporated:

R. W. Robinson & Son, New York, to deal in drugs; capital $80,000. Directors – F.M. Robinson, W.R. Robinson, D.W. Kent, New York.

After incorporation, the company name became R. W. Robinson & Son Company.

In 1906 there appears to have been a split, when several directors and long time employees of Robinson resigned and formed a new company called the C. S. Littell Company. The May 1906 issue of the “Pharmaceutical Era”reported the formation of the new company under the headline “Well Known Drug Men in New Wholesale House”

It was announced by Charles S. Littell, George Thompson and Theodore W. Day that they have resigned as directors of the corporation of R. W. Robinson & Son, Co., severing their connection with that concern, and have formed a co-partnership under the name of C. S. Littell & Co. They will do a wholesale drug business at 228 Fulton Street. The new firm has leased the Fulton Street section of the old building, leaving the Greenwich Street side, which forms an “L” to 186 Greenwich, to the Robinson firm. which will continue in business. The two buildings are, in fact, separate and distinct, being connected by a passageway.

Charles S. Littell, who is prominent in drug trade circles as chairman of the Drug Trade Section of the New York Board of Trade and Transportation, started with the Robinson firm thirty-five years ago as a boy and for twenty years was a partner in the old firm of R. W. Robinson & Son. During the past two years he has been vice-president of the present incorporated company. Mr. Thompson and Mr. Day have both been connected with the business for over twenty years.

It was first the intention of the Robinson Co. gradually to drop their wholesale branch altogether and to confine themselves to their cash jobbing business, which they carry on in their Greenwich Street building, and to the pushing of their laboratory specialties. F. M. Robinson said to an Era representative this week, however, that he had changed his mind about the matter. So much new business has been coming in, he said, that there will be enough to go around between the new and the old concerns without either conflicting with the other. Hence the firm will continue the wholesale department…

There must have been more to the situation than reported in the story because a little over one year later, R. W. Robinson & Son was bankrupt. A bankruptcy notice, that listed assets of $24,184 and liabilities of $156,569 was printed in the October 31, 1907 edition of the N Y Times. A day later, a bankruptcy sale was announced in the paper. The notice provided a description of the business at that time of the sale. It included: a complete manufacturing, wholesale and retail business together with a laboratory. Their property included drugs, chemicals, proprietory medicines, formulas, trade names, office fixtures, typewriters, etc.

C. S. Littell was still listed at 228 Fulton Street in the 1919 Copartnership and Corporation Directory. At some point in the early 1920’s they moved to 330 Spring Street and I don’t see them listed in the 1930’s.

Each year the Robinson Company published an almanac which they referred to as “An ephemeris of the motions of the sun and moon, the true places and aspects of the planets, rising and setting of the sun and the rising, setting and southing of the moon.” The annual almanac advertised the wide variety of proprietary remedies available from R W Robinson and Sons. They were also listed as a dealer for several proprietary medicines in newspaper advertisements over the years. The earliest one I could find is from 1870 for “Hembold’s Buchu.”

Other proprietary medicines they were associated with in advertisements include “Dr. Clark Johnson’s Indian Blood Syrup,” the “Old Squaw’s Cure” and  “Dr. M Caldwell’s Dyspepsia Remedy.” An 1873 advertisement for Dr. Caldwell’s from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is included below.

The 182 -186 Greenwich Street and 228 Fulton Street addresses no longer exist and the location is currently within the footprint of the World Trade Center site.

The bottle I found is a small medicine (approximately 4 oz) with a tooled finish. It’s embossed R W Robinson & Son and fits with the 1870 to 1907 time frame of the company (probably late 1800’s). There’s no address embossed on the bottle.

Hegeman & Co., New York

 

The namesake of the business, William Hegeman, was a native of New York City, born in 1816. His career story, as told in court records of “Hegeman & Co. against Johnston N. Hegeman,” begins with the drug business of Rushton & Aspinwall.

In 1827, one William L. Rushton established, in the city of New York, a business in the sale, by wholesale and retail, of drugs and medicines, with which was put up of medical prescriptions, and of special preparations known by names of his own creation or adoption. In 1832 he associated with him one Aspinwall, and in 1843 William Hegeman, who had originally been in Rushton’s employment, became a partner in the place of Aspinwall.

A publication called “The Old Merchants of New York” by Walter Barrett, published in 1863 picks up the story from there.

 After Rushton & Aspinwall dissolved, I think Mr. Aspinwall kept on the wholesale store in William Street, and Rushton the retail store on Broadway, under the firm of Rushton & Co. Mr Rushton took in a Mr. Clark who had formerly been a partner in the firm of Clark & Saxton, in Broadway. Shortly after, Rushton died.

In 1855, as a result of Rushton’s death the name of the business was changed to Hegeman, Clark & Co. The notice announcing the name change appeared in the January 25, 1855 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

The notice mentioned three Broadway locations; 165, 273 and 511 Broadway.

Later, advertisements published in the fall of that year indicated a fourth location at 756 Broadway. Their wholesale depot was located at 165 Broadway while the other three were retail outlets.

Apparently manufacturing chemists as well, the most heavily advertised product under the Hegeman name was their “Celebrated Genuine Cod Liver Oil.” This advertisement that appeared in the December 3, 1856 edition of the Brooklyn Times Union mentioned nine years experience which would date the product back to the Rushton & Aspinwall days.

Beginning in 1859 Clark was dropped from the company name, now referring to it as Hegeman & Co. in both the directory listings and advertisements.

Around this time the company advertised a number of proprietary products under the Hegeman name. In addition to their cod liver oil, 1859  advertisements mentioned Hegeman & Co.’s Camphor Ice With Glycerine and Concentrated Benzine.

Sometime in the early 1860’s it appears that the company moved their main depot to 203 Broadway and would continue to list it along with three retail locations, also on Broadway, up through the mid-1870’s. Between 1861 and the early 1870’s they also listed a fifth location at the corner of 4th Avenue and 17th Street.

In 1867 William’s son, Johnston N Hegeman, joined the business in partnership with him and both were listed with the company up until William’s death in October, 1875. At that point, according to a January 12, 1878 story in the New York Times:

Mr. J. N. Hegeman, his son and only partner, continued the business, but, since his father’s death, has gradually disposed of the numerous branch stores once owned by the firm. The last one, at No. 603 Broadway was sold for $10,000 in November 1876.

The story went on to say that with Johnston, confined to his house in Orange New Jersey suffering with inflammatory rheumatism and under the influence of morphine treatments, the company went into receivership in January, 1878.

Subsequently court records indicated that some of the company’s stock along with it’s trademark, goodwill and as connected with it the business name, all preparations, recipes, formulas, prescriptions and recipe books, labels, plates, proprietary rights, and proprietary articles were sold and ultimately transferred to a newly formed corporation, also called Hegeman & Co., whose certificate of incorporation was filed on March 14, 1878. Associated with the new corporation was George B. Marcher who had been previously employed by William Hegeman, much of it supervising the compounding the Hegeman preparations.

At around the same time J. N. Hegeman, now apparently fully recovered, associated with J. W. Ferrier, another employee of the old firm and began business in a store a 756 Broadway, which had formerly been one of the branch stores of the old firm that had been sold previously and now reacquired.

In 1880 Hegeman & Co  was listed at the old firm’s 203 Broadway location and J. N. Hegeman & Co, Wholesale and Retail Druggists was listed at 756 Broadway. Both claimed to be successors to the original Hegeman Company which resulted in this note that accompanied J. N. Hegeman’s listing in the 1880 NYC Directory:

Mr. Hegeman has no connection with any other drug house in the City.

Both firms continued to operate independently up through the early 1900’s.

J. N. Hegeman & Co. incorporated in February, 1894. The notice of incorporation was published in the February 14, 1894 edition of the New York Tribune.

J. N. Hegeman & Co. filed a certificate of incorporation yesterday. The concern will do a general drug business with a capital of $50,000. Its directors are J. Niven Hegeman, Joseph Glenny, John W. ferrier, Lucius A. Wilson, Herbert S. Barnes and Acton C. Bassett.

Later that year, in October 1894, J. N. Hegeman passed away. However, the J. N. Hegeman business remained listed in the NYC Directories up through through 1906. At that point, the 1907 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory indicated that the J. N. Hegeman Co. had been absorbed by Hegeman & Co., Inc.

The corporation of Hegeman & Co. was listed through 1909 and in 1910 was merged with the William B Riker & Son Co. A 1910 issue of American Druggist summarized the merger:

At a meeting of the officials of the William B Riker & Son Company and Hegeman & Co on August 4, negotiations were completed merging the two concerns into a new company. The corporation is to be known as the Riker & Hegeman Company. No details as to when the combination is to become effective have been given out but October 1 is said to have been decided on… At the time Hegeman & Co was capitalized at $6 million and Riker & Son at $2.5 million. John H Flager, president of Hegeman will be president of the new organization… The result of the combination and probably what brought it about is the desire to abolish competition between stores in both chains. In several spots of the City, Riker and Hegeman have stores on opposite sides of the street. Establishments in such close proximity will be given immediate attention, according to plans, and expenses reduced by closing down one or more in a neighborhood… It’s quite likely the new corporation will expand it’s retail business to other cities with a view of ultimately opening a chain of sores across the country.

Just before the merger, Hegeman & Co. still had their main store at 203 Broadway, 19 branch stores (17 in NYC, 1 in Jersey City and 1 in Yonkers) and a warehouse at 66 W 132nd Street. Riker had 25 stores in the NYC vicinity and several in Boston.

In 1916, Riker-Hegeman merged with the United Drug Company resulting in a company with 152 retail drug stores.

The bottle I found is a small (approximately 4-5 oz) medicine with an applied finish. Embossed in small letters under Hegeman & Co are the words “a corporation.”

This indicates that it was manufactured between 1878 when the company incorporated and 1910 when it merged with Riker & Son. The applied lip tells me it probably skews more toward the earlier years.

Charles S. Erb, Pharmacist, 121 Amsterdam Avenue, Cor 65th St., N.Y.

 

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The November 15, 1897 Issue of Merck’s Report featured Erb as a “Leader in the Drug Trade” It states:

While working as a clerk in the drug store of G F Werner Mr. Erb took a full course at the College of Pharmacy, graduating from that institution in 1886. He speedily worked his way up to trusted manager of a pharmacy, and around 1890 concluded to embark in business for himself. In 1891 he opened the store at 121 Amsterdam Avenue, and by his originality and push he has succeeded in making his establishment one of the features of his neighborhood. He has already attained considerable local celebrity as a manufacturing pharmacist.

Erb was listed in the NYC directories as a druggist at 121 Amsterdam Avenue up through 1905. The 1905 ERA Druggist Directory listed the services he provided under the following headings: Drugs and Medicines, Drug Sundries, Tobacco or Cigars and Books or Stationery. He was also listed in that directory as a manufacturer of proprietary medicines.

In 1906 he moved the business to 108 Amsterdam Avenue. His move was documented in a 1906 Issue of “American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record”

On July 1, 1906 Charles S Erb will move from his present location at Amsterdam Avenue and 65th Street to a new store at 108 Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. The building now occupied by Mr. Erb is being torn down to make room for a public school.

The business remained listed in the ERA Druggist Directories at 108 Amsterdam Avenue up through 1913-14.

Erb passed away in February 1914. His obituary, in the March 1914 Issue of the “Pharmceutical Era,” stated in part that he was ex-president of the New York College of Pharmacy Alumni Association, a trustee of the College of Pharmacy, and at one time secretary of the New York State Board of Pharmacy.

Today, the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music occupies the west side of Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. It’s located in a modern high-rise building that takes up the whole block. There’s no sign of the building that housed the Erb business.

The bottle I found is a small (approximately 3 oz) mouth blown medicine with a tooled finish. It has the 121 Amsterdam Avenue address so it’s manufacture date ranges between 1891 and 1906.

Cosmopolitan Pharmacy, Corner Rivington & Willett Streets, New York

 

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The proprietor of the Cosmopolitan Pharmacy was Sigmund Muldberg. A physician who graduated from Belgium’s University of Ghent in 1889, he immigrated to the United States shortly thereafter.

The ERA Druggist Directory in 1905 and 1906 included the following listing under “Retail Druggists”

Sigmund Muldberg (Cosmopolitan Pharmacy), 79 Willett Street.

These are the only two listings I can find that provide a direct connection between Muldberg and the Cosmopolitan Pharmacy. However between 1896 and approximately 1908 Sigmund Muldberg was listed individually in the NYC general directories as a druggist and physician. Generally (but not always) the physician listings included an address of 234 Rivington Street and the druggist address was 79 Willett Street.

According to the 1905 ERA Directory the pharmacy provided services in “drugs and medicines” and “drug sundries.” It did not include other services typical of pharmacies of the time including tobacco products, liquor products or a soda fountain.

This all leads me to conclude that Muldberg probably ran both a doctor’s office and associated pharmacy/drug store out of the same building on the corner of Willett Street and Rivington Street (the location embossed on the bottle). If I’m right, the “Cosmopolitan Pharmacy” name may date back as early as 1896.

Around 1909 Muldberg relocated to 323-325 Second Avenue where he remained listed until at least 1922. In 1925 he was listed at 411 West End Avenue. After 1911 he singularly listed his occupation as “physician”, and no longer included “druggist.” in any listing that I could find.

Muldberg was not listed in the 1933 NYC directory and 1940 census records listed his wife, Annie, as a widow. This indicates that he passed away sometime between 1930 and 1940, probably prior to 1933.

There was a Cosmopolitan Pharmacy listed in the NYC directories between 1909 and 1915 with an address of 612 Tenth Avenue . The name of the proprietor was Reuben Hird. It’s possible that Muldberg sold his pharmacy business to Hird in 1909 but I can’t make a definite connection.

Rivington Street and Willett Street both no longer exist at this intersection. They area is now part of the Samuel Gompers apartment building complex.

The bottle I found is a small (approx. 4 ounce) mouth blown medicine with a tooled finish. It  was made by the Whitehall Tatum Company and it has that company name embossed on the base. The embossing includes an ampersand (between Tatum and Co) indicating it was made prior to 1901 when the business incorporated. This is further evidence that the “Cosmopolitan Pharmacy” name may date back to 1896 and dates the bottle to the period between 1896 and 1901.