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

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

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

AMERICAN HOME PRODUCTS CORP. SPECIMAN STOCK CERTIFICATE

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

   

POSSIBLE WYETH CHEMICAL CO. BATTLESHIP REVENUE CANCELS

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

1912 WYETH CHEMICAL CO. INVOICE

POSSIBLE WYETH CANCEL ON 1919 PROPRIETARY REVENUE

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

   

WHITEHALL PHARMACAL CO.’S ROWLES RED PEPPER RUB

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

       

1905 & 1920 POSTCARD VIEWS OF WHITEHALL BUILDING

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

   

WYETH’S SAGE & SULPHUR COMPOUND

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

   

WYETH CHEMICAL CO.’S ROWLES RED PEPPER RUB

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

1917 O. H. JADWIN SONS’, INC. COVER

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

   

JAD SALTS, AS LATER MARKETED BY WHITEHALL PHARMACAL CO.

      

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

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

1885c ELY BROS COVER FROM OWEGO, NY

     

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

     

COLORFUL ADVERTISING FOR ELY’S CREAM BALM

   

   

1898c ELY BROS. BATTLESHIP REVENUE CANCELS

PACKAGE SEAL USED BY ELY BROS.

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

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

 

1920c DESHELL LABS (ENGLISH OFFICE) RETURN POSTCARD

 

1937 PETROLAGER LABS INVITATION TO A DOCTOR

PETROLAGER

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

       

     

PETROLAGER ADS WITH WALL PRINTS FOR DOCTOR’S OFFICE

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

   

1919 EDWARD WESLEY CO. TRADE ADS

   

WESLEY CO.’S FREEZONE

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

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

   

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

     

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

   

1902 & 1904 W. H. HILL CO. CALENDARS

   

HILL’S CASCARA BROMIDE QUININE BOX SHOWING TORN REVENUE STAMP

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

 

1906 & 1924 W. H. HILL CO. COVERS

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

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

   

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

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

WALTER LUTHER DODGE HOUSE, LOS ANGELES CA

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

   

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

   

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

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

     

1913 TIZ TRADE ADS

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

     

1913 TRADE & 1914 PUBLIC TIZ ADS

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

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

* * * * *

ST JACOBS OIL CO.

   

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

       

SEALS USED TO REPLACE REVENUE STAMPS AFTER CIVIL WAR TAX REPEALED

1880c A. VOGELER & CO. COVER

PORTRAIT OF CHARLES A. VOGELER

   

1885c ST. JAMES OIL TRADE CARDS

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

       

 

TRADECARDS AND COVER SHOWING OTHER VOGELER PRODUCTS

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

   

1881 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAGAZINE SAMPLE ILLUSTRATIONS

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

VOGELER “FAIRY STEAMBOAT” ON 1885c TRADECARD

1895c CANADIAN CHARLES A. VOGELER CO. COVER

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

   

   

   

MORE ST. JAMES OIL TRADECARDS & A PAPERWEIGHT

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

VOGELER, MEYER & CO.

   

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

SEALS USED TO REPLACE REVENUE STAMP AFTER TAX REPEALED

* * * * *

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

May 1, 1899

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

     

May 1, 1899 – Unlisted Value

                    July 2, 1898                              October 1, 1898

   

   November 1, 1898

   

                    December 1, 1898                          January 2, 1899

   

 

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

   

 * * * * *

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

* * * * *

1897 POSTCARD STATING NO ST. JACOBS OIL ADS DURING SUMMER

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

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

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

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

1902 ST. JACOBS OIL LTD. COVER

1910 ST. JACOBS OIL LTD. TRADE AD

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

     

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

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

x——————-x

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

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

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

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2020

Standard
D, J, N, P, S

Sterling Remedy Co. (III.1) – Neuralgyline Co.; J. W. James Co.; J. G. Dodson Medicine Co.; Drake Co.; Pape, Thompson & Pape Co.

Sterling Remedy Co., Manufacturer

 Chapter 3.1 – Purchase By Neuralgyline Co.
(William E. Weiss and Albert H. Diebold)

1932c PORTRAITS OF WILLIAM E. WEISS and ALBERT H. DIEBOLD

In 1909, H. L. Kramer sold his Sterling Remedy Co. to the Neuralgyline Co. of Wheeling, WV. The principals of the new owner were William E. Weiss and Albert H. Diebold.  Because of the dizzying course of corporate growth and acquisition that they pursued, many serious students of the late Twentieth Century giant Sterling Drug, Inc. actually date its inception to the founding of the Neuralgyline Co. rather than Kramer’s Sterling Remedy Co.

SterlingRemedyCo-Neuralgine-4-1910c-1

1910c STERLING NEURALGINE AD

World-girdling institutions, such as Sterling Drug, Inc., like great nations and empires, engender founding myths.  Rome had Romulus and Remus.  Sterling Drug, Inc.’s Romulus and Remus were Weiss and Diebold. Instead of being suckled by a wolf, Weiss and Diebold grew up in Canton, OH ostensibly as childhood friends and classmates. After they graduated high school together, Weiss had matriculated at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, and, following his graduation in 1896, had gone to work in a drugstore in Sistersville, WV, a small town lying approximately 50 miles southwest of Wheeling on the Ohio River.  Diebold meanwhile joined his father’s safe and lock business. One of them happened upon an effective pain relieving medicine called Neuralgine and in 1901, they decided to form the Neuralgyline Co. to market Neuralgine in the more metropolitan Wheeling, WV.  Their oft-repeated tales continues that in two cramped and dark rooms on the second floor of a ramshackle building in Wheeling, which then constituted the offices of their fledgling company, they labored three days a week compounding their analgesic, Neuralgine, while spending another three days bouncing over rutted roads in rented buckboards hawking it to neighboring druggists. They even had to call special board meetings to authorize the expense of hiring of a stenographer, or installing a safe or telephone.  From such long days of hard work and humble beginnings did Sterling Drug ultimately soar forth.

RW-NeuralgylineCo-3a(Ad-NARDJourn(1910-v10)

1910c STERLING NEURALGINE TRADE AD

The truth is difficult to tease out from the myth, and true stories are often embellished to make them more thrilling.  Weiss and Diebold were indeed genuine businessmen with a particular genius for purchasing and exploiting popular patent medicines.  Both were born in Canton, OH: Weiss in 1879 and Diebold in 1873. Weiss did train as a pharmacist, but different sources attribute the original ownership of Neuralgine differently, and all sources agree that there is no record presently extant that attests to Neuralgine’s original composition.  One source says that Weiss first compounded  and marketed it in the Hill drugstore where he was employed in tiny Sistersville.  Others suggest that Diebold brought the product to the partnership.  While Weiss appears to have been a truly self-made man, Diebold may have had the funding and the connections necessary to create a new business. His family was already wealthy and well-known in Canton in the safe and lock business, and today, Diebold Nixdorf Corporation, originally founded by Albert Diebold’s grandfather, Carl Diebold and still headquartered in North Canton, OH, remains prominent not only in its original areas of expertise in bank vaults and fiscal security, but also in the related fields of equipment and software for all manner of self-service sales transactions and related financial services.

1886c NEURALGINE MFG. CO. ADS

What slightly muddies the tale of Weiss and Diebold toiling long hours in dark offices are ads for a patent medicine called Neuralgine dating from around 1886, some fourteen years before Weiss and Diebold appeared on the scene.  These ads were placed by a New York City based company, the Neuralgine Manufacturing Co. They followed the great patent medicine tradition of attributing the miraculous discovery of the remedy to a folk figure, such as an Indian medicine man or a wise and savvy Westerner taught firsthand by such a medicine man, who was both cognizant of the secrets of nature yet far away removed in a romanticized locale, such as the Old West, for they stated that the formula had been discovered a mere six months prior by the “celebrated physician Dr. Walter Hendricks of Montana.” Diligent Google searches reveal no such “celebrated physician” in the Old West.

 SterlingRemedyCo-Neuralgine-6-ReproAd-1

1886c NEURALGINE MFG. CO. AD (REPRODUCTION)

However, patient searches of the Neuralgine Mfg. Co. show that in Trow’s New York City Directory for 1904, its address was 24 Vandewater Street in Manhattan and its registered owner was one Henrietta Munro.  Its 1880s ads ran in the back pages of novels printed by a Norman L. Munro, whose address happened to be 24 and 26 Vandewater Street.  Norman Munro had been a publisher who became rich enough printing dime novels to afford a custom-built 48 foot luxury steam yacht (called the Henrietta) in 1886, and to replace it subsequently with an 84 foot steam yacht in 1887 and a 132 steam foot yacht in 1888. He had died at age 51 in 1894 after an emergency appendectomy undertaken within the same week after his eleven year old son had successfully survived the same operation performed by the same physician.  Henrietta Munro had continued Norman’s businesses, one of which apparently was a side line in patent medicine.

RW-NeuralgylineCo-6(1887Ad-HolyRose[The])

1887 COVER OF A NORMAN L. MUNRO BOOK CONTAINING NEURALGINE AD

One significant distinction between Munro’s Neuralgine and Weiss and Diebold’s Neuralgine must be flagged.  The former was an external remedy, perhaps a liniment, while the Neuralgine marketed by Weiss and Diebold was a pill for internal ingestion. Also, oddly, the Neuralgine Mfg. Co. of New York City was still advertising in 1905 to the trade, four years after the Neuralgyline Co. of Wheeling, WV was founded.SterlingRemedyCo-Neuralgine-10-1

STERLING REMEDY CO.’S NEURALGINE

The reconciling conclusion that emerges from these somewhat puzzling contradictory facts seems to be that Weiss’s and Diebold’s Neuralgine was a new formulation applied to a remedy acquired by, rather than invented by, Weiss and Diebold.  Two small clues in the remaining readily available extant records seem to support such a conclusion.  First, when Neuralgine was trademarked in 1907 as an internal remedy by the Neuralgyline Co. of Wheeling WV, the date of 1879 was listed as the date of its first use in trade. Had either Weiss or Diebold actually invented Neuralgine the date of first use would have been much closer to 1901.  Second, in 1902 there appeared in the columns of the drug trade publications a provocative teaser news item/ad heralding a change about to take place in Neuralgine.  The statement affirmed that despite not being advertised for several years Neuralgine was a trusted “oldtime” remedy that had maintained a steady demand because of continual medical recommendations, but alerted retailers that they must now stock up their supplies because the Company was ready to “boom” it that Fall with a new and well-funded advertising campaign.  This “item” suggests that by 1902 the widow Munro was ready to jettison some of her late husband’s minor interests and the real “manufacturers” were now Weiss and Diebold.

1902 NEURALGINE AD

RW-NeuralgylineCo-1a(Ad-20Yrs-PharmEra(1902)

 Whatever the truth of the origins of Neuralgine – whether they sweated in a dark room to formulate Neuralgine completely from scratch, or whether they applied their new formulation to a previously known patent medicine which they acquired -Weiss and Diebold quickly came to appreciate the value of unrelenting advertising, and scrupulously plowed their profits back into further advertising.  However, they soon realized that a wider line of products would produce even greater profits.

1910 STERLING REMEDY NEURALGINE TRADE ADS

Certainly the modified origin story of Neuralgine proffered in this column neatly corresponds to Weiss’s and Diebold’s later pattern of building their business. To expand their product line, Weiss and Diebold early came to the conclusion that it would be easier to purchase established products rather than try to develop their own. Their first acquisition took place in 1906 when they purchased the Knowlton Danderine Co. of Chicago, a hair tonic manufacturer.  As outlined in the prior column, Sterling Remedy Co. was acquired in 1909 principally for two of its patent medicines, a laxative, Cascarets, and its product advertised to break smoking addiction, No-To-bac. To give their company additional heft, Weiss and Diebold also bought three smaller local West Virginia patent medicine companies, the J. W. James Co. which produced an entire line of patent medicines, the J. G. Dodson Medicine Co. which marketed a product called Liver Tone, and the Drake Co., which manufactured Drake’s Palmetto Compound, and at the same time, absorbed a Cincinnati-based company called Pape, Thompson & Pape Co. whose featured commodity was Diapepsin, a remedy allegedly to treat kidneys and urinary problems.   In 1912, Weiss and Diebold purchased the California Fig Syrup Co. which brought in another laxative, Syrup of Figs, to provide additional relief for the constipation that No-To-bac seemingly produced.

SterlingRemedyCo-4-1910c-1a

SterlingRemedyCo-4-1910c-1b

1910c STERLING REMEDY CO. POSTCARD RE AD SIGNAGE

Relentless advertising kept all of these products before the public and producing profits.  By 1912, the company was worth $4 million. Fearing that the Neuralgyline name was too difficult for people to grasp, Weiss and Diebold decided to simplify it by adopting the Sterling name they had acquired from Kramer, and re-dubbed their company Sterling Products, Inc.  Eventually, the transactions that Weiss and Diebold masterminded catapulted them on the world stage and carried consequences with national implications, which is why they are generally regarded as the true founders of Sterling Drug, Inc.

The Four Smaller Companies Acquired By Weiss & Diebold In 1909

1) J. W. James Co. Cancels

1898 Revenue Stamps

JamesJWCo-2-RB21-1-1898-2R(SterlingProductsIncSucessor)     JamesJWCo-2-RB21-1-1899-1R(SterlingProductsIncSucessor)

JamesJWCo-2-RB21-1-1900-2R(SterlingProductsIncSucessor)

JamesJWCo-2-RB23-1-1900-1R(SterlingProductsIncSucessor)     JamesJWCo-2-RB23-1-1901-1R(SterlingProductsIncSucessor)

TYPE 1 CANCELS

JamesJWCo-2-RB21-2-1899-12-31-2R     JamesJWCo-2-RB23-2-1899-04-14-1R(SterlingProductsIncSucessor)

TYPE 2 CANCEL

1898 Cover and Trade Advertising Material

JamesJWCo-3-1898-1a

JamesJWCo-3-1898-1b

JamesJWCo-3-1898-1c

1904 Invoice

JamesJWCo-6-1904-1

Products

JamesJWCo-10-0a(HairTonic)

HAIR TONIC

JamesJWCo-10-2(SterlingProductsIncSucessor)

“MINATURE’ HEADACHE POWDERS

JamesJWCo-10-5(SterlingProductsIncSucessor)

LATER PACKAGING

—–

2) J. G. Dodson Medicine Co.

1915c Cover

DodsonJGMedCo-3-1915c-1(laterSterlingProductsInc)

1920 Ad

SterlingRemedyCo-DodsonJGMedCo-6a-1920-1(HoustonInformer)

Product

SterlingRemedyCo-DodsonJGMedCo-10-1

SterlingRemedyCo-DodsonJGMedCo-10-3

SterlingRemedyCo-DodsonJGMedCo-10-2

1914 Doctor’ Complaint Re Druggist’s Sale Of Dodson’s Liver To Retail Customers

SterlingRemedyCo-DodsonJGMedCo-6a-1914-1a(ComplaintReDodLtr-NARDJourn-v17)

SterlingRemedyCo-DodsonJGMedCo-6a-1914-2a(ComplaintReDodLtr-NARDJourn-v17)

—–

3) Drake Co.

1910 Ad

SterlingRemedyCo-DrakesPalmetto-6a-1910-1(BiloxiHerald)

Product

DrakeCo-10-1

—–

4) Pape, Thompson & Pape Co.

1910 Trade Ad/News Story Promising Ad Blitz (just like 1902 Neuralgine Ad)

SterlingRemedyCo-PTPCo-6a-1910-3a(ArtReDiapepsinTradeAd1-PharmEra-v43)

1910 Additional Trade Ads

SterlingRemedyCo-PTPCo-6a-1910-1a(DiapepsinTradeAd-PharmEra-v43)

—–

SterlingRemedyCo-PTPCo-6a-1910-2a(DiapepsinTradeAd-PharmEra(v43No2)

Product

Knowlton Danderine Co. and the California Fig Syrup Co. each possess histories prior to their acquisition by Weiss and Diebold that echo this story of the Neuralgyline Co. Perhaps that is why Weiss and Diebold were attracted to them.  They will subsequently each receive their own separate treatment in this column.

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
J

B. J. Johnson Soap Co., Manufacturer

B. J. JOHNSON SOAP CO., MANUFACTURER

JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB20-t1(hs)-1899-06-15     JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB20-t2(p)-1899-10-16

JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB20-t2(p)-1900-04-02     JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB20-t2(p)-1900-05-01(ex-Orton)

JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB20-t2(p)-1900-11-01

1/8 CENT REVENUES

JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t1(hs)-1898-09-18     JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t2(p)-1899-10-16

JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t2(p)-1899-11-25     JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t2(p)-1900-01-02

JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t2(p)-1900-05-01     JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t2(p)-1900-07-02

JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t2(p)-1900-09-01(ex-Orton)

    JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t2(p)-1900-11-01     JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t2(p)-1900-11-01a

(COLOR VARIATIONS)

   JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB21-t2(p)-1901-02-15(ex-Orton)

1/4 CENT REVENUES

HANDSTAMPED AND PRINTED BATTLESHIP CANCEL EXAMPLES

B. J. Johnson Soap Co.’s sixty year history – the tale unfolded herein – resonates today as a strand spun into the fabric of burgeoning American capitalism, for its most famous product is that same Palmolive Soap still available for purchase at any supermarket or drugstore today. Certainly, the company began with no such purpose of becoming the quintessential example of capitalistic growth, and its oft-repeated story, usually casually tossed off as a minor antecedent derivation of the present day industrial behemoth Colgate-Palmolive Co., is virtually always recounted incorrectly. In fact, as one investigates more deeply the history of the B. J. Johnson Soap Co., one finds more variations concerning the principal events and personalities involved in its history, for as people have said – possibly since the time of the Roman Tacitus in the First Century A.D. – success has many fathers.

 JohnsonBJSoapCo-5-2a(CalebJohnsonPortrait)

CALEB JOHNSON

There are certain established generalities about the company. Its most forceful personality was Caleb Johnson. He is credited with introducing the formula for Palmolive Soap, and its success accounted for the surging expansion of the company which led to its ultimate absorption into Colgate-Palmolive Co., which, with Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G), is today one of the U.S.’s two most significant manufacturers of personal and household care products.  However, despite the many attributions of the company’s entire success to Caleb, the company was neither founded by Caleb nor named for him.

JohnsonBJSoapCo-I9a(BJJPortrait)

Rather it was Caleb’s father, Burdett J. Johnson, who actually entered the soap making business and eventually came to organize the company that bore his name. While marketing his wares in various guises of powders and soaps, Burdett concentrated upon manufacturing a product that every household then needed: a strong laundry soap of the kind needed to soak Nineteenth Century grit out of clothes. Such products were then routinely made from animal fat, and Burdett’s company began with that recipe, but as it gained experience, it changed people’s expectations.

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1898 B. J. JOHNSON SOAP CO. COVER

Born in the western New York State town of Ellicotville in 1826, and educated in that region, Burdett first entered business as a grocer in Buffalo, N.Y., with a partner named D. C. Baird, according to contemporary accounts. Later versions of the story refer to Burdett as Benedict, name his partner as Beard and denominated their original business in Buffalo as soap making. In 1864, properly gauging that America’s growth was shifting the center of commerce westward, Burdett and his partner’s son, George C. Baird, moved to Milwaukee to open a grocery store. In 1867, they bought the soap and candle manufacturing business that the pork packers Plankinton & Armour – yes, the same P. D. Armour later of Armour & Co. (yet another story for another day) – ran on the side to utilize the animal fat generated as a byproduct of their slaughterhouse. Over a number of years and with different partners, Burdett soon found he had a flair for the soap business, and eventually in the late 1870s, the B. J. Johnson Soap Co. came into being. As well as being a shrewd and respected businessman, Burdett significantly changed and improved his business by building his own box factory adjacent to his manufacturing plant in order to save himself the enormous cost of buying and transporting shipping materials for his product from the East Coast. One of his habits, for which he was long remembered, was his traveling around Milwaukee at a brisk clip in a “sporty roadster” pulled by a matched team of gray Percherons. Seeking an escape from the harsh Milwaukee winters for his family, which had already lost two children to tuberculosis, he also began a family tradition of traveling south to Orange Park, FL on the St. Johns River just south of Jacksonville.

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GALVANIC SOAP IMAGES

Galvanic Soap was the flagship product of the B. J. Johnson Soap Co. It differed from the normal laundry soap of the day because its color was white, since it’s principal ingredient was coconut oil. At this late date, it is uncertain whether Burdett or Caleb, Burdett’s oldest child, born in 1857 and working for the company after 1876, innovated the formula which accounted for its distinctive white color, but perhaps the fact that Galvanic Soap was white, Palmolive has always been green, and laundry soap of the era was yellow, points toward Caleb’s early precociousness as a soap manufacturer. Once launched in 1884, Galvanic Soap’s novelty and quality quickly attracted a great following. Yet even with its popularity, the B. J. Johnson Soap Co. appeared in an 1888 Milwaukee business directory listed as merely one among nine soap manufacturers in the city, with another company choosing a much more prominent listing.

JohnsonBJSoapCo-I13a(SoapAssnAttack-SoapGazette-1911)

CRITICIZED 1911 GALVANIC SOAP AD

Galvanic Soap’s whiteness did cause a very minor tempest some years later in 1911, when the Johnson company ran an ad stating that housewives had to use its white Galvanic Soap, rather than any other yellow laundry soap, to produce truly white linen. A trade journal, the Soap Gazette and Perfumer, decrying the lack of a centralized soap manufacturing association to regulate the industry, felt compelled in its pages to denounce this ad as patently false and misleading, pointing out that the color of a soap had no bearing on its ability to clean, and asserting that the ad was a “contemptible assault on all the yellow laundry soap manufacturers of America.”

JohnsonBJSoapCo-6a-1908-1     JohnsonBJSoapCo-6a-1910-1

 1908 AND 1910 PALMOLIVE SOAP ADS

However, by 1911, the B. J Johnson Soap Co. had found its true niche, for Caleb had experimented with other formulations for soap which utilized plant or vegetable fats in place of animal fats, and in 1898, had hit upon a combination of palm and olive oils that yielded a green soap. In a stroke of marketing directness, the company called the soap simply Palmolive. One very short version of Palmolive’s introduction, published in a 1922 advertising industry trade journal, claimed that Caleb prevailed upon his father to manufacture the new soap over the loud and vociferous objection of the company’s principal salesman who could not understand why the company would want to introduce any other brand in competition with its own well-recognized, well-respected, tried and true Galvanic Soap, but that Caleb’s persistence paid off.

     JohnsonBJSoapCo-I12aRV(CalebJohnsonPortrait)     JohnsonBJSoapCo-I12bRV(ChasPearcePortrait)

CALEB JOHNSON AND CHARLES SUMNER PEARCE IN 1914

Another longer version of Palmolive’s success story was published in 1914 in a national magazine. It focused upon a twenty-five year old recent law school graduate, named Charles Sumner Pearce, who accosted Caleb in 1903 asking for a job. Caleb had just succeeded to the presidency of the B. J. Johnson Soap Co. after Burdett’s death also in 1902. In this variant, while Caleb had developed and introduced Palmolive Soap in 1898, its sales were extremely disappointing. It had neither generated the great boost in business that Caleb had anticipated, nor even matched the enthusiasm that the introduction of Galvanic Soap had engendered. Its earnings were respectable, but nothing like what Caleb believed they should be, and they were not outstripping those of the tried and true Galvanic Soap.

JohnsonBJSoapCo-6a-1905-1     JohnsonBJSoapCo-5-6a(1905c)

CIRCA 1905 PALMOLIVE SOAP ADS

Caleb told Pearce that he could create a job for himself at the company as Caleb’s assistant if he could figure out a way to make Palmolive’s sales match Caleb’s expectations. Pearce studied the company’s sales methodology, and found that soap was sold individually from retailer to retailer by the company’s drummers – the slang term for traveling salesmen – in the same fashion that sales of virtually all manufactured goods were conducted at that time. For sales to increase, the salesmen had to convince more retail outlets to offer the soap to the public, and retailers had to convince the public to buy it, a two-step process. Moreover, using drummers had its limitations because they could cover only so much territory, and they were offering Palmolive to the same people who were already selling Johnson products so it was competing with Johnson’s other soap products like Galvanic Soap.

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1886 JOHNSON CO. POSTCARD ALERTING RETAILER TO IMPENDING CALL BY ITS DRUMMER

[If this model of salesmanship sounds remote and foreign, think of the “Rock Island” opening number from the “Music Man” – a story, suffused in nostalgia, set in idyllic small town America at the very same time as Pearce was making his very real study of the soap market – in which, as they rattle from one tiny town to another over the clatter of the wheels of the local “milk” train, the drummers sing of the passing of the era when a salesman had to “know the territory,” setting the stage for the antics of Prof. Harold Hill, whose violation of this sacred rule lies at the heart of the musical.]

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AD AND POSTCARD MAILING OFFERING PALMOLIVE FREE WITH PURCHASE OF GALVANIC SOAP

Pearce convinced Caleb that national advertising was the key to creating the larger market that Caleb dreamed about. Caleb and Pearce then brought in W. T. Kester of the Lord & Thomas advertising agency, and the agency executed a national advertising campaign for Palmolive Soap, which, indeed, increased Palmolive’s sales, but still did not result in Palmolive’s becoming a serious national brand. Caleb, still convinced of the uniqueness of Palmolive’s qualities, remarked that if he could get a bar of soap into every housewife’s hands, the women would instantly recognize its superiority. Pearce devised the method to make Caleb’s wish a reality. He suggested to Kester that the next Palmolive advertisement to the public contain a coupon good for exchange free at any local store for one bar of Palmolive soap. Cleveland, Ohio was selected as a test market, and the Johnson sales force flooded Cleveland promising every retailer in town that Johnson would redeem for ten cents each coupon the retailer received from a member of the public. Fortified by the promise that the coupons would be backed by hard cash, Cleveland retailers ordered 2000 gross, or 288,000 bars, of Palmolive in advance of the release of the ad. The Cleveland papers that ran the ad had circulation of 200,000 and within weeks 20,000 coupons were redeemed. Palmolive catapulted to the position of industry leader, and Kester readied the national campaign by choosing a select group of magazines each of which had a national circulation of 5,000,000 in which to place the ad.

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DIRECT CONSUMER MAILING OF PALMOLIVE COUPONS

However, before the magazine ads ran, the company – abandoning its policy of having its traveling salesmen solicit orders face to face – mailed 50,000 circulars to retailers all over the country alerting them that they would soon need a stock of Palmolive to meet the needs of customers seeking to redeem the Palmolive coupons. The tsunami of orders that Johnson received finally matched Caleb’s expectations for Palmolive’s national potential, and also by far outweighed the cost to the company of coupon redemption, which it scrupulously honored. Pearce’s job at B. J. Johnson Soap Co. was finally secure.

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1915 NATIONAL MAGAZINE ADS

While this longer story of marvelous success of Palmolive Soap may be somewhat closer to factual accuracy than the short version, it must still face critical scrutiny. One must take into account the source of the story. It ran in Hearst’s Magazine, apparently one of those magazines with circulation of more than 5,000,000. Although couched as a human interest story – one of a series devoted to the “master builders of America” – and while praising Caleb and Pearce’s ingenuity, it really served as its own advertisement for Hearst’s Magazine. The story both shamelessly trumpeted the superiority of national advertising as a means of creating a demand to drive distribution, as opposed to the old-fashioned method of slowly and laboriously building a localized distribution network before advertising, and forcefully exhorted every advertiser to devote the lion’s share of its advertising budget to national magazine advertising.

JohnsonBJSoapCo-5-13a(1916)     JohnsonBJSoapCo-5-14a(1917)

1916 AND 1917 NATIONAL MAGAZINE ADS

Yet a third different version of Palmolive’s success story was told by a Lord & Thomas advertising man named Claude C. Hopkins in his memoirs published in 1927. Hopkins came to Lord & Thomas on the rebound. He had already had a successful career in advertising, but his reputation had been badly bruised by being called out in print by name as the man who devised the ads for one of the most worthless patent medicines denounced at length by Samuel Hopkins Adams in his Great American Fraud series of articles (Yet another future story). Lured out of “retirement” to head Lord & Thomas’ copy writing department, Hopkins prepared a brochure inviting manufacturers to submit their products its “advisory board,” a group of sixteen employees headed by Hopkins, who would render an opinion as to whether advertising would boost their businesses.

JohnsonBJSoapCo-5-15a(1917)     JohnsonBJSoapCo-5-16a(1918)

1917 AND 1918 NATIONAL MAGAZINE ADS

In this retelling of Palmolive’s tale, Johnson and Pearce auditioned their very successful Galvanic Soap before the “advisory board” in 1911, which, because of the soap’s already established prominence, opined that another ad campaign for Galvanic Soap would simply be gilding the lily, but then asked if the company had any other product that might benefit from greater advertising exposure. Johnson and Pearce mentioned that they had a very obscure brand called Palmolive Soap, but they had little hope for its prospects. Hopkins suggested that Lord & Thomas might have an idea to create a market for Palmolive Soap. Hopkins asserted he then devised the ad that offered every housewife a coupon to trade for a bar of soap. He claims that the Lord & Thomas suggested the Johnson Company invest $1000 to make the test market Grand Rapids, MI, but, because of its objection to the large cost, compromised on an even smaller test market, Benton Harbor, MI. Hopkins calculated that the ads and rebates cost about $700 and netted several thousand dollars worth of sales among housewives in Michigan. His account confirmed others that a (second) test in Cleveland cost the company $1000 for the advertising space plus $2000 for the rebates and netted $20,000 in sales in a region where it had generated only $3000 total sales in the prior year. He further confirmed that the coupon juggernaut rolled full tilt from then on, but alleged that Lord & Thomas dreamed up and handled the advanced mailing that the Johnson Company made to 50,000 retailers to alert them that the national Palmolive coupon campaign was about to begin. All accounts agree that within a year after national campaigned was launched, ninety-nine percent of U.S. drug stores were carrying Palmolive Soap.

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1906 SATURDAY EVENING POST COUPON AD

Hopkins’ account, which subordinates the Johnson Company’s role in its own success to that of its own advertising agency, contains two factual errors. One is quite minor: he identifies the Johnson who allegedly appeared before the “advisory board” in 1911 as B. J. Johnson. The available Johnson in 1911 was Caleb not Burdett. The other error is more substantial: Hopkins fixed the date of the agency’s meeting with Johnson and Pearce as 1911, although he did concede that his memory might have been “somewhat, but not seriously, at fault.” The coupon advertisement pictured above ran in the Saturday Evening Post in 1906. If the coupon exchange idea was developed as early as 1906, the timing of Hopkins’s account is far off and the Lord & Thomas personalities associated with these events may well be mis-identified; Claude Hopkins was not even at Lord & Thomas in 1906.  So much for the tail wagging the dog!

JohnsonBJSoapCo-5-4a(1899)    JohnsonBJSoapCo-5-3a(1899)

1899 PALMOLIVE SOAP ADS

While Caleb Johnson is portrayed as a dreamer in Hearst’s version of the story and almost a supplicant in the Hopkins’s account, his dreaming had a practical edge and he could be hard-headed as well. Caleb saw Palmolive Soap’s target sales market as the modern American woman and pitched even its earliest ads, pre-Lord & Thomas, to feminine sensibilities, stressing both Palmolive’s use of the same exotic ingredients as ancient queens and princesses and the soft, smooth skin these elements would produce. At an exposition in St. Louis in 1909, he observed French machinery for making hard-milled soap, which he immediately purchased and used to enhance Palmolive’s smoothness and uniformity. At the same time, he also brought out Palmolive face cream, the first in a line of Palmolive cosmetics designed to place the soap at the center of an entire personal care regimen, and in 1910, the company sketched its vision of the path to ideal femininity using its products in a booklet called “The Easy Way to Beauty.” The additional cosmetics that followed subsequently helped to shift thinking about Palmolive Soap from laundry soap to personal care beauty soap.

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JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB50-t2-1915-05-01        JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB50-t2-1915-09-01 

JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB50-t1-1916-03-03     JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB50-t1-1916-07-12

JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB62-t2-1915-01-02     JohnsonBJSoapCo-2-RB63-t2-1915-01-02

WORLD WAR I B. J. JOHNSON SOAP CO. REVENUE CANCELS

As a businessman, Caleb was tough. In 1911, when the City Council of Milwaukee threatened to block the construction of a rail siding next to his factory because it would require closing a public thoroughfare, Caleb flatly declared to the press that if the Council acted adversely to his desires, he would simply close his factory and move to Kansas City. Needless to say, the company remained in Milwaukee. In addition, as Caleb expanded his facilities to keep pace with the exploding demand for Palmolive Soap and associated products, he willingly incurred the wrath of organized labor in Milwaukee by using non-union construction labor, causing the Building Trades Council of Milwaukee to issue a bulletin in 1915 to all unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor asking them to boycott the products of the B. J. Johnson Soap Co. That boycott had virtually no impact, and Palmolive Soap’s business continued to soar.

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MIRA RIO – CALEB JOHNSON’S WINTER RETREAT

In 1917, encouraged by his sister, who had already set up an estate in Orange Park, Caleb purchased a twenty acre portion of his sister’s land on which to build his own mansion. Designed by Milwaukee architects – thus being one of the only structures in Florida with a basement – it was completed in 1923 and named Mira Rio. Caleb was able to enjoy it for only a year before his death in 1924. The estate later passed to his wife, then to his daughter, and then to her two children. In 1964, grandson, Caleb (Jon) Massee bought his sister’s share of the property, eventually turning the house into an elegant resort. Massee also brought his grand-aunt’s estate back into the family and incorporated her mansion into the resort complex as well. The resort is still in operation.

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CIRCA 1920 PALMOLIVE CO. COVER

In 1917, the B. J. Johnson Soap Co. renamed itself the Palmolive Co. in recognition of its principal product, and in 1923 moved its headquarters to Chicago, the second largest city in the country.  By the early 1920s, with no son of his own to inherit the business, Caleb has begun to shift the mantle of responsibility for the Palmolive Co. to Charles Pearce, and Pearce led the company after Caleb’s death. By the middle of the Roaring Twenties, its great rivals had emerged as P&G and Lever Bros, two other companies whose stories will ultimately unfold in these pages as well. In 1922, Caleb dismissed talk of a merger of his company with Lever Bros. as “[p]ure imagination. One of those wild rumors that comes out of Wall Street during the dull Summer days,” but, after his death, Pearce determined that the Palmolive Co. required a larger structure to keep competing effectively with P&G and Lever Bros. Pearce found an ally in the Peet Brothers Co. of Kansas City, another family owned regional soap manufacturer founded in 1872 which, inexplicably, seems to have left no philatelic trace, and in 1927, the Palmolive-Peet Co. was formed.

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1906 PEET BROS. LETTERHEAD

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PALMOLIVE-PEET CO. TRADE TOKEN

In 1928, the Colgate Co., a company with a much longer history (which will be recounted also in another article), joined with the merged company to form the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Co. The new combined company had $100 million per year in sales, a number judged sufficient to allow it to keep pace with P&G and Lever Bros. Charles Pearce led the merged company for the first few years, and evinced an insatiable appetite for further mergers that would have united these companies with others to create a single vast interconnected manufacturing and retail consumer products company. Talks actually took place with the Kraft-Phoenix Cheese Co. and Hershey Chocolate Co., and were about to begin with a meat-packing company, a cannery and a retail grocery chain when the stock market crashed in October 1929. Pearce’s dream crashed along with the stock’s price, which dropped from 90 to 7 by 1933, when the Colgate family finally reasserted control over the merged company and forced Pearce out of power by making him Chairman of the Board. Although he lived until 1965, and served as chief executive of one of the forerunners of the paper industry giant Kimberly-Clark Co. from 1933 to 1943, when Pearce lost operational control over the merged company, the last of the distinctive personalities nurtured at the B. J. Johnson Soap Co. disappeared and so the subsequent history of the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Co. belongs to the Colgate Co.’s still unfolding story.

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CIRCA 1930 COLGATE-PALMOLIVE-PEET CO. RADIO PROGRAM SPONSORSHIP

The B. J. Johnson Soap Co. drove the invention of a new industry which transformed pedestrian laundry soap into an artifact for attaining ineffable, transcendent beauty and whose evolution is captured in the ethereal, evanescent yet lingering, Art Nouveau ad images displayed in this article. Its two-generation history, mirroring that of so many companies of that era that hurtled from obscurity to fame with one brilliant innovation, combines together hard-headed business acumen, mythology and delicate imagery, and, for this reason, is irresistible.

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2015

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Andrew Jergens Company

ANDREW JERGENS & CO.
1900
2c documentary battleship

Andrew Jergens Company was among a group of soap making companies that originated in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its long and storied history, which expands to include lotions, perfumes and other beauty care products began around 1882.  Philatelically, Jergens reached its zenith not during the Spanish-American War, when it merely applied hand cancels to the battleship revenue issue, but rather during World War I when it printed its cancel on the subsequent black proprietary revenue issue of 1914 to 1916, RB32 to RB64. While not entirely accurate, the corporate history does verify the surge in revenue usage during World War I.

Andrew N. Jergens, Sr. was born in 1852 in Schleswig, a southern province of Denmark invaded and incorporated into Prussia in 1864. However, before Schleswig changed hands, Andrew had emigrated with his family to Indiana in 1859. At twenty, he moved to Cincinnati, and, as with all creation myths, the story of the founding of his company is told in slightly different ways in different accounts. It is said that he and a man named Charles H. Geilfus, variously described as a fellow common laborer, neighbor or older soap maker, joined, either to reorganize Geilfus’s existing business in 1880 (or with one W.L. Haworth), to form a new partnership in 1882, one (or both) of which then became known as the Jergens Soap Company. Jergens apparently supplied the $5,000 capital necessary to finally get the operation launched, so the company bore his name. Whatever the romance behind this tale, focusing on Jergens’ singular bravado in investing his entire life savings, according to the Cincinnati street directories (now available on line), Geilfus was a soap maker in 1880, and the Western Soap Company (not the Jergens Soap Company) came into being in 1882.

In 1886, the Andrews Soap Co is listed in place of the Western Soap Co. According to the company’s website, by 1894, Jergens had brought his brothers, Al and Herman, into the company and it became known as the Andrew Jergens Company. The city directories do acknowledge the name change as of 1895. Geilfus, whatever his role in the company formation, was born in 1856 and lived until 1914. Geilfus, during his long tenure as a corporate officer, and Haworth, if at all, for an infinitely shorter microsecond, apparently subordinated their personalities to Jergens, and have left virtually no independent record of their existence behind them. The soap making company located its plant, with its one soap making boiler and twenty-five employees, in the slaughterhouse and meat-packing district of town to be able to obtain most of their needed raw materials easily from meat production waste. The one extra ingredient Jergens and his partners chose to add to usual soap mixture was coconut oil. The Andrews Soap Co sold coconut oil soap.

In 1901 the company, now definitely the Andrew Jergens Company, incorporated, with Andrew, brother Herman and Geilfus as its corporate officers. These three men inhabited lavish homes on three corners of the same intersection in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati known locally as “Millionaires’ Corner.” Jergens Park, a city park, now occupies the site of Jergens’ house, and one of its rooms, imported from Syria is preserved in the Cincinnati Art Museum as the “Damascus Room.”

The official company history indicates from 1898 to 1901, during the period when Jergens used the battleship revenue stamps, it continued to market coconut soap as its principal product. In 1901, this history continues, it evolved, in a single bound, from a soap company into a cosmetics company when it purchased the product lines and trademarks of the John H. Woodbury Company, makers, among other things, of Woodbury facial soaps, and the Robert Eastman Company, a perfume and lotion manufacturer. These purchases ignited the explosive growth of Jergens in the first decade of the 1900s from 25 employees to 1000 employees (and, indirectly, stimulated its need to use a printed cancel, rather than a hand stamp, on the black World War I revenue issue).

The contemporary record blurs the drama of the company’s single moment of transition. In the February 10, 1897 issue of a weekly drug trade publication, one short paragraph announced that the company had purchased the factory of the Eastman Perfume Company of Philadelphia and had taken control of the manufacture and sale of the Woodbury facial soap and cream, while leaving Dr. John Woodbury still in control of his Dermatological Institute located in New York. Beyond that news, the same concise blurb remarked that Andrew Jergens was on an extended trip to Mexico, and would attend to the necessary arrangements to effectuate these changes upon his return. The magazine speculated that the principal change would be an expansion of the company’s sales force. Thus, although the Woodbury purchase was finalized in 1901, the transition had already begun in 1897 under licensing agreements. While this account is less vivid than the company history – and is probably historically insignificant – this small correction of the historical record is attested mutely by the absence of battleship revenue cancels for either the Eastman or Woodbury companies.

No matter what the actual succession of events, the new products did change the nature of the Jergens company’s business. The hand cream formula bought from Eastman was marketed originally as “Jergens Benzoin and Almond Lotion Compound,” and later simply as “Jergens Lotion.” It proved to be an instant success and rocketed Jergens to the top of the newly emerging field of skin care products. Expanding upon the model of the varied line of Woodbury soaps, by 1911, Jergens was marketing 82 brands of fragranced soaps, mostly under the Jergens name. But the Woodbury soaps were proving as troublesome as they were profitable. Around 1906, Dr. John Woodbury claimed that Jergens had breached the 1901 purchase agreement by not following the prescribed medicinal formula for his Woodbury soaps, marketing cheap tallow soap as “Woodbury Soap” instead. Woodbury marketed his original formula under his own name as a “Woodbury’s New Skin Soap.” Jergens was forced to sue Woodbury for an injunction to bar him from marketing soap under his own name, since Jergens owned the rights to the Woodbury name under the 1901 agreement. By then, Jergens had brought the J. Walter Thompson agency in to create a new advertising campaign to market the Woodbury soaps, leading ultimately to the wildly popular slogan “A Skin You Love To Touch” (modified in the 1920s to “The Skin You Love To Touch”). While it is difficult to measure why this campaign produced such an iconic slogan and remained effective as a branding tool for so long, some observers have suggested the slogan’s success was rooted in its being the first subtle injection of sex into advertising. After litigation in a variety of courts as intricate and protracted as Dickens’ Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, in 1921, Woodbury’s cousin, William, ultimately extricated, by means of a tiny sliver of trademark rights held back in the original 1901 contract of sale, the right to produce a line of products under his own name, but not John’s. Further litigation between the company and William Woodbury circumscribed even that right in 1927, and as late as 1938, the various Woodbury interests were still suing each other over who owned what residual rights to the Woodbury name under the 1901 contract.

Mr. & Mrs. Jergens

Andrew Jergens, always portrayed as hard working and frugal, remained at the head of his company until his death in January, 1929. His son Andrew N. Jr., born in 1881, succeeded him as president. Junior apparently was not terribly close to his driven father, but, nevertheless, as a dutiful son, started at the bottom of the company and worked his way up. When radio developed as an advertising medium in the 1920s, Senior endorsed the medium by diverting a portion of his advertising budget into radio advertising. Under Junior, the company sponsored Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the 1930s, Walter Winchell, the most-listened-to and influential radio political columnist of his day, from 1932 to 1948, and Louella Parsons, his counterpart as a Hollywood gossip columnist between 1944 and 1954.

The company also innovated in the areas of using movie star endorsements and pioneered in marketing cosmetics in chain stores rather than beauty specialty shops. Along with strong advertising, the company produced new and more daring products, such as roll on deodorants and bubble bath, so that it was solid and established in the beauty care field when Junior died in 1967. American Brands, Inc. purchased the company in 1970, and a Japanese company, the Kao Corporation, purchased it from American Brands in 1988. As a wholly owned subsidiary of Kao, Andrew Jergens Company purchased the John Frieda Professional Hair Care Products business in 2002. While the company name was officially changed from Andrew Jergens to Kao Brands in 2004, the Andrew Jergens Company is still listed on the web as having a street address and telephone number in Cincinnati and new Jergens products are readily available on the web.

Jergens Lotion in 2012
© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2012
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