ABOUT

On Beyond Holcombe

THE PROPRIETARY REVENUE STAMPS OF 1898

ScottRB19Z-0a1RV(RB20-31)

ScottRB19Z-0a2RV(RB20-31)

An examination of the companies producing the countless variety of cancels appearing on the battleship series of proprietary revenue stamps offers a fresh opportunity to explore the contradictions of a complex American society, where the fortunes of men, eventually exposed as among the most ruthless of the “robber barons,” were molded into the benevolence of philanthropic organization that today bear their names. In sanctioning battleship revenues to evidence payment of tax imposed to finance the Spanish-American War, Congress elected to tax patent medicines because they were profitable. The men who led the industry became unimaginably wealthy. As their histories unfold, strange and juicy tales emerge.

*****

     KembleEdwardWindsor-PatentMedTrust3RV

THE PATENT MEDICINE TRUST – DEATH’S LABORATORY

COLLIER’S WEEKLY MAGAZINE COVER JUNE 3, 1905

DRAWN BY EDWARD WINSOR KEMBLE

*****

The patent medicine industry story has been approached in two different ways. In the compilation Patent Medicine Tax Stamps, Henry Holcombe (1897-1973) created the definitive history of private die proprietary stamps and Prof. James Harvey Young (1915-2006), in his Toadstool Millionaires, recounted the social implications of the patent medicine era in American history. Yet, to a collector of battleship revenue cancels, while each book tells a unique and memorable story, even taken together, the two stories reveal only part of a vast and fascinating legacy of good and evil that patent medicines and the fortunes they created have bestowed upon society as their legacy.

HolcombeHenry2

HENRY HOLCOMBE

YoungJamesHarvey-1

PROFESSOR JAMES H. YOUNG

Holcombe’s book dealt with companies that ordered private dies. He was not recounting the history of patent medicines per se and ignored virtually all of those companies that did not place orders for their own stamps. The taxes on proprietary medicine and cosmetics had originated during the Civil War and lasted for more than twenty years until they finally expired in 1883. The great bulk of private die proprietary stamps date from that period. Between 1880 and 1898, the drug industry expanded enormously. During the Spanish-American War period, since printing procedures had changed and the tax was repealed entirely within four years (three years for patent medicines), very few companies had time to order their own stamps, so Holcombe’s book does not cover the younger group of companies. Young was not a philatelist, and did not mention revenue stamp cancels in his cautionary tale concerning the over-reaching, death-inducing claims the patent medicine proprietors often indulged and the sinister pressures they exerted to keep their industry flourishing. Proprietary battleship cancels provide a window through which to examine the companies that Holcombe did not feature (and perhaps to amplify upon some the companies he did), while Young’s social history of the era provides the context for re-examining the contributions as well as the excesses of the patent medicine industry.

*****

PuckCartoon-AgeOfDrugs3

PUCK MAGAZINE CENTERFOLD CARTOON

“THE AGE OF DRUGS”

DRAWN BY JOSEPH DALRYMPLE

PUBLISHED OCTOBER 10, 1900

(THE BARTENDER AT THE LEFT CANNOT COMPETE WITH THE DRUGGIST)

*****

1898 is an excellent year to examine the entire drug industry in the United States for it was then at the height of its influence and power. Taking the measure of the drug trade, in preparation for a meeting of the wholesale drug dealers association in New York City in October, 1894, a reporter for the New York Times wrote: “With the possible exception of the National Bankers’ Association, there is not another organization in the country that represents as much wealth in the aggregate as the druggists.” Yet, the industry’s decline was already foreshadowed, for by the end of the century, scientific inquisitiveness had developed tests allowing for clear and certain identification of the secret compounds contained in patent medicines. Within a few years after the end of the Spanish-American War, a series of exposes printed in Collier’s Weekly Magazine (gathered into the volume The Great American Fraud by Samuel Hopkins Adams (1871-1958)), instigated the first serious examination of the patent medicine industry’s excesses. These articles, in turn, led to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. This Act made the first incursions on the industry’s outsized and unsubstantiated claims to positive cures. Nevertheless, the medical profession was still forced to relentlessly hammer for the next 30 years, with notice after notice to physicians (Nostrums & Quackery vols. 1-3: 1912, 1921 and 1936), before it successfully winnowed from the marketplace the blatant poisons, and strange decoctions (often featuring alcohol, but sometimes nothing more than plain water, as the undisclosed principal ingredient) which masqueraded as absolute cures for implacable diseases like cancer.

*****

PuckCartoon-7AgesOfDopeRV

PUCK MAGAZINE CENTERFOLD CARTOON

THE 7 AGES OF DOPE

DRAWN BY SAMUEL D. ERHARDT

PUBLISHED MARCH 28, 1906

*****

This column introduces a series of articles dedicated to re-examining the companies comprising the drug industry following the natural contours of the industry itself. That drug industry divides into three branches: 1) Manufacturers: 2) Wholesalers; 3) Retailers. These branches fought as often as they cooperated and the trail of lawsuits strewn in their wake is one previously unexplored source of insights into the nature of patent medicine company operations.

Philatelically, while it is not readily apparent, these divisions are subtly reflected in the cancels applied to the battleship proprietaries, and have influenced the present state of the cataloging of proprietary battleship cancels. The re-categorizing proposed here will supplement the excellent existing cancel compilations. The Chappell-Joyce compilation – itself now in the process of revision through the columns of the 1898battleshiprevenues.com blog – painstakingly focuses on the variety of printed cancels applied to these stamps. However, by constraining itself to printed cancels, it selects against important segments of the drug trade. On the other hand, the very exuberance of the listings in the Battleship Desk Reference book compiled by Robert Mustacich and Anthony Giacomelli, does not leave room for studied consideration of the nuances and variety of the histories while underlie the companies set forth in its exhaustive table. This study proposes to add anecdotal muscle to articulate the skeleton created by these two cancel compilations.

The center of the drug trade was the manufacturers. These companies produced their own goods and usually had their own networks of traveling salesmen, or “drummers,” to arrange for sales and distribution as well. Manufacturers had a natural wish to expedite the flow of their products and fairly quickly incorporated the entire collection of the tax into the process of packaging their products. The most creative manufacturers, who realized (as had their Civil War predecessors) the advertising value that government mandated stamps might add to their product, immediately placed their orders for the group of stamps that became the Spanish-American War addendum to the Scott RS list. Other large manufacturers, such as J.C. Ayer, Lydia Pinkham and C.I. Hood, created printed cancels to regularize the tax collection process. Ayer was an old enough company to have created RS stamps, and, had the new tax continued longer, might have done so again. The Pinkham and Hood companies, which made extensive use of printed cancels, became a manufacturing giants too late to have needed their own Civil War private dies, and thus were not included by Holcombe. Lydia Pinkham has accounted for several books in her own right, but her story is not widely told in philatelic circles. While the Pinkham and Hood cancels are common and well-known to battleship revenue collectors (and are found in the Chappell-Joyce listings), the stories of these companies also legitimately fall within the ambit of the new study proposed here.

PRINTED CANCELS UTILIZED BY DRUG MANUFACTURERS

AyerDrJC&Co-2-RB28-1898-07-13

J. C. AYER & CO.

    Pinkham-2-RB28-2-1898-11(p)

LYDIA E. PINKHAM MEDICINE CO.

     HoodCI&Co-2-RB28-2-1898-10

C. I. Hood & Co.

However, there are a great many more large or influential manufacturers within the drug trade itself who relied solely on hand stamped cancels. The proprietors of these companies, some later as notorious as William Radam and Frank Cheney, and others as diverse as W.W. Gavitt, Frederick Stearns and Leslie Keeley, never bothered to try to cash in upon the advertising value of creating a product label out of a tax burden.  This study proposes to recount their stories which are as varied and interesting as any set forth in Holcombe.

HAND STAMPED CANCELS USED BY MANUFACTURERS

RadamsWMMicrobeKillerCo-2-RB28-1a

WILLIAM RADAM’S MICROBE KILLER CO.

CheneyFJ-2-RB28-t1-1898

CHENEY MEDICINE CO.

 GavittWW-2-RB23

W. W. GAVITT

StearnsFrederick&Co-2-RB28-1b

   FREDERICK STEARNS & CO.

KeeleyInst-2-RB28a(TheLeslieEKeeleyCo)

THE LESLIE E. KEELEY CO.

Wholesale druggists tended to supply their local regional druggists, although some of them competed on a national level. The largest, like Charles Marchand, actually did produce RS stamps during the Spanish-American War period. Others, like E. Ferrett of New York, who distributed the Wright product line, opted for printed cancels. Many prominent companies, like Meyer Brothers of St. Louis and George C. Goodwin of Boston, however, stuck with hand stamped cancels, and have not been scrutinized as carefully as the others. For example, Meyer Brothers catalogues provide much information about the state of the drug business at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

CANCELS USED BY WHOLESALERS

MarchandChas-2-RB28-1898-1101

HAND STAMPED CANCEL USED BY CHARLES MARCHAND

      MarchandChas-1-RS298

PROPRIETARY STAMP PRINTED BY CHARLES MARCHAND

Wright-2-1-RB23-1(EFerrett)

PRINTED CANCEL USED BY E. FERRETT

MeyerBrosDrugCo-2-RB28bRV

HAND STAMPED CANCEL USED BY MEYER BROS. DRUG. CO.

GoodwinGeo&Co-2-RB28-6(ex-Orton)

HANDSTAMPED CANCEL USED BY

GEORGE C. GOODWIN & CO.

Retailers tended to have a single location or a group of locations around a single city, although there were a few regional affiliations and even the first, faint stirring of a national chain. They mainly had to account for tax to be paid on products already in stock on the effective date of collection, July 1, 1898, or had to stamp small batches of their own generic or home-brewed products or other miscellaneous goods. For this reason, most retail cancels appear on low denominations and are virtually all hand stamped. They remain largely obscure and are most often identified only if the entire name is given or the location is identified. Armed with that information, it is generally easy to match the cancel to known drug industry outlets. While most were small town druggists, the stories of retailers as varied as R.H. Macy (a large enough operation to have invested in printed cancels), J.N. Adam & Co., and L.O. Gale, form the tributary streams of information which ultimately lead to the vast, still largely unexplored, ocean of patent medicine knowledge.

CANCELS UTILIZED BY RETAILERS

MacyRH-2-RB23

PRINTED CANCEL USED BY R. H. MACY & CO.

AdamJN&Co-2-RB22-1899-09-27RV(BuffaloNY)

HAND STAMPED CANCEL USED BY J. N. ADAM & CO.

GaleLO-2-RB20(MitchellSD)(ERA1905,FussellCornP316)

HAND STAMPED CANCEL USED BY. L. O. GALE

This ocean of knowledge exists on the same Internet which makes this blog available, for just as it has made the archives of the New York Times readily searchable and readable, it has made reachable, through scanning, obscure local histories, numerous dusty trade publications and other source material such as patent medicine company catalogues. In addition to these reproductions of older written materials, websites promoting study of family genealogies, and local points of interest, as well as hobby websites in neighboring fields like bottle and postcard collecting, have also contributed to widen the field of inquiry into patent medicines. This article argues that we should all take another plunge into the vastly improved ocean of knowledge.

 

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2011, 2014

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B, S

Sterling Products, Inc. (V.3) – Bovinine Co.

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer

Chapter V.3 – Bovinine Co., Manufacturer

BovinineCo-2-RB23(NYC)(laterSterlingProducts)

POSSIBLE BOVININE CO. CANCEL

W-Bovinine-12(APBBovAd-MassMedJourn(1888-v8))

1888 BOVININE TRADE AD

          Sterling’s next acquisition, Bovinine Co., appears less obvious now than it probably was in the early 1920s.  Its product – Bovinine – gave Sterling an entry into a different class of health assistance aids: the “beef extract” tonics.

JUSTUS von LIEBIG GERMAN MEMORIAL STAMPS

Liebig-1953FRGStamp2     Liebig-1978DDRStamp2

1953 WEST GERMAN AND 1978 EAST GERMAN

Liebig-2003GermanMiniSheet

2003 RE-UNITED GERMAN

These “beef extract” products were predicated on a nutrition theory propounded by the eminent German chemistry professor Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) in the 1840s.  His earliest experiments, in the 1820s, laid the foundations for modern chemistry’s structural theories about isomers and radicals.  His later investigations helped to break down older rigid classifications of chemical reactions as either “dead” (inorganic) or “living” (physiological) and led to the creation of the field of organic chemistry.  Synthesizing all of his experiments, he set out some of the earliest theories about the nature of plant and animal metabolisms, and ultimately applied his ideas to both to plant and human nutrition.  His postulates about plant nutrition eventually led to the widespread development of nitrogen based fertilizers, and his concepts of adequate human nutrition caused him to advocate that meat juices containing inorganic compounds were as important as the meat fibers themselves in order to maintain a proper balanced diet.  In 1847, he published a formula for producing a “beef extract” which captured those nutrients he deemed essential to human well-being.

Liebig-SteelEngraving1876Portrait

ENGRAVED PORTRAIT

As well as helping to spur the recognition of nutrition as a respectable field of scientific endeavor, his reputation made “beef extract” an essential element of every modern, thinking person’s diet.  Being a pure scientist, Liebig did not seek patent or trademark protection for his idea, and, immediately, a number of companies began to manufacture such a “beef extract.”  Ultimately, he associated himself with one of these ventures which became known as “Liebig’s Extract of Beef.”  While the particular twists and turns of that company’s history belong in a different article, suffice to say, that Bovinine was an attempt to market a “beef extract” product to rival “Liebig’s Extract of Beef.”

U. S. GRANT ON U. S. STAMPS

GrantStamp4    GrantStamp2     GrantStamp3a

           Like so many other “beef extracts,” Bovinine would have appeared and disappeared without a trace as a past health fad of the Nineteenth Century, save for one remarkable circumstance which occurred involving one of the country’s most beloved figures, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who unintentionally bestowed enough fame on the product to singlehandedly carry it into the Twentieth Century. His inadvertent endorsement of Bovinine came as a result of his heroic and tragic struggle to remain alive that took place twenty years after the end of the Civil War.

GrantStamp5     GrantStamp1     GrantStamp6

          Grant, of course, was the Union general who had propelled the North to victory in the Civil War.  Soon thereafter, his fame carried him to the Presidency of the United States for two terms in the years between 1869 and 1877.  Immensely popular with the public, Grant then toured the world for two years after leaving office, meeting with the crowned heads of Europe, such as Queen Victoria, as well as the significant political leaders, such as Germany’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.  Essentially acting as a goodwill ambassador for the United States, his travels made good newspaper copy and kept him in the public eye.  He was so popular that he even competed for the 1880 Republican presidential nomination, which would have led to his running for an unprecedented third term as president.

FerdinandWard     GrantJr1

FERDINAND WARD & U. S. GRANT JR.

PuckWardCartoon

CARTOON OF WARD IMPRISONED AFTER COLLAPSE OF GRANT & WARD

          After losing that contest, Grant joined a stock brokerage firm on Wall Street that one of his sons had formed with a brilliant young financial wizard – esteemed as the “Young Napoleon” – named Ferdinand Ward investing his money and lending his name to the firm which became known as Grant & Ward.  His endorsement brought wealth to both the firm and to himself.  However, overnight in 1884 he lost his entire fortune as Grant & Ward suddenly collapsed when it emerged that Ward was the Bernie Madoff of his day, operating the firm as a Ponzi scheme, for which he subsequently spent six years in Sing Sing.  While no one sought to charge Grant with Ward’s misconduct, he was faced with utter destitution.  His friends and former colleagues in the Army rushed to raise funds for him, but he stoically brushed all such efforts aside.  Rather, in order to replenish his own means by himself, Grant determined to write his memoirs, and negotiated a contract with Mark Twain for Twain to publish them.  Emotionally tormented by the prospect of his family’s poverty and already physically weakened by a bad fall at the end of 1883 which had required him to be on crutches for months, as 1884 ended, Grant began to experience discomfort which was soon diagnosed as cancer of the tongue and jaw.  Newspapers all over the country, such as the New York Times, immediately commenced publishing daily bulletins of Grant’s contrasting bursts of energy and lapses into lassitude.  By the end of February, 1885 a Times article concluded that the inevitable end of Grant’s illness would be death.  Yet, even as the public breathlessly followed the daily reports of his ups and downs, Grant slowly and relentlessly burnished his manuscript in New York City throughout the rest of the winter and spring.  Toward the end of June, he laboriously moved to a summer house loaned to him by an admirer at Mt. McGregor near Saratoga Springs, NY.  The local newspaper, the Saratogian, almost immediately thereafter reported the following item:

P-Flood-GrantsFinalVictory-p197-3

Grant died on July 23rd, three days after completing his manuscript.¹  At the end of July, one of his attending physicians, in allowing the New York Times to print his summary of Grant’s case that he had prepared for publication in a medical journal, confirmed:

W-Bovinine-22(GrantsDrShradyReGsDiet-NYT-7-31-85)

W-Bovinine-39b2(GrantLtrAd-ChristianUnion(1889-v40))

REPRINT OF FRED GRANT’S LETTER IN 1889 BOVININE TRADE AD

BovinineCo-50-1a(BosF&HExp-1891)

1891 BOSTON EXPOSITION BOVININE EXHIBIT

          Soon thereafter, Bovinine’s manufacturer was displaying at trade fairs and expositions, such as the Ninth International Medical Congress held in Washington, D.C.,² the “order” for Bovinine written by Gen. Grant’s son Fred, and, thereafter, its advertising always featured, in some form, Fred Grant’s attestation: “During the last four months of his sickness the principal food of my father, Gen. Grant, was BOVININE and milk.”   Note that the account written by the Saratogian before Grant’s death does not exactly match the company’s later telling of the story.  The Saratogian’s account seems to suggest that the maker dispatched the case of Bovinine to Grant unsolicited, while the company itself said Fred Grant ordered it and apparently displayed his original “order. ”  Of course, the trade magazine reporting upon the Medical Congress might well have confused Fred Grant’s posthumous endorsement with an “order.” Whether Fred Grant received any remuneration for his letter is unrecorded, but his statement that absent Bovinine, Grant would not have been able to finish his memoirs, and the image of a product that imbued the dying Grant with the superhuman strength he needed to complete the last 600 pages of his recollections was seared into the collective memory of that generation and the next.

1885c NOVELTY “HOLD TO LIGHT” TRADE CARD

BushJP-5-1a(Bovinine)

FRONT

BushJP-5-1b(Bovinine)    BushJP-5-1c(Bovinine)

BACK & BACK IN MIRROR

BushJP-5-1d(Bovinine)

TRADE CARD FRONT HELD TO LIGHT

          Bovinine had existed for little more than five years when Grant’s use propelled it to fame.  A James P. Bush of Boston (1818c-1880) in 1877 patented Bovinine’s formula in the U.S. and trademarked the words “concentrated meat-juice” in England.  His company also filed two trademark applications for the name Bovinine as a label in the U.S. in 1879.  At this distant time, Bush’s imprint on history seems relatively light. The name “James P. Bush” pops up in various assorted, distinct notations of 19th Century events that have found their way on to the Internet, but no one at the time seems to have felt the need to gather these stray observations into a contemporaneous biographical sketch. After his death, Bovinine’s ads consistently referred to him as the “late Dr. James Bush,” however there is no obvious record extant showing him to have trained as a physician. There are a number of different records that outline the modern image of Bush.  The Municipal Register of Boston for the years 1844 and 1845 lists a James P. Bush as an “inspector” for Boston’s Ward 7; most likely he served as an election examiner. A James P. Bush sat on the Boston Grand Jury that indicted the abolitionist minister Theodore Parker for inciting a riot after Parker preached a sermon advocating abolition in Boston in 1854, and, in 1858, a J. P. Bush of Boston contributed a dollar to the fund organized by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union to purchase Mount Vernon, then in private hands, in order to restore it as a monument to George Washington.

W-Bovinine-16(JPBushAd-AnnalsOfHygiene(1884-vs1&2))

1884 BOVININE TRADE AD

Boston directories list a James P. Bush as a director of the Suffolk Fire Insurance Company of Boston from 1862 into the 1870s, and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society elected a J. P. Bush of Boston a member in 1864.  A James P. Bush was the lead plaintiff in an unsuccessful Massachusetts suit brought just after the Civil War by ship’s owners against their captain over the value in U.S. currency of English gold sovereigns the captain had retained as his pay from the monies paid to him in foreign ports for delivery of freight.  The American Jersey Herd Book lists a J. P. Bush of Milton, MA as the owner of the sire and grand-“dam” of heifer 709, Patience, “dropped” on March 14, 1869.  A James P. Bush of Boston filed for a patent on an improved window blind or shutter fitting in 1873.  A J. P. Bush was a partner in the coal shipping firm of Agard, Bush & Co. in the 1870s, and was listed at Agard’s address as the “agent” for another company’s newly patented, modern and efficient coal boiler in a technology magazine published in 1875.  After his death, his son, Arthur P. Bush, prosecuted on his behalf a claim for damages to a vessel and freight before the Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims, a panel sitting in Washington, set up to distribute some $15,500,000 paid by Great Britain after an international arbitration ruled that it should compensate U.S. citizens for harm to U.S. ships done by Confederate raiders built in England during the Civil War. The only conclusion one can draw from all these miscellaneous and random references, assuming there was only one James P. Bush in Boston at the time, is that while he might also have been a doctor, a gentleman farmer and even an dilettante innovator, he spent his working life mainly as a merchant and a businessman.

     BushJP-5-2a(Bovinine)     BushJP-5-2d(Bovinine)

1885c TRADE CARD

          Bovinine was first marketed by the James P. Bush Manufacturing Co. This company’s factory was located in Chicago, a place which logically flowed from Chicago’s having the stockyards and the slaughterhouses to supply the meat for the extract. It generally listed its main office as being in New York, but also, at various times for various purposes, listed offices in Boston and Hartford CT as well. For example, when the fledgling company twice registered its label in 1879, perhaps still reflecting the influence of its founder, it listed its offices on one application as Boston and as Hartford and Boston on the other application. However, by 1885, five years after James P. Bush’s death, it had been re-chartered as an Illinois corporation, possibly to keep management in harmony with production. Yet, the evolution and the ownership of the company are harder to trace.

W-Bovinine-1(BushJPAd-StLouisMedSurgJourn(1887,1to6,v56))

1887 TRADE AD

          In fact, over the years, the leadership of the manufacturing company principally seems to have been a coterie of New York City druggists along with certain others involved in the patent medicine business.  In 1889, Trow’s New York City Business Directory lists the officers and directors of the Bush Co. as three New Yorkers named Andrew J. Ditman, Albert Imgard and Henry T. Champney.  Andrew Jackson Ditman, the president, was the owner and operator of the drugstore located in the Astor House, the first luxury hotel in New York City, located on Broadway between Vesey and Barclay Streets in downtown Manhattan opposite New York City’s massive main post office (then located in what is now City Hall Park).  Its address, 2 Barclay Street, was the New York office address for the Bush Co. Ditman had always sold his own brands of medicinal products at his drugstore and his ads sometimes even appeared on the same advertising page as the Bush ads for Bovinine.  Albert Imgard was a partner in the New York City drug firm of Wanier & Imgard which operated wholesale and retail locations “uptown” near 34th Street and in Harlem at 125th Street, then a northern suburb in Manhattan.  It too had its own line of patent medicines which it advertised separately.  Henry T. Champney, listed as President of the J. P. Bush Co. in an 1887 Chicago business directory, was a director of the company in 1889, but according to his account, given in 1894 to a writer for one of the pharmacy industry’s trade journals at the now-renamed Bovinine Co.’s offices re-located in New York City, he was the one who played the pivotal role in Bovinine’s evolution:

At the Bovinine Company’s office … Dr. H. T. Champney … told … how he first began to introduce that article to the trade. It seems that he bought the formula from Dr. J. P. Bush of Boston. He tried for a long time to get some moneyed men interested in the matter, but they fought shy of it. Finally a factory was started. It was, of course, on a small scale, but in 1885 there came, unexpectedly, a great advertisement for the extract. Gen. Grant was then stricken with what proved to be his fatal illness….and [his physician ] was induced to adopt Bovinine. Had the distinguished sufferer never taken Bovinine, it is probable he could not have lived to write his “Personal Memoirs.” When the public found this out – and good care was taken that it should do so early – the demand for the extract grew to grand proportions. ‘The physicians of the country found out that Bovinine was just what they wanted … and they lost no time in recommending it.’ The company moved its whole plant, with the exception of its laboratory for compounding the extract, from Chicago to New York, in June, 1892. The reason for this was because the concern believed, and still thinks that New York offers better facilities for business and is really the headquarters for proprietary articles in this country.

While Champney’s version of the tale accounts for the change of the company’s name from the Bush Co. to the Bovinine Co. and the shift of its headquarters to New York, it does not quite tell the entire story and seems to smooth over certain difficulties that perusal of the entire record discloses.

W-Bovinine-40(Ad-PharmaceutischeRundschau(1887-v5))

1887 TRADE AD

          One such “rough edge” was a trademark battle that took place in Canada. In 1888, Imgard, on behalf of the Bush Co., filed to register “Bovinine” as a Canadian trademark, only to find that there was already a prior registration of “Bush’s Fluid Food Bovinine” made by two Canadians, an Arthur Hanson and another.  The Bush Co. immediately challenged the earlier filing.  Hanson and his colleague claimed that they held this trademark through a June 1, 1886 assignment from Champney, while the Bush Co. filed documents demonstrating that Champney and one I. Giles Lewis had made an assignment of the Bovinine trademark to the Bush Co. on June 28, 1885, essentially a full year prior to the date of Champney’s assignment to Hanson.  While Hanson argued that an even earlier assignment made in 1884 by the Bush Co. to Champney (what Champney apparently referred to in the interview as his “purchase of the formula”) had done merely that – conveyed only Bush’s formula, but not the Bovinine trademark itself – the Canadian judge had no trouble finding: 1) Champney’s and Lewis’s 1885 assignment to the Bush Co. constituted a complete transfer of all of their rights, including the trademark and left them with no further rights to assign; but also 2) if respondents’ contention was correct – that the 1884 transfer from the Bush Co. to Champney did not include the trademark – then the Bush Co. still owned the trademark in 1885 and Champney could personally have conveyed nothing to Hanson in 1885.  For good measure, the judge added that Champney’s 1885 attempt at the assignment, which by its language limited use of the trademark to Canada alone, was too narrow in its scope to support registration of a trademark in Canada.  Only one drug trade journal in the U.S. seems to have reported the decision:

W-Bovinine-35(RptOnCanadianCase-Doctor[The](v3n4(1-89))

While noting the Bush Co.’s victory in Canada, the article appears to leave unresolved the question of who controlled the right to future use Bovinine’s trademark in the United States, and that points to another “rough edge” in the Bovinine story that will require further smoothing below.  It is fair to say, however, that there are no reported U.S. court decisions extant in any litigation between either the Bush Co. or the Bovinine Co. and the Canadians and, in particular, none in a lawsuit over the name “Bovine Liquid Food.”

W-Bovinine-15(JPBushAd-AnnualOfUniversalMedicalScis(1891-v5))

1891 BOVINE TRADE AD

          It is curious the Bovinine Co. did not devise a plan to rid itself of Champney after the Canadian litigation that his actions, willful or unwitting, caused.  Since good fortune found its product just at that moment, perhaps the incident was swept away in the rush of demand that followed Bovinine’s heroic sustenance of Gen. Grant.  Whatever had gone before, Henry Trowbridge Champney devoted the remainder of his long life after 1885 to being the chief spokesman for Bovinine.  His antecedents were notable.  Stitched together from various letters submitted by relatives, the complete genealogy of his illustrious New England family had been published by one of his uncles in 1867.  In America, his ancestors included the fiery preacher Cotton Mather.  A number of his relatives wrote further that the family could trace its origins back to the Sir Henry Champney who fought beside William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings in 1066 and that a later relative had served as Lord Mayor of London.³  By the 1850s, Henry’s brother, Benjamin, was recognized as renowned American painter who is still remembered today for his paintings of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Born in New Ipswich, NH in 1825, Henry was the seventh and last child of the second marriage – and the tenth child overall – of Benjamin Champney: lawyer, postmaster, town selectman, part owner of the first cotton mill in New Hampshire, and member of the sixth generation of the Champney family in America.

ChampneyHouse1-IpswichNH(HistoryOfChampneys(JChampney-1867)

HENRY CHAMPNEY’S BIRTHPLACE – NEW IPSWICH, NH

          Henry Champney apparently lived and worked in Boston for much of his life. Listed as a “clerk” in the Boston city directories as early as 1845, by 1870 he appears as a dealer in upholstery goods.  Sometime after 1870 and before 1894, he, like James P. Bush, seems to have gratuitously conferred upon himself the title of doctor and left Boston, possibly for Chicago, and eventually, for New York.  Exactly when and under what circumstances he “purchased” Bovinine from James P. Bush and then, apparently, subsequently conveyed it back to the Bush Co. are hazy, since, as has been shown above, he is not a completely reliable narrator.  I. Giles Lewis (1848-1919), who is mentioned in connection with Bovinine as Champney’s partner only in the Canadian opinion, does provide the Bush Co. with a solid Chicago connection, for Lewis, a trained pharmacist, was otherwise associated for most of his own long career with the Chicago drug wholesaler Robert Stevenson & Co.  It is unclear whether Lewis or the Stevenson Company actually owned any interest in the Bush Co. beyond the assignment Lewis held with Champney between 1884 and 1885, but that brief period may have been long enough to permanently locate Bovinine’s factory in Chicago.

BovinineCo-3-1897-1(laterSterlingProducts)

1897 BOVININE COVER

          Champney himself had only one other coincidental “brush with fame.”  The episode, which would not otherwise warrant mention, serves to spotlight his flamboyant hucksterism and also reveals his possible motive for making the 1885 assignment of the Bovinine trademark held invalid in the Canadian case.  In 1895, he was arrested and briefly detained in connection with the New York City police investigation of the sensational death of Lillian Low, a twenty year old New York City woman discovered in what is now Ft. Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan with a bullet through her head, albeit (or so it was reported), neatly attired and fetchingly arrayed on the ground.  It developed that her uncle and father had been wealthy merchants, but her father, James, had broken with his brother, lost most of his fortune and, seemingly, had become extremely embittered.  Before being found dead, Lillian apparently had run away from her home with James, claiming James treated her cruelly, and had stayed with a woman, identified as a Miss A. K. Hanson, who operated a boardinghouse in New York City.  Part of the affidavit James Low gave to the police that caused them to arrest Champney stated that a few years previously, when he and Lillian had boarded at Miss Hanson’s, Hanson and Champney were “keeping house together” and were “very intimate” although not married.  In an interview with a New York Times reporter her father elaborated: “Henry T. Champney was … living there, and I did not consider the place a suitable one for Lillian to be in. … The idea of Miss Hansen and Champney was to get an influence over her, so that when I died they would get my money. … Lillian became satisfied that Miss Hansen was using her for selfish purposes and became disheartened.  She [had] attempted suicide …several weeks ago.”  As the circumstances unfolded, Lillian’s death was ultimately ruled a suicide, and Hanson and Champney were cleared of any responsibility for the young girl’s actions, despite her father’s insinuations that they had exercised inappropriate influence upon her.  After making a statement attesting to his own good character – which he substantiated in part by stating that he was Vice-President of the Bovinine Co. and a quarter owner of that company, as well as denying he was a blackmailer – Champney disappeared from the Low investigation.*

W-Bovinine-0b(Ad-Vogue(1894-v3))

1894 BOVINE AD TO PUBLIC

           However, for purposes of this story, the Miss Hanson Champney was living with turned out to be Amelia Knight Hanson, from New Brunswick, whom Canadian census records show had a younger brother named Arthur Hanson, coincidently the name of the Canadian to whom Champney made the 1885 assignment of Bovinine.  Thus, there was a long and deep connection between Champney and the Hansons.  That bond intensified after Champney’s wife of 47 years died in February, 1896, for promptly in April, 1896, at age 69, Champney married the 44 year old Amelia Hanson.  Amelia had not even been born when Champney married for the first time!  Champney continued to be the voice of the Bovinine Co. until he finally retired at about 80 in 1905.  He lived on to age 88, dying at last in 1913.  His very brief New York Times obituary stated that his library “contained many rare books.”

W-Bovinine-7(WanierAd-PoeticGemsFromEnglishOpera(1877))

1877 WANIER & IMGARD DRUG STORE AD

          In 1890, Albert Imgard died, and his place in the Bush Co.’s leadership was taken by his partner Frank Wanier, who, in 1893, replaced Ditman as President of the Bovinine Co., now based in New York and registered as a New Jersey corporation. Wanier was born in Germany in 1844, emigrated to the United States and around 1875 had gone into the pharmacy business with Julius and Albert Imgard, who co-incidently also became his in-laws.  He cemented his reputation as a competent and trustworthy pharmacist by acting as the hospital steward for the New York National Guard, even drawing singular praise from the Surgeon-General of the Guard in his 1885 report to the State Legislature.

W-Bovinine-11(W&IAd-MedicalTimes&Register(1891-1to7-vol22))

1891 TRADE AD FOR WANIER & IMGARD PATENT MEDICINE

From 1893 until his death in 1917, Wanier was President of the Bovinine Co.  He even posted the bond for Champney in 1895 so Champney did not have to spend more than one night in jail between his arrest and the coroner’s inquest that cleared him in the Lillian Low matter.  Even as President of Bovinine, Wanier continued to maintain his interest in Wanier and Imgard which featured its own separate patent medicine products; also ran from the same address as the Bovinine Co. another small patent medicine company, the Relief Mfg. Co., which he alone apparently had purchased; and served for a period as a director of the Bank of Harlem.  He flickers through the historical records of these years mainly acting with Julius Imgard as the executors of Albert Imgard’s estate to untangle Albert’s complex business interests, some of which involved other patent medicines and their owners.  Imgard’s and his name may well turn up in the pages of this blog again in the future.

W-Bovinine-29(DitmanBio&Pic-PracticalDruggist(1911-V29))     DitmanAJ-1z-PackageLabel

1911 DITMAN PORTRAIT AND SEAL USED ON HIS PATENT MEDICINE

DitmanAJ-6a-1895-2(SeaSalt)     DitmanAJ-6a-1895-1(Trigestia)

DITMAN PRODUCT TRADE ADS

          When Henry T. Champney finally retired, Andrew Ditman, who had presided over the Bush Co.’s move to New York and its initial reorganization as the Bovinine Co., was again listed as the other officer of the Bovinine Co., now denominated Secretary rather than Vice-President.

W-Bovinine-17(JPBushAd-HallsJourOfHealth+DittmanAd(1886-v33))

BOVININE & DITMAN ADS ON SAME PAGE OF 1886 TRADE JOURNAL

Ditman’s prior involvement with the Bush Co. probably marks him as one of Champney’s original group of “moneyed men.”  He appears to have been happy to stay on the sidelines letting Champney run its day to day operations once the Bovinine Co. completed the move to New York City.  Aside from one brief setback in 1893 (or perhaps because of it), when his own generosity of co-signing loans made to his friends brought him unwanted newspaper coverage as he apparently tottered on the brink of financial disaster (and caused his partner in one of his other businesses briefly to barricade himself in the drugstore on Barclay Street during litigation to sort such ownership matters out), Ditman seems to have busied himself with his drugstore and his own patent medicine brands as well as an outside business in artificial limbs.  By the time of Champney’s retirement, Ditman had given up the retail business and retained an office only to handle his own patent medicine brands and the artificial limbs.

DitmanAJ-5-1(MurrayCharTab)     W-Bovinine-30(DitmanArtLimbAd-PracticalDruggist(1911-V29))

DITMAN TRADE CARD & 1911 TRADE AD

In 1911, he was profiled in a drug trade magazine as one of the grand old men of the drug trade in New York City, who told about his upbringing on a poor farm outside Philadelphia, his various apprenticeships in the stores of his elders, and his brushes with the likes of Horace Greeley, George McClellan and William Tecumseh Sherman as customers in his store. Because he grew up on a farm, Ditman, like James P. Bush, aspired to be a gentleman farmer and bought his own farm in Englewood NJ where he bred prize chickens, dogs and pigeons. Like many Nineteenth Century men including Bush, he was also a dilettante inventor and even served as the president of a firm which manufactured automatic coin wrapping machines.  He outlived both Champney and Wanier on into the 1920s, certainly long enough to approve Bovinine’s transfer to Sterling.  In 1930, his own brands, now offered by A. J. Ditman, Inc. which had succeeded him after his death, were sold to Evans Chemical Co., a Cincinnati company, whose principal product was Big G Gonorrhea Cure (and which also cancelled battleship proprietary revenue stamps).

BushAP&Co-2-RB20     BushAP&Co-2-RB26

A. P. BUSH & CO. CANCELS

          The other “rough edge” mentioned above concerns Arthur P. Bush, son of the inventor, James P. Bush, for his name has so far been mentioned only indirectly in connection with the Bovinine story.  Born in 1857, in the 1880 census at age 23, he is listed as a “clerk in store” living with his uncle, Frederick J Bush, a merchant with a store, in Weston, MA, about fifteen miles west of Boston.  Perhaps by dint of an inheritance after his father’s death in 1880 (or some kind of transfer of the rights to Bovinine), A. P. Bush had his own wholesale drug firm in Boston by the mid-1880s, which advertised as the New England sales agent not only for the sale of Bovinine, but also for Hakka Cream, a patent remedy for catarrh and other respiratory conditions, and for Cole’s Ossidine, a veterinary remedy particularly addressing bone ailments of horses. During period of the Spanish-American War tax, his firm applied its own cancel to proprietary battleship revenues, some of which are shown above.

W-Bovinine-33(HakkaCreamAd-NewEnglandMag(1894-3to8-v10))

W-Bovinine-38(HakkaCreamAd-Website-NatLibHealth-NIH)-1     W-Bovinine-38(HakkaCreamAd-Website-NatLibHealth-NIH)-2

1894 HAKKA CREAM TRADE AD AND BROADSIDE

Yet the place of A. P. Bush in the hierarchies of both the J. P. Bush Manufacturing Co. and the Bovinine Co. is unclear throughout most of the years of the Bovinine Co.’s existence.  The Canadian decision seems to established that Henry T. Champney and I. Giles Lewis personally owned the rights to Bovinine between 1884 and 1885, although the J. P. Bush Manufacturing Co. owned them both before and after.  During the remainder of the decade of the 1880s, A. P. Bush certainly was neither an officer nor a director of the J. P. Bush Manufacturing Co., but, since he was listed as the New England sales agent for Bovinine, he was never completely out of the picture either.  Yet there appears to have been some kind of a split or even a complete rift between the younger Bush and the New Yorkers, particularly between 1890 and 1892.

 

BushJP-5-3d(Bovinine)     BushJP-5-3e

1885c BOVININE TRADE CARD SHOWING J. P. & A. P. BUSH

BushAP&Co-5-1a(LiquidBeef)     BushAP&Co-5-1b(LiquidBeef)

A. P. BUSH “BUSH’S LIQUID BEEF’ TRADE CARD

W-Bovinine-34a(APBush-BLFAd-NewEnglandMedGazette(1890-v25))

& 1890 BUSH’S LIQUID BEEF AD

          In the fall of 1890, A. P. Bush and Edward A. Talbot of Boston, who it appears was his partner in his Boston firm, registered with the U.S. Patent Office a label for “Bush’s Liquid Beef.”  More significantly, at several trade expositions in the early 1890s there were separate exhibits for the J. P. Bush Manufacturing Co. and the A. P. Bush Co., with the J. P. Bush Manufacturing Co. displaying Bovinine and the A. P. Bush Co. displaying, as well as claiming to be the “sole proprietor” of, Bush’s Liquid Beef.  Possibly Champney permitted A.P. Bush to market his father’s formula for Bovinine under his own Bush label to avoid further protracted litigation about the actual ownership of the formula and trademark for Bovinine.  Whether A.P. Bush was using his father’s formula, some formula of his own design or was trying in some way to breathe life into Hanson’s claim in the United States (as the trade journal quoted above suggested someone might), there appear to have been two different Bush liquid meat extract products marketed side-by-side for a couple of years.  Although this situation ought surely to have caused one or the other company to sue to assert its exclusive right to use Bush’s formula and name, there is no extant record of any such litigation.  Perhaps Champney understood and approved of (even if only tacitly) these seemingly unfair practices, for he might well have profited from the sale of either product. As part owner of the J. P. Bush Manufacturing Co., Champney would have profited from the sale of Bovinine, but, even if A.P. Bush & Co. had been selling Hanson’s product as “Bush’s Fluid Beef,” Champney’s obviously strong personal ties to Hanson may well have had a financial aspect as well, making him an indirect beneficiary of the sale of “Bush’s Liquid Beef.”  In other words, Champney may well have been playing both ends against the middle.  Whatever the nature of the dispute, it seems to have been settled privately, and there is no record now of how the competition between Bovinine and Bush’s Liquid Beef was resolved.  Nevertheless, Bush’s Liquid Beef quickly disappeared.

     W-Bovinine-27(Ad-NewHavenCourier-6-24-94)     W-Bovinine-8(Ad-NewHavenCourierNewspaper-APBush(8-23-1895))

1894 & 95 BOVININE NEW HAVEN CT NEWSPAPER ADS

          Soon thereafter, the A. P. Bush Co. returned to the fold as the New England sales agent for Bovinine.  Moreover, when Champney retired, A. P. Bush finally became the manager of the Bovinine Co., with Wanier and Ditman apparently content to leave him with the day-to-day management of the business.  After Wanier’s death in 1917 and his replacement by his son-in-law, Edward Grenzbach, Bush became President of the Bovinine Co., and may well have guided its sale to Sterling in the early 1920’s.  He died in 1942 at age 85 in Marin CA, far away from Bovinine.

BovinineCo-3-1916-1b     BovinineCo-3-1916-1a

1916 BOVININE ADVERTISING POSTCARD

What made Bovinine so special? A booklet issued for the Eighteen Triennial Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association Exposition held in Boston in 1892 as a part of its description of Bovinine’s display quoted the exhibitors’ formula:

W-Bovinine-24(BovinineCo-1894MassExDescrip)-1

To the modern eye, the ingredient that seems to specially stand out is the “finest three-year old grade” whiskey from “Bourbon, County, KY.”  Possibly that component boosted sales even among those of the general public who were not nutrition-oriented modernists.  Compare that robust, invigorating, red-blooded description to the tepid summary of the charms of Bush’s Liquid Beef which accompanied the A.P. Bush Co.’s display at the same exposition:

W-Bovinine-25(APBushCo-1894MassExDescrip)-1

Even though Bush’s Liquid Beef boasted it contained no boric or boracic acid (even then considered a potentially poisonous ingredient at any significant dose, and now not recommended at all for medicinal use internally) while Bovinine did not, it is easy to see why Bovinine triumphed.

W-Bovinine-0a(Ad-OccidentalMedTimes(1902-v16))     W-Bovinine-41(Ad-BostonMedSurgJourn(1908-7to10-v159))

1902 & 1908 BOVININE TRADE ADS

           In its attempt to further promote Bovinine as the primary source of good health, the Bovinine Co. also sponsored and circulated its own 600 page book of “haematherapy.” That term meant:

W-Bovinine-37(Haematherapy-Puffbook-p1)

The target audience for this book was the medical profession because Bovinine (as it stressed on the cover of the book) was an “ethical” preparation which doctors prescribed for their patients, (particularly if their patients had already heard about it from Bovinine’s newspaper and magazine ads or read about it in an exhibition catalog as the substance that sustained Gen. Grant and asked them for it).  The book itself devotes space to every possible medical condition, from “catarrhal fever” and others through maladies of every internal organ to diseases of the nerves and on to abnormalities of the bowel. For each disease, the book listed its causes,** its symptoms, anatomy, varieties and stages of progression, its prognosis, and the application of Bovinine to its cure.  These descriptions are interspersed with anecdotal case studies where a doctor successfully treated the disease with Bovinine, whether patients imbibed it as food, had it painted on their skin or sprayed in their throats, or even received it rectally.  Bovinine even could be employed in cases of chronic addiction or in surgical situations, mainly as an antiseptic (although seemingly always in conjunction with some substance like mercury chloride which might still qualify today as an antiseptic).  In short, Bovinine’s powers would ameliorate any medical problem.

BovinineCo-10-2a(Bovinine)     BovinineCo-10-2b(Bovinine)

BOVININE BOTTLE

          Eventually, as the era of analytic chemistry developed, Bovinine’s outsized claims were chopped down to size, and the presence of alcohol was downplayed.  As early as 1909, the American Medical Association (AMA) studied the meat extracts then being offered to the public and concluded about Bovinine that it was entirely misrepresenting itself and that a physician who was relying on such products to sustain seriously ill patients was “deceiving himself, starving his patients, and may be lessening their chances for recovery.  If a patient recovers while using these commodities, it is certainly not due to the food value contained in them.”  It placed Bovinine on its list of products deemed unacceptable.  Twice in 1918, the Food & Drug Administration entered judgments against Bovinine for misbranding:

W-Bovinine-3a2(FDA-NJ-5170(1918))

The second judgment also contained a count for concealing the presence of alcohol on the label. In both cases the company pleaded guilty.  In one case the court suspended sentence. In the other, the court imposed a $25 fine for each violation.

W-Bovinine-18(NeoBAd-Chemist&Druggist(1931)

1931 ENGLISH AD FOR NEO-BOVININE

         Once Sterling took ownership of Bovinine in the mid-1920s, it did attempt to expand Bovinine’s power as a brand by introducing Neo-Bovinine, a mixture of Bovinine and liver extract.  However, with the advent of real scientific advances toward the cure of disease and infection in the form of antitoxins, penicillin and, later, sulfa drugs, haematherapy no longer offered even a pretense of sound medical sense.  In 1931, the AMA Council not only reaffirmed its rejection of Bovinine, but also deemed Neo-Bovinine “unacceptable” as appropriate therapeutic treatment, stating its claims of curative powers were “unwarranted” and the “combination of Bovinine with a liver extract of unspecified character is unscientific.”

BovinineCo-10-1a(Neobovinine)     BovinineCo-10-1b(Neobovinine)

NEO-BOVININE PACKAGE & BOTTLE

                  Bovinine’s stay in the Sterling group of companies was relatively brief.  As subsequent chapters of this blog will show, Sterling soon attempted even grander feats of consolidating the market for consumer goods when it brought even more pharmaceutical companies together with those that manufactured cosmetics and perfumes (and certain other household goods such as floor wax) into a new division called American Home Products, and then combined its two divisions as well as two other outside drug manufacturing companies and a candy company with a huge chain of retail drug stores and re-titled itself Drugs, Inc.  When the Depression made this consolidation economically impractical and unworkable, Bovinine was one of the companies spun away from Sterling itself in 1933 as part of a new Wyeth division of the newly independent company, American Home Products, Inc.  In 1943, the Bovinine Co. was folded into directly into the Wyeth Division, and ceased to have its own corporate identity. Neo-Bovinine continued to be advertised widely throughout the 1930s and was still included on a list of pharmaceuticals and toiletries whose prices were fixed by regulations issued by the Australian government in 1946.  Neither Bovinine nor Neo-Bovinine is currently being produced or offered for sale.

BovinineCo-10a-1a(Wyeth)     BovinineCo-10a-1b(Wyeth)

BovinineCo-10a-1c(Wyeth)     BovinineCo-10a-1d(Wyeth)

WYETH’S BOVININE PACKAGE & BOTTLE

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2019

X—————————————–X

¹         Posthumous publication of Grant’s Memoirs in two volumes was enormously successful and insured that Grant’s family escaped poverty.

²         The first of these international medical conferences had been held in Amsterdam in 1879.  The Charles H. Phillips Chemical Co. (profiled in the last article) delighted those at the Washington conference with an exhibition booth offering free samples of its Digestible Cocoa.  Reporters noted that females present in the exhibition hall (all of whom, it emphasized, were guests rather than conference attendees) in particular enjoyed that exhibit.

³         Today, through the joint miracles of the Internet and Google Search, it is possible to cross-check such claims virtually instantaneously.  Notwithstanding how grandiose they may appear, they may not be entirely fatuous. The name Champney appears on the most significant version of the now-lost Battle Abbey register (the authoritative list of William the Conqueror’s Hastings battle companions) published in Holinshed’s Chronicles in 1577.  However, the major caveat concerning the Chronicles themselves is that they date from over 500 years after the battle and English nobles over the ensuing centuries appear to have intrigued to place their family names on that list, which seems to have grown ever larger as time went on.  With respect to the claim of a Champney Lord Mayor of London, an on-line compilation of Lord Mayors does list the name “Sir John Champneys” in 1534. The English commonly spell that name with an “s”.

*          The Low story itself, however, provides one more odd and completely unexpected connection with the subject matter of this series of columns. The New York Times, which covered the daily developments in the Low investigation from the discovery of the body to the funeral, reported that, although a complete stranger to the entire matter, Charles N. Crittenton (the subject of an earlier column, who, it will be remembered, had devoted his life to religion after making his fortune in patent medicines) presented himself at Lillian’s very sparsely attended funeral, and, because her father was an atheist, in the absence of a clergyman, remonstrated with, and prevailed upon, the shocked and grief-stricken parent to allow him to offer grave side prayers on her behalf, literally stopping the grave-diggers from completing their task until he had finished. One pharmaceutical publication, recognizing both Crittenton and Champney as outsized figures in the trade, briefly summarized the complete affair in its next subsequent issue.

**        As then understood: e.g. smallpox – “a specific poison, whose nature is unknown…”; typhoid fever – being young in summer; typhus – “a special infecting germ, the character of which is unknown, but which is influenced by filth and overcrowding. Rarely seen in the United States.”

Standard
P, S

Sterling Products Inc. (V.2) – The Charles H. Phillps Chemical Co.

Sterling Products, Inc. – Manufacturer

Chapter 5.2 – The Charles H. Phillips Chemical Co., Manufacturer

TYPES OF BATTLESHIP CANCELS

Initials Only – Narrow Lettering (+ color variation)

phillipschash[the]-2-1n-rb23r     phillipschash[the]-2-1n-rb25-0

phillipschash[the]-2-1n-rb31-0     phillipschash[the]-2-1n-rb31-0cv

            Initials and Year Date – Narrow Lettering (+ date differences, color variations)

phillipschash[the]-2-2-rb21

phillipschash[the]-2-2-rb25-1     phillipschash[the]-2-2-rb25-1cv

phillipschash[the]-2-2-rb28-1a(98)     phillipschash[the]-2-2-rb28-1b(99)

phillipschash[the]-2-2-rb31-1     phillipschash[the]-2-2-rb31-1cv

Initials and Year Date – Wide Lettering

phillipschash[the]-2-1w-rb24     phillipschash[the]-2-1w-rb27-1

Date with Lettered Month

phillipschash[the]-2-3-rb21ar     phillipschash[the]-2-3-rb25-3

phillipschash[the]-2-3-rb27-2

Date All Numbers (+ color variation)

 phillipschash[the]-2-4-rb20     phillipschash[the]-2-4-rb24b

phillipschash[the]-2-4-rb25-2a     phillipschash[the]-2-4-rb25-2cv

phillipschash[the]-2-4-rb28-2     phillipschash[the]-2-4-rb31-2

          Considering how popular and well-known Phillips Milk of Magnesia is even today as an antacid and laxative, it is amazing how little is actually known about the man and the company that originally produced this product.  A recent thorough and scholarly treatise on the differing presentations of Milk of Magnesia bottles and tablets over time (after all, who, but bottle collectors, would scrutinize Milk of Magnesia in depth?) deems the background information on Charles H. Phillips, his invention and his company “confused and confusing.”  Although this bottle treatise attempts to distill the correct facts while ‘ignor[ing] the often-copied incorrect information from the internet,” it actually winds up perpetuating the confusion.

phillipschash[the]-3-1895c-1(u119)r2

1880c UNUSED COMPANY ENVELOPE

          The one and only firmly established fact is that Milk of Magnesia was patented in the United States in 1873.  Beyond that date, the common wisdom is that the original patent was solely held by one Charles Henry Phillips, an English chemist, born in 1820, who came to America, lived in Stamford, CT, and died in 1882.  He had four sons who incorporated the company as The Charles H. Phillips Chemical Co. in 1885 and ran it until it was sold to Sterling Products, Inc. in 1923.  The bottle treatise itself concentrates on the minute differences of the various Sterling incarnations of Phillips Milk of Magnesia, because Sterling had the vast treasure chests of money to expend on the reams of advertising that guarantee Phillips Milk of Magnesia shelf space even in today’s drugstores.  However, because the use of the battleship revenues by this company predated Sterling’s ownership of the company, this article focuses primarily on the early history of The Charles H. Phillips Chemical Co. itself.  To the extent that Milk of Magnesia figures in the greater picture of Sterling’s development as it evolved, it will be discussed in subsequent installments.

phillipschash[the]-3-1894-1r

1894 COMPANY COVER

          Much – but not all – of the common wisdom about Charles H. Phillips set forth above is correct, but the corrections made in this article, while subtle, do sharpen the perception of Phillips.  Oddly enough, the difficulty in obtaining information about Phillips himself is not the lack of available records, but rather the welter of data available about people named C. H. Phillips caused by the fact that Phillips is such a common name.  Even the picture associated with the English chemist Charles Henry Phillips on one of his internet biographic pages is of another person, the Afro-American Methodist bishop, the Rev. Charles Henry Phillips, who was not only born in the United States, but born in 1858, almost a full generation after the inventor of Milk of Magnesia.

phillipschash[the]-mom-6a-1874-4(bostonmedsurgjourn-v90)

1874 AD OFFERING MILK OF MAGNESIA (MOM)  FOR SALE THROUGH LOCAL AGENTS

          The actual Charles Henry Phillips who invented Milk of Magnesia was born in England – perhaps in the village of Broadwater in the County of Sussex – but in 1822, not 1820.  More significantly, he died in 1888, not 1882.  He, along with his wife, a daughter and the four sons who later ran the company, all were counted in the 1860 U.S. Census as living in Darien, CT.  While Phillips was a man who experimented with chemicals, and definitely did so successfully, his identification as a “chemist” meant that he trained as what Americans call a pharmacist, for “chemist” is the English term for pharmacist.  Lost in the blizzard of data about different C. H. Phillips is the exact date that this Charles H. Phillips emigrated from England to the United States and the place where he landed.  Apparently, he first operated a drugstore in Elizabeth, New Jersey for some period of time, possibly until 1849.  In that year, he appears to have moved to New York City and entered some aspect of the drug business, because New York City directories from the early 1850s list “drugs” as the trade next to the name of a resident named Charles H. Phillips. Whatever his endeavors for those next several years, they must have been fertile, for, in 1856, he had the resources to open the Phillips Camphor and Wax Co. factory on the banks of the Noroton River in Glenbrook, CT, now a neighborhood of Stamford, located on the border between Stamford and Darien.  He placed his home – actually an estate called Denehurst – toward the Darien side of the large factory tract, which might explain why the 1860 Census treated him as a resident of Darien.

phillipschash[the]-mom-4-1889-8a

phillipschash[the]-mom-4-1889-8b

     1889 COMPANY POSTCARD AD FOR MOM MAILED TO U.S. DOCTOR

          The products first manufactured by the Phillips Camphor and Wax Co. were, according to an article on the Phillips lineage, “white wax, refined camphor and a high grade of essential oils.”  Certain of these products were used in medicines and Phillips continued to experiment on chemical compounds with medicinal applications.  The reasons why and how he came to work with magnesium salts are now lost in time. However, as early as the 1600s, the English had learned to use magnesium, in the form of magnesium sulfate (MgSO4 – magnesium bonded with sulfur and oxygen), externally to treat skin inflammations and internally, in small amounts, as both an antacid and a laxative.  By the mid-1800s, magnesium sulfate had become known as Epsom Salts, named for the English town where it occurred naturally in the water.  Yet, while relatively easy to use as a topical medicine, magnesium sulfate was so bitter tasting that it was largely unpalatable, and scientists struggled for over a century to find a form, or compound, of magnesium that was more easily ingested.  While magnesium itself was not identified as a separate metallic element until the English chemist Sir Humphry Davy isolated it in 1808 in England, already in the United States in 1818, an inventor named John Callen, himself seeking the commercially successful formulation for rendering magnesium appetizing that Phillips later found, patented a process for manufacturing “medicated liquid magnesia,” (which was magnesium hydroxide – Mg(OH)2 – magnesium bonded with water, hydrogen and oxygen), from magnesium carbonate, MgCO3 – magnesium bonded with carbon and oxygen.

murraysirjames(physician)

SIR JAMES MURRAY

          At about the same time, the Irish physician Sir James Murray (1788-1871), who may have known of Callen’s work, devised a method for suspending magnesium sulfate in water, a solution he called “fluid magnesia.”  In the 1830s, after Murray successfully used his “fluid magnesia” to treat the ills of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, medical journals around the world trumpeted its use for digestive troubles.  Murray then set up a factory in Belfast to manufacture his “fluid magnesia” and created a large and profitable business.  Interestingly, he and his company never sought to patent protect his formula outside of Great Britain and the British Empire. The rest of the world apparently did not matter.

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1883 FLUID MAGNESIA ENGLISH TRADE AD

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FLUID MAGNESIA BOTTLE

          The then-current state of the medical world’s knowledge of magnesium and its compounds is well summarized in the 1838 edition of a medical dictionary, Butler’s Medicine Chest, prepared by Murray’s fellow Irishman Dr. Charles Butler for families to keep in their homes to avoid having to call a doctor.  Together with an occasional ad for Butler’s own proprietary remedies, it contained the following definitions of “magnesia” and “magnesia calcinated or burned” (magnesium oxide – MgO):

butlersmedchest-p1p1butlersmedchest-p2p1butlersmedchest-p3p1

  • * * *

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• • •

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1845 AD BY NEW YORK IMPORTER OFFERING MURRAY’S FLUID MAGNESIA FOR SALE

          Although there is no known record of communication between Phillips and either Callen or Murray, Phillips must have been aware of Callen’s patent and probably had read about Murray’s success with “fluid magnesia” in medical journals.  As the ad immediately above shows, Murray’s Fluid Magnesia was definitely available in New York City.  Phillips must have seen an opportunity to improve upon Murray’s method for suspending magnesium in water.  However, when he submitted his application for a patent in the United States in 1873 (probably the action which caused Murray’s firm to patent “fluid magnesia” in England in 1873), it was signed both by Phillips as well as by one Lawrence Reid (1812-1874).  Although the precise nature of the relationship between Phillips and Reid is also now lost, Reid was a chemist who had emigrated to the United States from Edinburgh, Scotland.  He was older than Phillips, and in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, would have been more well-established in New York City than Phillips.  After the 1840s, when he was a Professor of Chemistry at the New York City College of Pharmacy lecturing on poisons, courts recognized him as an expert, and the press quoted him when he gave testimony at the sensational murder trials of the day.¹   For the College of Pharmacy’s Committee on Inspection, he also analyzed, and issued technical reports on, the dangers of certain adulterated compounds sold to druggists in New York City to prevent them from being used to mix medicines sold to the public.  In the 1840s, he also had enhanced his reputation as a scholar and an expert when an analysis of his setting forth the chemical makeup of the content of mineral springs located in Schoharie County, NY was published in the Journal of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.  In the 1850s, he himself received a patent for a process to convert slaughterhouse offal into clean useful fertilizer, and, at a time before Lister’s work on sterilization was fully appreciated and understood, while working at New York Hospital, Reid advocated using very diluted sulfuric acid (taken orally!) to fight the periodic cholera epidemics that swept the City. Had Reid lived, possibly today Milk of Magnesia might be known as Phillips & Reid Milk of Magnesia.  On the other hand, perhaps Reid merely lent his then-better-known name to Phillips to add gravity to Phillips’s patent application or merely to show Phillips the ropes, since he himself had already successfully completed the patent application process.  In any event, Reid promptly assigned his patent interest to Phillips and was dead when Phillips filed a second patent application to refine the manufacturing process within two years.

phillipschash[the]-mom-4-1893-5a

   phillipschash[the]-mom-4-1893-5b

1893 POSTCARD AD FOR MOM MAILED TO ENGLISH DOCTOR

          The patent application of Phillips and Reid specified magnesium sulfate as the raw material for their process, the same as Murray had identified as the starting point for his method, but firmly stated that any soluble salt of magnesium could equally serve as the source for the magnesium.  The innovation in their process was that the end product of the chemical reactions they described was no longer magnesium sulfate, but rather magnesium hydroxide, a compound that their process caused to precipitate as a crystal already incorporating water into its structure (Mg(OH)2 • H2O), which (when further diluted with water) could be marketed as a milky, finely grained textured fluid that was not only potable, but almost pleasant.  They created this compound by exposing the magnesium salt in a repeated, controlled and regulated manner to hydroxide compounds in the form of either caustic soda or lye (NaOH) or caustic potash (KOH) (to provide what is now termed an ion exchange medium) causing the magnesium to change its chemical bond from the sulfate ion (SO4) to the hydroxide ion (OH).  The application firmly asserted that their process “will finally supplant the impure preparations, termed ‘fluid’ and ‘solid’ magnesias, now in use.”  Phillips and Reid stressed that their process could be differentiated from other available hydrating processes (and therefore worthy of a patent) because of the particular smoothness and uniformity of the solution it produced, equally palatable to infants and geriatrics, as well as the length of time the hydrate of magnesia would remain suspended.  The patent also boasted that the “medical faculty” would find the process a “most valuable addition to their dispensatory [sic], despite their generally well founded objections to the use of proprietary medicines.”²  The second patent application, two years later, substituted ammonia (NH3 – really nitrogen trihydride) for the caustic soda, lye or caustic potash to simplify and speed the ion exchange process.

phillipschash[the]-mom-10-3a(mom)     phillipschash[the]-mom-6-1900c-1

1900c MOM BOTTLE AND LABEL

           Once Phillips began to manufacture Milk of Magnesia, it became his foremost product, and he quickly seems to have laid aside the wax and essential oils business and soon began to offer other medicinal preparations for sale as well.  He did apply for a British trademark for Milk of Magnesia in 1879, six years after Murray’s company filed its British patent.  Sources do not agree as to when Phillips actually changed the name of his Connecticut manufacturing complex because Milk of Magnesia and the other medicinal products were always advertised as being offered by Charles H. Phillips, manufacturing chemist, from a New York City address.

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1875 PHOSPHO–NUTRITINE AD

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1887 WHEAT PHOSPHATES AD

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WHEAT PHOSPHATES BOTTLE REFLECTING BOTH NEW & OLD PRODUCT NAMES

          The next product Phillips offered to the public was Phospho-Nutritine. It was a “preparation of soluble wheat phosphates” aimed at filling the persistent gap in nutrition which people down through the ages have always inevitably perceived (or imagined) in everyone’s daily diet.  While compounds containing phosphates have been established by science as central to both animal and plant life (and, indeed, by modern science as crucial to the formation of DNA), the use of the term “soluble wheat phosphates” as a requisite and necessary supplement to the diets of healthy people in the late Nineteenth Century appears to have been akin to the present day use of the term “vitamins.”  Even if no one clearly understands what quantity of such “phosphates” then – or vitamins now – can actually be utilized by the system of an otherwise healthy organism to increase, or maximize, its well-being, it is a folk assumption that the normal food which people consume is never nutritious enough not to require outside assistance.  Many, many “experts” of every stripe, and degree of training, including Phillips (who probably had more training than most), were happy to fill this perceived nutritional vacuum with their handiwork.  Sometime later, Phillips changed the name of this product simply to Wheat Phosphates.

phillipschash[the]-fcocoa-1894-17(westerndruggist-v16)

   phillipschash[the]-fcocoa-1895-16a(amdruggist-v26)

 1894 & 1895 FOUNTAIN CHOCOLATE TRADE ADS

phillipschash-[the]-cocoa-5-2a    phillipschash[the]-cocoa-5-2b cocoatradecard-1a             cocoacrate

DIGESTIBLE COCOA TRADE CARDS AND SHIPPING BOX

          Phospho-Nutritine was soon followed by the company’s one anomalous attempt to simply market a food product: cocoa.  It was sold to the trade as a bulk concentrate syrup under the name of Phillips’ Fountain Chocolate for use in the latest innovation that trendy drugstores were installing, the soda fountain, and to the public in powder form as Phillips’ Digestible Cocoa.  As a consumer product, it competed with many other commercial brands of cocoa for approximately thirty years. In the first decade of the Twentieth Century, when analysis of foods for impurities became a heightened concern for both the federal and state governments, it passed muster as a valid brand of cocoa with the examining agencies of both Pennsylvania and Connecticut.  In fact, the testing agency in Connecticut, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, was so comfortable with its findings about commercial cocoa production in 1910 that it remarked: “the chief difficulty about cocoa at the present time seems not to be about adulteration but a very marked tendency among the manufacturers to exaggerate the food value, assimilability and digestibility of their products.”  The Phillips company was certainly counting on its reputation for marketing healthy products to aid sales of its Digestible Cocoa because it noted on the back of each can that phosphates were added to the cocoa “with a view of furnishing increased nutriment.”

phillipschash[the]-cocoa-6a-1902-11(canadianjourmed&surg-1902-v11)

  phillipschash[the]-cocoa-6a-1908-12(marylandmedjour(vol51no5))

1902 & 1908 TRADE ADS FOR DIGESTIBLE COCOA

          However, in this respect the company may have outsmarted itself, for, in 1913, the federal Department of Agriculture entered a judgment against the company for mislabeling its cocoa under the Pure Food and Drug Act because on the front of the cocoa tin the label said “pure cocoa” while, in smaller type, on the back, the company more accurately stated the product consisted of cocoa, sugar, phosphates and vanilla flavoring, along with its additional embellishment that the phosphates were added for their nutritional value.  In what seems now like a bit of overkill, the government contended two distinct violations of the Act, for both “adulteration” of the product because the substance itself was not, in fact, “pure cocoa,” and “misbranding” because the front of the can affirmed that the substance was “pure cocoa.”  Yet, while never directly attacking the claim that the phosphates added nutritional value, the government did successfully allege that the smaller type on the back label (which listed the ingredients correctly) was insufficient to offset the incorrect impression created by the large type on the front label.  Apparently, at that time, the company did not consider such an error significant to its operations, because it did not either appear in court or contest the issue.  Nevertheless, by the time the company was sold to Sterling in 1923, it no longer seems to have been marketing cocoa.  Interestingly, as penalty for the “adulteration and misbranding,” the court directed the federal marshal to offer the cans for public sale after assuring that they were properly re-labeled, instead of ordering destruction of the property, the usual and customary remedy in forfeiture cases.

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   phillipschash[the]-cle1-4-1881-1br

1881 PALATABLE COD LIVER OIL POSTCARD AD MAILED TO U.S. DOCTOR

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   phillipschash[the]-cle1-6a-1884-1a

1882 & 1884 TRADE ADS FOR PALATABLE COD LIVER OIL

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1888 ADS IN SAME TRADE JOURNAL, THE YEAR THE NAME CHANGED

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  cle2

BOTTLES SHOWING EACH NAME

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   phillipschash[the]-cle2-1892-1b

1892 COD LIVER OIL EMULSION POSTCARD AD MAILED TO U.S. DOCTOR

          The Phillips company soon added two further variations of its “soluble wheat phosphates” nutritional supplement.  One was Phillips’ Palatable Cod Liver Oil, which shortly became Phillips’ Emulsion of Cod Liver Oil.  Phillips’ version of cod liver oil satisfied the requirements of common folk wisdom that always deemed fish oil a necessary supplement to achieve good health. Exactly when and where such folk wisdom arose is virtually impossible to trace.  As with most folk medicine, there was a kernel of scientific evidence to support the notion.  In the Nineteenth Century, it was determined anecdotally that cod liver oil seemed to help to correct bone softening caused by the disease rickets.  Later science determined that rickets was actually a deficiency of vitamin D which is necessary to properly metabolize the minerals calcium and phosphorus. Since cod liver oil turns out to be rich in vitamin D, it was ultimately deemed as a medically valid treatment for rickets.  However, since folk wisdom continues to evolve and advertising now trumpets “omega-3 nutrients” (in modern pseudo-scientific terms) from fish oil as an anti-inflammatory, it is thus still considered by many to be a requisite of every healthy person’s daily regimen.  Because of the continuing re-invention of fish oil as an aid to good health, then, as now, some possible benefit probably came from ingesting Phillips’ cod liver oil, but, as with the “soluble wheat phosphates,” it was then, and remains now, remarkably difficult to quantify the precise benefit an otherwise healthy person receives from the addition of such a supplement.

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phillipschash[the]-pmq-1886-9b(massmedjourn-v6)

1886 TRADE AD FOR PHOSPHO-MURIATE OF QUININE

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   phillipschash[the]-pmq-4-1892-4b

     1892 PHOSPO-MURIATE POSTCARD AD MAILED TO U.S. DOCTOR

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PHOSPHO-MURIATE BOTTLES

phillipschash[the]-pmq-6-1915c-1a     phillipschash[the]-pmq-6-1915c-1b

1915c PHOSPHO-MURIATE BOTTLE ENCLOSURE

          The other “wheat phosphates” product the Phillips company added was its Phospho-Muriate of Quinine.  This compound was a way of fortifying those “soluble wheat phosphates” with quinine, and, because the method of adding quinine to the mixture was through a chemical reaction involving a quinine chloride, it was called a muriate, which is an older name for a chloride compound.  Quinine itself had already proved during the Civil War to aid in the reduction of fever, particularly that caused by malaria.  As a special bonus, the Phospho-Muriate mixture also contained iron, which by the Eighteenth Century had been recognized as a component of red blood cells, as well as a dash of strychnine, which – while now regarded as a deadly poison – was, at that time, considered in small doses to be a stimulant for the heart and upper body.  Because of its special fortification with quinine, iron and strychnine, Phospho-Muriate was always touted as particularly useful for the sick or for invalids, but it was also advertised as a tonic for healthy people, essentially as extra insurance for good health.  Eventually in 1918, the American Medical Association condemned the absurd combination of the disparate elements in Phospho-Muriate as well as the falsity of the advertising for Phospho-Muriate, summarizing its devastating critique as follows:

phillipschash[the]-pmq-1918-i39(amacritofppm-propagandaforreforminpropmed)-2

Quite possibly because of the AMA’s denunciation, the Company soon discontinued offering Phospho-Muriate for sale, and by the time it was sold to Sterling the products other than its remarkably successful Milk of Magnesia also appear to have been discontinued.

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1920c ADVERTISING BOOKLET COVER

          The Charles H. Phillips Chemical Co. lasted as a family business for two generations. Its founder, Charles H. Phillips, presided tranquilly over his business until his death in 1888.  While he lived and died so quietly that all of the present internet biographical articles about him state that he died in 1882, it is unclear how the wrong date became established as his official date of death, although contemporary coverage of his death tended to be sparse and tight-lipped.  A short-lived publication called The Doctor, marked his actual death in 1888 with a one line obituary:

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The New York Times more graciously granted him an entire paragraph which provided marginally more detail about him:

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The Druggists Circular and Chemical Gazette, a trade publication, followed the lead of the New York Times and similarly printed a largely uninformative paragraph about him:

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The Journal of the American Medicine Association’s biographical sketch was shorter and less complete than that of the New York Times, and to the extent that his death was even mentioned in other journals, the summaries generally consisted of a single line biography.

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    cocoatradecard-2a      cocoatradecard-2b

ADDITIONAL DIGESTIBLE COCOA TRADE CARDS

          Phillips’ second son, William D., seems to have become president of the firm when his father died.  A bachelor, he was apparently as social as his father was not, and busied himself with his many organizations in New York City, among them the New York Athletic, Manhattan, Reform, and Underwriters’ Clubs, the American Geographical and Chemical Societies, and the Board of Trade and Transportation.  Outside of New York City proper, he belonged to, among other organizations, the Weeburn and Hillandale Golf Clubs and the Suburban Club.  He met a tragic death, when, in December 1904, he fell from his horse while “riding to hounds” at the Watchung Hunt Club in Plainfield, NJ.  Although Phillips was immediately tramped by his fellow riders before they could rein in their mounts, his New York Times obituary reassuringly noted that the physician who examined the body stated that Phillips had suffered a “clot of blood on his brain” and definitely was “already dead before he rolled out of his saddle.”  The article dutifully explained that although Phillips was a charter member of the hunt club, he had never participated in a hunt before this one.  He was 51 years old.

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MOM TABLETS BOTTLE

          Phillips’ oldest son, Charles Edmund H. Phillips, married the daughter of the President of the New York State Dental Association in a society wedding in 1879, delivered the valedictory address at his graduation from New York College of Dentistry in 1882, possibly practiced dentistry for a time, although apparently becoming President of the Company after the death of William, but otherwise largely avoided public scrutiny. He died shortly after the sale of the company to Sterling in 1923 at approximately age 74. While his death passed unremarked, when his widow died in 1937 at age 83, she received an obituary in the New York Times and was remembered as a generous benefactor of the many charities in the area of Glenbrook and Stamford CT where she resided.

EXPANSION OF COMPANY OVERSEAS

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1912 MILK OF MAGNESIA TRADE CARD IN SPANISH

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1915c UNUSED MOM TABLETS ORDER POSTCARD TO CANADIAN OFFICE

          Phillips’ third son, John B., was the “money” man of the group.  He became Treasurer of the Company and also served as a director of the Stamford Savings Bank in Connecticut.  He retired after the sale of the Company and died in 1928 at age 67.  Phillips’ youngest son, Alfred Noroton (for the river), trained as a doctor at Columbia University Physicians & Surgeons and interned at Bellevue and New York Hospitals.  He practiced medicine in Bridgeport CT for a few years before joining his brothers in the management of the Company.  After the sale of the Company, he was involved in community affairs in the Stamford CT area.  He died in 1944 at age 88.  His son, also Alfred N., (1894-1970), after graduating from Hotchkiss School and Yale, first became mayor of Stamford CT at age 28 in 1923, served as mayor for three non-consecutive terms, was later a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Connecticut for one term between 1937 and 1939, and a Captain in the Army in North Africa during World War II.  Between graduation from Yale and his political career, he had worked for the Company, but, in addition, became publisher in 1922 of the local weekly newspaper, the Darien Review, a position he maintained until 1952, and, when he moved to Washington to serve as a congressman, he also bought a dairy farm in Maryland which he continued to operate for most of the rest of his life.  His New York Times obituary characterized him as a “blunt-spoken man” who enjoyed stirring up controversy, once by advocating that his state legislature adopt a bill permitting whipping of wife beaters.

phillipschash[the]-3-1921-1r    1921 COMPANY COVER

          The Phillips’ Connecticut factory property long survived management by the Phillips family. Sterling continued to produce Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia at the Company’s Glenbrook Laboratories, as Sterling denominated the complex, until 1976 when production was moved to Gulfport MS.  However, even then Sterling didn’t abandon the location, and when Sterling itself dissolved in 1994, the site  and buildings passed into the hands of none other than Sterling’s old partner and rival Bayer Corporation which still operates the facility in today’s industrial park.  Phillips’ mansion Denehurst, torn down and rebuilt in the 1930s by a great-granddaughter, is now called the Phillips Mansion, has been subdivided for rental as business offices, and is now surrounded by condominiums built on the remainder of the old Phillips tract.

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1928 STERLING AD FOR MOM

          Milk of magnesia is sold in virtually every retail outlet today, and, while Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia is perhaps the best known, the term “milk of magnesia” has become a generic name, which means that people may choose from among many different brands, all of which can be called “milk of magnesia.”  While the Phillips did attempt to establish exclusive use of the name “Milk of Magnesia” by trademarking that term in 1894, Sterling ultimately lost lengthy litigation to prohibit other drug companies from using that term generically to describe their liquid suspensions of magnesium.  In 1924, after the transfer of the Company from the Phillips family to Sterling, a rival drug company, McKesson-Robbins, filed an administrative proceeding to void the trademark. However, after the Patent Office affirmed Phillips exclusive right to “Milk of Magnesia” as a valid trademark, McKesson proceeded to file suit in federal court. While the Patent Office’s rulings was meant to end the challenge, a loophole in the then-current U.S. trademark law permitted McKesson to continue its challenge in the federal court. In 1931, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City, speaking through the eminent judge Augustus Hand, upheld the District Court’s ruling that the Phillips Company had not met the criterion set in the then-current statute for establishing its exclusive right to milk of magnesia, noting that Phillips had not been the only company selling its magnesium suspension as “Milk of Magnesia” for the ten-year period prior to its most recent trademark registration application filing in 1905.  By its inaction in not challenging those other companies during that period, Hand ruled that the Phillips Company had allowed the term to become descriptive rather than being identified exclusively with its product. Moreover, Hand found a conclusive waiver of exclusivity in the Phillips Company’s lack of legal action against the other companies that were using “milk of magnesia” to describe their products in the years after that 1905 registration.  The Supreme Court declined to review the ruling of the Second Circuit, so milk of magnesia became a generic name, just as aspirin had. Even though Sterling lost the legal battle for the name, its steady, prominent advertising barrage generated huge profits for it and also served to insure that Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia can be found in every household even today.

x———-x

¹     Although a later scholarly forensic dissection of the most scandalous trial in which Reid testified suggests that he was discredited on that occasion because, on cross-examination, he admitted that he had been dismissed from his post at the College, as well as paid lavishly for his expert testimony, then considered most ungentlemanly.  He also was shown to be generally uninformed and ignorant of his field because, while he claimed to use a chemistry textbook written by his brother when teaching his classes and for the procedures of his own experiments, he could not recall details of the book.  His brother, David B. Reid, who did not emigrate, was not only a noted English chemist and author, but also a pioneer of “systematic ventilation” (which later evolved into the field of air-conditioning), who was consulted on the subject of ventilation during the re-building of London’s Parliament buildings after the Great Fire of 1834.

²    As often stated, a patented medicine was neither a “patent medicine” nor “a proprietary medicine” as these terms are generally now understood, albeit the medicine’s preparation process was patented and owned by a private proprietor

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2019

 

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Sterling Products, Inc. (V.1) – Wells, Richardson & Co.

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer

Chapter 5.1 – Wells, Richardson & Co., Manufacturer

MAJOR VARIETIES OF WELLS, RICHARDSON CANCELS

LARGE FONT CANCEL

aWellsRichardson-2-RB28-1898-09-30

SMALL FONT CANCEL

          Wells, Richardson & Co. was an ideal candidate for purchase by Sterling Products, Inc.  It had a distinguished history and an established line-up of patent medicines, which included: Paine’s Celery Compound for “nervous” disorders that lay at the root of virtually all known diseases, such as “headaches, neuralgia, dyspepsia, billiousness [sic], blood humors, kidney disease, constipation, female troubles, fever and ague, sleeplessness, partial paralysis and nervous prostration”(to enumerate the list printed on the back of one trade card circulated to the public); Kidney Wort for complaints involving the liver, kidneys, piles, constipation, as well as rheumatism and malaria; and Wills English Formula Pills, recommended for constipation (one pill at night), as a digestive aid (one pill after the meal), for biliousness and liver complaints (two to four pills night and morning), and for headaches (two pills immediately and one the following morning).  Its Lactated Food for infants, another big seller, gave Sterling a serious competitor in the baby nourishment enhancement field where it previous had none, and opened as possible customers a completely different, and ever regenerating, market of new mothers who sought then, as mothers do now, to find the best products to make their children grow strong and healthy.  Its positive balance sheet made Sterling’s books even sounder than they already were.  Finally, its Diamond Dyes branch put Sterling back in the dye business, this time with an American made brand to sell in post-WWI America.  The Butter Color which Wells Richardson had created was already considered by the American market to be the best available, and its Diamond Dyes were well-known, sold worldwide, and easily competed with the German aniline dyes that Sterling had sold off when it acquired Bayer.

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          Wells Richardson was chartered in 1872, but its origin is intertwined with that of another company which also went on to fame and fortune.  One John M. Henry became a local agent for certain proprietary medicines in the 1840s and ultimately opened both a wholesale drug company and a retail drug store in Waterbury, VT in 1857 as a family business with his sons, John F. and William.  In 1859, John F. opened a branch of that business in Montreal and quickly became the largest advertiser of drugs and patent medicines in Canada (according to George Rowell).  In 1861, William Henry also left his father’s business to fight in the Civil War.  John M. Henry died in 1862, leaving the business to his sons.  By the end of the Civil War, the significant members of the Henry Co. were John M.’s sons, John F. Henry, William W. Henry, together with William W. Wells, Jr., Eli B. Johnson, and Albert E. Richardson.  However, in 1866, with the fortune he had amassed in Canada, John F. Henry bought a share of the wholesale drug business of Demas Barnes in New York City.  Alert readers will recognize that Demas Barnes, whose colossal exploits were touched upon in the article concerning John D. Park & Sons of Cincinnati, was one of the major patent medicine wholesalers in the entire United States in the 1850s and 1860s.  In 1868, John F. Henry bought out Demas Barnes completely and changed the name of that firm to John F. Henry & Co.  Since he was operating already in the big leagues in New York City, he never really returned to Vermont to run the original family business.  Rather, his brother William, along with Johnson and Richardson, ran the business along with several brothers of the Wells family, who joined the firm over the next two years, and followed it when it moved approximately 25 miles west to Burlington VT in 1868.  In 1872, a reorganization separated the wholesale drug business of Wells, Richardson & Co., owned by Edward Wells (brother of William), together with Albert E. Richardson and William J. Van Patton), from the retail proprietary medicine business of John F. Henry & Co, which continued as Henry & Johnson, with John F. Henry, his brother William and Eli B. Johnson as owners.  With the addition of a third partner in 1879, the Henry company became Henry, Johnson & Lord (yet another company whose complete story will be told in this column eventually).

zWellsRichardson-6a(WilliamWells(Genl)-Wiki)     zWellsRichardson-6e(WWellsStatue-(Gettysburg-Wik)

WILLIAM W. WELLS, JR. & HIS STATUE AT GETTYSBURG

          When the Wells brothers joined the Henry company, they were covered in glory from their service in the Civil War. Of particular note was William W. Wells, Jr., the third of ten children, who was one of the most decorated officers in the Union Army.  He and three of his brothers joined a volunteer Vermont cavalry regiment as privates in September, 1861.  The next month their unit was taken into federal service and fought in several important early cavalry battles, particularly at Orange Court House in August, 1862.  By the end of 1862, Wells had been promoted to the rank of major.  Briefly captured by Mosby’s Raiders in the spring of 1863, he spent seven weeks in Libby Prison in Richmond, VA before he was paroled back to the Union.  His most significant service was rendered at the Battle of Gettysburg, when he took command and salvaged the remnants of an unsuccessful and somewhat foolhardy cavalry charge launched at the far south end of the Union line aimed at turning Lee’s right flank very late on the third day after the commanding officer (who initially had protested the order) was killed.  For his heroism, Wells was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  A statue of him was placed on the Gettysburg battlefield at the foot of Big Round Top in 1913 by his grateful comrades, and it was so beloved that an exact copy was placed in a park in Burlington, VT a year later.  Twice wounded in battles after Gettysburg, he recovered and participated in the encounter at White Tavern, VA in 1864 where Confederate Cavalry Commander Jeb Stuart was killed.  He commanded the lead cavalry brigade in the Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac held in Washington in May 1865, and by the end of the war, Wells had been breveted a major-general and commissioned a brigadier general in the regular army.  Although William came back to work for the Henry company, he was soon caught up in other ventures.  He was a state legislator in 1866 and adjutant-general of the State of Vermont from 1867 to 1872.  Thereafter, he was the federal Collector of Customs for Vermont for the next thirteen years and a Vermont state senator in 1886.  He also served as President of the Burlington Trust Co., the Burlington Gas-Light Co., and the Burlington Board of Trade and a director of the Burlington Cold Storage Co., the Rutland Railroad Co. and the Champlain Transportation Co.  In between time filing these other positions, he served as a Vice-President of Wells Richardson.

zWellsRichardson-4R(EWellsObit-PharmEra(1907-1to6-v37))

EDWARD WELLS

zWellsRichardson-15d(HenryWells(Youthful)-UVTWebsite)    zWellsRichardson-15e(FredHWells-UVTWebsite)

HENRY AND FRED WELLS

WellsRichardson-50-1

WELLS RICHARDSON BUILDING 1885c

          Along with William Wells, his brothers Edward and Henry also worked for the Henry company after 1866.  Because of William’s other commitments, it was William’s brother Edward who was principally involved in the pharmaceutical business, and it was he who became as President of Wells, Richardson & Co. when it launched in 1872.  As William did, Edward also served in the Vermont legislature from time to time.  He developed extensive banking ties as well, and, at the time of his death, was President of the Burlington Trust Co. and a vice-president of Burlington Safe Deposit Co.  Henry Wells, too young to have served in the Civil War, became a partner of Wells Richardson in 1873 and succeeded his brother Edward, upon Edward’s death in 1907 at age 72, as President of Wells, Richardson, an office he filled until his own death in 1911 at age 62.  Another younger brother, Fred H. Wells, became a member of Wells, Richardson in 1881.

zWellsRichardson-12bR(AERPicture-UVTWebsite)-2     zWellsRichardson-10(WilliamJamesVanPatten(1848-1920)- FindAGrave-Website)-1

ALBERT E. RICHARDSON & WILLIAM J. VAN PATTON

          Albert E. Richardson, another one of the original owners of Wells Richardson, was described by a New York Times reporter in 1894 as “substantially built man who said he was fifty but looked to be about forty.”  That reporter wrote further about Richardson as “hav[ing] charge of the proprietary end of his firm’s business and draw[ing] checks in the sum of $600,000 worth of advertising.  He looks more like a prosperous banker or merchant than a ‘hustling’ adventurer, but he has managed to push his firm to the very front.”  The third original owner of Wells, Richardson, William J. Van Patton, was described at his death in 1920 at the age of 71 as one of Burlington’s “most prominent citizens and generous benefactors.”  He had served as Secretary and Treasurer of Wells Richardson, president of several other local businesses, plus in a variety of public and municipal offices, including Mayor of Burlington.  All of the founders of Wells, Richardson appear to have been major benefactors of the University of Vermont, and much of the information available now about them is associated with its webpage about Burlington, VT.  By the time Sterling acquired the company, they had all passed from the  scene.

WellsRichardson-5-PCC-1a     WellsRichardson-5-PCC-1b     WellsRichardson-5-PCC-1c(AltBack)

WellsRichardson-10-PCC-1d     WellsRichardson-10-PCC-7b(PainesCeleryCompound)     WellsRichardson-10-PCC-1a

WellsRichardson-10-PCC-7c(PainesCeleryCompound)

WellsRichardson-6-1884-1

PAINE’S CELERY COMPOUND TRADE CARD (WITH ALTERNATIVE BACKS), BOTTLE & 1884c ADVERTISEMENT

          Although Wells Richardson was initially organized as a wholesale drug business, it soon found its way into the manufacturing business as well.  Like Sterling later, it did not develop the patent medicines itself, but rather purchased promising ones that others had begun to market by themselves.  Paine’s Celery Compound was originally formulated in 1874 by one Edward E. Phelps, a professor of theory and practice at Dartmouth Medical College, who thought that celery seeds might serve as the basis for manufacturing a particularly healthful tonic.  He marketed the concoction through M. K. Paine, a druggist in Windsor VT, who was already selling a Green Mountain Balm of Gilead & Cedar Plaster, compounded from local tree resins, and whose good faith Phelps had attested to as early as 1869.  At first, Paine used Wells, Richardson as his agents to distribute these goods, although, according to a 1906 New England regional puff book, Paine was so overwhelmed by the enormous demand for the Celery Compound that came to bear his name that in 1887, he sold the product to Wells, Richardson. Years later, Wells Richardson still mentioned the academic roots of this product on every bottle label to demonstrate its medicinal worth.

WellsRichardson-10-KW-7a(KidneyWort)     WellsRichardson-10-KW-7c(KidneyWort)

WellsRichardson-10-KW-7d(KidneyWort)     WellsRichardson-10-KW-7b(KidneyWort)     WellsRichardson-10-KW-7e(KidneyWort)

Pettingills Kidney-Wort Tablets     WellsRichardson-6-1884-2

KIDNEY WORT CAN (SIDES AND TOP), 1902 BOX & 1884c ADVERTISEMENT

Kidney Wort also was originally brought to market by a man named Pettingill around 1870 and manufactured by his company, the Kidney Wort Co.  Unlike in its marketing of Paine’s Celery Compound, Wells Richardson usually omitted Pettingill’s name from Kidney Wort ads after it took control of the product in the early 1880s.  The American Medical Association’s major compilation and discussion of quack medicines, Nostrums & Quackery, listed this product in its second volume, issued in 1912, and curtly dismissed it in the following terms: “This preparation was analyzed by the North Dakota chemists who reported ‘the sample contained a small amount of couch grass (Triticum), a few broken senna leaves and the bulk of this mixture consisted of crushed roasted beans.’”

WellsRichardson-10-WP-2aR(WillsEnglishFormulaPills)    WellsRichardson-10-WP-1c(WillsEnglishFormulaPills)

     WellsRichardson-10-WP-1d(WillsEnglishFormulaPills)     WellsRichardson-10-WP-1e(WillsEnglishFormulaPills)

WILL’S ENGLISH FORMULA PILLS, TIN & INSTRUCTIONS

Will’s English Formula pills were added to company’s product list in 1890, and their formula “was secured from a famous English physician” according to the 1906 puff book.

WellsRichardson-5-LF-6b     WellsRichardson-5-LF-6a

WellsRichardson-10-LF-1a     WellsRichardson-10-LF-1b     WellsRichardson-10-LF-1c     WellsRichardson-6a-1895-1a

LACTATED FOOD TRADE CARD, BOTTLE & 1895 ADVERTISEMENT

Lactated Food, according to the same account, was the product of two years work by a team of physicians and chemists from the University of Vermont, working with the laboratories of Wells, Richardson, to fulfill the nutritional goals set by the famous German chemist Baron von Liebig in the mid-Nineteenth Century.  The 1906 puff book proudly boasted that it was the “first artificial food to give milk-sugar its correct prominence in the composition of the diatetic [sic] compound.”

WellsRichardson-5-LF-3a2      WellsRichardson-5-LF-3bb

WellsRichardson-5-LF-3b2     WellsRichardson-5-LF-3b4c

   WellsRichardson-5-LF-3c

LACTATED FOOD BOOKLET AD 1900c

          The Connecticut Agricultural Station – that state’s agency charged with evaluating the safety of human food – surveying the claims of the infant foods on the market ten years after the publication of that book – stated generally about all such foods that “it is not fair to a manufacturer to condemn his food because ordinary methods of analysis show large percentages of unaltered starch, when if his directions for preparation are carried out, most, if not all, may be converted into soluble form.”  However, indirectly challenging the book’s boast, its specific analysis of Wells Richardson’s product showed that between 1908 and 1915, while the amount of starch in Lactated Food’s formula increased by 6% to 48% of the total, following preparation in accordance with the furnished directions, only 16% of the starch was converted to milk sugar.  Apparently, the puff book’s claim was harder than it looked to sustain in the manufacturing process.

WellsRichardson-5-DD-2a(DiamondDye)     WellsRichardson-5-DD-2c

WellsRichardson-5-DD-2g(DiamondDye)     WellsRichardson-5-DD-2e

     WellsRichardson-5-DD-2f

WellsRichardson-10-DD-16a(Dyes-Navy)     WellsRichardson-10-DD-16bR(Dyes-Navy)

WellsRichardson-10-DD-16g(Dyes-Orchid)     WellsRichardson-10-DD-16h(Dyes-Orchid)

WellsRichardson-6a-1911-1(DD)     WellsRichardson-6a-1928-1

DIAMOND DYE TRADE CARD STORY SERIES WITH COMMON BACK, EARLY & LATE PRODUCT PACKAGING,  PLUS 1911 & 1928 ADS

          With respect to developing Diamond Dyes, the 1906 puff books states that before Wells Richardson entered the field, most “country druggists” stocked only logwood and indigo, natural products from which crude black and blue dyes could be produced. When Wells Richardson began marketing a range of aniline colors in small packages in 1880, sales were slow at first, but the uniformity of the color produced and the simplicity of the directions for their successful use made them a hit with housewives.  In the open-ended praise of the 1906 book: “there is probably no article that has proved a greater aid to household economy, or a more important, or more helpful, and more money-saving household article than Diamond Dyes.”  Colorful retail store display chests of Diamond Dyes are now collectible as antiques.

WellsRichardson-10-DD-10R(ButterColor)   WellsRichardson-10-DD-15R(ButterColor)

EARLY AND LATE PACKAGING OF IMPROVED BUTTER COLOR

Commenting on the Improved Butter Color, the specific dye for butter manufactured by Wells Richardson after 1886, the puff book hyperbolized that it “is today the only standard butter color of the entire world.  At least three-fourths of the United States’ entire supply of butter is today colored by Improved Butter Color.”

WellsRichardson-6-1876-1     WellsRichardson-6-1881-1

WellsRichardson-6-1877-1

1876 & 1881 COMPANY CHECKS PLUS 1877 INVOICE

           Because this column deals with the stamps the proprietary medicine companies used during the Spanish-American War as well as the companies themselves, where enough of the vast volume of stamps Wells Richardson cancelled have survived, some study of the way the company handled these stamps can be made.  Certain questions arise when such an examination is made.  For example, what was the company’s actual name?  One of the stranger aspect of Wells, Richardson’s corporate existence is that its name seems to have existed in two forms simultaneously.  Prosperity came early enough for the company to use the extended period (until 1883) that the tax originally imposed during the Civil War was collected for its own benefit by commissioning its own private die revenue stamp in 1880.  The name it placed on the stamp was Wells, Richardson & Co.

CIVIL WAR ERA TAX PRIVATE DIE PROPRIETARY STAMP OF WELLS, RICHARDSON TOGETHER WITH PROOF ON INDIA PAPER AND BLOCK OF 4 PROOFS ON CARD STOCK

Trade cards dating from the 1880s appear in the form Wells, Richardson & Co.

WellsRichardson-5-LF-1a     WellsRichardson-5-LF-4aa     WellsRichardson-5-LF-16a1

1880s TRADE CARDS

However, by the time it cancelled stamps during the period of the re-imposed tax for the Spanish-American War in 1898, its cancel on the government issued stamps was “W & R Co.” or Wells & Richardson Co.  While the company incorporated in 1883, the shift of the ampersand seems to have occurred around 1890, as the company’s envelopes show. However, but both forms of the name were used thereafter, seemingly interchangeably.

WellsRichardson-3-1880-1a

1880C WELLS, RICHARDSON & CO. COVER

WellsRichardson-3-1890-1R

1890 WELLS & RICHARDSON CO. COVER

          Another question is how often did the company cancel stamps? The Joyce/Chappell compilation of Spanish-American War Proprietary Cancels, which addresses such issues, attempts to list all of the known dates on which the company overprint has been found on various denominations of the government issues.  Even though it lists between three and six dates per month on which the company cancelled stamps, because of pictures posted on the internet, a larger sampling of the cancels now available demonstrates that the list is incomplete.  For example, shown below are stamps cancelled on three consecutive days in May, 1899, and, in all, eight separate dates for that month, while Joyce/Chappell compilation lists five dates.  It seems possible that, considering the enormous size and scope of the Wells, Richardson operation, and its huge printing plant, which was ever turning out labels, trade cards, almanacs, and booklets as well as overprinting stamps with the company’s cancel, the company may actually have cancelled stamps every day during the three year period they were required to show payment of the Spanish-American War tax.  Continued observation of the stamps may well reveal even more dates to support this hypothesis.

mWellsRichardson-2-RB28-1899-05-04A     mWellsRichardson-2-RB28-1899-05-05

mWellsRichardson-2-RB28-1899-05-06a

PRINTED CANCELS FOR THREE CONSECUTIVE DAYS IN MAY, 1899

mWellsRichardson-2-RB28-1899-05-24

FIVE ADDITIONAL DATE CANCELS JUST IN MAY, 1899

          There are other more mundane observations about the scope of collecting Spanish-American proprietary revenue cancels that can be made predicated on the volume of Wells Richardson stamps.  As a large volume manufacturer, Wells, Richardson understood from the very beginning that it was going to use enough stamps to necessitate printing its cancels directly on the government issues rather than hand-stamping them as many other smaller manufacturers, and most wholesalers and retailers did.  Therefore, all known Wells, Richardson cancels are printed and, likewise, there appear to be no hand-stamped Wells, Richardson cancels. Moreover, while the government’s regulations about the precision of the date of the tax payment cancel changed over the period that the tax was collected, meaning that most companies produced multiple forms of their cancel to reflect these changes, Wells Richardson immediately adopted a policy of cancelling its stamps with the precise month, day and year of use – the place where the government’s regulations finally arrived – so there is only one form of the printed Wells Richardson cancel.  While during the first month of the use of the stamps, Wells Richardson cancelled its stamps with red ink, most of the time the overprints were made in black ink:

EARLY WIDE SPACED RED CANCELS ON RB 21 & RB23

WIDE AND NARROW EARLY RED SPACED CANCELS ON RB25

EARLY WIDE SPACED RED CANCEL ON RB27 AND LATER NARROW RED CANCEL ON RB28

Toward the end of the three-year period of use, however, other inks, such as blue and violet, crept in, so cancels can be found in several different color inks.  Sometimes one of these different color inks was used on the same date as black ink:

VIOLET AND BLACK CANCELS ON MAR. 8, 1901 RB28s

BLUE AND BLACK CANCELS ON APRIL 8, 1901 RB28s

Because so many stamps were cancelled, there are some errors caused by broken or missed type, and there is even a stamp bearing an inverted overprint, uncommon among the cancels by this particularly exacting company:

ERRORS IN TYPE REGISTRATION

h-error-WellsRichardson-2-RB28-1901-03-08-1g(err-inv)

UNCOMMON INVERTED CANCEL

One of the most intriguing cancels is the hand-stamped one applied by a local Chicago druggist, right over the Wells, Richardson printed cancel which had been attached to the product before its delivery to him. Apparently, the local retailer wanted to make sure the tax was paid, and didn’t trust the manufacturer.  Note that the color of the underlying Wells Richardson cancel is green.

g-dblcncl-WellsRichardson-2-RB28-1900-03-29(+LocalDrugstoreCncl)

UNUSUAL HANDSTAMPED LOCAL CANCEL OVER UNUSUAL GREEN W & R PRINTED CANCEL

          The government used two different kinds of perforation to separate the stamps, one called rouletting and one called hyphen-hole. Examples of both can be found among the Wells, Richardson cancels.

ROULETTED PERFORATION

HYPEN-HOLE PERFORATION

The differences are caused by differences in the blades which the government used to cut the separations in the paper the stamps were printed on.

WellsRichardson-20-1883-1a     WellsRichardson-20-1884-1a

MONOCHROME 1883 COMPANY ALMANAC COVER FOR NEW YORK STATE & MULTICOLOR 1884 COVER

          With the volume of printed material that Wells, Richardson generated in the service of advertising their products, this article cannot close without spending a moment reflecting on the eye-popping color that this material, now classified as ephemera, must have added to the quieter age from which it dates.  In an age when all must consult their mobile phones virtually every minute to remain updated both on constantly changing political, sports, fashion and social events and the minutiae of the lives of their closest associates, it is hard to imagine that this brightly colored material once was the latest, hottest means to attract people’s attention and momentarily transport them away from their realities.  Mass multicolor printing took hold in America in the 1880s, and came to Wells, Richardson & Co. in approximately 1883 as is shown by the difference in the covers of the company’s 1883 and 1884 yearly almanacs.   The illustrations produced by Wells, Richardson still shine brightly over a hundred years after they were printed.

WellsRichardson-20-1886-1a     WellsRichardson-20-1886-2aa     WellsRichardson-20-1886-2a     WellsRichardson-20-1886-1b

1886 NATIONAL & INDIVIDUAL STATE ALMANAC FRONT COVERS & COMMON BACK COVER

WellsRichardson-5-LF-12a2     WellsRichardson-5-LF-13a

WellsRichardson-5-DD-4

ADDITIONAL TRADE CARDS FOR LACTATED FOOD & DIAMOND DYE

WellsRichardson-6-1915-1a     WellsRichardson-6-1937-1a

DIAMOND DYE BOOKLETS FROM 1915 & 1937

WellsRichardson-21-NurseryRhymes(DiaDye)-2     WellsRichardson-21-NurseryRhymes(DiaDye)-2b

WellsRichardson-21-NurseryRhymes(DiaDye)-2c

1900c COVERS & SAMPLE PAGES FROM DIAMOND DYE NURSERY RHYME BOOKLET

WellsRichardson-20-1887-1     WellsRichardson-20-1888-1a     WellsRichardson-20-1888-1b

VARIOUS DIAMOND DYE ALMANAC COVERS

WellsRichardson-21-CousinJohn-1a     WellsRichardson-21-CousinJohn-1b

WellsRichardson-21-CousinJohn-1c     WellsRichardson-21-CousinJohn-1d

1890c DIAMOND DYE STORY BOOKLET & COVERS

WellsRichardson-25-1(DiamondDyeCabinet)     WellsRichardson-25-1a(DiamondDyeCabinet)

WellsRichardson-25-1b(DiamondDyeCabinet)

COLLECTIBLE DIAMOND DYE STORE DISPLAY CABINETS

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018

Standard
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Sterling Products Inc. (V)

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer

Chapter 5 – Sterling Between the Wars

R-SterlingOutlook-MagOfWallSt-1922-3-v31-Q1

QUOTES FROM A 1922 INVESTMENT EVALUATION OF STERLING PRODUCTS

         Two major themes dominate the history of Sterling between World War I and World War II.  The first is its enormous growth resulting from its gathering a wide variety of patent medicines within its ambit, which, toward the end of the decade, brought forth the formation of a very early industrial conglomerate (an aggregation of unrelated businesses).1  The second is its ongoing and intricate course of dealings with the German company, Bayer, which produced not only complicated agreements dividing sales of various medicines, patent and otherwise, all around the world, that led to more charges against, and condemnation of, Sterling as World War II loomed, but also produced an array of significant ethical (prescription only) medicines that permanently changed the practice of medicine by providing doctors with the first substances that genuinely killed disease-causing organisms and saved lives.

SterlingRemedyCo.-10-1925c-1bRSterlingRemedyCo.-10-1925c-1c2R

COMPLEMENTARY CONVENTION BOX OF STERLING PRODUCTS 1925c

          With respect to its growth as a company, to complement its acquisition of aspirin, Sterling seems to have embarked on a parallel campaign to acquire as many as it could of the best-selling patent medicines then still on the market.  While the rules that govern sales of such drugs were virtually non-existent in the 1920s, remained hazy for the next forty years, and presently still require sharpening and clarification from time to time, the marketplace itself – with minimal help from the Pure Food & Drug Act and ongoing pressure from the American Medical Association – had begun to sort those products that had some efficacy from those which were completely useless or even dangerous.  This entire category of products was beginning its own slow evolution toward today’s status as “over-the-counter medicines.”

R-SterlingListOfSPCos-1930CongHrgs-1

R2-SterlingListOfSPCos-1930CongHrgs-2

R-SterlingListOfSPCos-1930CongHrgs-3

PARTIAL LIST OF STERLING HOLDINGS AS LISTED IN EXHIBIT FOR CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION OF FEDERAL DRUG ADMINISTRATION CONDUCTED IN 1930

           However, the first major company Sterling scooped up after the end of World War I was Wells, Richardson Co., a New England based drug wholesaler with not only a distinguished company history, but, more importantly, a long course of profitable years and no outstanding debt.  Its assets were yet another golden egg in the basket of Sterling’s balance sheet.  The next noteworthy acquisition was the Charles H. Phillips Chemical Co. which brought Phillips Milk of Magnesia into the Sterling family.  A third company, itself intricately assembled from even smaller companies, was the Centaur Co., which brought Castoria to Sterling.  Other companies added included Scott & Bowne, with its popular Scott’s Emulsion, as well as the Bovinine Co., and the Antidolor Manufacturing Co.  Note that all of the major products Sterling assimilated – Phillips Milk of Magnesia, Castoria and Scott’s Emulsion – were varieties of laxatives.  It is stunning proof of Sterling’s foresight that all of these products remain readily available on the web today, even if they have passed into the portfolios of other pharmaceutical companies since Sterling ceased to exist.  Piling growth upon growth, in 1926, Sterling itself launched its American Home Products division, which began its own rapid acquisition of companies that immediately linked it with the Philadelphia manufacturing chemists, John Wyeth & Brother, as well as W.H. Hill Co., O.W. Jadwin Co., Kolynis Co., Pepsin Syrup Co, St. Jacob’s Oil Co., and Whitehall Pharmacal Co.  The colorful histories of each of these patent medicine companies and their products before their acquisition by Sterling will be explored in subsequent chapters of this article.  Then, as alluded to above and discussed in-depth in subsequent installments, Sterling tried to emulate the patterns of certain industries in other nations by fashioning its own mega-corporation.  The one common thread that tied together the various products ultimately lumped together from several disparate industries is that they all required the support of endless exposure of continuous advertising and prominent shelf display that Sterling was used to arranging.

RBayer-4-1922-1aR(Leverkusen)

Bayer-4-1922-1bR(Leverkusen)

1922 POSTCARD VIEW OF GERMAN BAYER HEADQUARTERS AT LEVERKUSEN

          The second major aspect of Sterling’s inter-war history is its continuing relationship with Bayer.  Bayer was a world-wide dominion.  Once World War I ended, it would have liked to reclaim its aspirin properties in the United States, but Sterling, as the legal purchaser from the U.S. Custodian of Enemy Property, blocked that avenue.  Sterling also managed to buy the British Commonwealth rights to Bayer’s trademarks from the British Alien Property Control Board.  The loss of the Bayer trademark in the United States and the British Commonwealth engendered an enormous amount of bitterness within Bayer’s German leadership after World War I because it not only regarded Sterling as a thieving interloper, but also felt that Sterling’s management lacked the proper scientific expertise or business acumen to control aspirin.  It regarded Sterling’s leadership as little better than patent medicine peddlers.  Bayer, as a worldwide manufacturer of ethical drugs, had a complicated leadership hierarchy and a very regulated, scientific process for approving new ethical drugs.  The corporate cultures and aims of the two companies, particularly with respect to the marketing of aspirin, clashed.

RBayer-3-1912-1R(HungaryToGermany)

1912 COVER FROM BAYER HUNGARY TO GERMANY

          Once its purchase of Bayer’s assets was complete and Sterling had divested itself of the dyeing business, Sterling placed the manufacture and marketing of Bayer aspirin into a separate American division,² and assigned the other remaining sixty-three ethical drugs it had purchased to its Winthrop Chemical Co. division.  However, at the end of World War I, Sterling and Bayer each faced problems.  Sterling had control of Bayer’s ethical drugs in the United States, but its Winthrop Chemical division lacked Bayer’s expertise to make the Rensselaer plant operate smoothly and efficiently.  On the other hand, if Bayer wanted to sell aspirin again in the United States, it faced the prospect of entering into that marketplace in competition with its own Bayer brand name backed by Sterling’s aggressive and massive advertising tactics.  In addition, Sterling lay closer than Bayer to the burgeoning Latin American market for both aspirin and pharmaceuticals, so if the two competed, Sterling’s lower production and transportation costs would allow it to undersell Bayer’s aspirin and other drugs.  These circumstances created room for both Sterling and Bayer to negotiate.  The talks began promptly, within six months after the U.S. Custodian of Alien Property’s sale in December, 1918 and well before discussions were completed for the Versailles Peace Treaty resolving Germany’s status as an enemy. Business matters were far too important to wait upon such governmental bickering. While these exchanges between Sterling and Bayer were every bit as prolonged and complicated as the meetings among the Allied nations to establish the political treaties (that excluded Germany), unlike the latter political arrangements, they ultimately led to lasting accords.

SterlingRemedyCo-WinthropChemCo-3-1925-1R

1925 WINTHROP CHEMICAL CO. COVER

          By the end of 1920, Sterling and Bayer had reached a compromise about Latin America.  Bayer agreed to license to Sterling its Latin American rights and trademarks for aspirin, which it would continue to manufacture in Germany and supply to Latin America, in return for a 75 percent Bayer – 25 percent Sterling split of these Latin American profits.  In return, Sterling agreed not to sell anything under its licenses other than aspirin and aspirin-related compounds in Latin America, thus allowing Bayer to sell its other ethical goods without worrying about competition from Sterling.  After 1923, the two companies actually serviced their Latin American customers with a single combined sales force administered through a group of Bayer subsidiary companies each containing in its name the words “Quimica Bayer” (Bayer Chemical) and the particular South American nation that it had been organized to service.

SERVING TWO MASTERS:

1934 CHILEAN BAYER BRANCH COVERS TO BAYER GERMANY

RBayer-3-1938-1R(BoliviaToUS)

1938 BOLIVIAN BAYER BRANCH COVER TO U.S.

          That taste of cooperation led to further negotiations between the parties.  In 1923, Sterling and Bayer entered into a second more far-reaching group of contracts.  The first contract gave Sterling the right to manufacture, for North America only, certain of Bayer’s German products, largely ethical drugs, through its Winthrop Chemical division in Rensselaer, and pledged Bayer to supply Winthrop with the required scientific expertise, all in return for fifty percent of Winthrop’s profits.  The second contract confirmed Sterling’s right to use Bayer’s name in the former enemy territories of the United States, England, Canada, Australia and South Africa, but restricted Sterling from using the Bayer name on any of its many other products, selling any Bayer products under Sterling’s name, or contesting any of Bayer’s other patents or trademarks elsewhere in the world.  To handle British and Commonwealth sales of the aspirin trademarks it had purchased from the British government, Sterling had already created a British subsidiary, Bayer Products Ltd.  In return for a fifty-fifty split of the profits, the second new contract between Sterling and Bayer also provided that Bayer would manufacture the aspirin for Commonwealth sales, would manage its operations and, as time passed, Sterling would gradually allow Bayer to purchase a fifty percent ownership share.

PORTRAIT AND PHOTO OF CARL DUISBERG AS HEAD OF BAYER GERMANY

          Just as Sterling was growing during the twenties, Bayer had also evolved.  Admiring the efficiency of American trusts, Carl Duisberg and the rest of Bayer’s leadership had always desired to draw the entire German chemical business into a single corporation, but the idea met resistance among the various rival companies.  Under the pressure of war, beginning in 1916, all of the large German chemical companies began participating in a co-operative board for the purpose of consulting to eliminate duplicative efforts while each retaining its own individual corporate autonomy.  The name of this co-operative organization was IG Farben (literally “community of interests of dye making firms”), and Duisberg, as Bayer’s chairman, initially acted as its chairman.  By 1923, scorched by the ruinous inflation brought on by the pressure of reparations, the German chemical companies were forced to re-think their individual strategies.  Suddenly, a single corporation did not appear to be as far-fetched as it once had seemed.  In 1925, the dream became a reality and Bayer became a part of the newly minted successor combine of the largest German chemical companies, IG Farben.  At approximately the same time as Germany’s chemical industry united into a single firm, it should be noted that those industries both in Great Britain and France also consolidated into a single mega-company.  Sterling’s own attempts at creating such an industrial combine will be detailed in later installments of this blog.

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DIAGRAM SHOWING FORMATION OF IG FARBEN³

          Bayer’s metamorphosis into IG Farben proved to be a windfall for Sterling, for, when the parties reviewed Sterling’s contracts with Bayer, Sterling was able to convince Farben that, as Bayer’s successor, it was now obliged to license to Sterling all the same products of every one of its constituent parts as Bayer had.  This contract interpretation opened the door for Sterling to bring to the United States the latest innovations in ethical drugs made by all of Germany’s most technically advanced pharmaceutical labs.  Among the most important of these products that Sterling brought to the American market through its Winthrop Chemical division were: Luminal, the first of the phenobarbital class of barbiturates, originally used to relieve symptoms of anxiety or tension, insomnia and to control certain kinds of seizures and later for detecting blood at crime scenes; Salvarsan and Neo-Salvarsan, the earliest effective treatment for syphilis; Prontosil, the first of the sulfa drugs – the earliest commercial antibiotics; Novocaine, the first local anesthetic as well as its subsequent derivatives, such as lidocaine; and Atabrine, the synthetic quinine for fighting malaria, which became essential to the American war effort against Japan in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  Thus, Americans and the United States benefitted greatly from Sterling’s arrangements with Farben before World War II.

GERMAN PRODUCTS BROUGHT TO THE AMERICAN MARKET BY STERLING

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GERMAN BAYER & WINTHROP CHEMICAL CO. LUMINAL

GERMAN SALVARSAN AND STERLING SALVARSAN*

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GERMAN BAYER PRONTOSIL

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WINTHROP CHEMICAL CO. NOVOCAINE & TUTOCAIN

            However, there was a darker side, as well, to Sterling’s dealings with IG Farben. In return for Farben’s accepting Sterling’s reading of its contracts, Sterling converted Farben’s interest in Winthrop Chemical from a fifty percent share of the profits to a fifty percent ownership interest, definitely a violation of the spirit of the 1918 sale by the United States government to Sterling at the end of World War I.  Not only was IG Farben successor to the very alien company from which the United States had originally seized the assets, it was also a German company, an as such, had to navigate the chaotic political situation developing within Germany with the rise of the Nazi party.  As the Nazis became more powerful, IG Farben was obliged increasingly to co-operate with the Nazi regime until it became not only an arm of the Nazi state, but, many later critics claim, a willing participant in Nazi atrocities during World War II.  In the thirties, the more the Nazis pressured Farben, the more Sterling was ensnared in, and besmirched by, the ensuing controversies as well.  For example, during the late thirties Farben issued directives to its Latin American subsidiaries to purge themselves of Jews and Jewish advertising because of increasingly hostile German racial policies.  While Sterling internally viewed such policy directives as interfering with its aim of maximizing its profits by leaving certain small portions of the Latin American markets unserved, it did not publicly denounce such directives, and continued to cooperate with the Germans, along with many other large American companies, such as Standard Oil (whose pre-war agreements with Farben were later shown in Congressional hearings to have restricted the development and growth of the synthetic rubber industry in the United States).

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1938 BAYER 5OTH ANNIVERSARY POSTCARD

In the end, however, it was the Latin American dealings between Sterling and Farben that brought United States government scrutiny upon Sterling that changed Sterling’s leadership forever.  Once war began in Europe, not only was Farben’s share of Bayer Products, Ltd. in England immediately seized by the British as alien property, but also the English navy’s blockade of Germany and control of the Atlantic Ocean interdicted trade between Farben and its Latin America subsidiary Quimica companies.  The blockade upset the delicate balancing arrangement – Sterling’s owning the license to Bayer’s name and Farben supplying the aspirin products actually sold – Sterling and Farben had maintained in Latin America for twenty years.  To circumvent it and maintain Latin American sales for both companies, in November, 1939, William Weiss, on Sterling’s behalf, proposed a solution.  He agreed to ship to Latin America aspirin produced at the Sterling’s Rensselaer, N.Y. factory to replace the shipments that Farben could no longer make, an arrangement that Farben unwillingly was forced by circumstances to accept. However, in return and to make the new conditions more palatable to the Germans, Weiss also pledged, without any formal contract between Sterling and Farben, that Sterling would have its Winthrop Chemical division also produce at the Rensselaer plant the ethical drugs for continued sale by Farben in Latin America that Farben had been producing at Leverkusen and selling in Latin America under Bayer’s name.  While the Germans were not thrilled about sharing with Sterling any additional expertise required to produce even more of Farben’s ethical drugs, they also did not want to lose any of their Latin American sales, so they reluctantly embraced this arrangement as well.  Just as Weiss had earlier helped Farben hide its share of Winthrop Chemical’s American sales from the Nazis, he agreed to cooperate with Farben in cloaking records of these sales from the British government by transferring the earnings generated through a farrago of intermediate corporations located in neutral countries.  Neither obfuscation, both done solely for business reasons in the name of maximizing profit, ultimately earned Weiss plaudits from the enemies of the governments from whom the funds were concealed.

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1938 BAYER CHILE COVER TO GERMANY

          As American sentiment soured toward the Nazi government, increasingly, by negotiating arrangement after arrangement with Farben as well as Sterling’s behavior, discussed above, such as tolerating the imposition of Nazi directives throughout its joint Latin American branches with Farben, Sterling rendered itself more and more vulnerable to public criticism.  Moreover, while still remaining neutral itself, the United States government, reacting to shifting social opinion, began to scrutinize American companies with ties to Germany and the Nazi party.  By early 1941, Sterling’s affairs were being examined by the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and, in addition, by Congressional Committees. Congressional hearings about whether German patent holders were unduly influencing the growth of American industry led to price-fixing indictments against Farben, Alcoa and Dow Chemical.  Headlines in newspapers gleaned from documents handled over to governmental investigators claimed (correctly) that Sterling was preserving the Latin American pharmaceutical trade for the Nazis.  Once the Justice Department had copies of the 1920 and 1923 contracts between Sterling and Farben, as Bayer’s successor, it also had concrete evidence of Sterling’s engagement in the anti-competitive division of the pharmaceutical market and price-fixing.  As the price for avoiding indictment, Weiss as well as Albert Diebold – Sterling’s principal founders and most public representatives since its beginning at the turn of the Twentieth Century – were forced to resign from Sterling in August, 1941.  The terms of the Consent Decree between Sterling and the Justice Department barred Weiss and Diebold from Sterling for life and required them to pay fines.  The abrupt end to the era of their control and direction was a complete and utter repudiation of them and Weiss’s policies of cooperating with Farben.  Weiss never really recovered from his removal and was killed in a car accident about a year later.  Diebold lived until 1967, but, among his many lifetime achievements, his official obituary made no mention of his role in founding and creating Sterling.

x———-x

¹  As opposed to the earlier trusts, which had been an integration of linked businesses – either horizontally by controlling all the retail outlets for sale of a product or vertically by controlling the entire process of creating a product – from mining, drilling or growing the raw materials, through transporting, manufacturing and selling the product in retail outlets – to bring an entire industry, like steel, oil, or sugar under a single centralized control

²  also, quite legally, called Bayer Co.

³  ©  Dogan, Musin. Making Innovative Chemical Giants: A Firm-Level Analysis of IG Farben and DuPont.? Columbia University Press, 2017, cup.columbia.edu/book/globalectics/9780231159500.

*   Metz Laboratories was also owned by Sterling Products, Inc.

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018

 

 

 

 

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Sterling Products, Inc. (IV.2) – Bayer Medicine Co.

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer

Chapter 4.2 – Bayer Medicine Co., Manufacturer

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1898 BAYER MEDICINE CO. SPANISH CROSS TEA PACKAGE

          Bayer simply means “Bavarian” in German, and is a common German last name. Thus, many of the Germans who emigrated to the United States were named “Bayer.”  Just as many of the products, companies and divisions that Sterling created – such as the Neuralgine and Winthrop Chemical – seemed to exist in some form before Sterling happened to acquire them (whether or not they were previously related to Sterling), so also was there a Bayer Medicine Co. in the United States before Farbenfabriken Bayer of Elberfeld (FFB) began its operations in the United States.  Its business was patent medicines and it was located in Toledo OH.  For years, the two companies seemed to be oblivious to each other’s existence, possibly because Bayer mostly used the Germanized “FFB” version of its name to identify itself at first, and also possibly because Bayer Medicine Co. was a much more localized mid-west company than FFB.

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1898 BAYER MEDICINE CO. POSTCARD

          Bayer Medicine Co. was organized in Toledo in 1873 as a partnership between a Toledo druggist named Adam Burger and a doctor whose last name was Bayer, but whose first name appears to be unremembered by history.  It sold a variety of patent medicines.  At some point Burger and Bayer sold the company name and its proprietary formulae to one William B. Stoll, who, among other pursuits, invested in patent medicine companies.  He, in turn, sold the name and formulae to Van Fleet, Inc. in 1928. According to an Ohio court that later reviewed the company’s history, Van Fleet marketed Bayer Medicine Co.’s patent medicines “in a more or less indifferent way” over the next several years until it virtually ceased operations entirely during the Depression, and its corporate charter was revoked in 1932 for non-payment of state franchise taxes.  As that company petered away, only one Doyt L. Van Fleet, a druggist and president of Van Fleet, attempted to continue to try to sell the Bayer Medicine Co.’s patent medicines. Eventually, even he tired of the enterprise and contracted to sell Bayer’s name and proprietary formulae to one G. F. McIntyre of Maumee, OH for $700. McIntyre chartered a new Bayer Medicine Co. and transferred the name and formulae to that newly incorporated company.

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DR. BAYER’S PENETRATING OIL

          Just at that moment, another stockholder in Van Fleet, Inc. was approached by an attorney named Rasch, from New York City, who claimed that he represented an old friend of one of the original owners, Burger or Bayer.  He wanted to purchase Van Fleet, Inc. to gain control of the old Bayer name and formulae for the friend’s son.  The stockholders consulted one another and then Doyt Van Fleet, who claimed to be willing, personally, to make the deal with Rasch, provided someone could persuade McIntyre to cancel his purchase of the Bayer name and formulae.  When approached, McIntyre, obviously understanding the value of owning a “Bayer” name, declined to cancel his purchase.  Van Fleet’s stockholders then sued the new Bayer Medicine Co. for an injunction to compel it both to cease and desist from using the Bayer name and formulae on its goods, and to return them to Van Fleet, Inc, claiming that Doyt Van Fleet, as President of Van Fleet, Inc., had acted without the consent of Van Fleet Inc.’s board of directors and shareholders when he made the sale of the Bayer name and formulae to McIntyre.

EARLY BAYER MEDICINE CO. ASPIRIN DISPLAY AND TIN

          The Court found entirely unpersuasive Rasch’s tale of acting, essentially, on behalf of a “friend of a friend” of the original owners when he approached Van Fleet Inc.’s shareholders, and deemed that all parties knew that Rasch was acting on behalf of the Bayer Co. of New York City, which “engaged in a kindred but competing business” to that of the Bayer Medicine Co. of Toledo. In fact, the Court went out of its way to chide Rasch stating that his conduct of business in this matter was “not altogether attractive to a court of equity.”  The Court, therefore, ruled that where the shareholders of Van Fleet, Inc. had by their inaction ceded control of the company to its president, they were bound by his actions, and the Court would not use the equity power of injunction to change the sale of the Bayer name and formulae to McIntyre.

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LATER BAYER MEDICINE CO. ASPIRIN TIN

          McIntyre’s Bayer Medicine Co. was still in business in Toledo, OH as late as 1941. Perhaps World War II brought about its end, or, presumably, FFB found another way to fold its name into FFB’s.

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018

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F, S

Sterling Products, Inc. (IV.1) – Farbenfabriken Bayer of Elberfeld

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer

Chapter 4.1 – Farbenfabriken Bayer of Elberfeld, Manufacturer

TYPES OF BAYER CANCELS

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Box

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           When Sterling Products, Inc. purchased the assets of the American assets of the German company, Farbenfabriken Bayer of Elberfeld, it was the equivalent of a minnow swallowing a whale, for Bayer was already a complex, multi-layered, multi-national chemical and dye business while Sterling Products, Inc. was a brash peddler of nostrums, albeit a rich and resourceful one.

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1902 BAYER U.S. COVER

          As set out in the discussion of the VapoCresoline Co., the modern petrochemical industry grew out of the commercialization of coal as fuel.  Controlled burning of coal produced coal gas, which became the earliest commercial gas supplied for street and house illumination, but also produced a residue of coal-tar, at first considered dirty, useless glop.  When chemists all around the world began to analyze coal tar, it was found to be composed of hundreds of different substances some of which could be utilized by other industries.  In particular, the substance aniline, first isolated from coal tar in 1826 by Otto Unverdorben in Germany, could be turned into synthetic fabric dyes.  This discovery was significant news for the dyeing industry, which has existed from the beginning of recorded history, but had changed remarkably little over thousands of years because dye sources were extremely limited by known natural substances and sources.  For example, Tyrian purple, the lushest purple dye reserved for the garments of Roman emperors and senators, could be produced only by crushing huge amounts of the shells of certain sea-snail species found mainly near the Eastern Coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and so remained extremely costly through the ages.

FREIDRICH BAYER & J. F. WESTCOTT

          In 1863, Friedrich Bayer and Johann Friedrich Westcott organized Frederich Bayer & Co to exploit the possibilities of these new artificial, aniline dyes. They were in a good position to enter this burgeoning field because Bayer was a dealer in natural dyes who had a network of sales agents and Westcott operated a factory for the extraction of natural dyes.  They located their plant in their hometown, Barmen, a small village approximately twenty miles east of Düsseldorf in the northwest corner of Germany. Bayer soon brought Carl Rumpff into the business as his agent in New York City.  Rumpff had emigrated from Germany to the United States and worked there in the coal-tar business before accepting employment as Bayer’s U.S. agent.  Rumpff soon became Bayer’s most trusted assistant.  In 1876, he moved back to Germany and married Bayer’s eldest daughter, Clara.  Westcott died in 1876, and Rumpff took over the entire business when Bayer died in 1880.  By then, because of problems associated with disposal of toxic waste generated from the dyeing business, the company had moved a short distance to the town of Elberfeld.  The next year, Rumpff took the company public under the name Farbenfabriken vormals Frederich Bayer & Co, which means the Dye Factory formerly known as Friedrich Bayer & Company (“Bayer”).

PORTRAITS OF BAYER & CARL RUMPFF

          By this time, however, Bayer was struggling because it was too dependent on the sales of a single dye, alizarin, an orange-red dye. In the process of searching for new dyes to boost Bayer’s faltering product line, Rumpff hired a young graduate student in chemistry named Carl Duisberg.  Under German patent law, it was then permissible to market a patented product that someone else was manufacturing, provided the second production method was completely independent of the first and, therefore, did not infringe the underlying patent.1   Joining the firm in 1884, Duisberg quickly struck gold by finding an alternate method for Bayer to produce a competitor’s dye known as Congo Red.  Duisberg’s discovery put Bayer’s finances on a firm footing.  He subsequently perfected two other dyes, and Rumpff installed him as the head of Bayer’s research and patent department.

PORTRAIT OF RUMPFF & PHOTO OF CARL DUISBERG AS A YOUNG MAN

          As well as working with dyes, Duisberg was sensitive to the growing possibilities for other kinds of chemicals derived from coal-tar.  In the field of medicine, he observed Cahn and Hepp’s discovery of acetanilid in 1886 and watched them propel it into a market success by allowing it to be prescribed by doctors and sold only under the specific brand name “Antifebrin” rather than permitting it to be identified simply by its generic chemical name, acetanilid.  He also realized that acetanilid was chemically similar to para-nitrophenol, a waste product of Bayer’s dye manufacturing process stored in a vast quantity of barrels piled all around the company’s factory yard. Recognizing that he might be able to create from the para-nitrophenol a compound to compete with Antifebrin, he put his research department to work.  His chemists found a compound called acetophenetidin, which Duisberg then had Bayer market under the brand name Phenacetin.  It was first sold in 1888. Although it cost more than Antifebrin, and still had the same potential lethal side effects of acetanilid, doctors quickly judged it to be the safer of the two drugs.  An influenza epidemic that struck the Northern hemisphere in 1889 popularized the Phenacetin outside of Germany and spectacularly boosted Bayer’s sales.

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1891 PHENACETIN TRADE AD BY BAYER U.S. DISTRIBUTOR

          By 1890, when Rumpff died and Duisberg became the head of Bayer, Duisberg had married Rumpff’s niece and merged his administrative prestige with family ownership. The next year, Bayer, having outgrown its plant at Elberfeld, moved its main headquarters about fifteen miles to the southeast to a campus in a town called Leverkusen, just north of Cologne on the east bank of the Rhine river.  That plant is still there and operating today.  Duisberg had the old plant at Elberfeld reconditioned purely as the company’s research facility for new drugs.  It was split into two departments: the first to develop new products and the second to test their efficacy prior to bringing them to market.  One of the first projects Duisberg assigned to his new laboratory was to find an even better and safer pain relief compound, since Phenacetin still carried the potential for lethal harm if misused.

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BAYER FAMILY VAULT INCLUDING RUMPFF

         Before Cahn and Hepp derived acetanilid, there were only two natural compounds that acted as analgesics, that is, they successfully relieved pain.  Each had its drawbacks. The first was salicylic acid derived from the bark of the white willow tree.  Its basic chemical, a bitter-tasting substance called salicin, had been isolated as the bark’s active ingredient in 1828, and first synthesized as an acid in 1838.  Its side effects were nausea and ringing in the ears.  The second was quinine, which was compounded made from the bark of the Peruvian cinchona tree.  It too caused unpleasant side effects, and, moreover, was extremely difficult to obtain in quantities sufficient to use for experiments, since scientists could not yet synthesize the active compound and the tree resisted all cultivation attempts outside of Peru.

COMPETITOR KNORR’S ANTIPYRINE

           One synthetic pain-killer existed already. In 1883, a German chemist named Ludwig Knorr had created a compound which was marketed under the name Antipyrine.  He patented it and assigned its manufacture to another chemical company, now known as Hoechst (which will also be profiled in this column bye and bye). However, Antipyrine suffered under some drawbacks as well.  First as a patented medicine, its manufacture and sale was limited solely to the patent holder, Hoechst, which exercised its legal monopoly to make it expensive.  Second, as a medicine whose chemical formula was protected by a legal patent – and therefore not truly a “patent medicine” at all – it was advertised and marketed – as all such “ethical” drugs were – only to doctors, not directly to the public.  The doctors created a demand for an “ethical” drug by prescribing it to their patients, who then purchased it from them or from pharmacies. In the case of Antipyrine, its name, however – which doctors took to mean limited its use to fever reduction – did not really describe its chemical formula sufficiently enough for doctors to be entirely comfortable prescribing it, and, moreover, doctors considered pain merely a symptom of the underlying disease that warranted treatment, rather than a condition in itself to be alleviated.  While the public might have disagreed with that professional assessment – and Antipyrine was quite popular briefly where it became available in certain countries without a prescription – because doctors did not adopt it broadly, its appeal was soon eclipsed by subsequent events.  Even with its possibly lethal consequences, acetanilid – never protected by a patent because it had been synthesized before its medicinal properties were recognized – was always cheaper than Antipyrine. Phenacetin, as expensive as Antipyrine, but judged safer than acetanilid, soon cut into its sales. Meanwhile, Duisberg was already working on a better product.

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FELIX HOFFMAN

          Duisberg’s new laboratory at Elberfeld responded to his challenge to develop an analgesic without potential fatal side effects by producing Aspirin.  The legend that surrounds its discovery begins with a young chemist named Felix Hoffman, who had drawn the assignment to develop Bayer’s next pain reliever.  From among the choices of existing analgesics, Hoffman chose to work with salicylic acid.  The reason Hoffman chose that compound was that his father was crippled by chronic rheumatism, and took sodium salicylate, the available form of salicylic acid, to relieve the pain.  Because that treatment caused him severe stomach pains, he begged his son to find him a more effective treatment.  On October 10, 1897, Hoffman noted in his laboratory workbook a method for converting salicylic acid into acetylsalicylic acid.   He reportedly gave his father the resulting compound and discovered that his father experienced a complete remission.  The new compound was immediately denominated Aspirin, and the rest is history.

ARTHUR EICHENGRÜN & HEINRICH DRESER

          In actuality, Hoffman was not the first to produce acetylsalicylic acid, but did find a better method for synthesizing it.  However, when the compound was sent to Duisberg’s other laboratory department for testing, it was summarily rejected because, in the doses originally utilized it caused heart palpitations.  In addition, the testing laboratory was busy trumpeting another new discovery, a cough medicine called Heroin, which was much more effective than codeine and promised to be completely non-addictive. Acetylsalicylic acid remained neglected for approximately a year until Hoffman’s boss in the drug developing department, Arthur Eichengrün, circumvented the testing department by placing samples with some of his practicing colleagues.  Their favorable reports prompted the testing laboratory to conduct its own tests which were glowing. The head of the testing laboratory, Heinrich Dreser, then published the first paper on Aspirin, omitting to mention either Hoffman or Eichengrün.  Once placed on the market, Aspirin’s success was immediate.  Ironically, because of his contract with Bayer as head of the testing laboratory, Dreser received royalties on the sales of Aspirin that were so immense that he was able to retire early from Bayer.  Hoffman and Eichengrün received no special compensation for their contribution to the development of Aspirin and only belated credit for its development.

1898 TRADE ANNOUNCEMENT CHANGING DISTRIBUTORS TOGETHER WITH 1898 SCHIEFFELIN AD  AND 1899 BAYER U.S. AD FEATURING HEROIN

          The largest potential market for Aspirin was the United States.  Bayer already had a sales history in the United States.  As noted above, Frederich Bayer had immediately set up a sales agency in the United States and Carl Rumpff had initially been employed in New York City before moving back to Germany.  By the late 1890s, the United States had already emerged as the biggest market for Bayer’s dyes, accounting for greater sales even than Germany.  Bayer had employed Schieffelin & Co. (previously mentioned in the article on John D. Park & Sons) as its distributor in the United States, but Rumpff’s successor in Bayer’s New York office never felt that it featured Bayer’s products, such as Phenacetin, prominently enough, so in 1898 Duisberg discharged Schieffelin & Co. and made Bayer U.S. its own sales and distribution center.  Dr. Hugo Schweitzer, a chemist who had emigrated to America in 1889 and become an American citizen was a consultant to Bayer U.S. and was both a prominent spokesman on behalf of the company and a primary channel of communication between Bayer U.S. and the head office in Leverkusen, Germany.  Meanwhile,  Duisberg who had protected Bayer by patenting Phenacetin in the United States, immediately patented Aspirin in the United States as well.  However, because Hoffman had actually not been the first to produce acetylsalicylic acid, Bayer was only able to win patents for Aspirin in the United States and in England.

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1903 LETTER FROM SCHWEITZER AT BAYER U.S. OFFICE TO DUISBERG IN GERMANY

             Still, even with patent protection for the formula for Aspirin and, initially, trademark protection for its name, Bayer felt it was at a marketing disadvantage in the United States.  High U.S. tariffs, as well as the certain prospect of the patent’s eventual expiration, persuaded Duisberg that he ought to have a production plant in the United States to maximize Aspirin’s sales prospects. Bayer finally determined that its best course of action would be to expand its presence in the United States. In 1881, Bayer had purchased a one-quarter interest in the Hudson River Aniline & Color Works located in Rensselaer, N.Y. across the Hudson River from Albany. Duisberg visited this property in 1903 and decided to create a plant on the Hudson along the same design parameters as he had developed on the Rhine at Leverkusen. He had the machinery from another dye plant transferred to this location and erected new buildings to accommodate the production of Aspirin, which included two large crucibles made of pure silver needed to hold the acetic acid required to acetylate salicylic acid.

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1900c BAYER U.S. TRADE AD

           Aspirin’s success in the United States, combined with its relatively high price guaranteed by its patent-protected monopoly, immediately led competitors to emulate it. One Edward Kuehmsted, a somewhat shady drug dealer in Chicago, some of whose exploits are recounted in a book entitled Twenty Years in the Wickedest City in the World by Detective Clifford Rodman Woolridge, began to import large quantities of acetylsalicylic acid from Canada, where Bayer did not hold a patent.  Bayer responded in 1905 with a patent infringement suit.  No sooner had it filed its suit, than a similar suit in England that Bayer had filed against a German competitor was decided against Bayer invalidating its English patent, precisely because Hoffman had not been the first to create acetylsalicylic acid, and the English court – drawing the opposite conclusion from German law – could not grasp the fine distinctions Bayer tried to articulate between Hoffman’s process, which it claimed yielded a purer form of acetylsalicylic acid, and the earlier process utilized by that other German company.  Bayer’s American attorney then delayed the proceeding for roughly the next four years. When the American court rendered its opinion, much to everyone’s surprise, it ignored the English precedent and upheld the legitimacy of Bayer’s patent, finding sufficient novelty in Hoffman’s process to warrant a separate patent.  When the plaintiff Kuehmsted complained that Bayer was unable to patent Hoffman’s process anywhere else in the world, the judge merely remarked that the United States was different from any other country.  In 1910, an appellate decision confirming the lower court’s reasoning sealed Bayer’s patent victory.

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1912 BAYER U.S. TRADE AD

          World War I began in Europe in 1914.  At first the United States attempted to remain neutral and avoid favoring either England, the principal power among the Allies or Germany, the principal anchor of the Central Powers.  However, as a German company operating in the United States, Bayer found itself in a number of harrowing scrapes before the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allies and seized its American assets.

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AUGUST 15, 1915 NEW YORK WORLD FRONT PAGE

          One of the stories is now told as the Great Phenol Plot of 1915.  An essential ingredient for the manufacture of Aspirin was a substance called phenol, another organic chemical originally derived from coal-tar.  Phenol, however, was also a building block for many, many other substances, including a potent explosive trinitrophenol. Before the war, England provided most of the phenol Bayer needed, although not to Bayer directly, but rather to its suppliers.  They, in turn, used the phenol to produce salicylic acid, which Bayer then purchased and turned into Aspirin.

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DR. HUGO SCHWEITZER & HEINRICH ALBERT

         As soon as the war began, England stopped all foreign export of phenol.  Bayer’s suppliers were starved and Bayer also faced closure because it could not obtain salicylic acid to convert into Aspirin in its pure silver cauldrons.  Many other companies in the United States were also facing a shortage of phenol, and one man who immediately took action was Thomas Edison, who required phenol to produce his best quality phonograph records.  He set up two new plants to synthesize phenol.  No sooner were the plants in operation than Edison was approached by none other than Hugo Schweitzer, still operating as a consulting chemist for Bayer, to purchase all of Edison’s excess production of phenol for use by Schweitzer’s company, the Chemical Exchange Association.  Unbeknownst to Edison, Schweitzer had been employed by the German Embassy to act as an agent on behalf of the German government and it supplied the money Schweitzer used to pay Edison.  As well as trying to tip public opinion toward Germany, the German Embassy in the United States was charged with preventing – in any way possible, as best it could – the United States from exporting chemicals to the Allies which they could use to harm Germany.  Schweitzer took the phenol he had purchased from Edison and entered into a contract to have it turned into salicylic acid by the American branch of Chemische Fabrick von Heyden (the very same German firm whom Bayer had sued in England that had led to the invalidation of its Aspirin patent in England).  Heyden’s American branch had been supplying Bayer’s American plant with salicylic acid under a contract between the two companies made before the war and it was natural for it to resume its contract with Bayer when it again had salicylic acid to sell. Schweitzer exported the balance of the salicylic acid himself. As well as turning a profit on all of the phases of the transaction, Schweitzer managed to divert all of Edison’s excess production of phenol from being turned into the explosive trinitrophenol by the Allies. Estimates were that four and a half million pounds of explosives could have been produced from the phenol that Schweitzer managed to divert.

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BAYER PRODUCTS 1915c

          The scheme did not last too long.  Schweitzer’s paymaster, a German Embassy official, Heinrich Albert, fell asleep on the Sixth Avenue elevated railway in New York City.  Awaking suddenly to find he was missing his stop, he jumped up and departed so hurriedly that he left his briefcase in the subway car.  It was immediately seized by a sharp-eyed Secret Service agent who had been assigned to watch his movements.  While the briefcase did not contain enough material for the United States to indict any specific German Embassy official for acts of sabotage, when its contents became public after a highly placed member of the U.S. government leaked the papers to an anti-German newspaper, there was an enormous public hue and cry and the entire press charged the Germans with theft of American chemicals.  However, in 1915 the United States was not prepared to end its neutrality, although the subsequent public outrage was strong enough to persuade the Germans to cease funding Schweitzer’s contract with Edison. Schweitzer simply then made other arrangements and continued to purchase Edison’s excess phenol for another several months until growing sentiment in favor of the Allies finally pressured Edison to start selling his excess phenol to the United States government.  By that time there was enough of a supply of phenol to assure that Bayer would stay in operation, but its reputation as an honorable chemical company was severely impaired by its involvement in the Great Phenol Plot.

BAYER U.S. MEDICINE BOTTLE 1915c

          As the prospect of America’s entry into World War I on the side of the Allies loomed larger and larger, Bayer engaged in one more complex intrigue to protect itself.  The German owners and managers of Bayer’s American operations realized that seizure of enemy property would follow a declaration of war by the United States.  At the beginning of the war, the European combatants mutually had seized enemy property for their own use for the duration of the war intending to return such property in tact following hostilities.  As the intensity of the war increased, that prospect became unlikely. While Bayer’s management could not avoid seizure of the physical assets, it realized it was were even more vulnerable because in 1913 Bayer’s German headquarters had also transferred to a newly formed American subsidiary ownership of the intangible assets, not only of the expiring patents, but, most importantly, the American trademark rights. These managers, therefore, schemed to cushion themselves against the possible impact of seizure by channeling Bayer’s profits to their own benefit as well as setting up a genuine American corporation which they would control to act as its dummy to bid for these assets in the unfortunate event of a sale.

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1918 BAYER U.S. TRADE AD

          Cynically recognizing that the American army would need uniforms if it went to war, Bayer purchased another dyeing company in Providence, RI, Williams & Crowell (“W & C RI”), to provide dye for such uniforms.  However, instead of Bayer’s appearing as owner of W & C RI, an American attorney advised Bayer’s officials to set up another American company, Williams & Crowell Color Co. of New York (“W & C New York”), to actually take title.  Management and ownership of W & C New York was nominally placed in the names of Americans (such as the advising attorney), but the real owners were Bayer’s owners and managers.  They, in turn, provided the money from Bayer’s profits for W & C New York to purchase W & C RI.  Moreover, since, in their capacity as Bayer’s managers, they bought all of W & C RI’s output at inflated prices for resale to the American army, they re-cycled the money to themselves, and had those inflated profits stored and available in an American company for any other eventuality which might arise.  Bayer’s management also ensured that a friendly American, properly bribed, was installed as manager of Bayer the U.S. Alien Property Custodian actually seized control of its operation in January, 1918.  Through friendly administration of Bayer’s assets while under American control and storage of Bayer’s profits in a certified American corporation, Bayer’s management felt it could navigate through any eventuality that arose, even the ultimate unfortunate event of a sale by the Custodian.

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A. MITCHELL PALMER

          Eventualities, however, did not evolve in the manner Bayer’s management anticipated. An anonymous crackpot letter, claiming that W & C RI was poisoning the military uniform fabric it was dyeing, led A. Mitchell Palmer, the U.S. Attorney-General, acting in his capacity as the Alien Property Custodian, to examine its operations. When the Custodian investigated, he quickly discovered the shell nature of its ownership. The American attorney to whom Bayer’s management had entrusted leadership of W & C RI quickly bailed on Bayer, and announced he would instead purchase the company himself from the Custodian when it was put up for sale.  When the Custodian revealed all of the plotting by Bayer’s managers, their machinations led to further public condemnation and ultimately to their arrest on charges of trading with the enemy.  By the time the Custodian was ready to auction Bayer’s assets, its prior management had effectively disappeared.  The way was clear for Sterling Products, Inc. to make its audacious bid to buy Bayer’s remarkably valuable assets for its own future development.

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¹     A similar ruling emerged in the United States in the 2009 Abbott v. Sandoz case discussed in the column concerning Abbott Alkaloidal Co.

©   Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018

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Sterling Remedy Co. (IV) – Sterling Products, Inc.

Sterling Remedy Co.

Chapter 4 – Sterling(Of West Virginia)’s First Decade

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1910c CASCARETS PACKAGE BEARING CANADIAN MEDICINE REVENUE TAX STAMP

          Virtually from its inception until the entry of the United States into World War II forty years later, Sterling’s principals were William Weiss, who served as General Manager, Albert H. Diebold, who was its Secretary-Treasurer, and H. F. Behrens Jr., who was its first President.  As noted earlier, William Weiss trained as a pharmacist, and practiced that trade in the now obscure town of Sistersville, WV during the 1890s. At that time, however, Sistersville was an oil and gas boom town whose population briefly mushroomed to over 10,000 people.  Weiss apparently invested wisely in these West Virginia oil field and was able to amass the capital he invested in Sterling’s predecessor. He managed the various plants it accumulated in its 1909 amalgamation which were located in Wheeling, WV, Cincinnati, OH and Walkerville, Canada (now a historic district of Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River from Detroit, MI, originally founded as a company town by Hiram Walker, the distiller of Canadian Club).  Diebold, Weiss’s childhood friend and scion of the wealthy Diebold safe and lock family, traveled around the United States establishing Sterling’s business connections and even arranged its sales agency in London, England.  Behrens, born in Wheeling, WV in 1870, and thus slightly older than Diebold and Weiss, began his career as a grocer in Wheeling with his father, but had branched into other industries and had become a prominent merchant as well as a director of two banks in Wheeling.  At the beginning, he provided the company its credentials in banking and economics.  These men served on Sterling’s Board of Directors together with several other prominent business leaders of Wheeling, and one other veteran of the pharmacy business, Stanley P. Jadwin.  Jadwin, was a member of the New York City wholesale drug firm, O. H. Jadwin & Sons (which itself cancelled battleship revenue stamps), founded by his father. Sterling’s connection with Jadwin gave it its initial major distribution network, particularly in the more thickly populated Eastern half of the country.

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1910c STERLING NO-TO-BAC PACKAGE

          With the purchase of the California Fig Syrup Co., Sterling became the largest patent medicine company in the United States.  Almost immediately after it closed that deal, the company instituted a pattern of organizing itself into various separate semi-autonomous divisions to perform different functions.  To illustrate an example of how the functions of these divisions were kept separate but coordinated, in 1909, together with Pape, Thompson & Pape Co., Sterling had also purchased Pape’s Cincinnati advertising agency called Thompson-Koch.  No sooner had it purchased the California Fig Syrup Co. in 1912 than it had Thompson-Koch launch a million dollar sales campaign to expand its sales.  The ad took the form of a letter from Thompson-Koch to the California Fig Syrup Co.  There was no hint that both companies were owned and controlled by the same people.  For the rest of Sterling’s existence, while the Sterling name would appear on most of the company’s products, it almost always appeared in the form of “____ division of Sterling” (never Sterling’s name alone) and with the subsidiary company’s name or division more prominently displayed or printed in larger letters.

1912 TWO PAGE THOMPSON-KOCH AD ANNOUNCING MILLION DOLLAR CALIF. FIG SYR. CAMPAIGN

          Along with handling the company’s advertising, the Thompson-Koch Agency was also utilized to fight the rear-guard action against increasing governmental scrutiny and regulation of the patent medicine industry.  A 1917 article entitled “Killing Public Health Legislation” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a strong advocate for such regulation, reprinted a circular issued by Thompson-Koch and sent to every retail druggist in Michigan urging them to lobby their state representatives to oppose legislation then pending in the state legislature which it claimed would compel “withdrawal of all advertising and sale of all package, household medicines, cosmetics and hair tonics in your state” because it required complete disclosure of ingredients in patent medicines.  To balance that screed, which JAMA characterized as a “highly colored piece of fiction,” JAMA also published the rejoinder by the Michigan State Dairy and Food Department that stated the bill merely instituted a system of registration and inspection of patent medicines that the patent medicine companies could either finance by paying the modest registration fee and submitting a sample of each product for “inspection and analysis” or avoid entirely by making voluntary disclosure of the ingredients in the products, thus saving the state the cost of examining them.  Its conclusion about this section of the bill was that “no manufacturer of a meritorious proprietary remedy can reasonably object.”  The only real limitation contained in the bill was a prohibition of advertising “claiming to cure consumption, cancer and other admitted non-curable diseases,” about which JAMA noted “all reputable newspapers already refuse.”  JAMA further reported that Thompson-Koch had sent a similar circular to every newspaper publisher in North Dakota – most of whom derived substantial income from their patent medicine advertising – urging rejection of a similar bill then pending in the North Dakota legislature.

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  1920 CASCARETS TRADE AD

           By 1917, Neuralgine was no longer a major seller, so the Neuralgyline Co. decided to drop entirely its original name, which was both hard to remember and to pronounce, and adopt a variation of the Sterling Remedy Co. name it had acquired together with H. L. Kramer’s company in 1909 – and continued to use as its manufacturing name for Cascarets and No-To-bac – as the public name of the overall shell company which would encompass all of the other companies it was busy absorbing . It chose to be known henceforth as Sterling Products, Inc.  Among the other separate divisions that Sterling had created prior to World War I were those which held intangible assets and real property separately from the company’s purchasing and trading activities, and another that dealt with the difficulties it was beginning to encounter with overseas trading as the prospects of the United States’s involvement in the European war became more and more tangible. It also created another division called Winthrop Chemical Co.1 specifically to manufacture chemicals that it had imported from Germany prior to the entry of the United States into World War I.

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1920c CASCARETS PACKAGE BEARING U.S. PROPRIETARY STAMP

          However, it was Sterling’s next acquisition that ultimately catapulted it on to a completely different plane from the run-of-the-mill nostrum peddlers, even the extremely rich ones.  After the United States entered World War I in 1917, it seized the assets of all companies owned by citizens of enemy nations.  One of the largest German companies operating in the United States was Farbenfabriken Bayer (“Bayer”).  Although it had begun principally as a dyeing business, Bayer had refined the research conducted on acetanilid by Cahn and Hepp, discussed in the article on the Nervease Co., and had discovered acetylsalicylic acid, a chemical cousin of acetanilid that was not potentially lethal.  It began marketing its headache curing product under the name Aspirin in Germany in 1899 and promptly patented Aspirin in the United States.  However, to fully exploit the enormous American market for the drug, Bayer had to invest in an American manufacturing plant in order to avoid paying American import tariffs on Aspirin manufactured in Germany.  By buying some American chemical companies involved in the dyeing business, which Bayer also conducted in Germany, it managed to create not only a dyeing but also a pharmaceutical manufacturing center in Rensselaer, N.Y, across the Hudson River from Albany.  Both Bayer’s physical assets and its patents were seized by the U. S. Government, acting through its office of the Custodian of Alien Property, on January 10, 1918 and auctioned to American bidders at Bayer’s Rensselaer plant on December 12, 1918.  On Sterling’s behalf, Weiss successfully bid for all of Bayer’s assets, paying $5.3 million.  Immediately, Sterling spun Bayer’s dyeing business off to another chemical company for $1.5 million, freeing Sterling to concentrate all its energy on the pharmaceutical market.

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1921 STERLING TRADE AD

          With its purchase of Bayer, Sterling had pulled off a major coup in the pharmaceutical world and changed the nature of its business forever.  Sterling and Bayer arose at the two opposite poles of the pharmaceutical industry.  Up until its acquisition of aspirin, Sterling had dealt only in patent medicines.  As often discussed in this column, these products, usually trumpeted to cure virtually any discomfort or illness, were prepared from non-disclosed, privately held formulae and advertised directly to the public as a replacement for medical care, which was, at best, limited and, before the advent of antibiotics, precarious.  Patent medicines had been completely unregulated until the passage of the 1906 Pure Food And Drug Act, but, even in 1918, only out-right lying about either a patent medicine’s ingredients or its curative powers actually ran afoul of the law.  Patent medicines relied upon relentless advertising and lots of public display without major concern as to whether their contents had any genuine medical efficacy.

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1921 STERLING TRADE AD

          Bayer’s approach to marketing Aspirin had been completely different from Sterling’s.  Because it held a patent on acetylsalicylic acid, and because the drug actually worked, Bayer had marketed its Aspirin as an “ethical” drug, that is, it openly disclosed its ingredients and advertised and sold it only to physicians and pharmacies, relying, in turn, on physicians to prescribe it to their patients based solely upon its merits, literally by writing a medical prescription.  Patients would then have the prescriptions filled at pharmacies.  Ethical drugs counted upon their actual ability to bring about abatement of the malady for which they were prescribed to recommend them.  Pharmacies had to stock them because physicians kept prescribing them and patients kept asking for them. A solid reputation for delivering relief – not hype – was Bayer’s claim to its preeminence as a drug maker.

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1921 CASCARETS TRADE AD

            Sterling immediately determined that it would market aspirin as a patent medicine, the same way it had marketed all its other products.  It was easy for Sterling to move in this direction for Bayer’s patent on Aspirin’s chemical formula for acetylsalicylic acid had expired in February, 1917, and after that date anyone could freely manufacture the chemical itself.  The trickier question was whether competitors could denominate their acetylsalicylic acid “aspirin,” or whether only Bayer held the trademark rights to call its acetylsalicylic acid “Aspirin.”

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1923 CONSOLIDATION OF STERLING AND BAYER WEST COAST SALES OFFICES

            Two American companies, Lehn & Fink, a drug manufacturer and wholesaler, and United Drug Co., a drug manufacturing and retailing combine, had vigorously opposed Bayer’s efforts to hold on to the name “Aspirin” as its exclusive trademark. In February 1917, Lehn & Fink published a bulletin to the trade stating that, having consulted its attorneys, it would accept orders for Lehn & Fink aspirin the next day after Bayer’s patent expired.  The following month, the Druggists Circular, a trade publication reported that the National Drug Trade Council had consulted its attorneys who rendered an opinion that aspirin was simply a generic term (that is a non-exclusive, non-trademarkable name for a chemical, exactly like acetanilid, no more nor less) rather than the exclusive brand of Bayer.  Of course, together with that report, the magazine even-handedly published a letter from Bayer’s attorneys stating that Aspirin was Bayer’s exclusive trademark.  The industry was left to draw its own conclusions, but Lehn & Fink persisted in advertising its own brand of aspirin.  United Drug Co. went further.  It also began to manufacture and market its own aspirin, and supported this effort by bringing an interference action before the U.S. Examiner of Patents challenging Bayer’s trademark on “Aspirin.”  It also endured Bayer’s suit against it in federal court to enjoin it from selling its own aspirin.  Between America’s entry into World War I, which disrupted Bayer’s business plans, and the efforts of these two American companies, Americans soon came to regard any headache remedy generically as aspirin.  Although Sterling continued Bayer’s defense of Bayer’s trademark hold on Aspirin, both Bayer and Sterling finally were forced to concede defeat after losing the administrative trademark decision in 1920, which was re-enforced by court decisions rendered in 1921.  The final defeat was after the fact for Bayer, which had already lost the American market by virtue of Sterling’s purchase, and probably of relatively little concern to Sterling which had already determined to follow its patent medicine strategy for marketing aspirin. Curiously, both Lehn & Fink and United Drug Co. later became directly involved with Sterling. Those tales will be woven into Sterling’s history at the appropriate time.

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¹   As with almost every other company Sterling absorbed or spawned, there was another Winthrop Chemical Co. prior to Sterling’s.  This particular company was incorporated in Kittery, ME in 1903 by one Horace Mitchell, among others.  Mitchell himself, who lived from 1857 to 1922, engaged in various careers from teacher and hotel keeper to postmaster, local official and state legislator.  He was apparently also such a versatile businessman that he was involved in incorporating over 500 companies in every field from soap to securities, electrical engineering to railroads. These companies were on paper worth in total over $1 billion dollars (at a time, the same source notes, that John D. Rockefeller was involved in companies worth only half that amount). While it would have been well in keeping with Sterling’s pattern to have simply absorbed and re- purposed the existing Winthrop Chemical Co., it is unclear whether this company had any actual relationship with Sterling’s.

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018

 

 

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