B, S

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

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer

Chapter V.3 – Bovinine Co., Manufacturer





          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.


Liebig-1953FRGStamp2     Liebig-1978DDRStamp2




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.



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.”


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




          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:


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:






          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.




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




          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.



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)


          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.



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

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

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



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


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



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



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



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



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



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



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

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


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


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



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

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


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

BushAP&Co-2-RB20     BushAP&Co-2-RB26


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


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


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


BushJP-5-3d(Bovinine)     BushJP-5-3e


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




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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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



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

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


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

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

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


© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2019


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

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

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

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

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

B, S

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

Sterling Products, Inc., Manufacturer

Chapter 4.2 – Bayer Medicine Co., Manufacturer

RBayer-10A-1b     RBayer-10A-1a     RBayer-10A-1c    RBayer-10A-1d


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




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



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


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



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

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018


M. J. Breitenbach Co. + Martin H. Smith Co.






BreitenbachMJ-2-RB28-1899-1     BreitenbachMJ-2-RB28-1900-3


BreitenbachMJ-2-RB28-1900-5     BreitenbachMJ-2-RB28-1901-1


In virtually every grouping of proprietary battleship cancels, one finds a red two-and-one-half cent (RB28) cancelled with the initials “M J B Co.” None of the cancels are printed; all are hand stamped. While Mustacich and Giacomelli accord the company that produced it three separate listings and indicate that the cancel may appear on as many as three other values, the great variety of those cancels observed are RB28s with purple, sans-serif initials arranged in one line plus a year date line. Because all varieties feature the date expressed in year form only, it is interesting to note that these cancels do not even appear to have conformed to the very Treasury regulations that required their use, for as of January 1, 1899, the regulations pertaining to cancellation were broadened to require the month and day of use as well as the year. However, there is no indication that the Treasury Department ever took action against Breitenbach for its omission. Because of the neglect of both the government and collectors (since it lacks printed cancels), the lowly one line “M J B Co/yr date” cancel is the Rodney Dangerfield of battleship proprietaries: it gets no respect. Yet, its very survival in such great quantities indicates that the company behind the cancel, M J Breitenbach Company, had marketed an extremely successful product. Herein lies that tale, and within that story a much lesser known company’s cancel is also revealed.



Bearing in mind the generally low-level of nutrition in the late 19th Century for the great mass of people (think of Tevyah of Fiddler on the Roof dreaming of his wife Goldie’s having a “proper double chin” were he a wealthy man), and, at the other extreme, the imposing girth of the rich – now considered extremely unhealthy – and thought to have been brought about by the gluttony promoted by the sumptuous over-extravagance displayed at their banquets, it is no wonder that dietary supplements were an important medical consideration even in the Gilded Age. By 1850, the element iron had been identified as a significant factor in the maintenance of proper blood function. However, iron, particularly in an inorganic state, is extremely hard to digest and its ingestion has unpleasant side effects such as erosion of tooth enamel and constipation. The earliest attempt at a more palatable iron therapy focused on making iron available in organic form, from albuminates derived from the hemoglobin in beef blood. These organic compounds, however, tended to be defective in terms of form, taste and stability. Later sterile, stable forms of organic iron still tended to decompose improperly in the digestive process. In Leipzig, Germany around 1890, Dr. August Gude, managed to create a compound of iron; another metal, manganese; and peptones, a class of water soluable, partially hydrated proteins; that finally met the criteria of acceptable taste, stability and digestibility of the iron content to warrant production as a commercially viable blood supplement. Dr Gude chose to market his new blood invigorating wonder tonic under the name Pepto-Mangan. M J Breitenbach made his fortune importing Gude’s Pepto-Mangan, from Germany.



Max J Breitenbach (virtually universally referred to as M J Breitenbach) was born in Albany, GA in 1856, but received his schooling in Newark, NJ. He attended, and graduated, from the New York College of Pharmacy in 1877 and went to work for the drugstore partnership of Taheppe & Schur in New York City. In 1878, he shifted to a clerk’s position at the downtown New York City drugstore of Albert Dung. He became manager in 1881 and bought the store from the founder’s son, Albert C Dung, in 1883, when the older man died and the younger decided to move back to Germany. Entrusted by the younger Dung with his business affairs in the United States, Breitenbach prospered and opened a second store on the extremely fashionable Madison Avenue as well, bringing him a degree of prominence in the industry.



Emboldened by his success, Breitenbach decided to expand into the proprietary business, and in 1892, he formed the M J Breitenbach Company (“Company”) to sell Pepto-Mangan in the United States. The particulars of exactly how Gude and Breitenbach found each other and arranged a commercial alliance seem lost to posterity, since Breitenbach’s branching into the importing business seems both precocious and fortuitous. The entire licensing arrangement and corporate structure, at first, involved another specialty New York City drug firm, Eisner & Mendelson (soon to appear as the next “E” company in this study), along with Edward G Wells, from the C N Crittenton Co. The Crittenton Co (RS62-64, plus its own bevy of battleship handstamped cancels, which will be the next “C” company in this study, was among the wholesale drug trade industry heavyweights in New York City and across the nation. Because Breitenbach was going to require a distribution network for Pepto-Mangan, he needed to work out arrangements with a wholesaler so that Pepto-Mangan would be on store shelves as soon as he began importing it from Germany. In his discussions with the Crittenton Co, he became acquainted with its corporate vice-president and member of its Board of Directors, Edward G Wells.


1894 AD

Wells and Breitenbach made such a good team that Wells bought into Breitenbach’s deal, acted as one of the incorporators of the Company and soon after was serving as its secretary and treasurer, in addition to holding a special place at Crittenton Co, the first desk inside its door from which he greeted everyone entering the Crittenton Co and directed them to the right department. Wells and Breitenbach bought out Eisner & Mendelson’s share at the beginning of 1896, as the business was skyrocketing. The growth of the Company was so sudden and unexpected for Breitenbach, that in 1897, with his own health temporarily imperiled from the strain, he persuaded Wells to resign from Crittenton after seventeen years of service with that company to devote his entire energy to assisting Breitenbach to sell Pepto-Mangan. As a contemporary trade journal reported: “Mr. Breitenbach is to devote himself more particularly to the pharmaceutical aspects of the business, and Mr. Wells will manage the commercial side.”



Wells, born in New York City in 1846, brought his own extensive experience to Breitenbach’s operation. His father, F C Wells, had emigrated to the United States from England and operated a drug store in New York City. F C also brought with him the method for mass producing plasters (wound dressings that were the forerunners of bandages) by machine. Up until that point, plasters had to be individually prepared by pharmacists. He opened his own firm, F C Wells & Co, to exploit his process and his son began working with him at age 14. To gain wider knowledge of the trade, E G Wells became a drummer, or traveling salesman for a drug wholesaler at age 19. In 1872, he formed his own wholesale drug jobbing partnership, called Wells & Elliott. In 1880, Charles N Crittenton recognized Wells’ talent, bought him out, and brought him into his own operation. By 1897, as well as his positions with the Breitenbach and Crittenton companies, E G Wells also was president and general manager of the M A Wells Co, presumably the successor to his father’s firm, and was also a director of the Moses Dame Co, which marketed a product called Wine in the Woods. Even after Wells formally resigned from the Crittenton Co, he retained a monetary interest in the firm for the rest of his life. The New York Times, profiling the rich, glamorous and outsized personalities gathered in New York City for the 1894 meeting of the Proprietary Association of America, described Wells as “one of the most popular men in the trade, on account of his social qualities. He knows everybody, and is one of the brightest advertisers in the world.”

BreitenbachMJ-3-1aRV(GudePM)     BreitenbachMJ-3-1bRV(GudePM)


Under the joint leadership of Breitenbach and Wells, the Breitenbach Company continued to soar from triumph to triumph. In the period between 1898 and 1900, a cornucopia of medical journals published reports by doctors of favorable results in treating anemia obtained by using Pepto-Mangan. As will be discussed later, it is entirely possible that the Company underwrote the endeavors of these doctors by providing them with a monetary incentive. Late in 1900, Breitenbach and Wells also acted together with a pharmacist originally from Maryland, one Martin H Smith, to incorporate in New York State the Martin H Smith Co, capitalized at $10,000, with the declared purpose of manufacturing pharmaceutical products. That company’s history also will be discussed below. Even a disastrous fire on October 30, 1900, which completely destroyed the building occupied by Tarrant & Co (RS 241 and cancels on first issue revenues, plus first and second proprietary issues as well as the battleship revenues), where the Breitenbach Company had its offices and stock as well, did nothing to dampen its success. The Company immediately set up new headquarters and Wells boasted that another shipment of Pepto-Mangan was already waiting in New York City’s Customs House, so deliveries would continue without interruption. The Company’s rebound was so successful that in 1902 Breitenbach himself purchased the assets of the devastated Tarrant & Co for $51,150 after spirited bidding, which had begun at $4500. He immediately announced that the assets would be transferred to a new company that would be headed by E G Wells.

m737t 343573  07009   0000012301580158005403450000     BreitenbachMJ-10-1aRV(GudePM)     BreitenbachMJ-10-1bRV(GudePM)


From its very introduction of Pepto-Mangan into the American market, the Breitenbach Company strove to put its product on a higher level than the ordinary proprietary medicine. It issued a bulletin to the trade in 1897 pointing out that paragraph 9 of its agency agreement with Gude, provided that it would advertise only to the trade and never to the general public. This announcement drew high praise in the trade journals for setting forth this elevated approach to advertising, and it meant that Pepto-Mangan was considered to be an “ethical” drug, rather than merely a patent medicine.  Presently, an “ethical” drug is defined as a synonym of prescription drug, that is, one issued only upon presentation of a doctor’s written instruction.  In the Gilded Age, advertising only to the trade did not mean that a patient could only procure it by prescription.   Medicine was displayed at retail outlets and the patient needed only to request it.

BreitenbachMJ-5-1a(PeptoMangan)     BreitenbachMJ-5-1b(PeptoMangan)


The following year, IN 1898, when accused of pandering to the public, it issued a circular to the trade again stressing paragraph 9 and denouncing what it termed “malicious accusations” that it had paid sign painters to smother its name on every available surface, such as barns, trees and rocks, as other patent medicine companies did, claiming that the sign painting company itself was named Gude, and was just putting its own name about. The circular was duly reported in the trade journals thus again calling attention to (advertising) the company’s refusal to advertise in that low, common manner.Curiously, this “ethical” approach to advertising drew the Company into perhaps the earliest reported controversy over mis-reported research results, a controversy that sounds extremely modern even more than one hundred years later.  This dispute between a patent medicine manufacturer and the editorial board of a profession journal also marks one of the earliest occasions on which such a professional journal differentiated itself from the industry trade journals and the company catalogues, in advocating for proper medical treatment rather than indiscriminately pushing product. The controversy developed after the Company voluntarily supplied its Pepto-Mangan to an official US government “Commission for the Study and Treatment of Anemia in Porto Rico (“Commission”).” The patent medicine was employed, among other treatments, to combat the symptom of anemia which had recently been linked with the disease uncinariasis, commonly known in English as hookworm, which results from infection with one or more members of the genus of microscopic nematodes (worms) called uncinaria. In 1904, the Commission issued a report showing that the disease diminished significantly through the Commission’s efforts (“Report”). The Journal of the American Medical Association (“AMA Journal”) printed a favorable commentary on the report concluding that the disease, which had recently been thought untreatable, was largely preventable. The AMA Journal highlighted a number of useful anti-parasitic treatments, and mentioned, in passing, that old fashioned remedies, like blindly administering iron to correct the symptom of anemia – a result of the infection, not the cause of the disease – were now outmoded. A few weeks later, the Company circulated throughout the medical industry its own abstract, or summary of the report, stating that the report conclusively demonstrated that Pepto-Mangan was the “foremost hematinic,” or agent for increasing iron in the blood. The Company also addressed a pointed letter to the AMA Journal stating, in substance, that it ought to have known better than to bite the hand that fed it, since the Company was a sponsoring advertiser and the manufacturer found offensive the AMA Journal’s off-handed dismissal of iron supplements as an outmoded treatment, chiding that the` “editorial department … is at variance with the advertising pages,” and that the editors were making a “direct slap” at the company. However, the Company’s circular also prompted the Commission itself to write to the AMA Journal decrying the use that the Company was making of its Report, claiming the Company’s circular put the Commission “in a very unenviable and erroneous light before the medical profession generally,” and denouncing the Company’s implication that the Commission was endorsing Pepto-Mangan as treatment for the anemia that resulted from uncinariasis.

BreitenbachMJ-10-3aRV(GudePM)     BreitenbachMJ-10-3bRV(GudePM)     BreitenbachMJ-10-3cRV(GudePM)


With the Commission’s original Report and second letter in hand, together with the Company’s denunciation of it, the AMA Journal then printed a lengthy riposte, denouncing the Company’s tactic under the heading “Gude’s Pepto-Mangan: Scientific Work Misrepresented and Commercialized,” beginning with the following statement:

In pursuance of the deliberately assumed purpose to enlighten the physicians of the United States on all features of the traffic in proprietary remedies, there will be offered to our readers not only information regarding the composition of such remedies, but also facts concerning the methods of their advertising and sale, which come to light in such shape as to be of service to the profession. No firm or product will be subjected to attack, but publicity will be given to all facts obtainable. Having in mind this purpose the following recital of facts is offered to the profession as illustration of methods employed in the proprietary trade, and as a step in the era of pharmaceutical publicity.

Noting the number of favorable reports that appeared in various medical journals, the AMA Journal emphasized that the Company subsidized the “medical press … to an extent equaled by no other,” and, perhaps because of this enormous financial support, its circulars were generally reported as news items rather than treated as advertising. It began its serious analysis of the Report by pointing out once again that the Report’s real significance was demonstrating that removal of the parasite from the body was the appropriate treatment for the disease, not boosting iron in the system. Then it analyzed in detail the cases in the Report that were actually treated with iron supplements and showed that, after the removal of the parasite from the body, a common version of iron supplement, marketed under the generic name Blaud’s pill was just as effective, if not slightly more so than Pepto-Mangan, in bringing about restoration of the body’s proper iron level, hardly distinguishing Pepto-Mangan as the “foremost hematinic.” The California State Journal of Medicine, as well as reprinting the AMA Journal’s denunciation of the Company’s use of the Report bluntly editorialized: “The dirty money of the unscrupulous manufacturer will do almost anything: it will buy any amount of space in so-called medical journals, and it will enable the spender to present any-old-lies as plausible truth, to the medical profession.”

The AMA Journal itself proceeded with more discretion. A mere six months after it denounced the Company’s distortion of the Report, it investigated another company pamphlet bearing the name of a doctor at the Infant’s Hospital located on Randall’s Island in New York City, purporting to show Pepto-Mangan’s curative powers. The AMA Journal’s investigator quickly found that the doctor who had lent his name to the study had been associated with the hospital about five-year earlier, but had been located in South American since. Moreover, when the investigator reviewed the actual patient records at the Hospital, in a significant number of cases, he found no treatment files to correspond to the results recounted in the Company’s pamphlet, and, where the records could be compared, he noted significant discrepancies between the cases as reported in the pamphlet and the hospital records themselves. The article drew two morals from its investigation. First, it concluded that the integrity of a pamphlet purporting to be a “scientific report” was only as sound as the truthfulness of the study’s writer, and if the writer was tempted by the fees the proprietary houses offered for such favorable commentaries, then such reports would be tainted. Second, still treading slightly more gently than AMA Journal’s California counterpart, it deplored the ethics of the otherwise “personally honorable men” who would try to benefit from such “unjustifiable methods.” While the AMA Journal allowed that Breitenbach himself may not have checked the veracity of the pamphlet, it still held his firm responsible for issuing the misleading pamphlet.


1922 AD

Apparently the Company maintained its faith that its formulation should be considered a legitimate medical treatment, and continued to advertise Pepto-Mangan only in trade and medical journals. In 1914, the AMA’s Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry itself made another review of Pepto-Mangan, and published one further condemnation of the product. While the Council noted that the Company no longer circulated the pamphlets to which the AMA had earlier objected, it also was equally clear that the Company had never withdrawn them entirely, and that the Company’s latest pamphlet still made special claims for the easy absorption and special restorative powers of Pepto-Mangan that, in light of the present understanding of the biology of anemia, were simply false. On this occasion, the AMA Journal openly accused the Company of deliberately attempting to mislead doctors about the efficacy of Pepto-Mangan, and advised physicians that the Council would no longer include Pepto-Mangan on the “New and Unofficial Remedies List” (List) that the AMA maintained, thus implying that physicians should no longer even informally suggest its use.

It would be tempting to say that Pepto-Mangan stopped being sold shortly after the AMA’s condemnation in 1914, but such a statement is unsupportable.  The Company continued to prosper even after its founders passed from the scene.


1937 COVER




Wells retired in February, 1904, sold his interest in the Company back to Breitenbach, and announced he was going to “take life easy.” He and his wife first traveled to the South and then headed for Europe. When he died in 1911, he was remembered as a man who “traveled extensively,” as well as one “addicted to collecting postage stamps of which he had an unusually large and expensive assortment.” He was celebrated as a “well known club man, and held the championship in pool and billiards of the Harlem district of New York.” Breitenbach, a decade younger, died in 1920. According to one of the principal trade journals, “[h]e was greatly respected in business circles as a man whose word was his bond.” He and his wife were benefactors of the New York Times Neediest Fund, and Mrs. Breitenbach is still listed as a contributor of funds in 1938 toward the purchase of a French silk shawl for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Despite the personal respect accorded the individuals, the Companys trade practices continued to be questionable at best. Well into the 1920s, various journals, bearing such names as the Journal of the National Medical Association, continued to print helpful little paragraphs, often under the rubric of “Notes of Interest,” praising the virtues of Pepto-Mangan and directing further inquires to the Company. In 1944, the Company formally registered the Gude’s Pepto-Mangan trademark, albeit it claimed its first use dated all the way back to 1890. Eventually, the Pepto-Mangan brand passed into the hands of Natcon Chemical Co., but public interest in the product waned. While it is not clear when Natcon Chemical Co. stopped production of Pepto-Mangan, the trademark expired in 1986 without renewal. Even after the concoction disappeared from most druggists’ shelves, it lived on in memory. As recently as 1980, a letter in the magazine Canadian Farm Physician from a 74-year-old man living in Alberta recommended his physician fathers treatment regimen of milk, an iron supplement like the old Pepto-Mangan, (along with x-rays), as a remedy for Hodgkins Disease. Natcon Chemical Co., itself, was acquired by Luitpold Pharmaceuticals, a German company, in 1978. Luitpold Pharmaceuticals continues to do business in the United States, and claims on its website to be expanding its production facilities now located in Columbus, OH and Shirley, NY in Suffolk County.

BreitenbachMJ-10a-1b(laterNatconChemCo)     BreitenbachMJ-10a-1a(laterNatconChemCo)


© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2014

B, S


Martin H. Smith Co.




The Martin H. Smith Co, the offshoot of Breitenbach’s operation, outlived Breitenbach as well. Since this company’s genesis lies within the orbit of Breitenbach’s domain, it is convenient to display that cancel as part of this study. Mustacich and Giacomelli give the company two listings and say the cancel has been seen on RB25 and RB28. That company’s principal products were Ergoapiol and Glyco-Heroin.



As with Pepto-Mangan, they were promoted through the same kind of friendly advisories and medical abstracts demonstrating good outcomes that kept appearing in trade and medical journals. Ergoapiol was advertised as treating menstrual disorders, although the AMA suggested its circular promoted “indiscriminate and uncritical use.” Claiming that Ergoapiol was “an unscientific, shot-gun mixture of drugs having widely different therapeutic effects,” the AMA Council, after reciting and demonstrating the conflicting effects of the various listed (post-1906) ingredients, struck it from its recommended List in 1914.



Glyco-Heroin was advertised as a treatment for breathing disorders, such as “coughs, bronchitis, pneumonia, laryngitis, pulmonary phthisis, asthma, [and] whooping cough.” Its most obvious ingredient was contained in its name, and it too was “de-Listed” by the AMA’s Council in 1916. Smith, himself, born in 1866, a decade after Breitenbach, similarly lived ten years longer, dying in 1930. The latest internet references to the M H Smith Co are to pamphlets, published in the 1930s and even as late as 1940, still explaining Ergoapiol’s appropriate use and extolling its virtues. Long after Ergoapiol and Glyco-Heroin had passed into history, in 1958, M. H. Smith Co changed its name and began its transformation into the present day Cooper Companies, Inc., headquartered in Pleasanton CA and traded on the New York Stock Exchange, which today produces a variety of healthcare aids as well as soft contact lens through its CooperVision subsidiary.

SmithMH-10-2cRV     SmithMH-10-2dRV



Having told this long and intricate tale concerning M. J. Breitenbach and M. H. Smith, it is time now for this writer to stop in order to take his iron supplement.

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2014


B. H. Bacon Company

B. H. Bacon printed cancels from the collection of the late Henry Tolman. Tolman noted that the second and fourth stamps were “unlisted”, meaning that the type was not listed in the Chappell/Joyce listing of proprietary printed cancels published in the 1950s.

Bacon Tolman scan



B. H. Bacon spent his working career in up-state New York.. He began his manufacture of patent medicines in 1885 in Le Roy, N.Y., an Erie Canal town between Rochester and Buffalo in Western New York. His two most prominent products were Otto’s Cure and Celery King. An 1895 announcement in one of the pharmaceutical trade magazines stated: “B. H. Bacon & Co., manufacturers of Otto’s Cure, have decided that Rochester is the Garden of Eden and have located there …”. This rosy picture may have glossed over a dispute between the various patent medicine manufacturers of Le Roy and its postmaster, who ruled that sample packages the manufacturers wished to mail pursuant to fourth class postal rates were too thick to qualify under those regulations. Apparently, the postmaster in Rochester, N.Y. was already accommodating the Warner Safe Cure mailings of similar kinds of samples and Bacon decided that business would be easier to transact there.

BaconBH-Bottle Label

By 1901, Bacon himself had died, and the company incorporated. Otto’s Cure was advertised as late as 1906 as “the cure for coughs, colds, the grippe, whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis and incipient consumption.” Celery King was a nerve tonic meant to sooth everything from sleeplessness and nervous prostration and was advertised as a “positive cure” cure for an encyclopedia of ills ranging from constipation to heart disease.

In 1907, another patent medicine company, S. H. Wells & Co., itself located in Le Roy, N.Y., purchased the B. H. Bacon Co., and removed the manufacturing facilities back to Le Roy, N.Y. While its important brand names continued, the Bacon company itself probably determined that it was not worth it to comply with the new Pure Food and Drug Act, passed in 1906.

BaconBH Celery King cover


BaconBH Otto's Cure cover



© Malcolm A. Goldstein