William R. Warner is one of several individuals recognized as pioneers in the manufacture and distribution of sugar coated pills in the United States. According to a feature on Warner found in a publication entitled: “First Century of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy,” published in 1922:
Like the process of percolation the sugar coating of pills was discovered in France but was developed in America by the labors of Warner, Bullock, Wiegand and others.
Born in Caroline County, Maryland in 1836, Warner first entered the drug business with the Easton, Maryland firm of Chamberlain and Anderson. His experience there apparently inspired him to attend the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy where he graduated in 1856. Shortly afterwards he opened his own retail pharmacy at Second Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia.
According to his son, William R. Warner, Jr., who was quoted in the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy story, it was at the Second Street pharmacy that Warner began the manufacture of sugar coated pills. That being said, initially they were not distributed under the Warner name.
My father conceived the idea of sugar coating pills when a lad in the drug store at Easton, Md., and accomplished the feat though somewhat crudely. I am inclined to believe that he perfected his process of covering pills with sugar shortly after 1856, or probably the next year. He made and sold them to Bullock and Crenshaw in bulk and they put them up and marketed them as their own, such is now done by druggists under “buyers name.” My father was not known by the profession as the real maker of sugar coated pills at that time.
It appears that Bullock and Crenshaw began selling Warner’s sugar coated pills under their name sometime in 1858 as evidenced by this notice dated May, 1858. Sounding introductory in nature, the notice starts out with:
The attention of Druggists and Physicians is particularly invited to the Pills of our Pharmacopeia, coated with sugar, which we are now able to supply…
This situation changed in the mid-1860’s when Warner purchased the wholesale drug business of John C. Baker at about the same time that his contract with Bullock and Crenshaw expired. Located at 154 North Third Street in Philadelphia, it was here that according to William R. Warner, Jr., his father began to manufacture and market his pills under the name and label of William R. Warner and Co.
The change had certainly occurred by 1867 as evidenced by this Warner advertisement that appeared that year in the “Handbook of the Great Manufacturers and Representative Mercantile Houses of Philadelphia.”
That same year, now in direct competition, both William R. Warner & Co. and Bullock and Crenshaw, exhibited their sugar coated pills at a September, 1867 exhibition sponsored by the American Pharmaceutical Association. In fact, both firms were listed directly adjacent to each other in the exhibition summary .
Warner remained on North Third Street for the next 10 years during which time he frequently marketed his sugar coated pills to the medical profession. An example of his marketing pitch appeared in the 1870 edition of the “Humboldt Medical Archives” under the heading “Notice to Physicians.”
The solubility of Officinal and other Sugar Coated Pills as made by us, is an indispensable quality, and a matter of so much importance as to command your special attention. An experience of thirteen years, with careful attention and study, has enabled us to achieve a perfection otherwise unattainable.
We claim this art of Sugar Coating, avoiding the necessity of drying so hard as to render them insoluble and inert make them permanent.
Being extensively engaged in the Wholesale Drug business, and in the manufacture of Standard Officinal Preparations, and New Remedies, in our own Laboratory, affords us facilities for supplying Physician’s orders with all articles of the purest quality at the lowest prices.
A discount of 25 percent will be made to Physicians on all orders for Pills amounting to $10.00 net. Less quantities will be sent by mail or express pre-paid on receipt of catalog prices.
Please specify our make (W. & Co.) when it suits your convenience to order elsewhere. Half freight paid on shipments of Drugs to distant points
A good customer could even get a “Pill Globe and Sample Bottle” along with his 25% discount..
It was also during this time that the company began to expand its product line well beyond sugar coated pills to include elixirs, fluid extracts and medicated lozenges among other things.
The company’s success on North Third Street ultimately lead to a period of expansion that began in the 1870’s. This expansion was documented in a January 9, 1908 feature on the business published in “The Pharmaceutical Era.”
In 1876 the business having outgrown the quarters on Third Street, the fine large building at 1228 Market Street was purchased, elegantly fitted up and occupied. About this time, on account of the extensive growth of the business, branches in London, England and New York City were opened, and these were soon followed by branches in Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta, St. Louis, Denver, Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis, Minn.
In 1886 a large laboratory building at Broad and Wallace was erected and put into use, the business having outgrown its quarters on Market Street.
Renderings of both Philadelphia locations were included in the ninth edition (1897) of “Wm. R. Warner’s Therapeutic Reference Book for Physicians.” The top view depicts the Broad Street laboratory while the lower view is of Market Street.
The business operated out of both locations until 1899 when the Market Street building was completely destroyed by fire. The fire was described like this in the February 17, 1899 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Snow on many roof tops proved to be a blessing in disguise last night, when a great fire raged at Thirteenth and Market Streets, calling forth every energy of those who were battling with it to save a vast amount of property on all sides that for a time seemed doomed to destruction. It was a fire that brought out the entire department, that swept away an immense six-story building, or rather three in one, entailing a loss estimated at from $400,000 to $500,000….
The story included this sketch of the Warner building in flames.
As early as the next day the company had formulated a plan to move on as evidenced by this February 18, 1899 story in the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”
In regard to the future plans of the firm of William R. Warner & Co., Mr. William R. Warner, Jr., said last evening: “All the employees of our Market Street store, numbering some fifty, have been notified to report at our laboratory, at Broad and Wallace Streets. Those that are available for work in that line will be given employment immediately and the others will be kept on full pay. The laboratory will be made headquarters for the firm and all the offices will be removed there. We intend to rebuild at 1228 Market Street as soon as possible, but as to the size of the new building or its equipment I am not able to speak as yet. All the old men will thus be retained and none of them will suffer by our misfortune.
Less than a month later, on March 13, 1899, an item in the “Philadelphia Inquirer” announced that the company was fully back in business, now filling orders at their Broad Street laboratory.
Around the same time, a March 18, 1899 “Philadelphia Inquirer” story announced that Warner was planning a new 10 story building at 1228 Market Street, however, it appears the company never followed through on those plans and a year later, in June, 1900, the Montana Diamond Co. ran a ‘Philadelphia Inquirer” advertisement announcing their plans to move into a newly constructed eight story building at the 1228 Market Street location.
As far as I can tell William R. Warner & Co. never reopened another location in Philadelphia but instead continued to operate solely on Broad Street.
When Warner passed away in April, 1901, he left the company to his son, William R. Warner, Jr., who, as early as 1880 had been associated with the business, first as a cashier and later as a partner/principal.
In 1908, Warner Jr. sold the company to Henry & Gustavus Pfeiffer, who, at the time, owned a drug business in St. Louis. The Pfeiffer’s retained the William R. Warner & Co. name and continued to operate the business out of Philadelphia where, in 1910, it was listed with William R. Warner, Jr. as president, Henry Pfeiffer as vice president and Gustavus Pfeiffer as secretary/treasurer.
As late as 1916 the company was in the process of constructing a new headquarters in Philadelphia when the Pfeiffer’s acquired the Richard Hudnut Company of New York City. The acquisition was reported in the August, 1916 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Record.”
An announcement of interest to the trade was recently made by Richard A. Hudnut, who has sold substantial interest in Richard Hudnut to Messrs. H. Pfeiffer, G. A. Pfeiffer and G.D. Merner, of the firm of Wm. R. Warner & Co., of Philadelphia and St. Louis. Mr. Hudnut continues as president, and the business policies that have made the name “Richard Hudnut” famous in the perfume and toilet goods world will be continued…
The acquisition of Hudnut apparently motivated the Pfeiffer’s to change course and headquarter both the Warner and Hudnut companies in New York City. This led to the purchase of a large property on West 18th Street in Manhattan. The announcement appeared in the October 26, 1916 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”
W. R. Warner & Co. Leave City
Having purchased the whole of the old Altman store, 113 to 123 and 131 to 143 West Eighteenth Street, and 110 to 124 West Nineteenth Street, New York, William R. Warner & Co., manufacturing chemists, employing about 500 persons, will abandon their property at 639 North Broad Street, this city. The price paid for the new location is said to have been approximately its assessed valuation, $1,100,000, all of which was paid in cash…
Three days later, another announcement in the “Philadelphia Inquirer” put their new Philadelphia building, still under construction, up for sale.
This building is now being constructed on Willow, Seventh and Marshall Streets, Philadelphia, by Wm. Steele & Sons Co., for Wm R. Warner & Co., Manufacturing Pharmacists.
Their move to New York, as announced, will bring into the market for sale this new modern six-story, heavy concrete, sprinkled, loft building. The fact that the building is now under construction enables you to adapt it to your needs…
We are also offering for sale an unexpired lease on the present Wm. R. Warner & Co. plant at 639-41-43 N. Broad St. which continues for a term of years.
The building that was under construction 100+ years years ago, remains to this day. Here’s today’s view courtesy of Google Maps. It appears that a seventh story was added, taking the place of the roof top “Wm. R. Warner Co.” sign.
As early as 1917, the New York City directories listed both Wm. R. Warner & Co. and Richard Hudnut, Inc. at the West 18th Street address in Manhattan.
Both continued to be listed under their respective names at that location until 1950, when they were combined under a new corporation called Warner-Hudnut, Inc. At that point both Warner and Hudnut were listed as separate divisions under the Warner-Hudnut umbrella.
Five years later Warner-Hudnut merged with the Lambert Co., makers of Listerine, forming the Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Co. The merger was announced in the February 9, 1955 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”
Directors of Warner-Hudnut Inc., and Lambert Co. approved plans for a merger of the two companies, with the new concern to be known as Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Co.
The new company would have estimated annual sales of $100,000,ooo and assets of $45,000,000.
On the same day the merger was announced, plans to build a new factory in Pennsylvania were unveiled. According to the February 9, 1955 edition of Lancaster Pennsylvania’s “Intelligencer Journal” the plant was slated to replace the company’s West 18th Street facility.
The new plant, according to a Warner-Hudnut spokesman, will replace one operated in New York by the company. It will manufacture the firm’s nationally-known line of “Richard Hudnut” hair preparations and toiletries..
Last November the company announced it had contracted to sell its New York buildings to Webb & Knapp, Inc.
The new factory opened in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in November, 1956. By then, the corporation was completely out of New York, having also moved their offices to Morris Plains, New Jersey earlier that year. The company had announced the move to New Jersey in the February, 1956 editions of several local newspapers.
When completed in mid-summer, this modern air-conditioned building will be the new headquarters of Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Company, now located in New York City. It is being built on a knoll across Mt. Tabor Road from Warner-Chilcott Laboratories, our ethical drug division.
The site will be the administrative center of our world-wide organization. From here we shall direct our five divisions in the United States, as well as our manufacturing plants in twenty-two foreign countries, and our sales agencies in one hundred more.
Over the next several years Warner-Lambert continued to grow through acquisition. According to a December 15, 1967 story in Philadelphia’s “Intelligencer Journal,” between 1955 and 1962 they acquired a number of well known brands that included Bromo Seltzer, Chiclets, Dentyne, Rolaid’s and Clorets.
Warner-Lambert merged with Park-Davis in 1970, ultimately becoming part of Pfizer in 2000.
Over the years I’ve found two Wm. R. Warner bottles. Both include “Philadelphia” in their embossing, dating them no later than 1916 when the company moved their headquarters to New York City.
The first is a small mouth blown vial. A little over three inches tall, it likely contained a small quantity of pills? The other, also mouth blown, is cobalt blue and six inches tall. It appears to have contained an effervescing salt called “Bromo Soda.”
The product was frequently advertised in the late 1880’s and 1890’s:
For The Speedy Relief Of Nervous Headache and Brain Fatigue.