A, Companies, H, M, S

Sterling Products, Inc. (VI.1.b.(2)) – AHP – Manhattan Medicine Co.

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer
Chapter 6.1.b.(2): American Home Products –
Manhattan Medicine Co. – Manufacturer

   

JOHN F. HENRY “FACIMILE STAMPS”

          Before folding into AHP, the Manhattan Medicine Co. (MMC) had its own long and colorful history. MMC’s principal bears a familiar name – John F. Henry (1834-1893) . Readers of the Wells Richardson & Co. column (Sterling Products, Inc. V.1.) will recall that Henry was the hard-charging entrepreneur from Vermont who succeeded Demas Barnes. Barnes was one of the earliest of the patent medicine millionaires who had built a multi-brand national empire just before the Civil War mostly wholesaling potions. In the period just after the Civil War, John F. Henry performed the same function, but with a great deal more emphasis on the retail than the wholesale side of the operation, gathering disparate nostrums into a single centralized mixed operation: in essence, doing what this chronicle is demonstrating AHP did in the retail market between fifty and sixty years later. With all these various medicines to juggle, Henry worked continuously and took chances, failing twice and reorganizing his business, once in 1878 and again in 1887. He also found time to cut a figure in Republican politics throughout the 1870s and 1880s, running and losing for mayor of Brooklyn in 1877 and losing later for a state senate seat as well. He was a prominent enough figure to be profiled in at least one of the Brooklyn civic puff books of the era. That he was a risk taker throughout his life is shown by the colossal size of the judgment entered against his estate in the amount of $382,974 in 1894 after a trial in which it was claimed that he had misappropriated funds as a trustee of the Widows & Orphans’ Benefit Life Insurance Company in 1871. While the trial court held against Henry’s estate, that verdict was never collected, however, because the defense primarily relied on the technical argument that the lawsuit seeking that recovery was not brought in timely fashion, and the highest court in the State of New York, the Court of Appeals, ultimately upheld that legal position in 1897.

JOHN F. HENRY PORTRAIT

          While retaining a stake in the Vermont operations discussed in the Wells Richardson & Co. column, Henry plunged into his New York City ventures by re-styling the Demus Barnes operation as John F. Henry & Co. Concerning the number of products that Henry handled through that company, Holcombe writes: “It would be virtually an endless task to even list the many proprietaries which John F. Henry acquired…. Endless yes – impossible is the better word! The writer has listed well over a hundred and that list is nowhere near complete. Then too, Henry was ‘wholesale agent’ for as many more ….” Interested readers can pursue the philatelic ramification of Henry’s handiwork in Holcombe’s own book, but this article discusses one product that John F. Henry treated so specially that it quickly became the central focus of the new company, MMC, which Henry created in 1874 and for which he ordered private die proprietary stamps separate from those used by John F. Henry & Co.¹

       

MANHATTAN MEDICINE CO. PRIVATE DIE PROPRIETARY STAMPS

         That product was Atwood’s Bitters, first marketed as Atwood’s Quinine Tonic Bitters and later sold under name variations such as Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters, a name familiar to every bottle collector in the world because of its great variety of shapes and labels which make collecting Atwood’s Bitters bottles seemingly a sub-specialty in itself. This article may help to explain why all these variations occurred, for while John Henry fought for MMC’s right to own and control Atwood’s Bitters entirely, the product had a long, elusive and disputed history that pre-dated his involvement by decades, absorbed his energy for years and out-lasted him by nearly again the length of his life.

   

1874 HALL’S JOURNAL OF HEALTH BITTERS RANKING

          When generally discussing bitters, the starting point must be that a great deal of popularity of all bitters rested on the percentage of alcohol that they contained, for bitters were, even in that day, known and recognized in educated circles to be a coded term for booze. As an 1874 article in Hall’s Journal of Health ranking the potency of popular brands of bitters stated: “while persons are using Bitters as a medicine, and speak of taking ‘nothing but Bitters,’ they are often drinking three times a day a more concentrated form of Alcohol than is found in the purest Whiskies and Brandies…” However, immediately confusing any particular discussion of Atwood’s Bitters is that the article contained two different and separate listings for Atwood’s Bitters: a product called Atwood’s Bitters containing 26% alcohol that ranked fifteenth among thirty-four listed bitters, and another called Atwood’s Tonic Bitters containing 40% that ranked thirty-first among the listed thirty-four. That bitters contain alcohol reveals the reason for the intensity of the fight for Atwood’s Bitters, and that there were two different listings for those very Atwood’s Bitters demonstrates immediately the complexity of the dispute for their ownership and control that raged for forty years.

   

MOSES ATWOOD’S BITTERS

          Atwood’s Bitters were first marketed in 1840 by one Moses Atwood of Georgetown, MA., a small town north of Boston and east of Lawrence. In his own article about MMC, Holcombe neatly traces the ownership of the Bitters from Atwood to a Vermonter named Alvah Littlefield, who first employed Demas Barnes and his successor Henry as distributors, and whose son allegedly sold the Bitters to Henry in 1877. Wrapping up his very short, tidy article, Holcombe finally noted that the Bitters, which were still being sold in 1935 by the Wyeth Chemical Co. as successors to MMC, still bore the facsimile image of John Henry. While virtually entirely incorrect, this narrative keeps the story Holcombe is telling very simple. Holcombe’s chose as his illustration for this article the facsimile “stamp”² that also appears at the top of this article. The reason this seal serves as the best introduction to both articles is because, beyond clearly showing John Henry’s ownership and control of MMC, as Holcombe states, it was part of every label of Atwood’s Bitters that MMC (as well as its successor, the Wyeth Chemical Co., as AHP’s manufacturing unit) ever produced.

     

MMC’S ATWOOD’S BITTERS

          In actuality, Henry had to buy MMC’s interest in Atwood’s Bitters from a great many different people (although Littlefield was not among them), and his quest to own Atwood’s Bitters began earlier than 1877. The only clear way to explain Henry and MMC’s involvement with Atwood’s Bitters is to examine all the complex and convoluted litigation that surrounded its ownership. Although MMC’s lawsuit raged for eight years and culminated in a decision by the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court, it began in 1875 with a complaint (as all lawsuits do). MMC’s complaint, a thirteen page document, alleged that the firm of Nathan Wood & Son of Portland, ME was engaging in unfair competition because: a) Wood was illegally manufacturing and selling an inferior and unauthorized formulation of Atwood’s Bitters in the same distinctive 12-sided bottles with the same wording molded into the glass bottles and with virtually the same label as MMC was using; b) was doing so with the intent both to defraud the public and to steal business from MMC and; c) by doing so, was benefitting illegally from the vast sums of money that MMC was expending to advertise the Bitters. The lawsuit sought immediate relief in the form of an injunction, pendente lite (during the pendency of the litigation), as well as permanently barring Wood from using the name Atwood’s Bitters or any of the elements of its presentation, such as the formula, the bottle and the label, all of which MMC claimed it owned exclusively, as well as damages in the form of payment by means of an accounting for all of the sales Wood had illegally stolen from MMC by selling its phony Atwood’s Bitters.

NATHAN WOOD & SON CANCEL ON BATTLESHP REVENUE STAMP

NATHAN WOOD & SON ATWOOD BITTERS

BOTTOM OF BOTTLE SHOWS MANUFACTURED FOR NATHAN WOOD & SON

          Such complaints as MMC filed were fairly common and standard at the time because the legal field of unfair competition was still in its infancy in the United States. Among patent medicines, when one became popular, it was often shamelessly exploited by all manner of copiers hoping to cash in on the profits while the craze for that particular medicine lasted. U.S. law had to grow to define which ideas and designs were entitle to legal protection against copying and the circumstances under which such protection applied. What spurred the Atwood’s Bitters litigation, however, was a slightly different problem that stemmed from economics rather than simple unfair copying.

   

MOSES ATWOOD INVOICES

           In 1840, a product, like Atwood’s Bitters, began as a local phenomenon in one place, like northeastern Massachusetts, and then spread throughout a region, like New England. The means of transportation before the Civil War just did not provide the means to make the market bigger, unless one was a singular genius like Demas Barnes, who allied himself with a number of different regional pharmacy networks and mediated among them. When Moses Atwood dispensed rights to make and sell his Bitters, he did it by location or customer route. However, by 1875, the nation’s railroads had expanded enough to make the market national and shipping was mechanized enough to offer the prospects of international markets. As John F. Henry struggled to control manufacture of the Bitters, he encountered a list of owners of the Bitters that rivals a list of biblical “begats.” The real problem in his lawsuit became not that people he was suing had illegally copied the Atwood’s Bitters, but rather the issue of whether they owned as much legal rights to manufacture it as he did. The question ultimately boiled down to whether Henry had sufficiently stuffed ownership rights to the Bitters back into the shattered genie’s bottle that Moses Atwood had broken and he was trying to reassemble.

MOSES ATWOOD

          While the Bitters did begin with one Moses D. Atwood (1810-1892)³ in 1840, Atwood soon brought his father Levi, his brother, Levi F., and son, Moses F., into the business. By 1842, he had also entered into a partnership agreement with a local druggist, Lewis H. Bateman, as well as another individual, George Bingham, a botanist from Atwood’s home state of New Hampshire. Sometime in the 1840s, he also granted his brother and his father the right to manufacture and sell the Bitters in certain areas of Maine. In 1848, he sold to Moses Carter of Georgetown, MA distribution rights to various places in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, provided he supplied the formula Carter sold. In 1852, he and Bingham sold a further interest in the Bitters to Carter and his Carter’s now partner Benjamin S. Dodge, a self-described “farmer” who lived in nearby Rowley MA, three miles away from Georgetown. Carter & Dodge later took in Carter’s son Charles L. Carter as a third partner. Finally, in 1855, Atwood moved West to Iowa after he and Bingham signed a contract conveying all the remainder of their interest to Carter & Dodge, seemingly reserving to Atwood only the right to sell the Bitters west of Illinois, which Atwood apparently never attempted.

    

M. CARTER & CO. CANCELS ON CIVIL WAR REVENUES

          So in 1855, after Atwood sold out, did Carter & Dodge own the Bitters outright? In a word, no. When Carter & Dodge sued Bateman in Massachusetts State Court, in a suit that lasted from 1857 to 1860, to stop him from selling his own Atwood’s Bitters, that Court found that none of the earlier transactions between Atwood, Bingham, Carter and Dodge properly accounted for Bateman’s interest in the Bitters and refused to enjoin Bateman from making and marketing his own Bitters. Yet Carter & Dodge marketed their Bitters for several years, while Batemen, whom the Massachusetts Court found had actually received the recipe for the Bitters from Atwood, made little attempt to exploit it, particularly while Carter & Dodge were suing him.

1869 M CARTER & SON INVOICE

M. CARTER & SON ATWOOD’S BITTERS

          When Dodge dropped out of Carter & Dodge in 1858, the business continued as M. Carter & Son, with Moses Carter and Charles L. Carter as the principals. Later another son, Luther F. Carter, joined his father and brother. Then the business name became M. Carter & Sons, when Charles L. Carter left the business and his brother, M. Frank Carter, joined it. The business returned to the name M. Carter & Son after Moses Carter, the father, died in 1870, and a year later, Luther F. Carter bought out his brother M. Frank. Apparently many of the bottle variations of Atwood’s Bitters arise from the changing nature of the Carter’s ownership of the Bitters. While the testimony and circumstances are murky, the Carters, and those who claimed their interest in the Bitters through the Carters, also seem to have been responsible for there existing two different strength Bitters, one of which wholesaled for about $15 to $16 per gross of bottles (144) and the other of which retailed for $27 per gross.

1870 M. CARTER & SONS AD

          In the meantime, after Dodge left Carter & Dodge, he manufactured his own Atwood’s Bitters in Rowley MA using Atwood labels for about five years, while also, in 1867, selling the right to manufacture the Bitters for five years to William B. Dorman another drug store owner in Georgetown MA. Before that term ended, Dodge sold a further right to manufacture the Bitters to Noyes & Manning, a pharmacy located in Mystic CT.

1875 BATEMAN AD

          Along with all these manufacturers, in the late 1850s, Moses F. Atwood, the son of Moses D. Atwood, returned from the West to Massachusetts and began making the Bitters again, this time with Bateman, who issued a circular asserting his right of ownership to the Bitters. Bateman continued to market these Bitters as Atwood’s Bitters until his death in 1871 and his son, also Lewis H. Bateman, continued to do so after his death. The only distinguishing mark between the various Carter permutations of Atwood’s Bitters and Bateman’s Atwood’s Bitters was that Bateman printed his own facsimile signature instead of Moses Atwood’s across the label to verify the medicine. However, in 1861, Moses F. Atwood sold his interest in the Bitters to Nathan Wood, who became the defendant in MMC’s 1875 lawsuit. Atwood then went off to fight in the Civil War, where he created a distinguished record. While he and his father had careers in the West that stretched on for several decades, the Atwoods drop out of the Bitters ownership record after 1861. Although one witness in the MMC litigation went so far as to claim that there were six different Atwood’s Bitters being sold at the same time, the record demonstrated there were at least three varieties of the Moses Atwood’s Bitters known and recognized in the trade: Carter’s, Bateman’s and Noyes & Manning’s (which were known as Mystic Atwood’s Bitters after Noyes & Manning’s location).         

1879 MMC AD WHILE LITIGATION PENDING

          Now John F. Henry was no fool and MMC did not commence its lawsuit against Wood lightly. Knowing that the ownership of Atwood’s Bitters had been splintered over the years, MMC had assembled its interest in the Bitters quite carefully. In its lawsuit, it presented to the court contracts of sale showing that it had purchased individually the manufacturing rights to the Bitters from no less than a dozen separate people; 1) the four heirs of Lewis H. Bateman Sr. whose rights the Massachusetts Court had earlier found Carter & Dodge had never controlled; 2) Moses Carter’s former partner, Benjamin S. Dodge and his assignee William B. Dorman; 3) Dodge’s other assignee Noyes & Manning, as well as Noyes and Manning individually; 4) Moses Carter’s successor in business, Luther F. Carter and his sometime business partner, his brother, M. Frank Carter; and 5) separately, the other potential Carter successors, Charles L. Carter and the two other children who were the remaining heirs of Moses Carter.

     

M. CARTER & SON ATWOOD’S BITTERS

          Since MMC had bought up the all the rights that Carter and his family had held, plus the rights that Dodge had held and transmitted to others as well as the Bateman rights that Carter & Dodge had never held, MMC’s felt it owned all the legitimate interests that Moses Atwood had transmitted. Henry could show his ownership of Carter’s, Bateman’s and the Mystic Bitters. He had put the ownership genie back into his own bottle. To further bolster his claim, he even obtained all the way from Iowa the affidavit of Moses D. Atwood himself swearing that Bateman’s circular claiming ownership to the formula was a fraud and further affirming that he had conveyed the Bitters formula to Carter & Dodge in 1852 and the rest of his territorial rights to them in 1855. MMC’s contention in the litigation was that Nathan Wood had purchased his rights to the Bitters from the one person who never had held an ownership interest to sell, Moses F. Atwood, Moses D.’s son. Certainly, it conceded Moses F. had been employed both by his father and by Bateman at different times, but that mere employment conveyed upon him no ownership status in the Bitters themselves. Having purchased the rights to manufacture the Bitters from all these disparate parties, surely, MMC had gathered to itself sufficient ownership rights to claim that Wood was an interloper who had purchased from the one party not authorized to sell to him.

   

LEVI ATWOOD’S BITTERS

          The federal District Court in Maine gave careful consideration to all of the ownership interests, but weighed them quite differently than MMC. Pointing to the glaring fact that Moses D. Atwood had chipped off a piece of the ownership of the Bitters way back at the beginning for his father Levi and his brother, Levi F. Atwood in the 1840s, the District Court held simply that MMC had never obtained complete ownership of Atwood’s Bitters, and, lacking that complete ownership, found that MMC could not maintain that it had the exclusive control of formula, bottle and label it was claiming Wood’s use had infringed. Oddly, all parties to the litigation, seemingly even MMC, agreed that: 1) Moses Atwood had conveyed to his father and brother ownership interests in the Bitters; 2) Levi F. Atwood had sold his ownership interest to H. H. Hay of Portland, Maine; and 3) Hay was selling another brand of Bitters called L. F. Atwood’s Bitters in Maine all through the period. In fact, while the Court never mentioned it, the testimony of some of the witnesses showed that, prior to commencing the litigation, MMC had tried and failed to buy Hay’s interest even before trying and failing to buy Wood’s interest as well. Apparently after failing at buying these remaining potential interests in the Bitters, when it commenced its litigation against Woods, MMC argued that it simply did not regard Hay’s L. F. Atwood’s Bitters as unfairly or illegally competing with the Moses Atwood’s Bitters because Hay’s packaging and labeling were, and always had been, distinct from that used by MMC and all its predecessors. Moreover, in their pricing guides for retail druggists, trade journals listed at least these two Bitters as separate and distinct from one another and obtainable respectively from MMC and from H. H. Hay & Co. The Court implicitly found that argument to be nonsensical legal hair splitting, ruling that exclusive control over the formula, bottle and label for Atwood’s Bitters followed only from complete ownership of them.

H. H. HAY & CO. REVENUE STAMPS

   

CANCELS ON CIVIL WAR GOVERNMENT ISSUE REVENUES

    

   

CANCELS ON BATTLESHIP REVENUES

          In addition – to add insult to injury – the Court found that since MMC and the other successors to Moses Atwood were not him, that singular right to claim on the bottle, packaging and label that the Bitters were prepared and sold by Moses Atwood of Georgetown MA – which Atwood alone had possessed – had long since dissipated as the manufacturing rights had been handed around among all the subsequent owners. Thus, the Court further ruled that MMC, whose factory was in New York City, simply had no right to even ask the Court to use its power to protect MMC’s bottle, label and packaging that explicitly represented that the Bitters were made by Moses Atwood of Georgetown, MA because that claim constituted a misrepresentation upon the public by MMC that the Court would neither countenance nor perpetuate.

   

H. H. HAY & CO. L. F. ATWOOD’S BITTERS

          The Supreme Court did not even trouble itself to review the whole ownership issue in detail. It found the District Court’s second reason sufficient to uphold the District Court’s ruling. It reasoned the party that stood before the Court asking for its help was MMC. After noting the extraordinary value that all parties placed on the designation of the Bitters as being prepared and sold by Moses Atwood of Georgetown MA, the Supreme Court responded: “It is not honest to state that a medicine is manufactured by Moses Atwood of Georgetown, Massachusetts when it is manufactured by Manhattan Medicine Company in the City of New York.” This curt ruling was followed by pages of quotes and citations of mostly English cases illustrating the wisdom of this ruling, and, although that position undoubtedly represents a correct legal principle about unfair trade practice, it reflects a narrow and pedantic view of the manner in which advertising and commerce were developing in the U.S. after the Civil War. After that ruling all of the interested parties revised their labels and bottles to more correctly reflect the name of the manufacturer and the place of origin of their particular product, but none of the parties discontinued their sales of Atwood’s Bitters. MMC just changed the wording on the bottle to “formerly made by Moses Atwood of Georgetown, MA.”

MMC ATWOOD’S BITTERS BOTTLE AFTER SUPREME COURT DECISION

          Even without the help of the courts, MMC still sought to stop Nathan Wood & Son from selling Atwood’s Bitters. It persisted in asserting its exclusive right to advertise that its product was the true Bitters originally prepared by Moses Atwood of Georgetown, MA. In 1889, the National Wholesale Druggists Association (NWDA) adopted an internal dispute resolution mechanism for proprietors of patent medicines who felt their trademarks were being infringed. The NWDA authorized an internal commission to hear and rule upon such claims of improper infringement. While the NWDA recognized that the tribunal had no binding legal power, since the NWDA noted that 90% of all patent medicines sold in the US were purchased by its members, and members agreed not to purchase goods from infringers, the NWDA believed it could exercise its great “moral power” to dispose of such claims without the time and expense of litigation. The 1890 report on the activities of this commission included the following terse statement:

          Compared with the energy the proprietors spent fighting over the right to exploit the Bitters, the remainder of the history of the Bitters is almost anti-climatic. MMC retained the right to produce Atwood’s Bitters until its sale to AHP in 1929. Holcombe confirms that the Wyeth Chemical Co. division of AHP was still manufacturing them in 1935.*  L. F. Atwood’s Bitters, the Bitters that MMC had treated in its litigation as non-competitive, continued to be manufactured by H. H. Hay & Co. until approximately 1915 and one source claims were still being manufactured and sold by another bitters company, Lash’s Bitters Co., as late as 1925.†  Nathan Wood & Son was still in business in 1925 as well, but the products it was then known for were flavoring extracts. Perhaps the ruling by the NWDA commission in 1890 had been more persuasive than the courts in finally stopping its manufacture of Atwood’s Bitters. Yet there seemed to be enough of a market, even after the advent of Prohibition in 1920, to attract AHP to the market for medicinal alcohol in the form of bitters.

   

   

SAMPLES OF HALL & RUCKEL CANCELS

          The real mystery is what happened to MMC itself after John F. Henry died in 1893. It soon closed its offices in Manhattan, but continued to exist, really without substance, until its sale to AHP in 1929. The best explanation for MMC’s virtual disappearance appears to be as follows: John F. Henry had a younger brother, Frank S. (1846-1914), who had worked with him as his “jobber,” (traveling sales representative), for more than fifteen years after the Civil War, visiting every state in the United States and even journeying as far as the Hawaii, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand on behalf of his brother, before leaving to cut his own figure as a jobber for another old New York City firm, Hall & Ruckel (H & R). that had done business largely in the wholesale drug trade (and which will some day get its own column as well). When John F. Henry died, Frank appears to have arranged for H & R to take control of the marketing and manufacture of all of John F. Henry’s products, including Atwood’s Bitters. Shortly thereafter, in 1895, just after the death of its own founder, William H. Hall, H & R reorganized its operations and became solely a manufacturer and proprietor of patent medicines (of which it had a number of best sellers itself) while selling its wholesale operation to a recently founded company, C. G. Bacon & Co. While Frank Henry chose to move to the Bacon company to continue as a jobber (and later went on the become the founder of yet another patent medicine company in Cleveland that someday will find itself profiled in this column), he seems to have entrusted his brother’s legacy to H & R’s care. Up until 1913, it was listed in a trade journals as the proprietor of Atwood’s Bitters, and during the same period, it was applying in the United States Treasury Department to collect authorized rebates on customs duties charged on imported alcohol used in their manufacture. As will be discussed fully in its own column at some subsequent future time, H & R remained an independent company throughout the first half of the Twentieth Century, but for this article’s purposes, it is enough to say that Atwood’s Bitters did not remain with it.

1922 TRADE AD SHOWING O. H. JADWIN AS AGENT FOR ATWOOD’S BITTERS

          Beginning in 1914 (coincidently the same year as the death of John F. Henry’s brother Frank), another company began to make the applications for the alcohol rebates in connection with the manufacture of Atwood’s Bitters. It was none other than O. H. Jadwin & Sons, and, by 1922 (possibly because H & R itself was under second generation leadership), Jadwin had supplanted H & R in the trade journal listings as the agent for Atwood’s Bitters and the other former MMC products. Yet the shares representing MMC’s ownership of Atwood’s Bitters and these other products must have remained in the hands of John F. Henry’s heirs, for AHP purchased, not an operating factory that was producing goods, but rather MMC’s capital stock, and with it the right to produce Atwood’s Bitters. AHP’s founders, particularly Jadwin and the advertising man Murray, must have been very persuasive that they were the best management to keep Atwood’s Bitters and the other MMC products popular because, as with so many other companies examined in prior articles, once MMC’s products were handled by Jadwin, MMC seems to have spiraled inevitably and ultimately toward absorption into AHP.  By 1935, as Holcombe reported, Atwood’s Bitters were being produced by AHP’s Wyeth Chemical Co., but still bearing the portrait of John F. Henry.

       

WYETH CHEMICAL CO. ATWOOD’S BITTERS

x——–x

¹           In his article about MMC, Holcombe describes, but never illustrates, its private die proprietary stamps and admits that the portrait in the center of the stamps is unidentified. Sadly, almost 100 years later, the portrait still is unidentified.

WYETH CHEMICAL CO.’S VERSION OF THE HENRY FACIMILE SEAL

²           A non-monetized seal closely resembling the design of Civil War private die proprietary stamps that manufacturers employed after the tax was discontinued because they wished customers to continue to identify such “stamps” with the products since people had come to assume the tax stamp was part of the packaging of the medicines

³          See how one writer sought to identify the proper Moses Atwood in a thoughtful article at Meyer, Ferdinand “Moses Atwood – Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters – Georgetown MA.” Peachtree Glass. 2 Apr 2018. peachtreeglass.com//2018/04/moses-atwood-atwood’s-jaundice-bitters-georgetown-MA

   

WHITEHALL PHARMACAL CO. ATWOOD’S BITTERS

∗          Other extant bottles confirm that AHP at some later point transferred manufacture of the Bitters to its Whitehall Pharmacal Co. division, and a 1948 trade listing indicates that they are available from that company. They ultimately became known as Atwood’s Jannaice Laxative, “jannaice” being a term registered as a trademark by MMC in 1929 (although appearing on seemingly earlier labels and bottles and presumably used earlier by it, Hall & Ruckel or O. H. Jadwin & Sons, possibly as a more medically innocuous term than “jaundice”). Registration of the jannaice trademark was transferred by MMC to Whitehall Pharmacal Co. in 1949.

†        Possibly AHP was finally able to accomplish what John F. Henry was unable to do by either purchase or litigation because among the Atwood’s Bitters bottles there is one whose label reads “L. F. Atwood – none genuine without the signature” followed by “Wyeth Chemical Co, Distributor” listing its New York City office address. That combination would indicate that AHP, without fanfare or even public notice, had brought the L.F. Atwood interest back together with the Moses Atwood interest and finished repairing Moses Atwood’s smashed genie bottle of Bitters ownership.

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2020

 

Standard
A, Companies, S, W

Sterling Products Inc. (VI.1.b.(1)) – AHP – John Wyeth & Brother

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer
Chapter 6.1.b.(1): American Home Products –
John Wyeth & Brother – Manufacturer

A SAMPLING OF JOHN WYETH & BROTHER BATTLESHIP REVENUE CANCELS

PRINTED CANCELS

YEAR ALONE DATE

       

   

    

MONTH & YEAR DATE

       

       

       

          Of all the companies digested by American Home Products (“AHP”) over the years, John Wyeth & Brother, Inc. (“JW&B”) – formally absorbed by AHP in 1931 – had the most lasting impact. However, before proceeding further with any discussion of JW&B, a disclaimer is required. Research demonstrates that JW&B and the Wyeth Chemical Co. discussed in the last chapter as one of the original AHP companies, although both founded by individuals named John Wyeth, were completely different entities created by seemingly unrelated John Wyeths. Most of the articles written about AHP do not make this distinction clear or leave unexplained any blurry references to Wyeth before AHP’s acquisition of JW&B, and even the noted philatelist and writer on pharmaceutical packaging and labels, George Griffenhagen, conflates JW&B and Wyeth Chemical Co. in his History of Drug Containers and Their Labels. While it seems more than purely accidental that both of these particular John Wyeths were involved in drug businesses, the difficulty – as with the confusion about the identity of Charles H. Phillips – may lie entirely in the commonality of the name. To stir the pot more, a third John Wyeth living at the same time as the other two, John Allan Wyeth, was significant historical personality as well. This John Wyeth was a first cousin of the founder of JW&B, and not only a Confederate veteran and biographer of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest (presently back in the news for his role after the Civil War as the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan), but also a noted surgeon and founder of an important hospital in New York City.

MONTH, DAY AND YEAR DATE

    

   

MONTH, DAY & YEAR INCORPORATED

   

   

              The reason it is fair to say that JW&B made such an impression on AHP is that AHP preserved JW&B’s name and prolonged its reputation for excellence as a manufacturer of ethical drugs for doctors throughout its corporate history. In 2002, more than seventy years after JW&B’s acquisition, when AHP slimmed its corporate profile by disposing of its many and varied non-medicinal businesses, shed its anonymity and sought to re-create itself as a progressive pharmaceutical company, it transformed itself into Wyeth, LLP. However, its period as a forward-looking drug company was short-lived, for Wyeth was swallowed in 2009 by yet another gargantuan survivor from the patent medicine era, Pfizer, Inc., formerly Charles Pfizer & Co. (another company that will get its own column in the future). Of course, to finish the list of takeovers – and close the circle in a way – in 2018 Pfizer merged into the colossus GlaxoSmithKline, another gigantic company built up from JW&B’s Philadelphia neighbor and competitor, Smith, Kline & French Co. (which will also get its own column).

PORTRAIT OF JOHN WYETH

1859 BLAIR & WYETH COVER

     

1861 BUSINESS NOTICES ANNOUNCING JOHN WYETH & BROTHER

          JW&B began life as a retail drug store in Philadelphia, PA. The JW part of JW&B was John Wyeth (1834-1907) and the B part was his brother, Francis H. “Frank” Wyeth (1836-1913). They were born in Harrisburg, PA and their father and grandfather were newspapermen and book sellers. The younger Wyeths were both graduates of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (“PCP”), and John was considered a particularly bright student. After graduating in 1854, he apprenticed in the drug trade by clerking for Henry C. Blair, a older pharmacist and a third PCP graduate who had established his store in Philadelphia in 1838. Blair and John Wyeth became partners in the firm of Blair & Wyeth in 1858, with Frank acting as chief clerk for them. Although all the histories of both JW&B and AHP report that JW&B started operation in 1860, the formal announcement of its being in business at its own location appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper on July 1, 1861, the same day the former partnership between Henry Blair and John Wyeth was dissolved by another notice in the same newspaper.

SAMPLE WYETH CANCELS ON EARLIER GOVERNMENT REVENUES

     

     

          The standard histories of JW&B all stress that the retail business of the Wyeths did well and very soon grew a manufacturing component as doctors came to trust the preparations they compounded in their facility, particularly American elixirs, which were combinations of drugs mixed with sugar, alcohol and flavoring to cover the bad taste of the medicine (European elixirs of the time did not normally include sugar). It cannot be questioned that the quality of JW&B’s merchandise was unusually good, but there was at least one other factor that played a part in JW&B’s success: John Wyeth’s relationship with Thomas A. Scott (1823-1881), a pre-eminent railroad investor of the Nineteenth Century and one of Pennsylvania’s “robber barons.”

          

YOUTHFUL & MATURE THOMAS A. SCOTT PLUS SIMON CAMERON

          Already the youthful First Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1860 – at that time possibly the largest corporations in the world – Thomas Scott soon became Assistant Secretary of War under his personal friend, fellow Pennsylvanian Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s first Secretary of War. When Lincoln was forced to remove Cameron and send him into exile as Minister to Russia because of charges of corruption lodged against him, Scott was tarred by the same brush. An article in the New York Times in 1862 stated that the evidence produced by a Congressional Committee against both Cameron and Scott was “not complimentary” and further that “if after examining the testimony, the reader has any hesitation in believing the two conspired to make the public service subsidiary to their private advantage, his incredulity will be incredible.” Yet Scott managed to hang on at the War Department and proved to be extremely able in organizing both its telegraph system and its use of railroads. Despite congressional scrutiny, it would appear that from his War Department position, Scott was able to steer supply contracts to his colleagues, and, by 1864, JW&B was selling medicine and beef extract to the Union Army. In fact, instead of tending to his own flourishing drug business, John Wyeth, as Scott’s agent, appears to have spent much of 1864 in California and Arizona leading a party of some twenty Pennsylvanians investigating mining and possible oil drilling sites for Scott to invest in while Scott remained at the War Department in Washington shifting troops over the railways to aid the Union war effort. Moreover, all these years later there is still a hint of scandal lingering about Wyeth’s expedition.

BENJAMIN SILLIMAN, JR.

          The upshot of Wyeth’s journey was that Scott and others shifted funds from potentially profitable mining ventures in northwestern Arizona to a very early disastrous investment in the oil fields of Southern California. The shift was made on the explicit recommendation of Scott’s geology expert, Yale University Professor of Chemistry Benjamin Silliman, Jr., (1816-1885), the man whose ideas about fractional distillation of petroleum made oil drilling into a profitable industry, whom Scott had specifically hired and sent with Wyeth to assess the lands themselves. It subsequently transpired, however, that Silliman’s report was based on soil samples fraudulently enriched with oil transmitted from California through Wyeth to Silliman. When others later attacked Silliman’s findings as overly optimistic after oil drilling operations proved unsuccessful, Silliman was blamed for the mistake and his reputation greatly diminished.¹ In recounting the story of the 1864 expedition, one author² at least briefly considered whether Wyeth himself might have doctored the samples to boost sales of shares in the companies organized to exploit Silliman’s oil finds. After noting that Wyeth was on record as desiring separate scientific reports for each tract of land the investors were acquiring – an attitude hardly compatible with the kind of fraud that ensnared Silliman – the author concluded that shadier characters in California who had more to gain than Wyeth probably doctored the samples they sent East.  Perhaps this venture, and the uproar it caused, cured Wyeth of the speculation bug, for, while there is a record of at least one later West Virginia oil and coal company that both Scott and Wyeth held shares in, Wyeth was never mentioned again as acting as Scott’s agent.³ Scott was a very private man and left so few records of his dealings that the complete nature and extent of the connection between Scott and Wyeth is difficult to now illuminate. Yet, in the New York Times obituary of John Wyeth written more than forty years after these events there was a cryptic one sentence reference to the relationship: “In early manhood, Mr. Wyeth was associated with Thomas Scott in transportation activities.”

   

1883 “ELEGANT” INVOICE & 1893c COVER

          Shortly after the end of the Civil War, the Wyeths took in Edward T. Dobbins, another PCP graduate, as a third partner, and sold to one Frank Morgan their retail business, which remained in the same location, as they continued to expand their laboratory capacities. Dobbins proved an excellent salesman as well, and he did much to establish JW&B’s reputation in the trade as among the finest and most reliable pharmaceutical manufacturers. In 1872, a JW&B employee named Henry Bower, yet another graduate of PCP, invented a mechanical rotary tablet press that produced pills in bulk that were uniform in shape, size and dosage. This invention, when combined with Wyeth’s palatable and presentable elixirs, ushered in the age of “elegant pharmacy,” a term always associated with JW&B, which placed particular emphasis on the appearance, style and packaging of the medicine itself, and in 1874, JW&B trademarked the term “compressed tablet” to signify the neat new format in which they could present what had previously been known as old-fashioned medicinal “powders.” As JW&B grew, John Wyeth followed his family’s interest in newspapers and bought control of the Philadelphia Record. Unlike most of the other patent medicine mandarins, he was a Democrat, probably because of his association with Thomas A. Scott.

JW&B EXHIBIT AT 1876 PHILADELPHIA CENTENNIAL EXHIBITION

* * * * *

   

TABLET MAKING MACHINE & NEW JW&B FACTORY BUILDING

               In 1889 JW&B survived a devastating fire that began in Morgan’s retail store and not only wiped out that store but also the remainder of the entire block which had become JW&B’s manufacturing complex. John Wyeth estimated the loss at over a half a million dollars excluding the value of his advanced tablet making machinery. Within months, however, JW&B re-opened with a greatly expanded laboratory in a new location. In 1894, the business was well enough grounded financially to resist the icy blast it took in the industry trade journals from Philadelphia retail druggists, including Henry Blair, Jr. son of John Wyeth’s former partner, for selling their goods directly to the public in John Wanamaker’s retail department store (another canceller of battleship revenue stamps along with Blair, both of whom will some day get their due in this column) in direct competition with those Philadelphia druggists. In 1899, the partnership incorporated, a change reflected in the cancel they placed on their battleship revenue stamps. At the turn of the new century, the first generation of JW&B’s leadership began to die off, first Dobbins in 1906 and then John Wyeth in 1907.

SAMPLE WYETH ADS & PRODUCTS

1879 AD IN ANOTHER WHOLESALER’S CATALOGUE

   

1879 ENGLISH TRADE AD & BOTTLE

   

1891 BEEF JUICE TRADE AD & BOTTLE

   

1897 CANADIAN TRADE AD FOR MALT EXTRACT & BOTTLE

   

1902 PREPARED FOOD TRADE AD & BOTTLE

   

1902 PEPSIN TRADE AD & PRODUCT SAMPLE

          The rest of JW&B’s history as an independent entity is typical of a two-generational family business. John Wyeth was succeeded as president of the company by his son Stuart (1862-1929), a lawyer, who had joined the company in 1893 after graduating from Harvard in 1884 and University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1887. Frank Wyeth’s son, Maxwell (1866-1936), a pharmacist, followed his father into the family business after graduating from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 1888, and became vice-president in 1908 when his father retired. However, unlike the brothers John and Frank, the cousins, Stuart and Maxwell – coming from such different backgrounds and life experience – did not get along well, and Maxwell left JW&B when his father died in 1913, although he remained on the board of the company. Stuart, a life-long bachelor, led a conventional rich scion’s life, complete with trips to Paris and a large yacht, but lacked his father’s gifts for novelty and innovation that had made JW&B stand out during the first generation’s era. When he died on New Year’s Eve 1929, he left his 55% stock ownership, representing the controlling interest of JW&B, not to his cousin Maxwell, but rather to his alma mater, Harvard University. While another Wyeth cousin actually attempted to set aside Stuart’s will and gain custody of some of the estate left to Harvard, its Trustees lost no time in selling JW&B to AHP in 1931 for $2.9 million. Stuart Wyeth is remembered primarily as a generous benefactor of Harvard, while the Wyeth name has always been identified with quality pharmaceutical goods.

A MORE DETAILED LOOK AT JW&B CANCELS

JW&B CANCELS ON EARLIER GOVERNMENT REVENUES

FIRST ISSUE REVENUE (1862-1871)

   

   

FIRST PROPRIETARY REVENUE ISSUE – CANCEL ON 2 PAPER VARIETIES(1871-1874)

         

   

   

       

        

     

SECOND PROPRIETARY ISSUE – 2 CANCEL VARIETIES, 2 PERFORATION VARIETIES & 2 PAPERS VARIETIES (1875-1881)

          Because of the enormous volume of its cancels that still circulate in the marketplace today, it is fair to say that JW&B has had an impact in philatelic circles separate and apart from its importance as a pharmaceutical company. While JW&B never cashed in on the publicity value of printing its own private die proprietary stamp, it cancelled the Civil War tax period government revenue issues distinctively and vigorously on all the values and types of paper and perforation that those issues provided.

MISCELLANEOUS JW&B HANDSTAMPED CANCELS

   

          JW&B’s Spanish-American War printed cancels – although minutely dissected by Chappell and Joyce into eight separate and distinct types determined by tiny differences in type face and spacing patterns – are more easily rounded into the categories divided by the text of the cancel itself, which combined the company’s initial with: year alone; month and year; month day and year; month, day and year with the added acknowledgment of the company’s incorporation (which took place in the fall of 1899). Each change in the cancellation pattern reflects the government’s tightening of the regulation to pinpoint more accurately the date on which the tax became payable.  Handstamped cancels, while doted upon by specialists, are dismissed by the philatelic cancel compendium assemblers and dealers as being too random and too chancy numerically to settle into an order that they might regularize or perhaps even monetize.

SPECIAL PRINTED 6/29/1898 CANCEL – (2 DAYS BEFORE EFFECTIVE DATE OF TAX)

        

          The anomaly among JW&B’s printed cancels is its full early cancel of June 29, 1898, which by some strange quirk pre-dates the imposition of the tax itself by two days. Among Spanish-American War revenue stamps, it is the earliest recorded cancel and, because it is printed, must have been done in hindsight, since the stamps themselves were not readily available on July 1, 1898, the date the tax took effect. JW&B was a large and significant enough player in the industry to have a representative present in Washington on July 1, 1898 to serve on the committee of wholesale druggists organized by the industry to assist N. B. Scott, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, in his administration of the Revenue Act of 1898 by helping him to determine which substances packaged in what form should be taxed. Perhaps the full cancel was done by JW&B as an expression of patriotic fervor at or near the beginning of the war to demonstrate how the government ought to have mandated the cancels be done correctly from the beginning. In any event, the government did ultimately amend its regulation to require that the full date appear as part of the cancel.

LARGE VOLUME CANCEL TRENDS

   

   

   

   

   

ADDITIONAL SAME DATE PAIRS IN BLACK AND RED INK

       

   

JULY 1899 A BUSY MONTH FOR WYETH’S PRINTER

     

   

REGULAR & INVERTED CANCELS

          The abundance of JW&B cancels features the same kind of varieties that the Wells Richardson & Co. cancels show. Unlike that group of cancels, the JW&B cancels apparently come in only two ink colors, black and red, but, similar to that group, these inks were sometimes applied to the same style of cancel on the same date. Once full date cancels were required, judging from the date intervals, the company required fresh supplies of stamps at least two or three times every month to keep pace with its production. JW&B’s printer was generally consistent in its printing, but occasionally an inverted cancel error does show up.  Neither of the two inverted cancels illustrated above is listed in the authoratative Chappell/Joyce cancel compendium, which either proves that modern resources bring more examples to light, or marks them both as modern creations designed to mislead the folks who create such compendiums.

   

POSSIBLE JW&B CANCELS ON 1914 PROPRIETARY ISSUE

       

       

       

POSSIBLE JW&B CANCELS ON 1919 PROPRIETARY ISSUE

* * * * *

   

POSSIBLE JW&B HANDSTAMPED CANCELS ON 1919 ISSUE

          JW&B continued to have a flourishing business during the World War I period when the tax on patent medicines was again imposed. However, there is room for great controversy over how JW&B stamped its products at this time because no philatelist has ever identified a standardized cancel for JW&B on either the 1914 or 1919 issues of government proprietary revenue issue stamps. There is no definitive guide to cancels on the 1919 issue of government proprietary revenue issues and the current guide to proprietary cancels on the 1914 government issue suggests that the cancel here offered as belonging to JW&B belonged to a “James Wyeth” doing business at the Wyeth Chemical Co.’s address in New Jersey. This listing is simply incorrect, but even accepting that the cancel actually was made by JW&B, it is only a handstamped cancel. A company as prominent as JW&B ought to have had a printed cancel during the period of the 1914 cancel as well. At least the proposed cancel fits well with the 1919 issue, although it does not harmonize with a later category of stamps bearing the familiar JW&B cancel.

       

JW&B CANCELS ON PROVISIONAL 1919 PROVISIONAL NARCOTICS REVENUES

   

JW&B CANCELS ON SAMPLE NARCOTIC STAMPS (NOT ALL SIZED TO SCALE)

JW&B BOX SHOWING NARCOTIC STAMPS WRAPPED OVER THE TOPS OF DOSAGE TUBES

JW&B CANCEL ON LAST NARCOTIC STAMP DESIGN

          The other category of stamps that JW&B cancelled – now back to using its familiar pattern of the company’s initials – was narcotic stamps. The passage of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act in 1914 segregated narcotics – opiates and products of the coca plant species – for separate regulation from other kinds of drugs and medicines, both proprietary and ethical. The Revenue Act of 1918 sharpened the language of that 1914 Act and, effective February 25, 1919, brought about a separate category of revenue stamps to indicate payment of the narcotics tax. For the first few months, regular revenue stamps otherwise used to tax documents were overprinted for use as narcotics stamps, and there are numerous examples of the JW&B cancel applied to such stamps. By the end of the year, separate designs were issued for narcotic stamps and JW&B abundantly cancelled those stamps as well. The government continued to require the separate payment of the narcotics tax by the cancellation of distinctive narcotics stamps until 1971. In 1963, JW&B, by then known as Wyeth Laboratories, apparently was influential enough to persuade the government to issue the last narcotic revenue stamp, which was designed specifically to accommodate a new size of dosage tubing it was then using to market its narcotics.

   

1895 “ELEGANT” & 1896 TRADE ADS

          As with the article on Wells Richardson & Co., this history of JW&B cannot close without some recognition of the sheer volume of material that it generated over the years to advertise its products.

   

EARLY TRADE CARD

     

1935c INK BLOTTERS FOR JW&B INDIA AND U.S.

       

1950c PRODUCT POSTCARDS TO DOCTORS

   

    

1955c LIVLIER “DEAR DOCTOR” AD POSTCARDS

   

BRIGHT PACKAGING AIMED AT THE PUBLIC

   

   

1940s PUBLIC ADS

PRINTS OFFERED FOR FRAMING

          As it began to advertise to the public as well as to the trade, JW&B (as other companies likewise did ) engaged in more exuberant forms of advertising. Perhaps the most striking set of ads it produced was a series called “Pioneers of American Medicine” in the early 1940s. The company commissioned American artist Dean Cornwell (1892-1960), an illustrator and muralist, to paint scenes of medical advances made by American doctors. These paintings were then used in all sorts of advertising for JW&B products as well as offered as a set of prints suitable for framing and mounting by doctors.

   

   

   

   

THREE CORNWELL PICTURES AND THEIR USE AS ADS

x——–x

1          Decades later, when oil drilling and refining techniques had improved, Silliman’s favorable opinions were finally vindicated and the Southern California oil fields boomed.

2          White, Gerald T. “‘The Case of the Salted Sample: A California Oil Industry Skeleton.’” Pacific Historical Review, University of California Press, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3636679

3          Scott, however, remained a significant player in American finance and politics for another fifteen years. He was involved in high-stakes railroad investing all over the country and in the early 1870s even served a year as President of the Union Pacific Railroad, then the first and only transcontinental railroad. Later in the 1870s, he ascended to the Presidency of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Through his design to create a Southern transcontinental railroad, he may well have played a behind-the-scenes role as a Democratic negotiator in the Compromise of 1877, which made the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes President of the United States rather than the Democrat Samuel Tilden who had won the popular vote. That same year, speaking as President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, he earned his reputation as a “robber baron” by suggesting that railroad workers striking to protest unilateral reductions in wages and working conditions imposed by all major rail employers acting in concert, in what became known as the Great Strike of 1877, be given a “diet of rifles” rather than bread and by persuading President Hayes to use federal troops to break the strike.

©     Malcolm A. Goldstein 2020

 

 

 

Standard
Companies, D, E, H, J, L, P, S, W

Sterling Products Inc. (VI.1.a) – American Home Products

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer
Chapter 6.1.a: American Home Products

AMERICAN HOME PRODUCTS CORP. SPECIMAN STOCK CERTIFICATE

          In 1926, Sterling created yet another subsidiary, this time a holding company, to aid it to swallow and digest more patent medicine, drug and pharmaceutical companies.  It was named American Home Products (AHP), and, as its name implied, its reach ultimately extended far beyond the over-the-counter medicine business.  With the creation of this division, the pace of acquisition and complexity of the interactions among the various companies appears to have increased exponentially, but the seeds for this amalgamation actually were laid years before.  Yet throughout virtually all of its history – essentially until its last ten years of existence – AHP, like Sterling itself, maintained the companies it absorbed largely intact, advertised its constituent brands separately product-by-product and publicized its own name so sparingly that it was referred to in the industry as “Anonymous Home Products.”

   

POSSIBLE WYETH CHEMICAL CO. BATTLESHIP REVENUE CANCELS

          While AHP sprang seemingly full-grown into existence, different accounts of its formation list its constituent parts differently.  A 1947 Federal Trade Commission report (discussing potentially monopolistic consolidation occurring within the drug industry and using the credit rating compilation Moody’s Manual of Industrials as it source) showed the initial companies as Wyeth Chemical Co., Petrolagar Laboratories, Edward Wesley & Co. and the Larned Co.  A 1949 chemical industry handbook named the initial companies only as Wyeth Chemical Co., Deshell Laboratories, and Edward Wesley & Co.  Although these differences are small, subtle and perhaps ultimately insignificant at this late date – and neither is anywhere near close to a complete disclosure of the constituent parts of AHP even at the beginning – they serve to illustrate the difficulty of unearthing and reconstructing the interrelationships that ultimately joined so many family owned or sole-proprietor patent medicine companies into the global conglomerate AHP.  A minute and detailed examination of those records which remain readily available to be searched, however, demonstrates that these various companies were already so intricately intertwined even before the formation of AHP that one contemporary drug trade magazine characterized the new grouping by saying: “[t]hese companies … have been owned and managed by Sterling Products interests.”

1912 WYETH CHEMICAL CO. INVOICE

POSSIBLE WYETH CANCEL ON 1919 PROPRIETARY REVENUE

          There is no ambiguity about the new corporation that emerged.  AHP was incorporated in Delaware on February 4, 1926.  The same three Wall Street firms that had financed Household Products, Inc. in 1923 acted as its underwriters and brokers for sale of its shares.  The principals of the new company were William E. Weiss, Albert H. Diebold, and Stanley Jadwin, all of whom already sat on Sterling’s board, as well as William Kirn (1871-1942) and Walter D. Rowles (1867-1928), both of whom held significant positions in the Detroit drug wholesale drug firm of Parke, Davis & Co., and John F. Murray (1871-1936), who headed his own advertising agency.  According to a booklet published for AHP’s 75th anniversary, the initial AHP management board of six (“the Principals”) was assembled carefully with Weiss and Diebold first teaming with Murray and then bringing Jadwin aboard to provide expertise about the interworkings of the drug trade. Kirn and Rowles were added to make the manufacturing facilities of Parke, Davis available to AHP.  This account, while not contradictory, does not jibe entirely with the history of Sterling already unfolded in these columns, because Jadwin was a part of Sterling and the two Parke, Davis members already had strong pre-existing ties with Sterling’s management, since, as chronicled in an earlier article, Parke, Davis was Sterling’s contractor to manufacture Sterling’s Knowlton Danderine. The difference in the storytelling approaches might be a reflection of the circumstance that AHP’s anniversary booklet was written in 2001, decades after Sterling and AHP had separated from one another as business entities, and AHP, at that point attempting to refocus its public image from being Anonymous Home Products to being a progressive, forward-looking pharmaceutical giant, no longer wished to recall that it had begun as a division of Sterling.

   

WHITEHALL PHARMACAL CO.’S ROWLES RED PEPPER RUB

          Each of the Principals had additional tendrils in the drug business that helped to shape AHP as well, and AHP’s history states that when they began to consider launching a consolidated management in the early 1920s, they held interests in sixteen different patent medicine companies.  Present records readily available do not allow that claim to be verified, but there is no reason to doubt its accuracy.  Among the non-Sterling men, Kirn, as well as being head of Parke, Davis’s Private Formula Department, was also was serving as President of the Larned Co., possibly accounting for the difference between Moody’s explicit listing, and the industry handbook’s omission, of this company in the table of AHP’s constituent corporations.  Rowles, while head of the Special Preparations Department at Parke, Davis & Co., apparently already had two remedies bearing the Rowles name marketed through a company called Whitehall Pharmacal Co., another patent medicine company that emerged sometime around 1920 and which AHP immediately recognized as one of its divisions.  In the consolidation that followed the establishment of AHP, Rowles’ Red Pepper Rub – a medicine intended for conditions that required the application of heat and to replace old-fashioned plasters – was later manufactured under the Wyeth Chemical Co. name.  While Kirn and Rowles – who was based in Parke, Davis’s New York City office and lived in a house in Montclair, NJ that was both elegant and grand enough to be featured in American Homes and Gardens in 1910 – were in the pharmaceutical field, it was Murray – the last of AHP’s founding managers – who not only brought his ad agency into the new firm as its in-house advertising department – a status it held for the entirety of AHP’s nearly eighty year existence -, but was pivotal in bringing many of the smaller patent medicine companies into the conglomerate that AHP became.

       

1905 & 1920 POSTCARD VIEWS OF WHITEHALL BUILDING

          Murray emerges as the wildcard in the organization of AHP.  Born in Waterloo, Iowa in 1871, he was one of those Nineteenth century characters who ran away from home to “join the circus.”  It is a pity that there appears to be no extant picture of him because the AHP anniversary booklet describes him as follows: “a dandy, an immaculate dresser who ‘always looked the answer to a maiden’s prayer,’ said one colleague.”  After working as a traveling show musician and barker, he had settled briefly in Chicago where he was employed by William Wrigley, Jr.¹ to compose jingles for Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum and developed an interest in the advertising business.  As George Rowell before him had learned, to advertise, one has to have a product to sell, and if one does not have a client to sell for, it behooves the ad man to become the manufacturer.  Thus, the behind-the-scenes principal of Whitehall Pharmacal Co. that was marketing Rowles’ Red Pepper Rub turns out to have been none other than John F. Murray, whose ad agency had its offices at 17 Battery Place in lower Manhattan, a building otherwise known as the Whitehall Building.  As well as providing the name for Murray’s own patent medicine company, the Whitehall building became the first headquarters of AHP.  Not only did Murray participate behind the scenes in the ownership and management of many of these companies, as will become apparent, but, even if there had not been as much interlinked ownership as the record reveals before 1926, the proximity of the ads of many of these constituent smaller patent medicine companies well before their merger into AHP suggests that a single advertising company – Murray’s – was controlling the placement of their ads.

   

WYETH’S SAGE & SULPHUR COMPOUND

          According to AHP’s anniversary booklet, it was Jadwin who suggested to the others that the proper product to build the new entity around would be Wyeth’s Sage and Sulphur Compound which was manufactured by the Wyeth Chemical Co.  Originally, it had been touted as a medicine to clean the scalp and promote hair growth, but was later advertised as an elegant hair dye. However, this version of the story puts the cart before the horse by suggesting that Jadwin sought the product out especially for AHP.  A more detailed look at the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the Wyeth Chemical Co. shows that the product arrived well before the notion of AHP existed, for the owners of Wyeth Chemical Co. were the very same men who became the principals of AHP.  When the product name was trademarked in 1909, the name was said to have been in use since 1888, although it apparently had appeared as early as 1885 in the catalogue of the pharmaceutical company McKesson-Robbins (yet another company to be profiled anon in this column).  The original proprietor of the Compound was a man named John L. Wyeth, a chemist from Rochester, N.Y.  Its origins are shrouded in mystery at this time, but when Wyeth was forced to file for bankruptcy in Rochester in 1905, a dispute arose as to whether he, or his mother, who claimed that his father had developed the formula, actually owned the product.  Ultimately, he must have prevailed, because he earned his discharge from bankruptcy in 1906, and by 1909 had sold the product to none other than the very same group of individuals who changed chairs in 1926 to become the governing board of AHP!

   

WYETH CHEMICAL CO.’S ROWLES RED PEPPER RUB

          Thus, what is most striking about the 1909 ownership change of Wyeth Chemical Co. is that at the very moment when Sterling’s antecedents were coalescing in the form of its predecessor, the Neuralgyline Co., Weiss, Diebold and Jadwin had also begun operating the Wyeth company as well, completely separate and independent from their Sterling project, thus foreshadowing the formation of AHP by seventeen years.  In fact, from 1909 on, Stanley Jadwin (1877-1936), was president of Wyeth Chemical Co. and, by 1919, the ad man John F. Murray was its other officer and director.  Exactly why Sterling kept the other group of companies which became AHP publically separate for so long is difficult to gauge at this remote time.  Certainly, fear of being labeled a monopoly never seems to have been a serious concern of the pharmaceutical industry.  As will be shown in subsequent articles, when AHP was announced, Sterling was at the beginning of its most ascendant monopolistic phase, and only the economics of the Depression seems to have thwarted its plans to dominate the “household products” industry.  Certainly periodic Congressional investigations have never cowed any pharmaceutical company from expanding and the prices which “big pharma” charges for drugs remains a current and on-going topic of public discussion.  Viewing the situation from a distance of approximately one hundred year, the most striking element of difference between Sterling and AHP was the involvement of Murray in AHP.  Possibly the two entities were kept separate because Sterling’s ad campaigns were being run by the Thompson-Koch ad agency which it had purchased as part of its deal with Pape, Thompson & Pape.  As will be shown below, even that hypothesis is purely speculative because other Pape holdings which became part of AHP wound up being represented by Murray’s ad agency.

1917 O. H. JADWIN SONS’, INC. COVER

          When AHP was formed, Sterling’s principals were at the top of their game, and, because of their purchase of Bayer’s American properties, were considered among the sharpest and most well-financed in the business.  Because Weiss and Diebold were the foremost managers of Sterling’s affairs, the salient events of the lives have been outlined already in earlier chapters of this series of articles, but Stanley Jadwin’s background and family require a moment’s attention as well.  He came from a family not only steeped in the pharmaceutical business, but one that had also attracted grisly, momentary national infamy in 1913.  Since 1683, four generations of Jadwins had been Virginia planters before his grandfather moved to northeastern Pennsylvania in the 1830s to be a shoemaker and to raise his family of eight children. His father, Orlando (1833-1911), the oldest child, began a pharmacy and wholesale drug business with some of his younger brothers in Carbondale, PA, near Scranton, in 1856 and later moved to New York City in 1866 to found his own immensely successful wholesaler drug business, O. H. Jadwin & Sons.²  Orlando continued his father’s tradition of having a large family by fathering at least nine children of his own, among them four sons.  His boys became the “sons” part of the burgeoning and prospering family business, and, in due course, the two oldest, Palmer (1868-1922) and Paul (1874-1942), took over its management upon his death, while Stanley, the third, as well as being the third officer of O. H. Jadwin & Sons, had already branched out into his own larger pharmaceutical ventures.³  As noted in connection with the formation of Neuralgyline Co. earlier, Stanley Jadwin’s connection to the Jadwin firm had given the fledgling Sterling group entry into a national distribution network, and that advantage was also now available to AHP.  He had been deeply involved in Sterling’s acquisition of Bayer, and, by 1920, had expanded his business universe beyond the pharmaceutical industry and was also a director of two New York City banks and a New York City street railway company.

   

JAD SALTS, AS LATER MARKETED BY WHITEHALL PHARMACAL CO.

      

LIMESTONE PHOSPHATE COMPOUND, AS LATER MARKETED BY WYETH CHEMICAL CO.

          Jadwin and Murray, were also the officers and directors of the Jadwin Co.’s subsidiary, the Jad Salts Co., manufacturer of Jad Salts, the major proprietary medicine O. H. Jadwin & Sons had itself developed and promoted, which now also was folded into AHP, as well as another minor subsidiary company, the Limestone Phosphate Co, which brought its compound for stomach settling and acid neutralizing into AHP.  Already in 1916, however, the state of Connecticut testing laboratory that evaluated quack products warned about Limestone Phosphate: “The use of the word ‘Limestone’ in connection with this product is totally unwarranted, and is most misleading in spite of the word ‘brand’ which appears on the package in small letters.”  Essentially, the laboratory found it to contain no lime at all and characterized the product as equivalent to bicarbonate of soda, otherwise known as baking powder.  The report indicated that the product might have a slightly purgative effect, in other words, yet another laxative.

1885c ELY BROS COVER FROM OWEGO, NY

     

1885 AD FROM OWEGO NY & 1891 AD FROM NEW YORK CITY

     

COLORFUL ADVERTISING FOR ELY’S CREAM BALM

   

   

1898c ELY BROS. BATTLESHIP REVENUE CANCELS

PACKAGE SEAL USED BY ELY BROS.

ELY’S CREAM BALM, AS LATER MARKETED BY WYETH CHEMICAL CO.

          The Wyeth Chemical Co. also had a subsidiary.  It brought with it to AHP an older proprietary medicine, Ely’s Cream Balm, used for treating “catarrh,” a Nineteenth Century term for any kind of vague general disability or inflammation, particularly those involving excessive mucus discharge, much like the modern usage of the terms “cold” or “flu.”  The Balm had previously been manufactured by the Ely brothers, Alfred (1844-1917), Charles (1846-1927) and Frederick (1853-1914c), of Owego, NY, in the Southern Tier of Western New York State along the Susquehanna River.  The brothers opened a retail drug store in Owego in 1868, but later, around 1885, also created a Manhattan office. Eventually they all decamped to New York City and ran their entire operation from their New York office.  As with virtually all Nineteenth Century entrepreneurs, the Ely brothers invested in other ventures beyond manufacturing a patent medicine.  Their older brother, Edward, became involved in a tool making business called the Trimont Manufacturing Co. located in Roxbury, MA, and, in 1889, Alfred, Charles and Frederick were all named as assignees of a patent on the design of a mowing machine used to harvest grain fields, possibly for manufacture by Trimont.  Charles seems to have left the patent medicine business in the 1890s, and in 1902 became president of Trimont after Edward’s death.  A sometime poet, Charles was prominent enough to earn a profile in the 1925 Supplement to the Cyclopedia of American Biography.  While he continued to make large and generous donations to the library he left behind in Owego, he never moved back to his home town and died in Boston at age 81 in 1927.  Ely’s Cream Balm continued to sell, and Alfred and Frederick were still both named in the New York City business directory in 1910.  By 1915, Alfred alone appeared in the directory, and by 1918 even he had disappeared and Stanley Jadwin was listed as president of Ely’s Cream Balm Co.

 

1920c DESHELL LABS (ENGLISH OFFICE) RETURN POSTCARD

 

1937 PETROLAGER LABS INVITATION TO A DOCTOR

PETROLAGER

            Deshell Laboratories, the second of the named AHP-melded companies, and Sterling’s only outside acquisition, was located in Los Angeles, CA. AHP’s anniversary booklet suggests that Sterling sought out the company precisely because it was different from all of the other companies that the Principals already had interests in.  Its product was a laxative named Petrolagar, and the Deshell name soon was replaced by Petrolagar Laboratories, again perhaps accounting for the confusion as to which company was part of the initial consolidation of AHP.  Unlike any of the other medicines that the Principals held shares of, Deshell advertised the compound as an ethical preparation (that is, strictly to doctors). While it seems a bit hard to imagine now because of the impact of Sterling’s acquisition of Bayer’s interests and the advertising juggernaut AHP later became, the AHP anniversary booklet states that when the Principals sought financial backing for AHP, the Wall Street firms initially were unwilling to back the venture because of concerns that as growing scientific inquiry exposed the typical exaggerated claims of their over-the-counter-type medicines as outright quackery and potentially dangerous to the public, the public would eschew them.  The bankers felt that Sterling and AHP ought to have available a laxative that doctors could actually prescribe, beyond relying upon time-tested folk brands like Phillips Milk of Magnesia and Fletcher’s Castoria.  The AHP history also states that the Principals liked DeShell as an acquisition because it had already established overseas offices which they could capitalize on.  In light of Sterling’s prior history, including its purchase of Bayer’s assets, this view only serves to demonstrate that by the time the history was written in 2001, Sterling and AHP had been operating as separate companies long enough for AHP to have forgotten that it began as a division of Sterling.

       

     

PETROLAGER ADS WITH WALL PRINTS FOR DOCTOR’S OFFICE

          Nevertheless, according to the AHP history, Petrolager was the perfect product to suit the Principals’ needs.  Because he felt the world was ready for a palatable laxative, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt’s own physician had commissioned its development from a Russian immigrant pharmacist named Channon A. Deshell (1875-1947) who had settled in New York City. DeShell came up with a formula of mineral oil, agar and extract of maraschino cherries.  Roosevelt himself took the first dose prescribed and pronounced it to look and taste like ice cream, and, with TR’s endorsement, Petrolager was off and running.  Agar is a jelly-like substance derived from algae.  Because it is composed principally of polysaccharides, it is still commonly used as culture medium for microbiological work, and in the kitchen as a thickening agent for various foods.  Petrolager itself came in five varieties, depending on the severity of the constipation and the accompanying symptoms.  When Sterling’s managers met DeShell, he had moved to Los Angeles where he had tried to own and operate a drug store before deciding to concentrate on his own research and manufacturing.  He was content to sell the company to the Principals and continue to work there researching and patenting agar compounds for the rest of his life.

   

1919 EDWARD WESLEY CO. TRADE ADS

   

WESLEY CO.’S FREEZONE

          The men behind Edward Wesley Co. (sometimes called Edward Wesley & Co.), the third named AHP constituent company, were familiar to the Principals.  They were William Weiss, another member of the Diebold family, Arthur H. Diebold, and the Pape Brothers, Edward H. (1877-1926) and Harry W. (1876-1928), Cincinnati patent medicine manufacturers whose company, Pape Thompson & Pape, had already sold itself and its product line, including Pape’s Dia-pape-sin, to Sterling in 1909, together with its ad agency, Thompson-Koch.  The Papes had been involved in a number of different patent medicine ventures in and around Cincinnati in the early 1900s until they found their niche with Pape, Thompson & Pape.  After the sale, they stayed with the company and kept looking for other promising patent medicines.  They organized the Wesley company in 1915 in Cincinnati, OH, and garnered success advertising a number of products, most notably Freezone, a corn removing compound, and Fluff, a beauty shampoo.

1883c W. H. HILL & CO. COVER FROM FAIRPORT, NY

   

1887 W. H. HILL & CO. POSTCARD FROM DETROIT MI

     

1898c W. H. HILL & CO. BATTLESHIP REVENUE CANCELS

   

1902 & 1904 W. H. HILL CO. CALENDARS

   

HILL’S CASCARA BROMIDE QUININE BOX SHOWING TORN REVENUE STAMP

          The last named piece of AHP was Larned Co. (named apparently for the street in Detroit on which it was located).  It was a corporation formed in 1924 to purchase, at a cost of over a million dollars, Hill’s Cascara Bromide Quinine, previously manufactured by W. H. Hill Co., a Detroit patent medicine manufacturer.  Hill was another of the Nineteenth Century’s class of self-made millionaires.  Born in 1852 in Cohocton, a small town in the Finger Lakes Region of Western New York, he moved to Michigan with his family in 1870 and became its main breadwinner after his father, a successful doctor, died in 1872.  In the late 1870s, he became a clerk and traveling salesman for a Pittsburgh drug wholesaler.  By 1880, he had learned the drug trade well enough to open his own proprietary medicine factory in Fairport, a town just outside Rochester, NY.  After his factory burned down in 1885, he relocated to Detroit MI, where he manufactured an entire range of goods such as Peerless Cough Syrup, Peerless Worm Specific and Kidney Kascara Tablets.  From 1880 to 1892, he traveled extensively around the country to establish his product line, and by the time tax stamps were required during the Spanish-American War, his business was big enough to warrant his devising his own distinctive cancel, some of which are shown above.  His signature product, Hill’s Cascara Bromide Quinine, was advertised as curing “coughs, colds and la grippe” as well as, again, being a most effective laxative.

 

1906 & 1924 W. H. HILL CO. COVERS

           As a successful businessman, Hill enjoyed all the perks that went with the income.  As well as running the W. H. Hill Co., he took on the presidencies of the Ideal Register and Metallic Furniture Co. of Detroit and the Detroit Silk Glove Co.  He proudly identified as a Congregationalist and a Republican, and served on the boards of directors of several prominent social clubs in Detroit.  He was a golfer and an early automobile enthusiast, with club memberships in the appropriate sporting groups.  He also owned the yacht “Titania” and was a member of the Detroit Power Boat Club.

          One anecdote, however, might serve best to illuminate the fundamental toughness of Hill’s character.  Several years after Hill sold his company to the Larned Co., he was sued by a former minority shareholder in the original W. H. Hill Co., who claimed that he had been short-changed of his share of the spoils that Hill had amassed from the sale.  In the laissez-faire age before the Depression, the trial court dismissed the case following the then-current norms of business law which held that corporate directors, like Hill, owed no fiduciary duty to their shareholders, like plaintiff, to disclose their knowledge of corporate affairs, even of events such as the impending sale of the company.

   

HILL’S TABLETS, AS MARKETED BY WHITEHALL PHARMACAL CO.

          On appeal, the reviewing court reached the opposite conclusion.  It recounted that the plaintiff in the case was a Detroit attorney who had been given stock at the time of the original incorporation of the Hill Co. in 1907 in return for his having represented Hill in earlier litigation against his competitors.  Thereafter, this attorney had served on the Hill Co. board of directors until he grew so self-conscious about his growing deafness that he requested his removal from the board.  In 1923, he read that the federal government had brought a Pure Food and Drug lawsuit against the Hill Co. and decided to protect his own reputation by selling his Hill Co. stock.  While plaintiff attempted to conduct the sale in secrecy, the Court found that Hill soon became aware that plaintiff was trying to sell his stock, both from a broker ostensibly acting on plaintiff’s behalf who in direct violation of plaintiff’s instructions contacted Hill, and also, oddly enough, from one of Hill’s own rivals, a man named Grove (another fellow who will get his own article some day) who tipped Hill off that he, Grove, had been solicited by plaintiff’s representatives to make an offer to purchase plaintiff’s stock.  The reviewing court found that Hill not only had blocked plaintiff’s representatives from getting a true picture of the company’s finances and directed that they instead be shown financial statements from a prior year reflecting losses, but also that Hill had contacted plaintiff’s broker offering him a standard commission and a bonus if the broker could conclude the deal at Hill’s price.  The court even found that Hill had conspired to prepare a misleading stock valuation sheet for that broker to show to plaintiff.  Since Hill had succeeded in purchasing plaintiff’s stock at the lower price he was offering plaintiff, the Court found that Hill’s interference with plaintiff’s sale went so far beyond the conduct of ordinary corporate business as to constitute fraud.  It directed the trial court to conduct a proper accounting as plaintiff had requested, but, by the time it issued this order in 1932, Hill was dead.  He had died in 1931.

WALTER LUTHER DODGE HOUSE, LOS ANGELES CA

          Aside from the big three (or four) companies formally melded into AHP upon its incorporation, it also very rapidly assumed possession of a clutch of other patent medicine companies.  Among them was the Walter Luther Dodge Co., which manufactured Tiz, a bath salt, for “tender feet.”  Dodge was born in Chicago in 1867 and apparently became a millionaire businessman in that city.  However, today he is remembered only in passing as being rich enough to have afforded to relocate his family to West Hollywood, CA and build his family home there between 1914 and 1916.  Ranked by the American Architectural Institute as one of the fifteen most significant houses ever built in America and considered universally to be a gem of the Early Modern architectural style, the Walter L. Dodge House was designed by architect Irving Gill (1870-1936), who worked principally on the West Coast.  It was constructed of eight inch thick reinforced concrete.  Although its innovative marvels included a garbage disposal in the kitchen and an automatic car wash in the garage, its radical departure was its stark reinterpretation of the traditional Spanish Mission style as a sleekly simple geometric form.  After Dodge’s death in 1931, the House passed through eminent domain into the hands of the City of Los Angeles whose original intent was to build a school on the site.  Although that plan was set aside, the Board of Education operated the grounds for number of years as classrooms for a junior-college-level trade school until 1963 when it deemed the property surplus and available for sale to a private contractor.  The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors then proceeded to re-zone the entire area as suitable for apartment construction.  In a tale of modern urban neglect, the contractor who purchased the Dodge House property from the City suddenly demolished it in 1970, over the anguished outcries of many notable architects, replacing it with a nondescript apartment building.

   

TIZ FOR TENDER FEET, AS MARKETED BY THE LARNED CORP.

   

1907 & 1909 HILO GUM CO. ADS – THE POSSIBLE “MISSING LINK”

          Although there are easily over thirty websites mourning and paying tribute to the lost beauty of the Walter L. Dodge House, there is no biography of Walter L. Dodge himself exploring the actions and mind of the man who commissioned this masterpiece from Gill, just the dutiful notation in each article that he derived his fortune from Tiz.  Only an inconspicuous listing in a stray volume of a weekly magazine named – in self-explanatory fashion – the National Corporation Reporter suggests a possible key to his involvement in the organization of AHP.  A 1905 listing for the newly incorporated Hilo Gum Co. demonstrates that he and John L. Murray, mentioned above as one of the Principals, were two of its organizers.  Its major product was actually not gum, but rather vending machines for gum and peanuts, and, while it may not have survived to become part of AHP, its existence serves to explain how Walter Dodge drifted into the AHP orbit.  Another possible point of contact between Dodge and AHP might have come through Harry W. Pape, who in 1902 had also invented and patented a ribbon system of delivering goods suitable for cigar and gum vending machines, which were then becoming fashionable, and might have been investigated by the Hilo Gum Co.

     

1913 TIZ TRADE ADS

          According to the one extant article devoted to Tiz, written in 1912 and trumpeting Dodge’s latest marketing tactic of advertising it on outdoor billboards to distinguish it from the vast number of imitators nipping at its heels, Dodge had developed the product over “several years of hard labor” and pushed it to prominence with an expenditure of “over a million” dollars in advertising. He recounted that he had experimented over a substantial period of time to develop a suitable balm for foot pain, but the greatest difficulty he faced was deriving a distinctive name for his new invention. He initially considering using the first two letters of his name, until he asked himself what the product was for, and replied to himself: “why, tis for tender feet.” In that moment of singular brilliance, he was struck with both the name of the product: “Tiz,”spelled with a “z” to make it a distinct word suitable for trademarking, and its catch-phrase: “for tender feet.”

     

1913 TRADE & 1914 PUBLIC TIZ ADS

          At first Dodge ran his business strictly by mail order, engendering enough sales from a single one inch ad in a mail order publication to warrant further investment in the product.  Gradually increasing mail order sales, in turn, attracted a few voluntary orders from wholesalers who wanted to be able to offer Tiz to their retail drug store customers.  This development prompted Dodge to conduct a trial to see whether it was popular enough to market nationally through the regular and customary distribution chain running from manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer.  Tiz was test-marketed in Indianapolis, IN accompanied by a flurry of newspaper advertising to attract attention.  Sales were so great that the experiment was soon expanded to encompass Columbus, OH, then Cincinnati, OH and finally Pittsburgh, PA.  Dodge was convinced that national distribution of Tiz would work, and continuous advertising “in every good daily and weekly newspaper in the United States” over the next two years secured his fortune.  By 1919, Dodge’s ads bore Murray’s ad agency address as its office address.

1922 TRADE AD COORDINATED AMONG COMPANIES WHICH WOULD BECOME AHP (ALL AT MURRAY’S ADDRESS)

* * * * *

ST JACOBS OIL CO.

   

1880c AUGUST VOGELER & CO. CIVIL WAR PERIOD PRIVATE DIE PROPRIETARY REVENUE STAMPS ON SILK & UNWATERMARKED PAPERS

       

SEALS USED TO REPLACE REVENUE STAMPS AFTER CIVIL WAR TAX REPEALED

1880c A. VOGELER & CO. COVER

PORTRAIT OF CHARLES A. VOGELER

   

1885c ST. JAMES OIL TRADE CARDS

           Dodge, as well as Jadwin and Murray, also became involved with another old-time remedy, St. Jacobs Oil, advertised over the years as a pain killer particularly against rheumatism, which also immediately became part of AHP in 1926.  The remedy itself had an intriguing history. Its formula was created by Wilmer L. Keller (1846-1906) a Baltimore druggist sometime during the 1870s.  He marketed it as Keller’s Roman Liniment, with a picture of Julius Caesar on the label, and achieved little success.  However, he did manage to catch the attention of August Vogeler (1819-1908), a solid, reputable and conservative Baltimore druggist in business since 1845, whose son Charles A. Vogeler (1851-1882) was a short-lived, but meteoric marketing dynamo.  By the end of the 1870s, the younger Vogeler had purchased Keller’s formula, added some red dye to the mixture and re-christened it as a old German remedy, St. Jacobs Oil.  Like virtually all of the nostrums of the time, at first it was touted to be equally good for what ailed men or beasts.  Vogeler’s advertising pictured a bearded, red-cloaked monk who vaguely resembled a thin and serious version of our current image of Santa Claus.  It was an instant success and immediately became a national best seller.

       

 

TRADECARDS AND COVER SHOWING OTHER VOGELER PRODUCTS

          The Vogelers conducted a much larger operation than Keller had, and it ultimately featured several different lines of patent medicines at various times, including such concoctions as Dr. August Koenig’s Hamburg Breast Tea, Dr. Bull’s Baby Syrup, Diamond Vera-Cura and Red Star Cough Cure.  They were savvy enough to recognize the advertising advantage of availing themselves of the federal government’s offer to allow patent medicine proprietors to negotiate their own printing contracts for revenue stamps during the Civil War tax period, which lasted from 1862 to 1883, since the federal government was using the same private contractors to print both its postage and revenue stamps.  When, in the 1930s, Holcombe wrote his articles on United States private die proprietary medicine stamps, the heirs of August Vogeler were still running a remnant of the original company.  He consulted them and, as a result, his article on the various stamps and labels they ordered for different splinterings and transformations of the company, including August’s many partnerships with his son Charles and with his son’s friend, Adolph C. Meyer (1852-1914) after Charles’s sudden and very early death, is one of his most thorough and comprehensive, but, sadly, is by no means exhaustive.  Nor does it properly reflect the history of St. Jacobs Oil.

   

1881 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAGAZINE SAMPLE ILLUSTRATIONS

          An admiring reporter for Scientific American magazine toured the Vogeler plant in 1881 – at the height of the St. Jacobs Oil craze – and wrote about it that: “[w]hile the production of that class of articles known as proprietary specialties may involve no machinery or process not in common use by all manufacturers of drugs, chemicals and the like, the business of advertising and selling them in a large and successful way does involve industrial operations of such magnitude and completeness of organization as to bring the business fairly within the scope of great industries.”  The reporter went on to describe the two “business block” sized buildings rising four stories, and the departments that made up the Vogeler operation.  On the first floor were the executive offices, the “literary” department, which functioned like that of a “publishing house” in filtering and channeling correspondence received, the “mailing supply” department, which kept all the retailers supplied with advertising to promote the goods, and the shipping department, which dispatched the patent medicines to retailers.  The laboratory was located on the fourth floor of the main building and was designed “with ample facilities for the swift and easy handling of crude products and completed preparations, particularly the St. Jacobs Oil, which is the chief specialty” of the company.  However, the “distinguishing feature of the house” was its giant advertising department occupying the entire second floor of the building, together with a large plate-glass windowed open area containing receptacles with over ten thousand pigeon holes, one labeled to receive a every newspaper in the nation which published Vogeler’s ads.  Copies of each ad run in any such newspaper or periodical were “examined, marked, entered and filed.”  The reporter noted with admiration Vogeler’s method of paying for all this advertising: “The unvarying courtesy exhibited toward publishers and the exceptional method of paying advertising bills without waiting for the rendering of statements have established the most cordial relations between the press and the house.”  All of this advanced payment was made possible by the book-keeping department’s records that filled 22 ledgers, comprising 12,000 discrete accounts, that were stored in a special safe.  The bottling department, which also covered the corking and labeling tasks, seems to have been located on the third floor of the main building, and the enormous printing presses for all of the necessary Vogeler advertising material were located in the basement of the main building.  Advertising material was prepared and supplied in eleven (11) different languages.  The bindery, where pamphlets and almanacs, were bound and stitched after printing was located in the rear building, together with the separate chromolithography department where multicolored trade cards were designed, created, separated and boxed for shipment.

VOGELER “FAIRY STEAMBOAT” ON 1885c TRADECARD

1895c CANADIAN CHARLES A. VOGELER CO. COVER

          With the advent of St. Jacobs Oil, the firm had to rapidly establish sales branches in “London, San Francisco, Toronto, Canada, Australia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Cape Town, Africa” to meet the demand, according to a contemporary Baltimore puff book.  The Vogelers even purchased a paddle wheel “fairy” steamboat to sail up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers painted with the name “St Jacobs Oil” solely for the purposes of advertising their product.  It was a “fairy” steamboat in the sense that, while it was 65 feet long and 14 feet wide and equipped with four staterooms and a lavishly appointed dining room, it didn’t carry freight or passengers as a “real” Mississippi steamboat would, just advertising for St. Jacobs Oil to be distributed at its ports of call.

   

   

   

MORE ST. JAMES OIL TRADECARDS & A PAPERWEIGHT

          However, even before the death of Charles A. Vogeler, the complexity of the arrangements the Vogelers made concerning certain nostrums other than St. Jacobs Oil that they also marketed caused the Vogelers to ordered a second private die proprietary stamp in the name of Vogeler, Meyer & Co.  The disruption caused by Charles A. Vogeler’s sudden and early death seemed to pull the company in different directions and almost caused it to function as two separate divisions competing with one another.  Vogeler, Meyer & Co. ultimately evolved into A. C. Meyer & Co. which was a large enough concern itself to cancel battleship revenues to pay the tax imposed during the Spanish-American War.  Whether any of these cancelled stamps were actually placed on St. Jacobs Oil is unclear because it has suffered a reversal of fortune by then.  Holcombe’s lack of completeness about A. Vogeler & Co. is most apparent when it comes to tracing the ownership of St. Jacobs Oil as it traveled from the possession of Charles A. Vogeler in the 1880s to its inconspicuously slipping into AHP in 1926.  With respect to that particular product, he reported only that some years after Charles A. Vogeler’s death, it was sold to an “English syndicate” for $200,000.  The true story is longer and sadder.

VOGELER, MEYER & CO.

   

1880c PRIVATE DIE PROPRIETARY REVENUE STAMPS ON PINK AND UNWATERMARKED PAPERS

SEALS USED TO REPLACE REVENUE STAMP AFTER TAX REPEALED

* * * * *

         A. C. MEYER & CO. BATTLESHIP REVENUE CANCELS – ALL IDENTIFIED COLORS & DATES

May 1, 1899

          May 1, 1899 – Black Cancel           May 1, 1899 – Purple Cancel

     

May 1, 1899 – Unlisted Value

                    July 2, 1898                              October 1, 1898

   

   November 1, 1898

   

                    December 1, 1898                          January 2, 1899

   

 

May 1, 1899  – Black Cancel         May 1, 1899 – Purple Cancel

   

 * * * * *

A. C. MEYER CO. CANCEL ON 1914 PROPRIETARY REVENUE ISSUE

* * * * *

1897 POSTCARD STATING NO ST. JACOBS OIL ADS DURING SUMMER

          After Charles Vogeler’s death, the ownership of St. Jacob’s Oil passed to his widow, Mrs. Minnie Vogeler.  Shortly thereafter, she formed a partnership with a prominent businessman, Christian DeVries, who not only shared in his brother’s department store business in downtown Baltimore, but also served as president of an important Baltimore bank.  Soon she married him, relying upon him to take control of the marketing of St. Jacobs Oil, but once Charles A. Vogeler was dead, the glory days of St. Jacobs Oil quickly ended.  By 1886, the “fairy ship” had been sold, and the Meyer and DeVries branches of the company were battling each other in the local court over DeVries’ marketing a cough syrup competing with a Meyer’s branch product and Meyer’s retaliating by marketing a product known as Salvation Oil in competition with St. Jacob Oil.  These squabbles were papered over quickly enough, but, by 1896, the original inventor of the compound, Keller himself (of all people), while boasting in response to a trade magazine query seeking the formula for St. Jacobs Oil that it was still proprietary, was also decrying that the manufacture of St. Jacobs Oil had “passed into inexperienced hands, the principal owner being a muslin merchant [DeVries] who knew nothing of the business, the article did not sell so well and seems to have gone largely out of the market, compared with its former popularity and immense sales.” In fact, as a skein of subsequent lawsuits revealed, DeVries was a spectacularly bad businessman who destroyed both his own family’s businesses, as well as that of St. Jacob Oil.

1910c ENGLISH PROPRIETARY MEDICINE TAX STAMP FOR ST. JACOBS OIL LTD.

          An English magazine reported in 1901 on the actual intricate proceedings that led Holcombe to record that St. Jacobs Oil had been purchased by an “English syndicate.”  In December, 1899, it explained, the two owners of St. Jacobs Oil (unnamed in the article, but meaning Christian DeVries and his wife, the ex-Minnie Vogeler) signed in Baltimore an assignment for the benefit of creditors (meaning that they confirmed Keller’s lament by contracting under Maryland law to transfer their business to a trustee to dispose of its assets for the purpose of paying its debts).  When the English creditors, who apparently held a major portion of the company’s debt, tried to enforce this assignment in English court to collect from the trustee, the court refused to accept the American assignment as an “act of bankruptcy within English law.”  After the English creditors appealed to the House of Lords, which would not disturb this ruling of the lower court, they then made an attempt in same court to seize directly the assets of the company as payment for their debts.  They were again frustrated because this time that court ruled that it did recognize the American assignment as a binding legal contract transferring title of all the company’s assets to the American trustee, leaving nothing for the English creditors to seize.  The Baltimore attorney whom the trustee had dispatched as his agent to England to stave off the English creditors then apparently turned around and sold the entire business to the manager of the Vogelers’ English office (producing Holcombe’s reported $200,000).  After summarizing all these facts, the English magazine article commented on the brazen solicitation of the public by the new owner to raise fresh capital:

 … it does appear, according to the statement of the promoter, who has been the manager for seventeen years, that the business is an exceeding lucrative one and there are comparatively few bad debts.  If the … statements are true how is it the business has collapsed, and what guarantee is there that under the same management it may not suffer a second reverse and have again to keep its creditors at bay?  We should recommend to leave the company severely alone.

1902 ST. JACOBS OIL LTD. COVER

1910 ST. JACOBS OIL LTD. TRADE AD

          Subsequently, from 1901 to 1913, the new company, St. Jacobs Oil, Ltd., maintained an office and a manager in Baltimore, even though organized as an English company and apparently owned by the former English branch office manager.  From 1914 through 1922, the company listed Cincinnati, OH as its address in a trade publication directory of products, although by 1919 it also listed an office in the New York City business directory at John F. Murray’s ad agency, and showed the corporate officers to be Stanley P. Jadwin, president and John F. Murray, secretary, with Jadwin and Murray also listed as the directors.  At least part of that time, according to that trade publication directory, its president at the Cincinnati address was one A. J. Walber, who was, coincidently, also listed as president of both the Walter Luther Dodge Co. in Cincinnati and, in the Cincinnati city directory, of Pape, Thompson & Pape.  By 1923, the company’s office was safely ensconced in New York City ready to become part of AHP.  To cinch the association with the AHP crowd even more tightly, in the 1922 trade publication product directory, St. Jacobs Oil, Ltd. is co-listed with the Walter Luther Dodge Co. as a proprietor of Tiz.

     

1922 TRADE ADS SHOWING LATER AHP COMPANIES AS PART OF ONE AD

          The consolidation of all these companies took place in 1926, perhaps on the very day that AHP first opened its doors for business, but AHP was just getting warmed up. Within the next several years at least as many companies again were added to AHP.  By 1928, Sterling and AHP were both swept into an even larger consolidation, with still more companies added both to AHP itself and to the larger entity.  Finally, in 1931, AHP swallowed one more major pharmaceutical company, John Wyeth & Brother, so central to its existence and lasting legacy that AHP ultimately changed its name to Wyeth.  All these events will be chronicled in subsequent chapters of this series.

x——————-x

¹          Yet another canceller of proprietary medicine stamps (of the 1914 series) who will get his own column someday.

²          Orlando’s younger brothers, who themselves mostly trained as pharmacists, sometimes worked for O. H. Jadwin & Son in New York City, but remained settled in northeastern Pennsylvania near Scranton.  Stanley’s uncle, Cornelius (1834-1913) was a leading businessman in the region, as well as being elected as a Republican to the United States House of Representatives.  His pharmaceutical business, C. C. Jadwin & Co., pedaled its own patent medicine – Jadwin’s Subduing Liniment – sometimes jointly with O. H. Jadwin & Sons even after that company became part of AHP – although neither Sterling nor AHP ever listed that remedy among its own products.

³          It was Donald, Orlando’s youngest son, who briefly brought notoriety to the Jadwins.  While attending private school in California, he had become acquainted with the beautiful young Minna Van Bergen, from a wealthy and socially prominent San Francisco family.  A few years later they became secretly engaged while traveling to Europe together on the same ship, and they married in 1912, when she was 19 and he 25.  However, the marriage quickly soured and Minna returned to live with her mother and sister’s family in San Francisco.  On the night of January 13, 1913, Donald swept drunkenly into that family residence during dinner, and, with Minna’s entire family present around the table – including her mother, sister, niece and nephew – embraced and kissed his wife while simultaneously discharging twice a pistol he was holding against her body.  He then put the gun to his own head and shot himself in the temple.  She died within minutes and he died later that evening.  Because both victims were young, wealthy and glamorous, and the act was so abrupt and shocking, the story made the front-page of every newspaper in the country.

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2020

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Companies, P, S

Sterling Products, Inc. (V.5) – Pepsin Syrup Co.

Sterling Products, Inc. – Manufacturer
Chapter V.5 – Pepsin Syrup Co. – Manufacturer

PEPSIN SYRUP CANCELS

HAND-STAMPED

   

PRINTED

           Sterling’s next acquisition was made through its newly-spawned holding company, Household Products, Inc. In 1925, this division paid “upward of $5,000,000” (according to the New York Times) to acquire Pepsin Syrup Co. of Monticello, IL. That company’s principal product was Dr. W. B. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin. In 1836, the German physiologist Dr. Theodor Schwann identified a fluid called pepsin (ultimately classified as an enzyme) as the bodily secretion that caused mammalian digestion to occur, and it soon became fashionable to include a dash of pepsin in any remedy aimed at curing ills, particularly those thought to be associated with digestive disorders. Since in the mid-Nineteenth Century there was little empirical evidence properly identifying the cause of any disease, as with virtually every other nostrum, Syrup Pepsin’s trade ads proffered it as a cure for any ailment. Pepsin’s inclusion in the name of Dr. Caldwell’s product, and the trace that may actually have been added to the remedy’s formula, thus served to promote the notion of “good digestion” rather than to produce a specific remedial outcome. While the overall flavor of the nostrum was provided by oil of peppermint and aromatics, its major active ingredient was the herb senna, recognized known and used as a laxative from ancient times. Since regularity has always been considered a mark of good health, by the time the Pure Food & Drug Act required disclosure of ingredients, the company was happy enough to adjust its labeling to proffer the product principally for that purpose.

    

PEPSIN AD AND GUARANTEE FROM PEPSIN BOOKLET

           The inventor of Syrup Pepsin was William Burr Caldwell. He was born in 1839 in Shelbyville MO and studied at Bloomington College in Missouri. He then sought a medical education in 1858 at the Eclectic Medical Institute in Cincinnati, and continued his study at a medical school in Keokuk, IA. While beginning a medical practice in Laclede, MO, like many small town doctors, he also ran a drugstore as well. Thereafter, over time, he moved east to Bloomington, MO, then further east into DeWitt County in central Illinois. He finally seems to have received his medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1875. Eventually, in 1885, he moved one county further east and settled in Monticello, IL after purchasing a drugstore there.

1911 PEPSIN SYRUP CO. COVER

   

PEPSIN SYRUP BOX AND BOTTLE

          By the time he arrived in Monticello, Dr. Caldwell apparently had begun to experiment with a formula for his own remedy, and, the following year, he sold the drugstore to a Charles H. Ridgely (1861-1933) and another in order to concentrate on his medical practice in the office above the drugstore. Dr. Caldwell kept experimenting with his remedy, and allowed Ridgely to sell it in the drugstore when the first small batches began to draw a following. When the successor to Ridgely’s original partner sold his interest to an attorney, Harry Crea, Ridgely and Crea propelled the whole operation to the next level by creating the Pepsin Syrup Co. in 1893. In 1899, Crea sold his interest in the company to local businessman Allen F. Moore (1869-1945) and another for $12,000. Moore understood the value of advertising, although his efforts were tentative at first. A 1900 “newspaper for newspaper writers” – an advertising trade journal – ran the following offer:

Moore’s instincts were sound and the business began to grow rapidly. In 1908, he brought in a local druggist John Hott (1869-1935) to oversee operations in order that he have time to pursue his greater ambitions, and Hott became his second in command. In time, Hott’s son Maxwell (1897-1969) joined the company as well. The company purchased its first formal factory building in Monticello in 1903 and made major additions to its factory property in 1914, 1919 and 1924.

1914 AND 1920s VIEWS OF THE PEPSIN SYRUP CO FACTORY

* * * * * *

   

1914 TRADE ANNOUNCEMENT AND AD RE PURCHASE OF PINUS MED. CO.

TRAXO

        By 1914, the company was large enough to absorb another smaller patent medicine company. The Pinus Medicine Co of Los Angeles, manufacturers of Fruitola, Traxo and Pinus, announced that it had been purchased by Pepsin Syrup Co. and was henceforth moving its headquarters to Monticello, IL. Advertisements for these products had first appeared in the catalogue of the large St. Louis distributor Meyer Brothers (partially profiled in an earlier column) in 1908. Fruitola and Traxo were advertised as essentially as remedies for digestive kinds of ailments, while Pinus was claimed to treat rheumatism and nervous disorders. Similar ads for these products continued to appear at least once a year in the Meyer Brothers catalogues for the next five years. The first act of the new management in 1914 was to reduce the wholesale price from $9 a dozen to $8 for these products, but after that promising beginning, they appear to have developed no traction and were seemingly dropped by the company. The extensive advertising campaign promised in the blurbs announcing the transfer of the goods was never launched. They also were never referenced as part of the property purchased by Household Products in 1925.

1916 PINUS MED. CO. COVER

          Perhaps the products made by Pinus did not catch on as had Pepsin Syrup because in 1914 the Indiana State Board of Health issued an analysis of the three “remedies” showing that: 1) Fruitola was composed of olive oil and seidlitz powder (another then-common generic fizzy folk remedy laxative used to treat headaches and upset stomachs) which retailed for $1 and contained ingredients worth 15 cents; 2) Traxo was composed of the plant materials taraxacum (essentially dandelion) and cascara (the outer plant layers which surround coffee beans) both of which were also generic folk remedy laxatives, which again retailed for $1 and contained ingredients worth 15 cents; and 3) Pinus was 85% turpentine (even then making the transition from Nineteenth Century “medicine” to currently-regarded toxic substance) and 15% magnesium carbonate (yet another laxative previously discussed at length in the Phillips Milk of Magnesia chapter), and, while priced at $2.50, contained a nickel’s worth of ingredients. The Texas Dairy and Food Commissioner reached precisely the same conclusions in 1916.  Nevertheless, the Pinus Medicine Co. seems to have retained a separate corporate existence, still appearing on a trade journal’s roster of medicine manufacturing companies as late as 1927, mentioned in a list of companies used to obtain data on chain store pricing policies in a 1933 FTC report to Congress, and even still turning up in 1963 apparently to renew and transfer a trademark to another company.

   

1910 POSTCARD AND 1920 COUPON FOR PEPSIN SYRUP

* * * * * *

          In 1918, Moore served as a national officer of the Proprietary Association of America, the most powerful and influential patent medicine trade association as well as the lobbying arm of the industry. By 1919, one trade magazine was calling Pepsin Syrup the “largest selling liquid laxative in the world,” boasting that the company was going to spend $500,000 during the 1919-1920 advertising season, with $150,000 to be devoted to a special push to penetrate the greater New York market. Moore retained his interest in the company, and it was he who arranged the sale of the company to Household Products in 1925.

   

TRADE TOKEN FOR PEPSIN SYRUP TRIAL BOTTLE

* * * * * *

1936 POSTCARD PICTURE OF DR. W. B. CALDWELL

          Dr. Caldwell, the inventor and moving spirit behind Pepsin Syrup, remained in Monticello for the rest of his life. He died at age 83 in 1922, so much respected for putting Monticello on the map as a major medicine manufacturing center in the United States that the town businesses closed during his funeral. Charles Ridgely continued to operate the drugstore in Monticello until 1916 and then sold it to Maxwell Holt and another. A drugstore remained opened at that same location in Monticello until 1994. Both Ridgely’s and John Hott’s deaths were marked in the pharmaceutical trade journals, although it is unclear whether they remained with the Pepsin Syrup Company after its sale to Sterling, although Maxwell Holt did. Moore, who had a 20,000 square foot mansion custom built for himself in 1920, realized his larger ambitions both as a trustee of University of Illinois and as a local alderman and then mayor of Monticello. He also served as a Republican in the House of Representative from 1920 to 1924. In the mid-1920s, he and his wife were both wealthy and generous enough to donate $150,000 toward building a new high school in Monticello and aided in the building of the local hospital. After selling the Pepsin Syrup Company in 1925, he went bankrupt during the Depression, and eventually moved to Texas where he involved himself in the oil business until his death in 1945. Not unlike the descendants of Demus Barnes mentioned in the last column who donated Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard, Maxwell Holt and his wife later donated their home in Monticello, IL as a conference center for the University of Illinois.

   

1928 POSTCARD SHOWING M. R. HOLT STILL WITH COMPANY

* * * * * *

     

    

 

“MONTICELLO PARTY LINE” ADVERTISING: DRUGSTORE DISPLAY, POSTCARD AND COOKBOOK PAGES

* * * * * *

   

LATER VERSION OF PEPSIN SYRUP LABELED FROM STERLING’S GLENBROOK LABS DIVISION

          Sterling renamed the Pepsin Syrup Co. as W. B. Caldwell, Inc. in 1934 and periodically thereafter transferred it to various different divisions. No matter which division it was in, Sterling advertised Pepsin Syrup extensively and made it a well-known name among radio listeners. Particularly in the late 1930s, it built an extensive advertising campaign around a farm family radio program, the Monticello Party Line, that it used to advertise Pepsin Syrup.  Sterling continued production of Pepsin Syrup in the Monticello IL plant until 1984, when it sold the entire operation, including trademark rights to the Pepsin Syrup name, to another company which then closed the plant in 1985. Pepsin is still widely available for purchase on the Internet, although Dr. Caldwell Syrup of Pepsin is not now being manufactured.

COLORFUL PEPSIN SYRUP BOOKLET COVERS AND PAGES

   

   

   

   

   

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2020

Standard
C, P, S

Sterling Products, Inc. (V.4) – Centaur Co.

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer

Chapter V.4 – Centaur Co., Manufacturer

CENTAUR CO. CANCELS

Printed Full Date

CentaurCo-2-3-RB21-1R

CentaurCo-2-3-RB23-2(Full7-1-98Date)     CentaurCo-2-3-RB23-3(8-1-98Date)

CentaurCo-2-3-RB24

Printed Year Only Date

CentaurCo-2-3-RB25-1(blackc)     CentaurCo-2-3-RB25-2600

Blue Ink – ’98                              Red Ink – ’98

CentaurCo-2-3-RB25-800

Red Ink – ’99

Circular Handstamp

CentaurCo-2-3x-RB25-1

               By the early 1920s, Sterling seems to have determined to own and control virtually all of the best selling “medicines” that were gradually becoming defined as “over-the-counter” remedies: those products left unregulated by the government that the public could purchase without a doctor’s prescription. In 1923, backed by three Wall Street brokerage firms, Sterling acquired a quarter interest in the Centaur Co. through a newly formed subsidiary called Household Products, Inc., and, soon after, it purchased the remainder of the company as well. Centaur’s product was Fletcher’s Castoria, a laxative and stomach soother, not unlike Phillips Milk of Magnesia, previously chronicled. As with the Phillips Co., this company had been in business for almost fifty years. In 1922, it was estimated to be the largest proprietary medicine manufacturer in the United States, if not the world, having manufactured approximately 20,800,000 bottles of Fletcher’s Castoria that year, an 80% increase over its 1910 volume of production, and having averaged an approximately $2 million dollar profit in each of the prior five years.  The acquisition price for Centaur was estimated to be $10 million, and it was predicted that Household Products, Inc. would soon be distributing dividends of three dollars per share annually.

PitcherDrS-2-MoreYouthful

DR. SAMUEL PITCHER

               Castoria was invented by Dr. Samuel Pitcher, a Massachusetts physician, as an alternative to castor oil. Castor oil, in turn, was derived from the castor bean, one of the earliest wild plants to be domesticated and cultivated by men. Although the deadly poison ricin also can be extracted from it, the castor bean has been employed for medicinal purposes as far back as the ancient Egyptians. However, over the centuries, many found that castor oil had both a horrible taste and texture. Born in 1824, Dr. Pitcher began about 1847 to experiment with alternatives to castor oil. His endeavors continued for about twenty years until he finally patented his formula for Castoria in 1868 and set up his own factory. Marketed as Pitcher’s Castoria, it sold briskly enough to quickly attract the attention of a real patent medicine salesman, Charles Henry Fletcher.

F-1aRFletcherCH-3a-WikiPhoto

CHARLES HENRY FLETCHER

BarnesD-1

DEMUS BARNES

               Fletcher, born in 1838, apparently began working in the patent medicine industry at age thirteen. A contemporary account states that he began working for the New York drug manufacturer and wholesaler Demus Barnes & Co. in 1861. Alert readers will remember that Demus Barnes (1827-1888), whose name has already appeared in this column in connection with the history of John D. Park & Sons, had assembled one of the largest patent medicine distribution networks in the country prior to the Civil War through interlocking ownerships and partnerships with other individuals and companies in the patent medicine field. Because his dominance of the patent medicine field occurred at the time the federal government was first taxing patent medicine, Barnes’ exploits have been recounted by Henry Holcombe, the chronicler of the Civil War private die proprietary medicine stamps. While a story is told that Fletcher earned Barnes’ respect and trust by completing a tour of Barnes’ Southern customers and successfully collecting all their outstanding balances due Barnes at the beginning of 1861 just before the Civil War began, it must be regarded as somewhat fanciful, if Fletcher only entered employment with Barnes in 1861. There is no doubt, however, that by dint of his hard work, Fletcher became the manager of Barnes’ company when Barnes left the business in 1867 to serve for a single two year term as a New York State representative in the United States House of Representatives.

  J. B. ROSE & CO. PRIVATE DIE PROPRIETARY MEDICINE STAMPS

CentaurCo-3-1875c-1(predJBRose)1875c ROSE CO. COVER

               When he returned from Washington, Barnes chose to step back from the day-to-day management of his patent medicine business and act as the banker for promising new patent medicine ventures. In 1872, acting as Barnes’ agent, Fletcher purchased Castoria. Barnes then placed Castoria in a new company called J. B. Rose & Co, which he was financing. Joseph B. Rose, according to Holcombe, was a clerk with one of Barnes’ competitors, the drug wholesaler Hall & Ruckel, who showed some initiative by acquiring the formula for a product called Centaur Liniment. It was an external rub for all ailments, including rheumatism, sprains, broken bones, burns and scalds, that was issued with a white label for humans and a yellow label for animals. Neither Holcombe nor anyone else offers an explanation as to why Barnes placed Fletcher’s product with the Rose Co., rather than Rose’s product with a company named after Fletcher, but Rose brought the Centaur formula to Barnes, and that act, in Barnes’s mind, may even have trumped Fletcher’s loyalty to Barnes. In 1872, when the Rose Co. commenced operations, its managing partners were Fletcher and Rose, with Barnes acting as a silent third partner. Because he was so prominent in the patent medicine business already and had already made his fortune, Barnes knew the value of publicity and could afford to print his own private die proprietary medicine stamps to advertise his products.  He had them prepared as well for the Rose Co. Some of them are pictured above. Sadly, Rose is a complete enigma. In 1877, he stepped out of the picture, leaving no further historical record of his presence, and the company was reorganized as the Centaur Co.

STAMPS PRINTED FROM DESIGN DIE RETOOLED TO REFLECT CHANGE TO CENTAUR CO.

CentaurCo-7-2a

CentaurCo-7-2b

 CENTAUR AD MIMICKING CIRCULATING BANK NOTES

               While the new company still featured the mythical centaur, which Rose had brought to it, both as its symbol and in its name, its officers became Demus B. Dewey as president and Fletcher as secretary. Dewey, as his name suggests, was a relative of Demus Barnes. Although Holcombe lists him as a grandson, he was actually Barnes’s nephew. He seems to have become involved briefly with the Centaur Co. because he also ran a patent medicine company of his own, D. B. Dewey & Co., undoubtedly financed by Barnes as well, and, for a time, Barnes had both the Centaur Co. and the Dewey Co. market and advertise another product called Wei de Meyer’s Catarrh Snuff. While Dewey & Co. own advertisements stated that F. W. Wei de Meyer, another of the Nineteenth Century’s self-styled “doctors,” had invented and assigned the rights to this product to Dewey & Co, Barnes really owned it, so he could exploit it through whichever company or companies he chose. It was an expectorant that ostensibly made users cough up all the poisons infecting their bodies. Whether by design or accident, Barnes seems to have shaped a grouping of remedies in the Centaur company to make use of the body’s principal orifices to expel illness from it, the nose, mouth and anus, combining them with one used to heal the skin, the major organ that enfolds and protects the body.  After the Civil War tax finally ended in 1883, Fletcher adopted a seal bearing his signature to replace the tax stamp that people had come to expect on the bottles.

CentaurCo-1-2-RSX2-Facimile

POST-CIVIL WAR SEAL USED TO REPLACE TAX STAMP

CentaurCo-21-5(NYRecipeBk)(1883)     CentaurCo-21-5a(NYRecipeBk)(1883)

CentaurCo-21-5b(NYRecipeBk)(1883)     CentaurCo-21-5h(NYRecipeBk)(1883)     CentaurCo-21-5i(NYRecipeBk)(1883)

1882c ADVERTISING BOOKLET FOR BOTH CENTAUR & DEWEY PRODUCTS

                After a few years, Barnes apparently let Dewey take Wei de Meyer’s Catarrah Snuff back exclusively to his own company, which, although it had its own product line, continued to advertise Centaur Liniment and Castoria as well, for a few more years until Dewey and his company, like Rose, disappear completely from the historical record, and Fletcher emerged as the dominant figure in the Centaur company. Over the ensuing years, Fletcher also dropped the Centaur Liniment and concentrated his energy entirely on Castoria.  The overarching achievements of his sixty year career were that he made Castoria, in combination with his name, a single household term and grew the Centaur Co. into what was described by several commentators in 1923 as the largest single proprietary medicine maker in the country.

FLETCHER’S CASTORIA PACKAGE BEARING SEAL

CentaurCo-10-9a     CentaurCo-10-9bR

CentaurCo-10-9c

               The saga of how Dr. Pitcher’s invention reached its greatest renown as Fletcher’s Castoria is complex. Since Dr. Pitcher had actually patented the formula for Castoria, by purchasing his rights, the Centaur Co. was guaranteed a legal monopoly on its manufacture for the length of the patent – at that time seventeen years – until 1885. Its popularity soon made Barnes and Fletcher millionaires, but when Fletcher and Cora Barnes, who inherited her father’s quarter share of the company upon his death in 1888, tried to defend the name Castoria as their own exclusively, a U.S. Court of Appeals construed the patent narrowly and – following distinctions among patents, trademarks, trade names and unfair business practices outlined by the Supreme Court shortly before in a case concerning the term “singer” as applied generically to sewing machines – ruled that the patent itself conveyed no exclusive permanent right to the name of the product, and that, just as the formula for its manufacture had passed into the public domain upon the expiration of the patent, because the public had come to identify the concoction itself as castoria, the name itself had become generic and, therefore, had also passed into the public domain when the patent expired. This ruling, in an 1898 case called Centaur Co. v. Heinsfurter, like those by similar courts, discussed in earlier articles, that milk of magnesia and aspirin were also generic terms, caused the same major degree of irritation to the Centaur Co. that those other original manufacturers experienced, and, like those other cases, led to blizzards of litigation over the following years as to whose product infringed on whose and whose product had a distinctive identity of its own.

THE CASTORIA CO.

CastoriaCo-50-3(WilliamSmithDaggett)

WILLIAM S. DAGGETT

 CastoriaCo-2-RB23(ChicagoIL)

CastoriaCo-2-RB25(ChicagoIL)     CastoriaCo-2-RB25a(ChicagoIL)

CASTORIA CO. BATTLESHIP REVENUE CANCELS

CastoriaCo-6a-1899-1     CastoriaCo-6a-1901-1

1900c CASTORIA CO. ADS

               The Heinsfurter ruling came about under the following circumstances: in 1896, two mid-westerners, a businessman named Jacob Heinsfurter and a colorful character named William S. Daggett, who was otherwise employed as a Deputy United States Marshal, formed a company and opened a plant in Fargo, North Dakota to manufacture castoria under the name Castoria Co. They also published an article in a drug trade magazine, The New Idea, published by a large and well-known Detroit drug wholesaler and manufacturer, Frederick Stearns & Co. (another company to be profiled in the future) announcing to the trade their intent to manufacture castoria in accordance with Dr. Pitcher’s formula, now no longer under patent. Apparently, at least according to Fletcher, they even had the nerve to write to him asking him to sell them his bottles and labels for them to fill with their own product. Fletcher declined their bold invitation and instead sued them in Fargo claiming they were perpetrating a fraud upon the public. The local court collected exhaustive expert testimony on both sides of the question of whether the term Castoria constituted a trademark or a generic term, and also seems to have weighed and found wanting Fletcher’s claim that Cora Barnes had trademarked the word “Pitcher’s Castoria” in 1883.  After losing the preliminary round in their local court, Fletcher published a circular to the industry acknowledging that their product was labeled differently from his – one of the reasons the judge gave for finding no deception by the new company – but claiming that he would be exonerated on the fundamental question of the ownership of Castoria on appeal. Fletcher also ran an industry wide ad featuring a statement by none other than the ancient Dr. Pitcher himself that Pitcher was the originator of Pitcher’s Castoria and had only authorized Fletcher to make it.

CentaurCo-6a-1897-1(Fletcher'sBlast-Spatula(3-1897))

FLETCHER’S 1897 CIRCULAR TO THE TRADE

CentaurCo-6a-1897-2a(Pitcher'sAppeal-Spatula(3-1897))

CentaurCo-6a-1897-2b(Pitcher'sAppeal-MerckRpt-1897))

TWO OF FLETCHER’S 1897 ADS FEATURING DR. PITCHER’S AFFIDAVIT

               Much to Fletcher’s dismay, however, the following year, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Eventually Daggett sold his interest in the company to Heinsfurter, who moved the company to Chicago. The government-issue battleship revenue stamps bearing the Castoria Co. cancel were used during this period. Although Fletcher was never able to stop the Castoria Co., its sales never rivaled those of Fletcher’s Castoria and it managed to continue in business only for a few more years.

CentaurCo-1-3-RS284

FLETCHER’S CASTORIA SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR PRIVATE DIE PROPRIETARY STAMP

               Fortunately for Fletcher, by 1898 he had began to feature his signature significantly as part of the label of his Castoria, and he eventually trademarked his signature. As noted above, Fletcher had already incorporated his signature into the seal that he placed on each package to replace the Civil War tax stamps. Courts ruled that Fletcher’s signature did constitute a valid trademark, so Centaur Co.’s brand of castoria – which, therefore, became known commonly as Fletcher’s Castoria rather than Pitcher’s Castoria – was always easy to distinguish from the others, both because of Fletcher’s trademarked signature, which always appeared on the label, and because his advertising gradually gave greater prominence to his own name more and more and Pitcher’s name less and less. Fletcher so valued his own signature as a distinguishing feature of his product that he even had it incorporated into the printed cancellation of the government revenue battleship stamps that his company applied to his product when the Spanish-American War tax period began on July 1,1898. Moreover, he was then doing such a great a volume of business that he was one of the very few proprietary medicine makers who opted to expend the extra funds to create his own private die proprietary medicine stamp, as so many of the earlier patent medicine companies had done during the much longer period that the Civil War taxes were in effect between 1862 to 1883. He was able to make the transformation easily because he simply adapted the seal he was already using.  Because the period the Spanish-American War tax was in effect was so short – lasting only three years for proprietary medicines – most other proprietary medicine employers did not think the effort was worth making.

CentaurCo-3-1899-1

1899 CENTAUR CO. COVER

               Ultimately, with respect to U. S. courts, even though other companies again and again clashed with Fletcher over whose castoria was the original and true “medicine” that most closely resembled Dr. Pitcher’s original castoria formula, they always had a reliable yardstick to measure whether legal infringement had occurred. They continually laid the Fletcher label against the other castoria company’s label and ruled on a case-by-case basis. If the reviewing court found the other company’s label looked too much like Fletcher’s, it would rule that the offending company was unfairly competing with Fletcher by trying to steal his business with a confusing label. If it found that an average customer could easily distinguish between the two labels – even when the other label said it was Dr. Pitcher’s own castoria or claimed that it was the only one that actually embodied Dr. Pitcher’s own original patented castoria formula – it would invoke the rule of buyer’s common sense to hold that since customers would not mistake the label of the other product for Fletcher’s, the other company was not infringing on Fletcher’s trade and did not have to change its label.  Some examples of the labels used by other companies and the courts’ rulings upon them follow below.  In this painstaking way, Fletcher’s Castoria, like milk of magnesia, worked its way into the background of “over-the-counter” medicines that Sterling vacuumed up during the 1920s.

CASTORIA MEDICINE CO.

CastoriaMedCo-6-1899-2(LabelFoundNotInfringingByCt-CentaurVMarshall)

COURT FOUND CASTORIA MEDICINE CO LABEL ON RIGHT NOT TO INFRINGE ON FLETCHER’S LABEL

CastoriaMedCo-10-1a(KansasCityMO)     CastoriaMedCo-10-1bR

CASTORIA MEDICINE CO. BOTTLE & PACKAGE ALSO SHOWING A SPANISH-AMERICAN TAX STAMP

X—–X

FLETCHER’S LABEL

CentaurLabelLarge-W-57a(2CentaurCases-US5thCirCtOfApp-1899)-11

COMPANIES WHOSE LABEL WERE FOUND TO INFRINGE FLETCHER’S LABEL

CASTORIA MANUFACTURING CO.

CastoriaMfgCo-LabelLarge-W-57a(2CentaurCases-US5thCirCtOfApp-1899)-3

HUGHES BROTHERS MANUFACTURING CO.

HughesBrosMfgCo-LabelLarge-W-57a(2CentaurCases-US5thCirCtOfApp-1899)-12

PHENIX MEDICINE CONCERN

PhenixMedicineConcern-LabelLarge-W-57a(2CentaurCases-US5thCirCtOfApp-1899)-4

               Curiously, in Canada, when Fletcher came to fight the battle in 1920 over his exclusive right to use the name Castoria with yet another company, this time American Druggists Syndicate (yes, yet another company to be profiled, which cancelled later proprietary stamps during the World War I imposition of a tax on proprietary articles), the Canadian court considered the various legal steps the Centaur Co. had taken to protect its trade in Canada, just as the Heinsfurter court had considered the American fact pattern, and, while it acknowledged and discussed that decision, it reached the opposite conclusion, by a 2 to 1 split decision. In Canada, Fletcher never attempted to patent Dr. Pitcher’s formula, but as early as 1879, filed a general trademark on a label with the words “Pitcher’s Castoria” together with a facsimile of Demus Dewey’s signature which was then registered again in 1898 as a specific trademark of a label for “Fletcher’s Castoria” incorporating the facsimile of Fletcher’s signature. Because there was no Canadian patent, the Canadian judges found that there never had been any attempt to block anyone in Canada from using Dr. Pitcher’s formula to create a laxative, so they could ignore the entire argument emphasized by the U.S. court that no secondary right of ownership attached to the name arising from the patent. On the other hand, they found that the term “Castoria” had no existence or meaning in English before Dr. Pitcher applied it to his medicine, and because Dr. Pitcher had made it up, that it was entirely and completely “fanciful” intended for the sole purpose of identifying and distinguishing his product from anyone else’s, and thus it was a term subject to being trademarked for his, or Fletcher’s, exclusive use, as the Centaur Co. had properly done. That the public came to regard to regard this particular laxative formula as Castoria, the court felt simply fortified the point that Fletcher had established a strong and valuable trademark. Therefore, they concluded that all in Canada who chose to could reproduce Dr. Pitcher’s patented formula to make a laxative: they just could not call it “Castoria.”

Centaur-CanadianCastoriaAd-W-58a1(CastoriaAd-ActonOntario-FreePress-1-8-1914)     Centaur-CanadianCastoriaAd-W-58a2(CastoriaAd-ActonOntario-FreePress-1-8-1914)

FLETCHER’S CASTORIA AD IN A 1905 RURAL CANADIAN PAPER – (NOTE SMALLER ADS PLACED AT THE ENDS OF ARTICLES IN SEVERAL OTHER COLUMNS)

               In the end, whether by the route of barring unfair competition by protecting the “Fletcher’s Castoria” trademarked label, but not the word “castoria” itself, in the United States or by upholding the word “Castoria” as part of a registered trademark (which essentially amounted to the same design) in Canada, each country’s courts allowed Fletcher to protect his product. The legal arguments accepted by the two courts were diametrically opposed to each other, but the conclusion amounted to the same result. The wonders of legal reasoning are endless! One fact is certain: there were many, many more brands of castoria in the United States than in Canada.

PfeifferChemCo-10-1(Pitcher'sCastoria)     RoyalMfgCoOfDuquesne-1902-1(NonCBottle)

TWO MORE AMERICAN NON-FLETCHER’S “PITCHER’S CASTORIA” BY PFEIFFER CHEMICAL CO. & ROYAL MFG. CO. OF DUQUESNE

               Many stories are told about Charles H. Fletcher. Perhaps the most notorious one, which illustrates his monumental drive and audacity, is that Fletcher volunteered to underwrite the last $25,000 of the cost of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty (after noting that the largest donation to date had been $5,000), when the efforts of the committee of prominent New York City citizens organized to raise the funds to provide the proper base for the French gift fell short, provided only that Fletcher be allowed to place Castoria’s name on the pedestal for the first year. In this way, he wrote, “art and science, the symbol of liberty to man, and of health to his children would be more closely enshrined in the hearts of our people.” Needless to say, the committee summarily rejected the offer. Oddly enough, the quote, apparently from Fletcher’s proffer to the committee, was first reported only in a 1986 New York Times article on the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, but since then has become the principal anecdote echoed about Fletcher.

F2-FletcherCH-2-1922(ObitPhoto)

               Even if he did not co-opt the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, Fletcher’s advertising was unrelenting. He published ads, together with eye-catching trade cards and almanacs in vast numbers, and painted ads on every surface that he could procure. Fletcher’s success rested on his singular concentration on Castoria. He manufactured this one product in one size, sold to a huge network of wholesalers as well as 150,000 retail outlets, virtually all drug and general stores, in lots of no less than five gross (720 bottles), and advertised it endlessly to the public without any traveling sales staff or a public mail order business. One of the most well known trade cards linked Castoria with P. T. Barnum’s famous circus elephant Jumbo, himself a great celebrity of the age. (Barnum obligingly offered his endorsement of Centaur Liniment as well, claiming that it effectively treated both his circus performers and animals.) Pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge, the great engineering triumph of its age, show Castoria ads displayed prominently to those who promenaded on its pedestrian walkway to experience its wonder. Faint traces of such painted ads still can be found all over such cities as New York. One of the shrewdest shifts in Fletcher’s advertising strategy, as recounted by his Advertising Manager after his death, was changing from his initial position of never advertising in newspapers on Sunday in order to avoid the appearance of profaning the Sabbath to investing in such Sunday advertising after he realized that the newly developed Sunday supplemental rotogravure (picture) sections were attracting children who would, in turn, urge their parents to buy Castoria. Whether Fletcher made use of a large advertising space or a small one, his notion was to keep the copy simple and, whenever possible accompany it with an illustration. Castoria was such a part of American culture that two different American bombers were named “Fletcher’s Castoria” during World War II. The driving slogan of the constant advertising was “Children Cry For Castoria.” The line became so famous and familiar that a serious American classical composer, Nicholas Slonimsky (1894-1995!), who certainly bridged the period from Fletcher’s time to the contemporary world, later set Castoria ads to music. Recordings are available on Youtube.

CASTORIA ADVERTISING SAMPLES:

TRADE CARDS

CentaurCo-5-3-1a    CentaurCo-5-3-1b

CentaurCo-5-1-PitchersCastoria-1aR     CentaurCo-5-1-PitchersCastoria-1b

CentaurCo-5-3-2a     CentaurCo-5-3-2c

               As a mandarin of the Gilded Age, Fletcher was a stout defender of private enterprise. When – because of the continuing false promises of cures made by most nostrums, together with the occasional deaths from undisclosed poisons in the proprietary potions – the hue and cry began for governmental regulation of the food and drug industries, he firmly planted himself in the opposition camp. Yet, by 1890, some businesses, like the American meat industry, had actually discovered that they needed a modicum of regulation to compete effectively, since Europe had made clear that it would not import American meat not certified as healthy. Thus, in 1891, Congress enacted the first federal meat inspection requirements. In the next session, the Senate took up the Paddock Bill, a general measure enabling broad food and drug oversight and regulation, named for Republican Algernon Paddock of Nebraska, who chaired its Agriculture Committee. Asked by the Times in 1892 to comment on the bill, in an article captioned “Mischief Its Only Use … The Business View,” Fletcher opined that the patent medicine industry would be quite comfortable with the passage of such a law since the government was too small and disorganized to enforce it: “It is absurd to suppose that a bureau of the Department of Agriculture could undertake to make an analysis of all the proprietary medicines that are offered on the market.”

Almanacs

CentaurCo-20-1878-1a     CentaurCo-20-1886-1a

CentaurCo-20-1888-1     CentaurCo-20-1901-1aR

               However, Fletcher then passed to the more serious objection that any such attempt would be unconstitutional:

 I do not see what right the Government can possibly have to interfere with a line of business that is done openly and that is well established. If the business were an underhanded one, or if in the preparation of these articles injurious substances were used, or if there were anything in the nature of fraud in respect to a large proportion of the well-known proprietary articles, there might be some excuse for special legislation against the manufacturers.

Ads Painted On Walls

Historic

BrooklynBridgeCastoriaAdPic-4

1900c View from Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Walk To Manhattan

CentaurCo-50-1R2-Mn-3dAvEl

1910c View Along 3rd Avenue El Manhattan

               Fletcher’s view was typical of the opinions held by proprietary medicine owners, whose products were mostly harmless and whose greatest impact was generally as a mild laxative. Nor was Fletcher out of step with his times. In an age which generally accepted the motto “caveat emptor,” and the law favored leaving people to make their own judgments about believing overblown rhetorical promises of cures and imbibing potentially dangerous concoctions containing undisclosed ingredients, government oversight was regarded simply as unwarranted and improper intrusion into people’s private affairs.

Painted Wall Ads Still Visible Recently

CentaurCo-50-2-QnsSutphinBlvd     CentaurCo-50-1-Mn-MrktBtwnHnry&EBrdwy-1c(covered2003)

               Queens                            Manhattan (cover 2003)

               In a twist that is unfamiliar to today’s Congressional watchers, the Paddock Bill died not in the Senate, where it passed smoothly, but, rather, in the House, where no vote was taken. No later commentator on the Paddock Bill has offered a coherent explanation as to why the House completely ignored it. Possibly, the explanation is as simple as the split in the 52nd Congress between the Presidency and the Senate, which were Republican, and the House, which was Democratic, but it seems apparent only that, at that time, there was insufficient popular pressure to compel the House to act. Even before it interviewed Fletcher, the Times had already editorialized against it, terming the bill both a “fatuous piece of paternalism,” and “foolish and indefensible.” It stated: “[w]e do not see how the Government inspection of proprietary articles can do any appreciable good, and we do see where it can do serious harm,” giving as its reason that any nostrum that complied with the law could, and would, then be advertised as bearing a government endorsement. Regulation of the food and drug industry languished as an unrealized goal for almost another fifteen years.

JemimaIII-2a-1908

JEMIMA F. III 1908

               Fletcher’s one private passion was sailing, but on yachts powered by engines, rather than under sail. Such yachts were all the rage. He lived in a time when the banker J. P. Morgan was reputed to have said about those kinds of yachts that if one had to ask about their cost, one could not afford them. Over the years, Fletcher kept up with best of the yachting crowd, consistently ordering newer, larger, more powerful yachts from Charles Seabury & Co., naval architects to the rich and famous, whose shipyard was located in the Bronx section of Morris Heights on the Harlem River in New York City. In 1908, the press covered the party Fletcher threw at the company’s dock for the launch of his latest yacht, the Jemina F. III, the third he had named after his wife, which, the Times breathlessly reported, at 111 feet long was the largest motor driven yacht in the world. Apart from the lavish owner’s suite, and the quarters for the captain and for the crew, it boasted five discrete guest stateroom suites each with a private bath. A smoking room for men and a separate ladies lounge were both located on the upper level behind the bridge and the chartroom. All the rooms and service areas were connected by the latest technological advancement, the telephone. The entire interior was built of mahogany while the exterior was constructed of Burmese teak. The hull was steel.

JemimaIII-2b-1908

JEMIMA F. III 1908

               While Fletcher lived in Brooklyn, he made his summer home at Belmar, N. J. Over the years, virtually all of the mentions of Fletcher in the New York Times were social notes of his comings and goings from his summer home. Fletcher used his yachts to travel between his home in Brooklyn and his summer home in Belmar, N. J. In 1909, after cruising to Newport, R. I., Fletcher docked the Jemima F. III for the remainder of that summer at Red Bank, N. J., where Fletcher’s captain, after describing the ship’s embellishments, disclosed in an interview with the local newspaper that normal supplies for the ship would enrich the local economy by over $1,500 per month apart from expenditures by its crew of nine or the cost of Fletcher’s own personal orders, and that the ship would require a supply of no less than three tons of ice per week. Oddly enough, the short article just below the interview with Fletcher’s captain recounted the itinerary of the cruise another prominent New Jersey resident was taking on his 175 foot English-built yacht equipped with nine staterooms. Apparently, even by the following season, in the competitive world of motor yachts alone, Fletcher had already lost his edge.

Sample Newspaper Ads

CentaurCo-6-2     CentaurCo-Ad-1886

Typical 1880s Ads

CentaurCo-6-10(1897)     CentaurCo-Ad-1899

1897                              1899

CentaurCo-6-7(c1900)     CentaurCo-6-13(1902)

                      1900c                          1902 Trade Ad

CentaurCo-Ad-1914

1914

               For fifty years, Fletcher continued to run and grow his company, blitzing the public with never ending advertising, until he finally retired in September, 1921. He died in April, 1922 at age 84. He had three daughters and each of their husbands became part of the Centaur Co. One of his sons-in-law, George Edwards, became president of the company shortly after his death. A second, Albert Bryant of Boston, who had married into the family in 1898 and come to work for Fletcher in 1899, was instrumental in arranging the sale of the company to Sterling, holding the title of vice-president of Household Products, Inc. after the sale as well as remaining in an executive position with Centaur Co. as treasurer and production manager until his retirement in 1937.

SAMPLE STERLING CASTORIA ADS

L1-CentaurCo-Ad-1937c(JoeLewis)

1937c JOE LEWIS AD

CentaurCo-3-1925c-1bR     CentaurCo-6a-1927c-1

1925c                                   1927c

CentaurCo-6-5(1941LHJ)     CentaurCo-6-14(1943)

1941                                1943

               Sterling continued to pour money into advertising Fletcher’s Castoria prominently and kept it in the public eye with massive campaigns in magazines and newspapers as well as moving the product on to the newly emerging technologies of radio and television. They employed star power over the years, featuring a picture of world champion boxer Joe Lewis and his mother, with his Lewis affirming that his mother raised him on Fletcher’s Castoria, in a magazine ad in the late 1930s, and in late 1972, apparently lining up the mothers of three of the most current celebrities, singer Pat Boone, basketball great Wilt Chamberlain, and quarterback Bob Griese to do thirty second television commercials for it.

PitcherDrS-1R-1899

DR. PITCHER 1899

CentaurCo-10-2b     CentaurCo-10-4

STERLING CASTORIA PACKAGES

CentaurCo-10-5

CURRENT FLETCHER’S LAXATIVE PACKAGING

               A few loose ends remain to the Castoria story. After reappearing in 1897 to aid Fletcher (for which service Fletcher thanked and rewarded him with a dinner service of 102 pieces of solid sterling silver), Dr. Pitcher, the originator of Castoria, continued to live a relatively quiet life on Cape Cod, MA, seemingly without regret at not becoming a millionaire like Barnes or Fletcher, until he died in 1907. Fletcher’s Castoria remained a part of various iterations of the Sterling Drug Co. until 1984 when it was sold to the Mentholatum Co., a company that had itself evolved from yet another of the 1898 revenue stamp cancelling companies (whose story will also be unfolded in the course of time), and the Mentholatum Co. was purchased, in turn, in 1988 by the Rohto Pharmaceutical Co of Osaka, Japan. Mentholatum Co., now identified as a Rohto company, holds the current trademark registration for Castoria,  and still maintains its own website on which it lists a product called Fletcher’s Laxative, which it represents has been manufactured since 1871. Since Fletcher’s Castoria was an American product, Rohto itself does not seem to currently list either Fletcher’s Castoria or Fletcher’s Laxative among its products on its main Japanese website. However, on the internet, Fletcher’s Laxative can still be readily ordered and purchased from any of a number of pharmacies and pharmaceutical suppliers.

Mildred&RobertBliss2

MILDRED & ROBERT WOODS BLISS

DUMBARTON OAKS

DumbartonOakesConf(1944)     DumbartonOaksFacade

Conference                                           Today

               The last word belongs to the money that flowed from the Castoria empire.  While Charles H. Fletcher – who admittedly lived long enough to contend with income tax as Demus Barnes did not – does not seem to have bestowed any part of his wealth upon a foundation named in his or his family’s honor, a significant tangent to the history of the Centaur Co. is the ultimate philanthropic disposition of Demus Barnes’s fortune. As noted above, his daughter from his first marriage, Cora Barnes, inherited his interest in the company. She was nineteen when he remarried, but seems to have dwelled, somewhat as an afterthought, with his new family. After his death in 1888, she continued to live with her step-mother and a half-sister, born to her father and step-mother. In 1894, her step-mother re-married, to attorney William Bliss, and, in 1908, her half-sister, Mildred, married her own step-brother, Robert Woods Bliss, William’s son by his prior marriage, who served as a career U.S. diplomat. Cora continued to reside with the Blisses until she fell out of a fourth floor French window of their New York home, ostensibly having tripped over a low sill, on her fifty-third birthday in September, 1911. Since she died on her birthday and had been recovering from a nervous breakdown suffered the prior year, some believe that she committed suicide, but it was noted that she was a “large” woman and the coroner ruled her death accidental. Almost all of Cora’s fortune went to Mildred Bliss, recombining with the share of Demus Barnes’s fortune left directly to her. It was further supplemented by the remainder of Demus’s estate inherited from her mother, Demus’s widow, who died in 1935. The younger Blisses, in turn, used this fortune to create and endow an estate in Washington, D. C. known as Dumbarton Oaks, with elaborate gardens created by a pioneering female landscape designer, Beatrix Ferrand, and buildings created by renowned architects, such as Philip Johnson. They gave it to Harvard in 1940 and continued to enhance until Robert’s death in 1962 and Mildred’s in 1969. Through the efforts of Robert Woods Bliss, Dumbarton Oaks was the site of a conference among the Allied Nations in 1944 which not only created the outline for the formation of the United Nations, but also set economic guidelines for the post-World War II world. It remains open to the public today both as a museum and gardens and as a conference center, library and research facility. By such intricate and indirect pathways, did some fraction of the enormous private wealth conferred upon at least one patent medicine manufacturer trickle back to public benefit.

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2019

 

 

 

Standard
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 e