Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co.
VARIOUS ABBOTT MENTHOL PLASTER CANCELS
(minor variations in periods)
This company arose in Worcester, MA in 1885 under the leadership of Peter P. Bradt. A drug trade magazine wrote in January, 1896: “About ten years ago, he induced a number of local capitalists to invest several thousand dollars in a stock company for the manufacture of Abbott’s Menthol Plasters and he became the active manager.” It is unclear how or why Bradt chose to call his plasters “Abbott’s.” According to Bizpedia, a business website, the company incorporated in Massachusetts in 1891, and is still listed today on the state’s roster of corporations. A contemporaneous report places the date of incorporation in February, 1891, and its initial capital at $35,000. Unfortunately for Peter Bradt, the occasion of the drug trade magazine’s comment about him was its obituary of him. He committed suicide at age 42, apparently shortly after losing a trade infringement suit to the Blood Cordial Co over his attempt to manufacture a remedy called Blood Cordial. After his death, David L Bradt, apparently Peter’s younger brother, served as treasurer and manager of the company, and managed the company’s business affairs. David was born in Litchfield, New Hampshire in 1858, graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, worked for the well respected drug firm of Theodore Metcalf in Boston, and by 1885 was operating a drug store in Worcester with a partner, W E Turple. In 1887, he formed a partnership with William S Flint which operated two drug stores in Worcester until 1890 when Flint bought Bradt out. An index of Worcester “oddities” mentions David L Bradt’s “tame bears,” but the exploration of the full extent of his animal husbandry skills, or his personality quirks, will have to await another investigator’s perusal of the December 29, 1898 issue of the Worcester Evening Gazette, preserved in the Gazette’s archives in Worcester’s Public Library (but not on line), which contains the article mentioning the tame bears. Along with maintaining his interest in Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co, Bradt organized the Apothecary Publishing Co, and listed his occupation as a publisher in the 1900 Census. He served as its treasurer for three years. The Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co itself, is the listed publisher of a thirty-one page novella entitled a Romance in Boston by Bertha Norvin, published, among other such short books, as part of its advertising campaign in lieu of almanacs. In 1909, David Bradt moved to Passaic, NJ and became a manufacturer of “fancy paper” goods, a position he held until his death from acute Bright’s Disease in 1914. Apparently, the company languished in his absence. In early 1914, the Massachusetts legislature swept it into an omnibus dissolution act, usually reserved for companies that have failed to pay their state taxes. David’s widow, Katherine A Bradt, who had served on the company’s board of directors for approximately a decade, promptly re-incorporated it together with one Alice J Kelly and one John J Mansfield, again with the same $35,000 capitalization, but thereafter the company’s transactions drop from reported history. Only its lingering shadow on Bizpedia hints that it still may exist.
As its name suggests, the company manufactured plasters, the predecessors of what we today regard as bandages, and its trade listings always indicated the price of plasters as purchased by length. However, it experimented with other kinds of delivery systems for the soothing elements of the menthol it so prominently feature. One of the odder products that the company produced, in and around 1890, was the “electric” inhaler, which was an inhaler that, despite its name, had no electric component. Rather it had a stem to suck upon attached to a circular body with a face, like that of the man in the moon, pressed into it. The mouth contained a tiny lever, like a tongue, which when moved across the mouth caused to eyes to open, creating an air channel and allowing the menthol in the circular body to be inhaled. A trade card illustrates the look of the inhaler. The gadget itself holds its place of honor on the website devoted to memorializing inhalers (yes there is one of those, just as there is a website glorifying battleship revenue cancels).
ELECTRIC INHALER TRADE CARD
All three companies whose appellations contained the name Abbott arose in the Patent Medicine Era. One, Abbott Laboratories, is still going strong today, although embarking on a new and somewhat risky venture by splitting itself in two. The product of C. W. Abbott & Co, Abbott’s Bitters, is still valued, with the quest to emulate that original formula being akin to the quest for the Holy Grail in the circle of bitters connoisseurs. The third company, Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co, appears to have yielded its place to more modern bandage technology, while leaving a few colorful artifacts in its wake.
© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2014