K

Victor Klotz, Manufacturer

VICTOR KLOTZ, MANUFACTURER

Virtually every denomination of battleship revenues can be found stamped with the initials “V. K.” This article explores the implications of two questions:

1) who was V.K.; and

2) why do these initials appear on so many different denominations?

KlotzV-2-RB21a(Victor)(EdPinaud)(ParisFrance)

KlotzV-2-RB23(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-2-RB24(EdPinaud)

KlotzV-2-RB25b(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-2-RB25d[2](EdPinaud)

KlotzV-2-RB26b(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-2-RB26h(EdPinaud)

KlotzV-2-RB27-1c(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-2-RB27-1b(EdPinaud)

     KlotzV-2-RB28(EdPinaud)

KlotzV-2-RB29(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-2-RB29b(EdPinaud)

KlotzV-2-RB30(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-2-RB31a(EdPinaud)

A VARIETY OF VICTOR KLOTZ CANCELS

The short answers to these questions are easy to set out. V.K. turns out to have been one Victor Klotz, and the reason why his initials appear on so many values of the battleship revenues is that he manufactured a line of perfumes and cosmetics which were sold in a variety of different sizes and at many different prices. The implications which follow from these answers are more complicated to spell out and the variety of directions in which they flow link together some unusual anecdotes from a variety of disparate sources.

KlotzV-2(EdPinaudWebsite)-4REVA

Although his initials appear on a great variety of U.S. revenue stamps, like the earlier-profiled Andreas Saxlehner, Victor Klotz was not even an American. However, unlike another earlier-profiled manufacturer, William Radam, his name was never, never used to promote his product.

KlotzV-5-7a(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-5-7c(EdPinaud)

KlotzV-5-7e(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-5-7g(French)

KlotzV-5-7h

PINAUD TRADECARDS SHARING A COMMON BACK

Klotz’s perfumes, still available today, were, and always have been, marketed under the much more chic French name Ed. Pinaud. His cosmetics line – particularly Pinaud’s Clubman Talc Powder, still marketed, available and displayed in its familiar green container – can also be found on the shelf of almost any barbershop in this country, although these products no longer belong to the Pinaud perfume company itself. Klotz’s name, however, remains largely unknown and unrecognized outside the perfume industry itself.

KlotzV-2(EdPinaudWebsite)-1REV     KlotzV-9(StylesOfLife)-1REV

PORTRAITS OF EDOUARD PINAUD

(PICTURES WITH BLACK LABELS FROM ED. PINAUD WEBSITE)

The business which grew into Ed. Pinaud began in France during the Napoleonic Era, when, in 1810, one M. Besancon founded a perfume shop in Paris. He conveyed it to a M. LaGrand, who, in turn, sold it to a brash young man named Edouard Pinaud in 1830. At first, Pinaud called his new business “A la Corbeille Fleurie” (To the Flower Basket). According to the company’s own website, Pinaud displayed both a predilection and a genius for developing alluring scents early in his life. Born in 1810 in Abbeville, approximately one hundred miles northwest of Paris, he journeyed to Paris at age thirteen to apprentice in the perfume trade. His first triumph in his own business was an extract of violets which he called “Violet of Parma Bouquet.”

KlotzV-2(EdPinaudWebsite)-2REVA     KlotzV-2(EdPinaudWebsite)-2REVB

By 1840, Pinaud had broadened the scope of the business and had so identified his name with the perfumes he manufactured that the company’s name has not been altered since. In 1841, he was recognized as a master perfumer in the commercial registry of Paris. Increased sales allowed him to expand his operations. He soon acquired warehouses in Brussels, which, in turn, allowed him to sell his perfumes in England. Pinaud was ambitious and a keen publicist. At a time when France was transforming itself from the stodgy rule of the bourgeois Bourbon kings to the grandiose Second Empire of Napoleon III, Pinaud assiduously courted the new Emperor and his Empress, Eugenie, eventually winning their endorsement.

KlotzV-NapoleonIII&Eugenie(1855)REV    KlotzV-Victoria&NapoleonIII(1855)REV

NAPOLEON III WITH EUGENIE AND VICTORIA

Not satisfied with the approbation of these nouveau royals, and sensing that patronage from older established royalty would awe the general public even more, when Queen Victoria of England traveled to Paris in 1855 to visit that year’s Universelle Exposition, Pinaud dedicated a new perfume to her. She was so impressed that she became a customer for the rest of her very long life and, in turn, he used her favor and endorsement to splash his name across the entire Victorian world. Pinaud continued to accrue acclaim and collect various prize medals at industrial expositions and fairs until, the company’s website insists, sheer exhaustion drove him to an early death in 1868. His memoirs, quoted by the company, included the following advice for those following after him: “… seek only in one direction, the one of Absolute Perfection.”

KlotzV-2(EdPinaudWebsite)-3REVA

As the business grew and expanded, Pinaud brought another perfumer into the business as his partner in 1852. His name was Emile Meyer. Born in 1817 in Ihringen, Baden-Wurttemburg, just east of the Rhine River in Germany (across from Alsace, the province long disputed between France and Germany), Meyer brought a different vibration to the elegant, royalty-tinged perfume business, for he was a Jew. The business was renamed Pinaud & Meyer, as both the manufacturing and retailing operations were expanded. As time passed, Pinaud came to rely more and more upon Meyer, and upon Pinaud’s death, Meyer was the natural choice to carry on the business.

KlotzV-12(1859EngPinaudAd)-1REV

1859 PINAUD AD IN ENGLISH WEEKLY

Meyer was a sound and enterprising businessman who tripled the company’s business in five years. To attract and keep the best workers, he kept improving and expanding the company factory and instituted then-radical, new industrial practices like opening a canteen for employees and offering pensions to older workers. In an age before multi-shareholder, acronym-named (and, therefore, virtually faceless), international mega-corporations, custom dictated that a company’s product bear the name of the principal owner as a guarantee of its soundness and bona fides; an upright man endorsed his honest product with his name. When Pinaud bought the business, he had promptly placed his name on the perfumes he sold, and, in the normal course of time, Meyer should have continued this tradition by replacing Pinaud’s name with his own on the perfumes. By 1868, however, Pinaud had catapulted the perfumes – Ed. Pinaud perfumes – into the first rank.

KlotzV-2(EdPinaudWebsite)-4REVB

Aside from Pinaud’s renown, Meyer’s name may have suggested another reason for not changing the name on the perfume bottles. The simple fact was that Jews were outsiders in the France, England and even in the United States, where Meyer made the earliest attempts to introduce the Ed. Pinaud perfumes. In France, the 1890s were highlighted by the Dreyfus Affair, an virulently antisemitic outburst caused by the French Army’s General Staff’s knowingly and wrongly convicting its one Jewish officer of espionage to cover the indiscretions of one of its own aristocrats. English aristocracy did not accept Jews into its ranks and U.S. society, while less openly antisemitic than France or England, was led by Mrs. Astor’s Four Hundred in New York City, a group not known for its heterogeneity. Jews in the late 19th Century, whether in France, England or the United States, generally did not want to draw attention to their religion, and certainly would not have sought to draw a direct connection between Judaism and an item meant as a luxury like perfume.  Yet, having noted this clear distinction between religion and commerce, it must be emphasized that the Pinaud story is much more one of enterprise and commercial success than difference.

KlotzV-5-5c(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-5-5d(EdPinaud)

KlotzV-5-5e(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-5-5f(EdPinaud)

KlotzV-5-5g(EdPinaud)

PINAUD TRADE CARDS PORTRAYING FRENCH NEWSPAPERS

Throughout his tenure at the helm, Meyer continued his expansion of the Pinaud business, and extended Pinaud’s sales to the United States. However, his greatest display of acumen may have been in 1883 when he brought his son-in-law, Victor Klotz, into the business with him. Klotz, born in 1836 in Paris, had already established his reputation as a silk merchant before joining his father-in-law. When Meyer died in 1888, Klotz smoothly stepped in, just as Meyer had replaced Pinaud. He proved to be energetic and willing to travel to expand the business. In 1890, he organized Pinaud’s American and Canadian business into a separate branch headed by Emil Utard and located its New York City office at 46 East 14th Street in Union Square.

KlotzV-50-2b(NYCStore-1920c-NWCor14th&5th)

NEW YORK CITY PINAUD OFFICES

Pinaud’s sales jumped sixfold in the U.S. during the 1890s. Interviewed in 1902 about Pinaud’s advertising policy, Utard explained that the main thrust of Pinaud’s advertising campaign was concentrated in half page ads taken in national magazines. Sometimes, Pinaud would even run two ads on the same page, but, when it did, the ads were aimed at different audience. For example, if the top ad were for a dainty lady’s perfume, the bottom ad would be for Pinaud’s barbershop hair tonic. Utard stressed that the ads were not an attempt to sell the goods directly to customers so much as to place the company’s name before consumers in order that they would ask their retailers for Ed. Pinaud products. Pinaud placed ads itself as well as through the burgeoning ad agency, J. Walter Thompson. Other types of advertising Pinaud employed were placards in trolley cars, advertising curtains in major theaters throughout the country and fans distributed to ladies at summer resorts and roof gardens, mediums more fashionable in those times than ours. Like Meyer, neither Klotz nor Utard ever suggested changing the name of the perfumes.

KlotzV-6a-1903-1(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-6a-1910-1(EdPinaud)

1903 PERFUME AND 1910 HAIR TONIC 1/2 PAGE ADS

As an industry innovator, Klotz introduced a new perfume called Flirt which became an instant hit in 1891.

KlotzV-6a-1910-2(EdPinaud)

1910 FLIRT AD

His purchase in 1896 of a Parisian mansion for a million francs from the American John William MacKay, one of the owners of the Comstock Lode and dubbed by Parisians “the king of money,” was the talk of the town. Curiously, Mackay himself had decided to move to Paris after he and his wife – neither Jewish but rather sporting Western nouveau riche money – were snubbed by New York society.

KlotzV-Picture9RueTilsettREV

FORMER KLOTZ HOME IN PARIS

In 1900, Klotz enriched the entire Pinaud family of products by introducing Brillantine, a hair softening product that also made hair shine. The name was derived from the French word “brilliant,” meaning “brilliant,” and in English brilliantine has grown to become the generic name for any product that glosses the hair. For the carriage trade, Klotz also debuted a new perfume for the Paris Exposition of 1900. He also lent his personal collection of perfume bottles to a perfume museum at the Exposition that became one of one of the central attractions of the Fair.

KlotzV-2(EdPinaudWebsite)-5REVB

KlotzV-4-1901-1a(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-4-1903-1

KlotzV-4-1905-1     KlotzV-ExpositionPC5a

PINAUD PARIS EXPOSITION PERFUME AND POSTCARDS

The Pinaud perfumes always indulged the Victorian obsession with orientalia in advertising and design, and after a particularly successful display at an Exhibition in Tokyo in 1904, Pinaud became an official supplier to oriental royalty as well, the Emperor of Japan. Klotz died in 1906, wealthy and respected among his peers.

KlotzV-2(EdPinaudWebsite)-6REV

EXPOSITION AND FAIR MEDALS WON BY PINAUD PERFUMES

Control of Ed. Pinaud passed to Klotz’s sons, Henry and George, and their initials appear as part of the company cancel on the U.S. revenue stamps of 1914, but the perfume names were never changed.

KlotzV-2-RB54(succHGK&Co)(France)     KlotzV-3-1(EdPinaud)

H. & G. KLOTZ 1914 REVENUE ISSUE AND COVER CIRCA 1915

The sons were not as dynamic in their leadership of Ed. Pinaud as their father had been, and the actions of the leading Klotz of that generation, Victor’s nephew, Louis-Lucien Klotz (1868-1930), a journalist and French politician, did not place the family in a good light.

KlotzV-3(LLKlotz)-1REV

As finance minister in Georges Clemenceau’s debt-burdened World War I government of France, L-L Klotz pressed for harsh reparations to be paid by the Germans, and was memorably quoted proclaiming, “The Boche will pay.” Although later scholarship seems to indicate that L-L Klotz personally understood that a policy of harsh reparations would not work, he acted as Clemenceau’s advocate for them during the Versailles Peace Treaty negotiations, earning David Lloyd-George’s contempt while not winning Clemenceau’s respect. Sadly, Clemenceau later said of Klotz’s fiscal abilities: “My finance minister is the only Jew in Europe who knows nothing about money.” In his own later life, L-L Klotz lost all of his money as well as the family’s fortune, was convicted of passing bad checks and died while serving a two-year prison sentence. Part of the fortune L-L Klotz lost was the family residence in Paris. That building, located at 9 rue de Tilsitt, now serves as the Belgian Embassy to France.

KlotzV-10-1a(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-10-4a(EdPinaud)(CanadianRevs)

OLDER PINAUD PERFUMES SHOWING

1919 SERIES U.S. AND CANADIAN REVENUE STAMPS

—–

KlotzV-10-11a(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-10-11b(EdPinaud)

PINAUD COLOGNE SOLD IN INDIA

 L-L Klotz’s missteps coupled with the onset of the Depression imperiled the continued existence of the Ed. Pinaud Company. A new owner, Roger Goldet (1910-1997), also a French Jew, took control of the company in the 1930s and infused it with an inventive second wind. As an originator, he created several successful new fragrances, including Opera and Scarlett, inspired by Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, which kept the Ed. Pinaud company name in the public consciousness and broadened the cosmetics offerings, including formulating the particularly successful 612 Mascara sold throughout the world.

KlotzV-10-5a(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-2(EdPinaudWebsite)-5REVC

PINAUD IN THE ROGER GOLDET ERA

Goldet was able to step in to the leadership of Ed. Pinaud with such authority and confidence because his mother was a member of the Deutsch de la Meurthe family which had participated in the creation of a major French oil company, Petroleum Jupiter, later the French Shell Oil Co. Because he came from such wealth, all during his life, his name was whispered in elegant circles, and echoes of these whispers are found today in scattered footnotes on the Internet.

KlotzV-CamillePissarroHousesAtBougival(Autumn)-REV

CAMILE PISSARRO, “HOUSES AT BOUGIVAL (AUTUMN)”

For example, among these footnotes is a listing in the provenance of a Camile Pissarro painting, “Houses at Bougival (Autumn)”, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum of Los Angeles, CA, showing Goldet as its seller at a 1979 Sotherby’s auction after inheriting it from his mother who had purchased it in 1934 also at Sotherby’s. At other times, Goldet disposed of several other works by Pissarro originally acquired by his mother’s family, but a work by Jean Dubuffet, catalogued on another website is still listed as part of the Goldet collection located in Neuilly, France. Another such buried reference note contains a discussion of the bespoke Bentley with bodywork designed by the French firm of Figoni et Falaschi that Goldet ordered in 1936, one of three Bentleys that firm ever created. Sadly, that story does not end happily for collectors of such rarities. The car was involved in a serious accident and had to be re-conceived by a different bodywork design company in 1944.  Roger Goldet continued active leadership of the French Ed. Pinaud company until 1979 when he turned the management of the company over to his son, Olivier, born in 1943.

KlotzV-10-10b(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-10-9aREV(EdPinaud)

OLDER PINAUD COSMETIC PRODUCTS

A major change in the Ed. Pinaud company seems to have occurred during Roger’s tenure. The French and American operations were split into separate companies. The American company embarked on its own corporate history, which ultimately led to its disposition of its Pinaud Clubman line of barbershop and men’s cosmetic products, and is now listed as inactive. The ultimate purchaser of the Pinaud Clubman products was American International Industries of Los Angeles, CA, which specializes in beauty care products and whose CEO is an orthodox Jewish rabbi named Zvi Ryman.

KlotzV-10(AII-ZviRyzman)-1REV

Ryman took a circuitous path to becoming a beauty industry executive. In interviews, he tells that he was in an import-export partnership buying merchandise in Hong Kong for resale through small corporations in the U.S. Its equilibrium was upended by President’s Nixon’s August, 1971 decision to stop guaranteeing redemption of U.S. dollars in gold, which, in turn, led Hong Kong merchants to stop accepting dollars as payment for goods and forced the partners to divide their assets. Neither partner wanted a small company that sold false eyelashes. They agreed to flip a coin, with the loser to take the account. Ryman lost, and, from that small beginning has built a large stock of beauty products by purchasing product lines such as Pinaud’s Clubman. Ryman, in turn, has licensed the online distribution of Pinaud’s products in the U.S. to Corrado Cutlery, run by James Bilger, and it is this website which serves as the official Clubman site in the U.S. The French Ed. Pinaud company’s website functions separate and apart from the Clubman website, is itself classified and indexed on at least one domain listing website and, has, in fact, generated at least one metadata website that has analyzed its traffic and, probably for a fee, would offer suggestions on how to improve its effectiveness.

     KlotzV-10a-2REV(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-10a-3REV(EdPinaud)     KlotzV-10a-4REV(EdPinaud)

CURRENT PINAUD CLUBMAN PRODUCTS

Ed. Pinaud may have decided to separate itself from its Clubman men’s brands because it discerned too much of a spread between the luxurious image it has always cultivated for its perfumes and associated goods, and the men’s products which traditionally were always retailed to public through barbershops.

KlotzV-CliffordOdets     KlotzV-WilliamFaulkner

      CLIFFORD ODETS     WILLIAM FAULKNER

Culturally in the U.S., Pinaud’s Clubman line of men’s products became identified as an indicator of aspiration to the middle class and has been portrayed that way in American literature.  In the 1935 play Awake And Sing, Clifford Odets’ portrait of a lower middle class Jewish family in the Bronx struggling to survive the Depression, when one family member gives another a haircut, he offers him Pinaud at the end just as if they were at the neighborhood barbershop (in modern editions of the play – whose readers presumably do not visit neighborhood barbershops – Pinaud rates an explanatory footnote). Similarly, in William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, published in 1931, Popeye, a rapacious and murderous character, requests Pinaud to spruce himself up on his way to the gallows, perhaps a last-minute concession to both his petty vanity and the normalcy it represents.

KlotzV-CurrentPerfumes4     KlotzV-CurrentPerfumes2

CURRENT PINAUD PERFUMES

Concerning the present status of the French Ed. Pinaud company, Olivier Goldet appears to continue to function as its principal executive, still resides in Paris and maintains active Facebook and Linked-In accounts online. One intriguing web link to his name shows that in 2006, he sat as a member of a panel at the University of Paris that awarded a PHD degree to a young woman whose doctoral thesis traced the history of the Jewish upper middle class in France in the context of Goldet’s Deutsch de la Meurthe ancestors.

KlotzV-CurrentPerfumes3     KlotzV-CurrentPerfumes1

CURRENT PINAUD PERFUMES

The French Ed. Pinaud company has maintained its allure as a niche purveyor of elegant perfumes, cosmetics, and more recently, jewelry and watches, to today’s jet setters. It is no longer a heavyweight in either the global or even the French perfume market. There are vague, dark rumors on certain men’s grooming websites that it no longer produces the revenue that the Clubman line does. While the English writer Ian Fleming made “Pinaud Elixir” James Bond’s choice of shampoo, calling it the “prince of shampoos,” and Pinaud’s Clubman in the U.S. still traces its history all the way back to 1810, that product line basks in the reflected glory of its chic French cousin. For advertising and revenue purposes, that may be sufficient.

KlotzV-P1120380REV     KlotzV-P1120383REV

PINAUD CLUBMAN TALC

AT THE AUTHOR’S LOCAL BARBERSHOP MARCH, 2015

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2015

Standard
K

James S. Kirk & Co.

J. S. KIRK & CO.
OCT   x   1900
CHICAGO

James S. Kirk & Co was a Chicago, Illinois soap manufacturer that advertised widely, produced many colorful trade cards and had a long run. The salient dates, drawn from the current Kirk’s Soap’s website, are mentioned in the paragraph describing the stock certificate. The company was founded by James S. Kirk in Utica, New York in 1839. In 1859, Kirk moved the company to Chicago, and, as the featured certificate showed, under his son’s guidance, it incorporated in New Jersey in 1900. The corporation was sold to Proctor & Gamble in 1930. Since 1996, a new incarnation has operated as Kirk’s Natural Products Corp. first in Chicago, its original home, and now in Cincinnati, where Proctor & Gamble had moved the business. Its featured product is Castile soap.

While soap itself appears not to have been subject to the Spanish-American War tax, nevertheless the company cancelled battleship revenues, presumably to reflect payment of the tax due on its line of perfumes. The example of RB31 shown (courtesy of Robert Mustacich) was meant to pay tax on an item retailing between $1.75 and $2.00 – a generous splurge of a purchase in that era – which supports the notion that it originally graced a perfume bottle. A website called Perfume Intelligence lists over fifty perfumes that the company marketed between 1893 and 1925. “Jap Rose,” dating from 1918, was Kirk’s most prominent perfume, and was one of the significant products mentioned as prompting Proctor and Gamble’s purchase of the company.

James S. Kirk

James S. Kirk, the founder of the company, was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1818, the son of a prominent shipbuilder and civil engineer. The family migrated to the new world when he was six months old, and he grew up in Montreal, Canada. While still in his teens he was already engaged in the manufacture of soap, candles and alkali, and later ran both a lumber camp and a lumber drive down the Ottawa River. At twenty-one, he married and moved to Utica to open his own business. He produced a brood of seven sons, no less than four of whom were later involved in the business: James A., John B., Milton W and Wallace F. Described as a “stern old churchman,” he lived in South Evanston, IL, and was a benefactor of Evanston’s Northwestern University. Upon his death in 1886, it was said that “there never was a resident of Chicago who was more highly respected and esteemed.” The tall stone shaft that marked his grave was noted in Chicago guidebooks as a prominent marker in the local cemetery.

Kirk Factory

The company flourished and prospered in the next generation. It was exceedingly proud that its name remained the same for almost a hundred years from 1839 through its sale during the Depression. It also took pride that its Chicago factory was located on the site of the first home in Chicago, built in 1779 by Jean Baptiste Point De Sable, “a Negro from Santo Domingo,” as the plaque erected on the site in 1913 by the company (but now apparently lost) read. With but a brief interruption because of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, it quickly became the largest manufacturer of soap both in Chicago and the United States, with sales in 1880 estimated at over 2 million dollars. In 1895, a contemporaneous history of Chicago noted the company’s main plant was a massive, five story building along the banks of the Chicago River served by a railroad spur that connected it to every railroad in Chicago, and its boiler house, containing a “battery of boilers, the largest in Illinois” was vented by a chimney 20 feet in diameter and 282 feet high, a “distinctive feature in the vicinity.” The company’s operating divisions were laundry soap, toilet soap, perfumes, colognes and toilet waters and glycerine. Three-quarters of the factory’s output shipped by rail and made its way not only throughout the United States, but also to “Europe, New Zealand, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia” and South America. The boxes that the goods shipped in were shaped at the company’s lumber mill located in Rhinelander, WI, and then assembled and stenciled at the Chicago factory. Counting the lumber mill staff, the company employed 750 workers and, by 1900, produced over 100 million pounds of soap per year.

In 1906, the company reincorporated in Illinois. The corporation paid handsomely in the first decades of the Twentieth Century, and its dividends rose from 4% in 1907 to a whopping 28% in 1921. However, by the end of the Twenties, it was locked in a battle with the Federal Trade Commission over the use of the term “Castile soap,” which the Commission contended, strictly speaking, could only be used in connection with a soap made entirely from olive oil as the originators of Castile soap in Spain had done. Perhaps the litigation with the government and the pressure to realize gain on the strategic factory real estate in the center of downtown Chicago, drove the family to extract its funds from the company in the form of the high dividends. In 1929, the soap works was demolished, and the following year, the company was sold to Proctor & Gamble (another potential subject for this column in due course). It was not until 1932, that the federal courts finally overturned the Federal Trade Commission’s ban on Kirk’s use of the term “Castile soap.” By then the brand had passed to Proctor & Gamble.

In terms of society page tidbits, aside from a certain tendency toward multiple wives shown by some of the sons, the Kirks of the second generation appear in the pages of the “who’s who” compilations of the times to have been sober Republican businessmen, who persevered in their father’s hardworking tradition. However, because such merchant princes were scrutinized by the press of that day the way today’s rock stars are, when the second wife (of at least three wives) of Milton W. Kirk, by then a past president of the Company, responded in a divorce action in Chicago that she had been “treated more … as a housekeeper or governess than a man would treat his wife,” no less a paper than the New York Times carried the story. A hundred years later, it still resides entombed in that paper’s digitalized morgue to be exhumed by prurient voyeurs In the third generation, John A Kirk’s son, Alexander Comstock Kirk (1888-1979), compiled a distinguished record as a U.S. diplomat, and, as U.S. ambassador to Egypt during World War II, entertained Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Chiang Kai-Shek during the Cairo Conference at the end of 1943, wealth again transformed into public service.

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2011
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K

Leslie E. Keeley Co. (Keeley Institute)

Leslie E. Keeley was born either in 1832 or 1836 (depending on the source of information), in St. Lawrence County, part of the far northern reaches of New York State. He graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago as a physician about 1863 or 1864. After the end of the Civil War, he moved to Dwight, IL, claimed to have invented an injection containing bichloride of gold which cured alcoholism and drug addiction, and opened a sanitarium there in 1880, together with his partners John R. Oughton, a chemist and co-inventor, and Curtis J. Judd, a wealthy merchant (whose other land speculation investments led to at least one precedent setting legal decision concerning settling a suit against one defendant while retaining the right to sue another).

KeeleyInst-2-RB20KeeleyInst-2-RB21KeeleyInst-2-RB24
KeeleyInst-2-RB28a(TheLeslieEKeeleyCo)KeeleyInst-2-RB31a
Keeley handstamps

In 1890, as a far-sighted entrepreneur, Keeley began to franchise his sanitarium and cure operation, and an ad for the Keeley Institute, published in Scribner’s Magazine in 1911, lists twenty-three different sanitarium locations, all operating under the name of the Keeley Institute, where the treatment regime of four shots a day could be administered. Some sources claim that at its greatest extent there were as many as 200 different branches of the Institute in the United States and Europe and that 300,000 people had been treated by 1900. This assertion seems supported at least in part by various references to Keeley Institutes existing in other cities not listed in the ad. For example, a Nevada website mentions two branches in Reno and Carson City while the Fargo, ND website, which Frank Sente cross-references, shows a picture of the local branch, and a Ypsilanti, Michigan website references another local Keeley Institute.

The significant question of whether the Keeley Cure actually did any good is highly debatable. While Keeley certainly became a millionaire through advocacy of his Cure, current thinking does support his approach to addiction as a disease rather than the Victorian view that it was a moral lapse. His claim: “Drunkenness is a disease and I can cure it” must be regarded as a major departure in the thinking about addiction treatment. In addition, the prestigious American Medical Association never flatly contradicted Keeley’s claims as it did with so many other quack medicines. That the AMA did not denounce the Keeley Cure might be because it was able to boast a fifty percent cure rate, according to one source, perhaps because of the group solidarity inspired by taking the cure at a sanitarium, an approach later incorporated into the Alcoholics Anonymous methodology.

On the other hand, Keeley appears to have persistently misrepresented the formula for his Cure. Chemical analysis of his formula revealed a base of more than twenty-five percent alcohol mixed with a variety of substances (some poisonous like strychnine) but no gold as claimed. Modern scientific method has never demonstrated the curative power of bichloride of gold, and treating alcoholics with alcohol has never been considered a legitimate form of treatment. By the middle of the 20th Century, alcoholism and drug addiction were regarded as mental diseases more than physical diseases and the approach of taking shots that would physically effect a cure was outmoded. (Only a prominent television figure now appears to advocate that addiction can be conquered without complete abstention from the addictive substance.)

After Keeley’s death in 1900, his partner John Oughton, continued to operate the Keeley Institute until his death in 1925, when Oughton’s son took over the business. While the popularity of the Keeley Cure slowly diminished without Keeley’s dynamic pronouncements, the last Keeley Institute did not close until 1965, whereupon Oughton’s grandson turned the main sanitarium building in Dwight, IL into a restaurant. The other buildings in that sanitarium complex have been preserved and are currently utilized by both public and private tenants. Other Institute buildings in various locations have been similarly re-cycled for present use.

Frank Sente made the comment that the holder of his featured stock certificates dating from 1901 and 1902 might have gotten “snakebit” by his investment.  Yet in 1901 or 1902, the Keeley Cure was still good business, and as long as the investor did not hold them indefinitely, he probably made a profit. Even after the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the Keeley Cure itself died a slow and natural death over the subsequent sixty years.

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2011
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Keasbey & Mattison Company

K. & M. Co.
Ambler,
June 15, 1901
RB20 block of 4 with printed cancels in selvage, ex-Tolman

Collectors of battleship cancels find those of the Keasbey & Mattison Company of Ambler, PA to be among the most frequently seen and most readily available. Moreover, for connoisseurs who hold printed cancels to be the gold standard of battleship revenue collecting (with whom this author most forcefully and grumpily disagrees), the listing of the variations and errors in its printed cancels is a treasure chest that covers seven single spaced pages in the original Chappell-Joyce compilation (a listing which this author believes emphasizes the trees at the expense of the forest). Few philatelists have explored K & M’s history to understand the energy behind this cornucopia of stamps or the greater ramifications of K & M’s existence. K & M, and the personalities behind it, may provide the most quintessential and elementary case study thus far in this series of all the elements, good and bad, which make the study of the patent medicine, as well as the broader pharmaceutical, industry in the era of the Robber Barons both piquant in itself as well as relevant to today’s world of unrestricted corporate power.

THE COMPANY

Aside from its philatelic prolificacy, the most significant fact of K & M’s long existence is it managed (if inadvertently) to successfully market products, as well as create unimaginable wealth, in two completely different and unrelated areas – patent medicine and asbestos insulation – both of which ultimately became rigorously scrutinized as generating major health hazzards. In a time when medical advertising hyperbole was unchecked, the company widely promoted its patent medicines as cures for all types of nervous exhaustion. Even if its principal product, Bromo-Caffeine, was merely a forerunner of today’s headaches remedies, it was also touted as a remedy for a “weak heart” or “sudden cardiac dropsy” (and, in fact, it may have been as good a remedy as was available at the time for heart attack relief). However, long after the patent medicine industry’s exaggerated claims were throttled and the over-the-counter narcotics barred, the company’s successors again became notorious for K & M’s second, even larger product line, asbestos insulation. Asbestos, welcomed in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries as a miraculous industrial breakthrough because of its resistance to extreme heat, electrical and chemical damage, became a nightmare for K & M’s successors as it was gradually proven to be a malign and potent carcinogen, at last fodder only for late night ads by attorneys promising rich recoveries who, even now, still endlessly trawl the air waves for victims of its poisoning.

As Athena from Zeus, the company sprang into being as a pharmaceutical laboratory in Philadelphia in 1873, as soon as its founders, Henry Griffith Keasbey and Richard V (Van Zeelust/Vanselous) Mattison, graduated together from Philadelphia’s prestigious College of Pharmacy. It achieved almost immediate success with a headache remedy marketed initially under its chemical identity as citrate of caffeine, but sold after 1881 under the trademarked name “Bromo-Caffeine,” derived from a class of compounds known as effervescent salts. These chemical combinations of acids and bases result in the release carbon dioxide, often experienced as pleasant fizzy, bubbly sensation. While K & M also marketed Salaperient for constipation, Alkalithia for rheumatism and Cafetonique for dyspepsia, Bromo-Caffeine quickly became the first source of the wealth K & M created.

K & M also manufactured carbonate of magnesia, the common laxative milk of magnesia. Mattison soon noticed that one Hiram Hanmore was purchasing copious amounts of magnesia from the company and wondered how Hanmore was using it. Upon inquiry, Mattison learned that Hanmore was combining magnesia with hemp fiber and binding the mixture to metal as insulation. However, hemp was not durable and soon burned away when the metal was exposed to the frequent high heat generated in the newer, larger steam boilers and piping systems built in the advancing Industrial Revolution. Mattison quickly discovered that when asbestos was substituted in place of hemp in the mixture, the resulting compound was an extremely stable, malleable and durable insulating material. Asbestos, a group of silicate minerals, is characterized by long crystals able to be spun into fibers. It already had a 4,000 year history as a fire resistant novelty, but had only just begun to be available in large enough quantities to be used commercially. Mattison moved decisively. First, he convinced Hanmore of the superiority of his asbestos insulation and became his exclusive supplier. Then he began to manufacture and market asbestos to the world at large. Mattison soon became known as the “Asbestos King,” and the fortune generated by asbestos was even greater than the one from the proprietary medicines.

Asbestos was not specially taxed in the Revenue Act of 1898. Rather, it was the popularity of Bromo-Caffeine that generated the demand for the battleship revenue stamps. K & M soon operated sales offices in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Cincinnati. It fought hard to defend its trademarked name and in more than one case successfully convinced a court that Bromo-Caffeine was a legitimate trade name or a legal trademark. In 1892, it even had a man sent to jail for criminal counterfeit and trademark infringement when he peddled his own unauthorized version of Bromo-Caffeine. The principal ruling establishing the legality of the trademark was somewhat ironic because the proof offered by K & M to establish the uniqueness of the name Bromo-Caffeine was that Mattison had created that name entirely from his imagination and the product itself, which contained, inter alia, lots of sugar, less than 2% caffeine, a great deal of bi-carbonate of soda, as well as a dash of potassium bromide, bore no resemblance to any other known chemical formula. To no avail, the challengers offered proof that there were legitimate chemical combinations of bromine and caffeine, which involved the use of the terms bromo and caffeine in some combination, and, even closer to the point, a German scientist named Schultzen denominated a certain combination of bromine, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen as Bromo-Caffeine in 1867 and had marketed it modestly as a chemical (but most definitely not as a headache remedy) both in Europe and the United States. That success in defending the Bromo-Caffeine trademark led K & M to push even harder to restrict its competition.

When Emerson Drug Co. (see RS 280-3, together with its own vast array of printed cancels, (a company subject to this column another day)) began have success with its headache remedy Bromo-Seltzer around 1894, K & M issued a barrage of circulars to the industry stating it was prepared to challenge Emerson’s use of the term “Bromo” as an infringement of its Bromo-Caffeine trademark. Drug associations around the country discussed the viability of K & M’s threats at their meetings. Since Bromo-Seltzer was such a good seller, the trade generated little enthusiasm for K & M’s militant position, and these meetings often turned into sessions on how to find strategies to ignore K & M’s threats. Early in 1895, a group called the United States Trademark Association published a list of some fifteen other trademarks containing the term “Bromo,” including Bromo-Seltzer, which itself had been trademarked in 1889, and asked for additions from anyone who could provide them. K & M did file its suit against Emerson, but eventually consented to settle out of court. By that time, medical reformers were already vigorously attacking Bromo-Seltzer as containing the dangerous and even deadly stimulant acetanilid in place of caffeine. K & M could always boast that Bromo-Caffeine never contained that poison.

Buoyed by the two burgeoning product lines of patent medicines and asbestos insulation, K & M soon needed to expand from its limited quarters in Philadelphia. Mattison discovered that there was a source of magnesia in the dolomite rock formations near Ambler, PA, now a suburb of Philadelphia, but then a sleepy farming village with declining prospects because its agricultural fields were played out. Ambler had one other virtue to recommend it: a connection with the local railroad. Recognizing that the combination of easy access to both raw materials and transportation suited them perfectly, Keasbey and Mattison moved the entire business to Ambler in 1882. Ambler flourished under the benign rule of K & M for the very long lifetimes of the company’s two founders.

Henry G. Keasbey

As patent medicine barons, the founders of Keasbey and Mattison could have been ordered directly from Central Casting in Hollywood. Mattison’s oversized body and personality tend to soak up most of the extant accounts about K & M. The seemingly patrician Keasbey, who has left only indirect traces of his presence, disappeared quickly from public scrutiny. Born in 1850 into the wealthy gentry, Keasbey’s family origins are now opaque because the prominent Keasbeys of the era were statesmen, attorneys and jurists from neighboring New Jersey. Since there are later claims his grandfather was a friend of Thomas Jefferson, he must have descended from a “lesser branch” of that New Jersey clan. Keasbey himself gained prominence when, at age 22, he could simply produce the $5000 to finance K & M’s founding. Between 1873 and the company’s incorporation in 1892, Keasbey stayed in the background, but must have overseen the ever expanding day to day operations of the company, since the much busier and more publicity conscious Mattison made an immediate transition from student to teacher at the College of Pharmacy, and then graduated as a doctor of medicine in 1879 from the University of Pennsylvania (although he never practiced medicine), all while, on behalf of K & M, personally selling Bromo-Caffeine one doctor at a time from coast to coast to establish it as the leader in its field, fighting the court battles to protect its name, and also developing the entire asbestos product line.

As soon as K & M incorporated (with stated capital of $2,000,000), Keasbey converted his partnership interest into stock of the new K & M, Inc. and retired from its active management, never again to take a direct role in the running of the company. He did keep tinkering for his own amusement, however, for after 1892, he patented several devices, such as improved feed-water heater, in his own name. Married in 1877 to Anna Foster, a cultivated young Philadelphian educated primarily in Paris, he became a father of four. Although he never lived in Ambler, during the years he summered there, he is remembered as the sponsor of the local baseball team and a benefactor, along with his wife, of both the Baptist Church and a mission to cater to the special needs of the Italian immigrants who worked in his factory. Rather, because of his wife’s delicate health, he and his family traveled extensively to Europe, particularly in the south of France, to find the appropriate climate to suit her precarious constitution, and she died at a villa there in 1897. After he was widowed, he continued to travel a great deal and resided in England and on the Riviera throughout his remaining years. At one time, he did establish a world renowned collection of medieval armor but sold it at auction in 1903. Thereafter, he pursued his art interests quietly, and, even now his bequests to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City are listed as the source of funds used to purchase art objects. At the end of the life, when he died just days short of his 82nd birthday in 1932, beyond noting his love of medieval armor, his New York Times obituary listed only that his principal membership was the Antiquarian Society of London.

Keasbey’s children followed in his retiring, low key manner. His son Henry Turner Keasbey (1882-1953), was a painter of pastoral scenes (or merely aspired to be a painter of such scenes, according to other less charitable sources). Henry T, a bachelor, so loved agriculture and cows that he endowed a special scholarship fund for students studying dairy farming. Today this fund is administered under the auspices of the Philadelphia Foundation, an amalgam of charitable foundations dedicated to the benefit the City of Philadelphia. Henry G’s daughter, Marguerite Anna Keasbey (1878-1960), a spinster who spent the first half of her life as her father’s traveling companion, developed such ties with England that she endowed a special scholarship to permit poor English children to be educated at English universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge. It was later modified in 1981 to allow Americans also to apply to pursue post-graduate studies in England. Like her brother, she left the remaining bulk of her fortune in the care of the Philadelphia Foundation, although it took a court order issued seventeen years after her death (with all its attendant costs paid to some of Philadelphia’s most prominent law firms) finally to sort and meld her various charitable bequests.

Richard V. Mattison

Born in 1851, Mattison, the public face of K & M, was a bear of a man, standing six feet, four inches and weighing 220 pounds, and sporting a full, long flowing beard. Among the stories told about Mattison, it is said that he was obligated to grow the beard to cover the disfigurement of his lower jaw, because, in Philadelphia in 1882, he had fractured it in three places when, because of his huge bulk, he fell through a sidewalk elevator trap door while spying outside a rival’s pharmaceutical laboratory to see why the factory was operating so late at night. The jaw never set properly and hd could never again eat thick meat like steak. People, overwhelmed by his room-filling presence and commanding – one might even say domineering – manner, either loved or hated him.

When he had established his fortune, he let it be known that while his own origins were modest, his family’s history on his father’s side flowed back to the lairds of the Scottish Highlands, and on his maternal grandmother’s side to its migration from England to Pennsylvania along with William Penn on the second ship to land in the colony. He further averred that when he partnered with Keasbey, he declined his extended family’s offer of monetary help and borrowed his capital contribution. While trained as both a pharmacist and a doctor, he himself readily admitted that his true calling was business. In 1892, during the major Bromo-Caffeine trademark litigation, he was asked:

Q: In which branch of knowledge are your attainments more eminent; in the medical branch or the chemical branch?

A: My business is chiefly financial; I think it is about an even thing, medical and chemical.

Having established Ambler as the site of K & M, Mattison behaved in most energetic and dynamic fashion like the laird of the manor he had wrought. He constructed, and rented to his workers, tracts of specially designed houses, some 400 overall, graduated in their space, complexity and stone decoration, and made available depending on the worker’s position with the company. He erected Ambler’s Opera House and bandstand, saw to Ambler’s incorporation as a borough in 1887, installed gas, electricity including street lights, and a water system through organizing and heading the Ambler Electric Light Company and the Ambler Spring Water Company. As a cycling enthusiast, he dedicated a special well on his property for use by the cyclists. He was remembered anecdotally not only for feuding with the local postmaster about putting the local post office in one of his buildings and phoning the electric company to leave the streetlights on so he could take a late stroll, but also for providing coal and food to needy workers during hard times. Beyond being president of the two utility companies, as well as the land-related Upper Dublin Water Co., and the Real Estate and Improvement Co, he was also, after 1892, president of K & M, Inc. together with being chief executive of a string of other asbestos related companies: the mellifluous Asbestos Shingle, Slate and Sheathing Co; the Magnesia Covering Co; the Asbestos Co; the Asbestos Manufacturing Co; the Telenduron Co; as well as the Bell Asbestos Mines, which were located in Thetford, Quebec, and were the world’s largest. Beyond the world of asbestos, he also served as president of the First National Bank of Ambler and the Philadelphia Drug Exchange, while merely serving only as vice-president of his alma mater, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, as well as maintaining memberships in a variety of other professional organizations.

Mattison moved in society’s highest circles, warranting coverage of his comings and goings in the social pages of the New York Times. In Ambler, he established “Lindenwold” a 400 plus acre estate, containing two lakes, one covering six acres itself, and in 1912, he even remodeled its manor house to resemble Windsor Castle. At its peak, his payroll for the operation of Lindenwold alone amounted to over $10,000 per week. He also purchased, decorated and staffed “Bushy Park,” named in tribute to a Royal Park in London, as his summer “cottage” in Newport, RI. In 1873, he had married one Esther Dafter of Cranbrook, NJ. Two sons, Richard V. Jr. and Royal lived to stunted maturity. In honor of a daughter, Esther, who died at age 4, he erected in Ambler, at a cost of $150,000, the Trinity Memorial Protestant Episcopal Church. Because of its beautiful stained glass windows, it became known locally as the Church of the Beautiful Windows. Mattison was known to keep his eye on his pocket watch during sermons and snap it shut when he felt the rector had spoken long enough. His firm and tight grasp of the affairs of both Ambler and Trinity Church, marked him as a benevolent autocrat he was.

Mattison was also a stern father. After Richard Jr. secretly married while traveling abroad in 1904 to the orphaned daughter of “respected and refined parents” who was then living in London with her two sisters while “fulfilling an engagement on the English stage,” he was so afraid to face his father that left his bride of three days in London when he returned home. Agnes, the young Mrs. Mattison, later testified he told her he would return to bring her to his parents after he had arranged matters with his father. After six months, when he had not made good his promise to come back, she showed her pluck by following him to the United States. Junior lovingly greeted her at the boat, insisted that she use her maiden name and admit only to being his fiancee. He registered her at a Newport boarding house under her maiden name, swearing that he still needed time to convince his father to accept the marriage. While Junior initially reported back to her that his father took the news of his union extremely badly, she alleged that ultimately she met Mattison, that Mattison behaved cordially (albeit remarking about other young men’s unsuitable marriages to women below their station), permitted her to move as his son’s fiancee into Bushy Park (where she and her husband lived in adjoining rooms as man and wife, although the servants did not know), and even made the necessary announcement and arrangements for a wedding during the second week of August, 1905 to cover Junior’s prior hasty alliance.

Fate intervened. On July 30, 1905, Junior and Agnes attended a champagne breakfast aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia anchored in Narragansett Bay. Conflicting accounts ensued concerning what transpired during their visit to the ship. Agnes asserted that she fell ill during the breakfast, was tended by Junior in a young officer’s cabin, and returned with him to Bushy Park in a weakened condition. However, within the week, Junior wrote a letter to Agnes’s sisters in Scotland and included an anonymous account of the incident stating that because of her “sporting proclivities,” Agnes had drunk herself into a stupor, and was thereafter “discovered beastly intoxicated and in an otherwise disgraceful condition in the stateroom of a young ensign … where she had been for some considerable time without [young] Mr. Mattison’s knowledge.” In Agnes’s view, Junior sent that letter, including the anonymous report, to pressure her sisters to get her to consent to his divorce from her by threatening to make public the incident.

Leaving aside the reality of events aboard the USS West Virginia, a few days after having seen her unsteadiness when she returned to Bushy Park – continued Agnes’s version of the story – Mattison peremptorily and curtly ordered Junior to permanently remove his intoxicated floozie from Mattison’s presence. She and Junior departed from Bushy Park that day. Junior related to her that his father had told him he must divorce her or be disinherited, but promised that after he settled her in a hotel in New York, he would bring his father around. Once at the “prominent” hotel, he methodically collected all her cash and then went downstairs to write some letters. The next morning she received a note saying he had already left the hotel to start making arrangements for the reconciliation, and that she should hold his bag for him when it arrived. Not only did his bag not arrive, he never returned. Her narrative proclaimed that she would have starved but for a fortuitous ten dollars she discovered at the bottom of her traveling trunk. He never resumed the marriage, and afterward dealt with her only through lawyers, who eventually arranged an extremely modest living allowance for her, but apparently also had her movements shadowed by detectives. Agnes further claimed that when the rest of her luggage was finally returned to her from Newport, the extravagant trousseau Junior had purchased for her was gone, together with all his letters to her and even their English marriage certificate.

Both parties sued for divorce in 1907, essentially trying two different cases before the court. Agnes’s argument was predicated on Junior’s harsh, cruel and abrupt abandonment of her in 1905 at his father’s behest, and the family’s machinations against her, their “consent, procurement and connivance” in obtaining evidence of adultery to support a divorce. Junior’s argument rested upon elaborate observations by a variety of detectives, bell hops and room clerks alleging a subsequent adulterous fling with a physician who treated Agnes for illness beginning six months after Junior left her. What Mattison actually knew about the formality of Junior’s liaison with Agnes, actually said to Junior about her, or ever plotted against her, was never proven, since his son’s divorce was the one litigation in which Mattison never testified. Junior, himself, never denied the 1904 English marriage nor Agnes’s account of their parting in the hotel room nor the letter to her sisters. The case of either the innocent brought low by the perfidious, heartbreaking liar goaded by his implacable father or the adulterous, gold digging hussy – depending on one’s sympathies – headlined the gossip of Newport during the 1908 season.

Although the trial judge accepted Agnes’s version of the events in 1905, he failed to find either that Junior had acted cruelly against her or that he or his father had connived to set her up for the divorce. He did find that Agnes had carried on with the doctor and granted Junior his divorce on the grounds of adultery. In 1911, the Court of Appeals (the highest appellate court in New York) reversed that ruling and remanded the case for re-trial because the trial judge had allowed into the court record, and based his ruling upon, certain evidence the Court of Appeals deemed inappropriate. A hundred years later that decision is still cited for its discussion of the rules concerning the proper use of indirect, circumstantial evidence to establish adultery. Mattison’s and Junior’s argument that adultery trumps marital cruelty was not ultimately sustained because of the higher court’s reversal of the trial judge, but since there is no report of the retrial, Junior and his father must have finally arrived at some out-of-court accommodation with Agnes. In 1914, Junior married a Philadelphia socialite named Georgette, who over her fourteen year marriage to Junior grew to share Agnes’s opinion of Mattison, since Junior, who held the title of Vice-President of K & M, was never anything more than a glorified office boy for Mattison. Junior died in 1927 at age 46, apparently of alcoholism.

Mattison persevered in his imperious ways, and business continued to boom. He outlived his own first wife and remarried in 1920. That year, K & M featured a picture of its factory taken from an airplane on the cover of the annual catalogue, and Mattison was later acknowledged as an innovator for the earliest use of aerial photography in advertising. However, at the moment when Mattison’s empire had reached its greatest extent in 1928, Junior’s second wife Georgette, still resentful of Mattison and now a stockholder herself in K & M as Junior’s widow, apparently egged Keasbey into suing Mattison for mismanagement of K & M, alleging that he was deliberately squelching K & M’s payment of its rightful dividend, was diverting K & M’s legitimate business to his own private companies and was improperly manipulating K & M’s Board of Directors to block it from calling in over a million and a half dollars of loans Mattison had taken from K & M. Perhaps Keasbey’s suit was justified, but Keasbey, as ever had no wish to engage in a prolonged fight with Mattison and the parties soon settled for $4 million which Mattison paid to Keasbey in a lump cash sum to buy him out entirely as autumn 1929 approached. The stock market crash in October, 1929 left Mattison without any ready money at hand and the ensuing Depression completed the collapse of Mattison’s outsized fortune. By 1931, the bankers keeping K & M afloat forced him to cede day to day control of K & M, and in 1934, they sold K & M to the British company, Turner & Newall Ltd for $4 million. As the financial noose closed around him, Mattison pared and pared his expenses, even vacating his beloved Lindenwold in 1931. The manor house was promptly put on the market, but stood empty for several years. Late in 1936 at age 85, he died in Ambler in a more modest home that he wisely had deeded to his now deceased second wife in more flush times located just across the street from Lindenwold’s gates. After his death that shadow of Lindenwold was itself subdivided into an eight suite apartment house. How the mighty had fallen. Mattison merited no formal New York Times obituary and there were no bequests, charities and scholarships as Keasbey’s fortune had endowed.

Perhaps the last word on the partners Keasbey and Mattison properly belongs to the author Gay Talese. In his book, Unto The Sons, he paints a keen portrait of them because some of his Italian immigrant relatives, including his father, worked for Mattison in Ambler. Talese uses Keasbey and Mattison as foils, intermingling their stories with the stories of his relatives. Describing Keasbey and Mattison near the beginning of their careers, when they were scouting Ambler as a possible site for their factory, he describes the “multimillionaire” Keasbey as a “mild mannered individual who considered Dr. Mattison a genius and rarely took issue with him,” and pictures the two of them “[w]earing dark suits and bowler hats, and carrying walking sticks as they stepped in and out of the cow dung in the weedy pastures. … At six feet four, with broad shoulders, narrow hips and such disproportionately long thin legs that he seemed to be walking on stilts, the sternly spectacled Dr. Mattison towered over the five-foot-seven inch Mr. Keasbey, who had a round, ruddy face and muttonchops whiskers and nodded affirmatively at nearly everything he heard the talkative doctor say.” Talese continues that while people might have thought that it was Mattison who came from money rather than Keasbey, “[i]n deference to Keasbey’s wealth, and with the understanding that he would continue to underwrite his aspirations, Dr. Mattison placed Keasbey’s name in the primary position on their joint enterprise.”

The Aftermath: Long before Mattison’s death, K & M’s patent medicine manufacture had taken a secondary position to asbestos. Although Bromo-Caffeine’s formula never contained the poison acetanilid that Bromo-Seltzer’s did, Bromo-Seltzer, minus its poison, continued to grow in popularity while Bromo-Caffeine’s renown gradually waned. K & M still manufactured Bromo-Caffeine as late as 1927, and it appears to have lasted as long as Mattison remained at the head of the company. The asbestos business lasted much longer, but had much graver consequences. Turner and Newall operated the K & M facilities at Ambler under the K & M name until 1962, when its business was sold to Certain Teed Corporation and Nicolet Industries. Nicolet, which bought the asbestos production portion of K & M, ran the Ambler facility until the growing weight of 50,000 claims against it of personal injury caused by exposure to asbestos forced it into bankruptcy in 1987, and it was folded into Armstrong World Industries. Through a series of court decisions beginning in the 1980s, Nicolet and Armstrong and all their related and subsidiary companies which owned or operated K & M’s facilities were deemed to be responsible as K & M’s “successors-in-interest” for the injuries caused by K & M’s asbestos products. Whatever remains of K & M (as well as the rest of the entire asbestos industry) exists now, essentially, as a pool of money held in trust and administered by the federal courts to pay off these personal injury claims. One victim of asbestos poisoning was Talese’s own grandfather. At a time before the scientific study of asbestos hazzards and the litigation had unfolded, Talese suggests that his grandfather’s early death caused by respiratory problems directly resulted from his exposure to asbestos in Ambler.

K & M also left a lasting mark on the town of Ambler. On one hand, because of the asbestos, there is a legacy of contamination. Asbestos waste was piled as much as 30 feet high off the ground and 15 feet deep into the ground in some spots. A playground and park built over one former K & M waste dump were closed in the 1980s because of the danger posed by the contaminated ground. Several former K & M properties have been designated as EPA Superfund clean-up areas, and serious rehabilitation of the land began only in 2009. The positive legacy of K & M to Ambler was its governmental organization, as well as its utilities and solid, well-designed, well-crafted buildings. Some of the homes which Mattison conjured into being remain, as well as other public structures. While the Church of the Beautiful Windows burned in a fire in 1986, it has been rebuilt, and Lindenwold still exists as a 43 acre preserve. It has been utilized since just before Mattison’s death in 1936 as St Mary’s Villa for Children and Families, a Catholic charity’s orphanage. The house itself appears to be opened for public tours on some occasions. In the final analysis, as with the rest of the Nineteenth Century, the Patent Medicine Age itself together with the barons who created and lent their names to that era and gorged themselves upon it, it is probably best to remember and praise as much of the beautiful residuum as has survived while trying to learn and follow the monitory lessons instilled by the danger, ugliness, unpleasantness which accompanied and resulted from it. The lessons of corporate overreaching at the expense of the public and without check by the government have yet to be taken to heart.

*****

The Keasbey & Mattison printed cancel collection below is ex-Henry Tolman.  This collection of the K&M cancel varieties is incomplete, but is still quite large.

© Malcolm A, Goldstein 2012
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