THE ABBOTTS: Abbott Alkaloidal Co



Three different groups of Abbott cancels appear on the battleship proprietary stamps. They belong to the Abbott Alkaloidal Company headquartered in Chicago, IL, the C. W. Abbott Company based in Baltimore, MD, and Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co of Worcester, MA and later Boston. While these companies shared the name Abbott, they occupied different niches in the drug, patent medicine and nostrum businesses and ultimately developed along very different paths. Abbott Alkaloidal Co flourished and grew into the giant Abbott Laboratories, still a massive player in the current pharmaceutical industry, although itself charting a new course as of January 1, 2013.



C W Abbott Co manufactured one significant product – Abbott’s Bitters, a special type of medicinal digestive aid. This brand was so distinctive and so alluring that it ultimately shed its medicinal origins and, in the subsequent Jazz Era, became the mixer of choice for Manhattan cocktails, assuring that it would remain a topic of interest among mixed drink connoisseurs into our own time. However, any discussion of the C W Abbott Company would be incomplete unless it explored its great rivalry with J W Wuppermann, for these two companies clashed bitterly and incessantly for a quarter century over the manufacture and sale of a certain kind of bitters – angostura bitters – so Wuppermann is here treated as an honorary “Abbott” to provide the full picture.

AbbottCW-2-RB26-1899-09-09      SiegertDrJ-2-RB28(WuppermannJW)



Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Company seems to have done a steady business through the heyday of great Patent Medicine Era in the 1890s and early 1900s, and then seemingly disappeared entirely.






AbbottAlkaloidalCo-2-RB23-1899-01-18-hs      AbbottAlkaloidalCo-2-RB23-1899-08-23-hs(exOrton)

AbbottAlkaloidalCo-2-RB25-1900-05-15-hs     AbbottAlkaloidalCo-2-RB25-1900-06-20-hs



AbbottAlkaloidalCo-2-RB20-1898-08-09-p(exOrton)    AbbottAlkaloidalCo-2-RB21-1898-07-27-p     AbbottAlkaloidalCo-2-RB22-1898-08-09-pAbbottAlkaloidalCo-2-RB24-1897-08-27-p     AbbottAlkaloidalCo-2-RB25-1898-09-15-p(exOrton)




          Wallace Calvin Abbott was a physician and owner of the People’s Drug Store in Chicago who began his business career marketing Dr Abbott’s Tooth Ache Drops. He was born in Bridgewater, VT in 1857, studied at St Johnsbury College and Dartmouth, and graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1885. According to the historical time line section of Abbott Laboratories’ website, he first prepared ” ‘dosimetric granules’ in the apartment” above his drugstore about 1888. This pharmacological innovation was a process for distilling potentially poisonous and addictive liquid pain killing drugs such as codeine, morphine, quinine and strychnine, all derived from alkaloid compounds, into solid form. Distillation both obviated spoilage of the precious drugs and made their dissemination in the form of measured pill dosages both predictable and accurate. To exploit his new process, he established the Abbott Alkaloidal Co in 1888.  By 1891, his venture had made him comfortable enough to build a Queen Anne style home located in the Ravenswood section of Chicago.



This house – re-purchased by the company in 1977 – still stands and was designated a historic landmark by Chicago in 2006. After the company incorporated in 1900, Dr Abbott himself, according to the company’s website, lived the life of a beloved eccentric, preferring to practice medicine and make house calls on his bicycle rather than laboring in the corporate boardroom.



In 1904, Dr Alfred S. Burdick joined Abbott, and he soon took on many of the administrative duties, ultimately succeeding Abbott as President of the Company. Abbott lived until 1921, long enough for the company to change its name in 1915 to Abbott Laboratories and to break ground for its first suburban office complex.



While he died a wealthy man, in an age of conspicuous ostentation, he seems to have lived relatively modestly, holding to both the Methodist faith and Republican views of the well-to-do of his era.

Abbott’s quiet and stable marriage to Clara Augusta Ingraham in 1886 yielded one daughter, Eleanor, born in 1899. She, in turn, graduated from Northwestern in 1922 and later must have persuaded her mother’s charitable foundation, established after her mother’s death, also in 1921, to make a million and a half dollar donation to Northwestern. While the gift was earmarked to stimulate the study of medical, chemical and surgical sciences, with the Foundation’s permission, the trustees of the school instead erected and dedicated in 1940 a dormitory called Abbott Hall in honor of Wallace and Clara, using the profits from room rental to fulfill the original grant purposes. During World War II, Abbott Hall housed the Navy’s Midshipmen Training School, whose most famous graduate was President John F Kennedy. Northwestern now uses Abbott Hall for graduate student housing. The Clara Abbott Foundation still exists to provide financial assistance and guidance to Abbott employees, retirees and their dependents. Eleanor married one Rollin Ford, who seems to have began his career as a chauffeur for Abbott Laboratories and was serving as the director of a gym facility for the Ravenswood Methodist Church at the time he and Eleanor met. She lived until 1960 and their estates apparently largely benefitted YMCA facilities, including a YMCA camp still functioning in Ryerson, MI where their son, a pilot killed in a military accident, had been a counselor. Eleanor Abbott Ford was a patroness of the arts and her name is memorialized on an arts center dedicated at Knox College in Galesberg, IL in 1964.





          The business of Abbott Laboratories continued to prosper. In 1907 it fielded its first sales force of seven representatives, and by 1910, it had offices in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto, with a London agent representing its European interests, and business interests in India.

AbbottAlkaloidalCo-10-1RV      AbbottAlkaloidalCo-10-2RV




During World War I, it purchased from the Alien Property Custodian of the United States government patents and trademarks formerly held by German companies, and used these rights to manufacture drugs formerly produced by these German companies and their United States subsidiaries for the United States market, as well as inventing some important substitute compounds. Between the wars, the company became a publically held corporation by selling stock on the Chicago Stock Exchange in 1929.



In this period, its major innovations were introducing Nembutal, an important anaesthetic, as well as Sodium Pentothal, commonly thought of as “truth serum.”



During World War II, it became a key producer of penicillin. In 1952, it introduced Erythrocin, an important antibiotic. In the latter part of the Twentieth Century, among other activities, it produced the cyclamate Sucaryl, a sugar substitute banned as a carcinogen in 1969; marketed Similac, an infant’s dietary supplement as well as Ensure, an “adult” nutritional supplement; engaged in AIDS research, ultimately developing the first AIDS diagnostic test; and, in the 1990s, developed Prevacid, still today touted endlessly on television as the answer to heartburn (although no longer owned or controlled by Abbott Laboratories), all the time growing larger through various mergers.

In 2009, Abbott lost a legal case, Abbott v. Sandoz, in which a national federal appellate court cleared up conflicting rulings by various other federal courts and made a significant ruling concerning a modern form of patents, called a “process patent,” that a second drug company that develops, through an admittedly different manufacturing process, the same formula as a patented drug does not infringe the first drug company’s patent, since the manufacturing process, if described in the patent (thus making it a “process patent”), is self-limiting to the process described.

AbbottAlkaloidalCo-4a-1959-2a(ALaboratories)      AbbottAlkaloidalCo-4a-1959-2b(ALaboratories)


          On January 1, 2013, Abbott, although a company boasting annual revenues exceeding $38 million and 90,000 employees, voluntarily spun off a portion of its business into a new company, AbbVie, claiming the new configuration could better exploit changing market conditions. The CEO of Abbott Laboratories continued as the CEO of the newer, smaller Abbott Laboratories, capitalized at $21.5 million. This company retained the medical products portion of its business, covering medical devices, nutritional care, diagnostics, and animal health. The Executive Vice President of the older Abbott Laboratories became CEO of AbbVie, capitalized at $17.4 million. The new company consisted of the proprietary pharmaceutical holdings of the former Abbott Laboratories, notably the drug Humira, an effective treatment of auto-immune diseases which retains patent protection until 2016. Stockholders of the parent company were automatically assigned proportional shares in the new company, which was immediately listed and separately traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Both companies remain headquartered outside of Chicago. On their websites, the new Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie both proudly retain the original Abbott Laboratories’ declaration that it was a “global citizen.” Abbott Laboratories states it sells its products in more than 150 countries, and employs approximately 69,000 people. AbbVie claims to transact business in over 170 countries, and has approximately 25,000 employees. It also inherited the parent company’s research centers located at its headquarters, in Massachusetts, California, China and Germany.

Just over a year into their split existences, the two companies still appear to be acting in sync with one other, even though the division portends that they will operate completely separately at some future time. Time will tell what ultimately lies in store for the new companies.

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2014





The ABBOTTS: C. W. Abbott & Co.

C. W. Abbott & Co.




AbbottCW-2-RB26-2-1899-08-21     AbbottCW-2-RB26-1899-09-09     AbbottCW-2-RB26-1900-09-01


Bitters are defined as brews of various liquors and pungently flavored plant extracts that have been produced since prehistoric times. From that hallowed “time immemorial,” they have been extolled as possessing medicinal power to calm digestive ailments, particularly those discomforts resulting from overstuffed stomachs abused by feasting and banqueting. C. W. Abbott & Co. began to produce its Abbott’s Bitters in 1872. Cornelius W. Abbott, whose name graced the business after 1876, was the son of the founder of the business, Cornelius F. Abbott. F had begun the company in 1865 and remained an active partner until his death in1894. W, born in 1855, entered his father’s business at the tender age of 17, and stepped to the helm of the bitters business not long after his 21st birthday.


AbbottCW-3-1903-1a      AbbottCW-3-1903-1b





With their bitters selling well, the Baltimore Abbotts established themselves as part of that city’s upper crust. A contemporary thumbnail sketch of C W Abbott – contained in one of those abundant compilations of local notables that remain to us as a token of the confidence reposed in the pillars of America’s burgeoning capitalistic society of the Gilded Age – laid great stress on the imposing antecedents from which he sprang, speculating on his titled forebearers in England and tracing his ancestry in the United States directly back to one George Abbot who settled in Rowley, MA sometime between 1620 and his death in 1647. According to this portrait, C W prized quality over quantity, eschewing opportunities to expand his business unless he could guarantee the distinctiveness of his product, and was “straight and clean” in all his business transactions, affirming that “[c]ontact with his fellow man stirred up his ambition to build a good business character. The rest [of his success] has been a matter of growth.” Perhaps the most surprising fact revealed about C W in the sketch was that he was an Independent rather than a Republican. That forgivable aberration is explained by a last reference to his quirky Puritan forefathers, although the author hastened to assure the readers that even though the name Abbott derived from the Roman Catholic title abbot, the present Abbott was as staunch as his predecessors in his profession of Protestant beliefs. C W kept producing his Bitters until his death in 1932.



Perhaps the greatest wonder of Abbott’s Bitters is that they achieved their greatest fame long after the age of nostrums and patent medicines, when their piquant flavor made them the perfect mixer for Manhattan cocktails. Because of their great utility to bartenders, these bitters continued to be produced well into the 1950s. Surviving bottles retaining their original content are so prized among cocktail connoisseurs that modern websites discuss the precise spectrographic analysis of bitters’ samples of various ages with an eye to recreating the original formula now buried deep in the “sands of time,” as well as trumpeting, like moon rocket launches, each new attempt to recreate the precise Abbott’s Bitters taste.

AbbottCW-10-5aRV     AbbottCW-10-5b     AbbottCW-10-5c





1946 C. W. ABBOTT AD









However much C W Abbott stove to cooperate with his fellow men to attain a favorable business reputation, court records make plain that he spent an enormous amount of time and energy in litigation defending his right to market his Bitters as he chose. At the beginning, Abbott’s advertising featured them as Abbott’s Angostura Bitters. The matter of whose bitters were the genuine “Angostura Bitters” became a matter of repeated pointed legal clashes between Abbott’s and J W Wuppermann in the period between 1880 and 1905.




© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2014



THE ABBOTTS: J. W. Wuppermann (An honorary Abbott)

J. W. Wuppermann


SiegertDrJ-2-RB21(WuppermannJW)              SiegertDrJ-2-RB28(WuppermannJW)





The origins of the competing angostura bitters – always pointedly asserted to be the only true and proper “Angostura Bitters” – were much more romantic and glamorous than C W Abbott’s, stemming from revolutionary South America at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. One Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, a German doctor, born in 1796 and, according to legend, present among the military physicians who tended the Prussian wounded at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, thereafter emigrated to Venezuela in 1820 to aid Simon Bolivar in his fight to win freedom from Spain. He traveled to Bolivar’s headquarters at Angostura on the Orinoco River in Venezuela. Bolivar appointed him Surgeon General of the military hospital army at Angostura. The following year, after Bolivar had liberated Venezuela, he moved on to carry the fight to other Spanish colonies, but Siegert remained in Angostura. While tending his patients in 1824, Siegert developed a medicinal tonic. In 1830, he opened a distillery in Angostura to manufacture the tonic that he was now exporting to Trinidad and England. In 1850, he resigned his commission in the Venezuelan army to devote his energies entirely to the burgeoning tonic business. By 1867, he had brought his sons into the distillery, and when he died in 1870, he had established both a flourishing international business as well as a dynasty.



As his trade expanded, Siegert apparently seems to have formed a bond with another German expatriate, one Adolph Christian Wuppermann, who had spent time in Angostura as well, and ran an import-export business which maintained offices at the port city of Hamburg in Germany. A. C’s son, George Diogracia Wuppermann, was born in Angostura in 1838, trained in his father’s offices in Hamburg, and by 1863 had set himself up in international trade at Port-of-Spain, the capital of the British Carribean island colony of Trinidad. As well as acting as the German counsel in Trinidad, one of the other roles he immediately assumed was to act as distribution agent on behalf of the Siegert family tonic business. Later, in 1875, because of continuing political instability in Venezuela, the Siegerts relocated their entire business from Angostura to Port-of-Spain, possibly at G D Wuppermann’s suggestion.





 Both the Siegerts and Wuppermann were expanding their horizons. To enlarge the company’s business and open new markets, J G B Siegert’s eldest son, Carlos, exhibited the family’s bitters in London, Paris, and Vienna in Europe, where he won medals, and even traveled to such far-flung shores as Australia and the United States. Mark Twain seems to have been an early American admirer of the bitters after he tasted them in London, even writing a letter to his wife to stock up on them in anticipation of his return from a speaking tour. G D Wuppermann also must have been involved in the push into the American market. In 1870, he married Josephine Wright Hancox, whose father, Joseph Wright Hancox, already wealthy from the steamship business, underwrote Wuppermann’s importing business in New York City under the name J W Hancox. The young Wuppermanns stepped right into fashionable American society. The new Mrs Wuppermann’s sister had earlier married the brother of E A Harriman, the railroad baron, and the new Wuppermanns were privileged to be married by E A’s father, the Rev Orlando Harriman. Sometime around 1876, G D Wuppermann changed the name of his business to J W Wuppermann, retaining his wife and father-in-law’s initials. While the bitters were continued to be manufactured by J G B Siegert & Sons in Trinidad, after that date they were marketed in the United States by J W Wuppermann, and either Siegert or Wuppermann was perpetually engaging in battles to protect the brand name. While Siegert never applied a cancel directly to U.S. proprietary revenues, the Wuppermann “J W W” initials do appear on the battleship revenues.



 WUPPERMANN COVERS – 1895 and circa 1930

Although the Siegerts and the Wuppermanns never seemed to have actually intermarried, one of G D Wuppermann’s children did bear Siegert among his middle names. And what a prolific progenitor G D Wuppermann was! There were eleven Wuppermann babies, most of whom survived into adulthood. The brother who bore the Siegert middle name not only traced a notable acting career as an undergraduate Columbia University, but also was generally regarded as a budding poet and scholar. Sadly, he died violently as U.S. Army intelligence officer in occupied Germany in 1919. His younger brother, acting under the stage name of Ralph Morgan, was a founder of the Screen Actors Guild, the union which to this day represents actors. However, the most famous of this clan was the youngest, Francis Philip Wuppermann, who followed his brother into show business, and, under his stage name, Frank Morgan, is forever beloved by any child who has ever seen the 1939 movie the Wizard of Oz as the slightly loopy Wizard himself.





In the long bitter “bitters war” between the Siegert/Wuppermann clan and the Abbotts, the Siegerts inevitably were the attackers. They alleged that their bitters were the true “Angostura Bitters” because the were manufactured at Angostura, Venezuela. The Siegerts brought the first battle of their campaign directly to the Abbotts by suing them in Maryland asking that the courts prohibit the Abbotts from advertising their bitters as “Angostura Bitters” on the grounds that the Abbott’s advertising misled people into buying their “Angostura Bitters” when they really meant to buy the genuine “Angostura Bitters” made by Siegerts.

???????????????????????????????                SiegertDrJ-10-1b           SiegertDrJ-10-1c

SiegertDrJ-10-9aRV     SiegertDrJ-10-9bRV     SiegertDrJ-10-9cRV

SiegertDrJ-10-13a     SiegertDrJ-10-13d     SiegertDrJ-10-13e


Their strategy and their suit misfired. They should have known better than to sue on the defendants’ home turf. The Maryland courts looked at the label on the Siegerts’ bottle and opined if the Siegerts were trying to prevent confusion, their own label actually engendered it. First, the Maryland court endorsed the Abbott’s argument that no one can claim exclusive use of a generally recognized geographic called location, like Angostura, Venezuela. In addition, it found that although the Siegerts called their Bitters “Angostura Bitters,” Angostura was by then known as Ciudad Bolivar, so the location itself was mis-identified. It further concluded that even if Angostura still existed, the bitters by then were not manufactured in Angostura, Venezuela, but rather in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, another misstatement. Next, it found that the Siegerts’ use of J G B’s signature to prove genuineness was disingenuous because it implied that J G B was in charge when he had been dead since 1870. Last, and most significantly, it pointed out that others bitters manufacturers advertised their bitters as Angostura bitters because the bitters themselves contained angostura bark, or the bitter bark of trees in the rue family native to South America, which in addition to being an old, recognized and respected folk medicine, lent their name to the region. Curiously, the Siegerts never alleged that their bitters actually contained angostura bark, which might have given them some plausible reason for calling them angostura bitters.


        SiegertDrJ-5-1aRV2     SiegertDrJ-5-1cRV2



SiegertDrJ-6a-1887-1a     SiegertDrJ-6a-1902-1     SiegertDrJ-6a-1909-1RV


Having failed in Maryland, and, after modifying their label to meet the objections of the Maryland courts, the Siegerts moved the battle to New York State, since they maintained their own offices in New York City, and again brought suit to enjoin the Abbotts from selling their bitters as Angostura Bitters. The first judge who heard their request to stop the Abbott’s marketing practices agreed that the Abbotts should be barred from using that name, but on appeal, the reviewing court found that Angostura was a regional name, and reversed the trial judge. In 1894, the Abbotts mailed a double postcard to their customers summarizing their litigation victory on the outbound flap, and soliciting their customers’ orders on the return flap of the same card.  The Siegerts tried several more times, variously naming Abbott’s distributors as defendants, to attain sole masterly of the Angostura Bitters appellation, but were simply unable to convince the courts that the title was singular to Siegert, instead of a geographical location name which anyone from the region had equal right to utilize.

AbbottCW-4-1894-1a                               AbbottCW-4-1894-1b



Possibly because of its difficulty establishing its brand superiority in the United States, J G B Siegert & Sons always kept its manufacturing operations off-shore. When Carlos Siegert died in 1903, his younger brothers Alfredo and Luis took over control of the Siegert company. Alfredo became purveyor of bitters to the King of Prussia in 1904, to the King of Spain in 1907, and to the King of England in 1912, and the company has added royal endorsements at every opportunity since then. The company formed itself as an English corporation in 1912 and changed its name to Angostura Bitters Limited in 1921.



In the United States, the American Medical Association (AMA) finally took a hard slam at Angostura Bitters when the Wuppermann agency ran an ad in 1922 claiming that a late AMA Vice-President had testified in court that the Angostura Bitters had medical efficacy. The full page denunciation of the Bitters, published in the AMA’s Journal issue of September 23, 1922, made certain corrections to the ad which changed its meaning quite significantly, to wit, that the testimony came from a 1905 court proceeding, further, that the testifier had been a patent medicine nostrum producer himself, that the closest he had come to the leadership of the AMA was that he had held the fourth Vice-Presidency in the AMA thirty-six years earlier and, to boot, had, in fact, been dead for the last nine years. Unfazed by the AMA’s blast, the Wuppermann agency seems to have welcomed the role of its bitters as a cocktail mixer in the era of Prohibition, by incorporating and adding an Angostura to its name at some point, perhaps as early as 1925. Run by G D Wuppermann until his death in 1915, that company continued under his widow, Josephine, until her death in 1936, and then under their son, Adolph, who died less than a year after his mother. The American corporation then began to bring outsiders into the management, made a public offering of its stock in 1937, and built a new headquarters and plant in Elmhurst, Queens in New York City in 1957. It also published a number of drink mixing guides and cookbooks during this period to promote sale of the bitters.

      SiegertDrJ-20-1RV     SiegertDrJ-20-2RV

            SiegertDrJ-20-5aRV     SiegertDrJ-20-5bRV

                   DRINK RECEIPE BOOKS

               SiegertDrJ-25-1eeeRV       SiegertDrJ-25-1eeRV







1948 AD

The event that appears finally to have disrupted the balance between the English manufacturer and its American distributor, is that, in the 1950s, Angostura -Wuppermann, the American distributor, tried to buy Angostura Bitters Limited, the English manufacturer, and transfer the manufacturing operations out of Trinidad. That bid was thwarted by Trinidad & Tobago’s then Prime Minister, Eric Williams, who offered Limited’s shareholders enough to dissuade them from accepting Angostura-Wuppermann’s bid. After the 1950s (and perhaps that hostile bid against the producer of its goods), Angostura-Wuppermann disappeared from prominence, although the corporation existed at least through the end of the 1960s. In 1992, the English manufacturing company streamlined its name to Angostura Limited, and in 1997 it was purchased by a liquor distribution corporation headquartered in Scotland today known as C L World Brands. In 2008, that company’s financial profligacy briefly caused some minor economic palpitations concerning the Angostura brand’s survival, but the very large global corporation seems to have extracted itself from that peril and still manufactures its Angostura Bitters today. They can be purchased virtually at any liquor store or on the web.


© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2014



The ABBOTTS: Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co.

Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co.

AbbottMentholPlasterCo-2-RB23-1-1898RV(OrtonType1)     AbbottMentholPlasterCo-2-RB23-2-1899RV(OrtonType2)

AbbottMentholPlasterCo-2-RB23-3-1900RV(OrtonType3)     AbbottMentholPlasterCo-2-RB23-4-1899RV(Type4)


(minor variations in periods)

 This company arose in Worcester, MA in 1885 under the leadership of Peter P. Bradt. A drug trade magazine wrote in January, 1896: “About ten years ago, he induced a number of local capitalists to invest several thousand dollars in a stock company for the manufacture of Abbott’s Menthol Plasters and he became the active manager.” It is unclear how or why Bradt chose to call his plasters “Abbott’s.” According to Bizpedia, a business website, the company incorporated in Massachusetts in 1891, and is still listed today on the state’s roster of corporations. A contemporaneous report places the date of incorporation in February, 1891, and its initial capital at $35,000. Unfortunately for Peter Bradt, the occasion of the drug trade magazine’s comment about him was its obituary of him. He committed suicide at age 42, apparently shortly after losing a trade infringement suit to the Blood Cordial Co over his attempt to manufacture a remedy called Blood Cordial. After his death, David L Bradt, apparently Peter’s younger brother, served as treasurer and manager of the company, and managed the company’s business affairs. David was born in Litchfield, New Hampshire in 1858, graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, worked for the well respected drug firm of Theodore Metcalf in Boston, and by 1885 was operating a drug store in Worcester with a partner, W E Turple. In 1887, he formed a partnership with William S Flint which operated two drug stores in Worcester until 1890 when Flint bought Bradt out. An index of Worcester “oddities” mentions David L Bradt’s “tame bears,” but the exploration of the full extent of his animal husbandry skills, or his personality quirks, will have to await another investigator’s perusal of the December 29, 1898 issue of the Worcester Evening Gazette, preserved in the Gazette’s archives in Worcester’s Public Library (but not on line), which contains the article mentioning the tame bears. Along with maintaining his interest in Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co, Bradt organized the Apothecary Publishing Co, and listed his occupation as a publisher in the 1900 Census. He served as its treasurer for three years. The Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co itself, is the listed publisher of a thirty-one page novella entitled a Romance in Boston by Bertha Norvin, published, among other such short books, as part of its advertising campaign in lieu of almanacs. In 1909, David Bradt moved to Passaic, NJ and became a manufacturer of “fancy paper” goods, a position he held until his death from acute Bright’s Disease in 1914. Apparently, the company languished in his absence. In early 1914, the Massachusetts legislature swept it into an omnibus dissolution act, usually reserved for companies that have failed to pay their state taxes. David’s widow, Katherine A Bradt, who had served on the company’s board of directors for approximately a decade, promptly re-incorporated it together with one Alice J Kelly and one John J Mansfield, again with the same $35,000 capitalization, but thereafter the company’s transactions drop from reported history. Only its lingering shadow on Bizpedia hints that it still may exist.


1902 AD


AbbottsMentholPlasterCo-10-1aRV     AbbottsMentholPlasterCo-10-1cRV



As its name suggests, the company manufactured plasters, the predecessors of what we today regard as bandages, and its trade listings always indicated the price of plasters as purchased by length. However, it experimented with other kinds of delivery systems for the soothing elements of the menthol it so prominently feature. One of the odder products that the company produced, in and around 1890, was the “electric” inhaler, which was an inhaler that, despite its name, had no electric component. Rather it had a stem to suck upon attached to a circular body with a face, like that of the man in the moon, pressed into it. The mouth contained a tiny lever, like a tongue, which when moved across the mouth caused to eyes to open, creating an air channel and allowing the menthol in the circular body to be inhaled. A trade card illustrates the look of the inhaler. The gadget itself holds its place of honor on the website devoted to memorializing inhalers (yes there is one of those, just as there is a website glorifying battleship revenue cancels).

AbbottsMentholPlasterCo-5-1aRV           AbbottsMentholPlasterCo-5-1bRV




All three companies whose appellations contained the name Abbott arose in the Patent Medicine Era. One, Abbott Laboratories, is still going strong today, although embarking on a new and somewhat risky venture by splitting itself in two. The product of C. W. Abbott & Co, Abbott’s Bitters, is still valued, with the quest to emulate that original formula being akin to the quest for the Holy Grail in the circle of bitters connoisseurs. The third company, Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Co, appears to have yielded its place to more modern bandage technology, while leaving a few colorful artifacts in its wake.

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2014


Allen & Hanburys Ltd.


The roots of Allen & Hanburys, Limited lie deep in English, not American, soil. It originated as the Plough Court Pharmacy in London in 1715, and its founder, Silvanus Beven, born in 1691, was accepted into the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries only after a seven years apprenticeship. That society, in turn, traced its beginnings to the Society of Pepperers, chartered in 1180. Beven traveled in well-to-do circles, marrying the daughter of the Royal clockmaker. His family followed him into the business, which continued during the Eighteenth Century as a succession of partnerships.

In 1792, William Allen became associated with the partnership, and soon came to dominate it. He was elected to the Royal Society for his work in botany and chemistry, spoke several languages and befriended some of the rulers of Europe, including George III of England and the Czar of Russia. Being a Quaker, Allen held strong abolitionist opinions, was a founding member of the British anti-slavery society that is now the oldest human rights organization in the world, and helped sponsor the first worldwide anti-slavery convention held in London in 1840. Allen survived his first two wives, and through the family of his second wife Charlotte, Daniel Bell Hanbury, who became a renowned scientist in his own right, apprenticed to the partnership in 1808.

Allen & Hanburys cancelled 1 1/4 cent proprietary stamps

After Allen’s death in 1843, Daniel Bell Hanbury and then his son, a second Daniel Bell Hanbury, took control of the business. In 1879, the American Pharmaceutical Association began awarding a gold medal for significant discoveries or advances in the pharmaceutical field in honor of the younger Hanbury, whose scientific achievements apparently even surpassed his father’s, but who suffered from a weak constitution and died in 1875. Daniel Bell’s second son, Thomas, having participated and grown wealthy in the business, became a notable horticulturist and after 1867 restored an estate on the Riviera , whose Hanbury Gardens remain renowned today. Because there were multiple Hanburys, by 1858 the company name was fixed as the plural, Allen & Hanburys, not Allen & Hanbury. Its incorporation in 1878 added the title “Ltd.” The company grew to have branch offices in Canada, South Africa, Australia, India, Malaysia and Argentina and agencies in many other countries. A reporter watching the manufacture of pastilles at one of the factories in 1906 marveled that “from the time the liquid mass leaves the pan until the pastilles reach the customer … a human hand shall not have touched them.”

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, when Allen & Hanburys, Ltd canceled battleship revenues at their warehouse in Niagara Falls, NY to comply with American tax requirements, it was involved in a variety of pharmaceutical businesses. As well as manufacturing a variety of infant formulas, up to and including Allenbury’s Rusks, a special first solid food for babies, the company also produced some eighty different varieties of Allenbury’s pastilles, as well as castor oil, soaps, and malt extracts, at that time considered particularly invigorating as a supplement for general nourishment. It was among the leaders in introducing cod liver oil to England and purchased special facilities for its manufacture on Norway’s Lofoten Island. The company also expanded into fabricating surgical instruments and even manufactured specialized operating tables for London’s notable St. Bart’s Hospital. It survived severe bombing damage inflicted on its plants during World Wars I and II. In 1958, the corporation was purchased by Glaxo. In 1968 it launched a treatment for asthma still utilized and respected today. At present, Allen & Hanburys, Ltd. operates under its own name as a division of GlaxoSmithKline.


© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2012