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


          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.”



          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.”



          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.



          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.



          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.



          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!



          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.


          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.





          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.











          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.






            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.




          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.





          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.







1902 & 1904 W. H. HILL CO. CALENDARS



          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.



          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.


          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.





          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.



          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.”



          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.


* * * * *










           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.




          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.



          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.



          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.





          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.





* * * * *


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


 * * * * *


* * * * *


          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.


          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.



          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.



          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.


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


Laxakola Co.

Laxakola Co.


1901 COVER

As Monte Python used to say “and now for something completely different”…

Laxakola Co. went bankrupt and disbanded in 1905.  Chartered as a New Jersey company in 1895, it certainly existed during the period of 1898 to 1901 when proprietary battleship revenue use on its products was required by law. Yet, its story falls outside the very broadly drawn ambit of this blog, for, to date, no battleship revenue stamp has been identified with Laxakola, this company’s principal product, and the Battleship Desk Reference book of Mustacich and Giacomelli, which sets out both letter combination of observed proprietary revenue cancels as well as the names of proprietary medicine companies, does not even list “L. Co.” among such observed combinations. (By comparison, the only four (4) varieties of “L. & C.” cancels listed are identified as belonging to Ladd & Coffin, and 10 companies whose initials are “L. & Co” are listed, although not directly matched, with fifteen (15) varieties of “L. & Co.” cancels).



However, Laxakola’s story is so intriguing and is voiced so well that it merits retelling. It is the story of unmitigated failure and a cautionary tale that not every patent medicine became a million dollar seller.



The tale’s narrator was an ad man and entrepreneur named Charles Austin Bates (1866-1936). One of the lesser lauded and remembered Don Drapers of U.S. advertising’s birth, he published his account of Laxakola’s demise in 1906 in “Printers’ Ink,” the first advertising trade journal. It comes down to us today because a drug trade journal reprinted it contemporaneously, and that journal has been reproduced on line1.









Charles Austin Bates was born in Indianapolis, IN.  Perhaps he was inclined to a life of words because his mother, Margaret Ernsperger Bates (1844-1927), who came from an educated family and began life as a teacher, grew bored with married life as a housewife and became a writer herself.  Publishing under the name of Margaret Holmes, she wrote novels and poetry, and earned a place in several Who’s Who kinds of compilations of her era.  Her last book on the works of Robert Browning was issued only weeks before her death.  A sample poem, while somewhat flowery for today’s taste, displays heartfelt sentiment:


While Bates’s mother was a prominent personality, his father, by comparison, toiled in the shadows. Little can be said about him other than that he was born in Medina, NY, which lies halfway between Rochester and Buffalo, in 1837, and that by 1865, he had moved to Indianapolis, where he married Bates’s mother. City directories identify him as a principal in Bates & Co., which dealt in flour, feed, coal and wood, and he must have flourished as a merchant for his wife and son to act as independently as they did. He remained in Indianapolis where he died in 1914.

LaxakolaCo-3(MHBPic(1897))     LaxakolaCo-6REV(CAB(father)grave)


Bates himself began working as a printer after graduating from high school in Indianapolis, bought a local weekly newspaper at age eighteen and opened his own printing shop at age twenty.  That newspaper subscribed to Printers’ Ink, and when Bates read in its pages that John Wanamaker, the department store merchant, had paid a man named John Emory Powers $10,000 a year to write his ads, he decided that he wanted that life for himself: “My God! Ten Thousand Dollars a year! Why, our postmaster received $3,500 a year and drove to his job every morning in a two-horse surrey!”  Bates soon began to write ads for local businesses and then advertised himself as a copywriter in Printers’ Ink.  The responses he received were favorable enough for him to move to New York City in 1893 to establish his own advertising business.  His mother moved to New York City at the same time as her son and remained there until her own death more than thirty years later.

LaxakolaCo-3-1CREV     LaxakolaCo-3-1DREVB


Bates picked the perfect moment, at the opening of the “Gilded Era,” to enter the advertising occupation.  Industrialization had produced wealth in America, and innovations in communications and transportation had made it practical to consider the entire United States as a single market.  Advertising had to grow and change to keep pace with the continuing expansion of this market.  Essentially, Bates was no more or less qualified than anyone else to become a driving force in this burgeoning industry. He approached the opportunity with boundless self-confidence, optimism and enthusiasm.  While building his advertising business, he secured himself a job as a columnist at Printers’ Ink, began to critique others’ advertising campaigns, and through his frequent commentaries began to be accrue influence as an expert in the world of advertising.

LaxakolaCo-3-1EREV     LaxakolaCo-3-1FREV


In advertising, Bates favored a simple, straightforward style of writing that emphasized price and described the product in basic English. He once stated: “Advertisers should never forget that they are addressing stupid people. It is really astonishing how little a man may know, and yet stay out of the way of the trolley cars.”

LaxakolaCo-3-1GREV     LaxakolaCo-3-1HREV


Within two years after moving to New York City, Bates claimed he was earning $20,000 from his copy writing and spending $10,000 to advertise himself further to other potential advertisers. In the first years of the 20th Century, it is hard to overstate his ubiquity as an advertising voice. In addition to writing for Printers’ Ink, he also published his own house organ, Current Advertising, which contained his trenchant comments on the advertising campaigns of others. He wrote book after book. A partial list of the books he published includes:

Good Advertising (1896);

American Journalism From The Practical Side (1897);

Short Talks On Advertising (1898);

The Art And Literature of Business (6 vols.) (1903);

Cheer Up and Ten Other Things (1909).

LaxakolaCo-3-1IREV     LaxakolaCo-3-1JREV


Through his ad agency, in a series of books published in and around 1899, he even offered pre-packaged advertising campaigns for various kinds of retail sales to which small businesses could subscribe by paying a fee in small installments. One industry for which Bates prepared and printed such an advertising campaign was the hardware business. After a twenty page introductory chapter on how to go about advertising a hardware store, the great bulk of the text was devoted to roughly three hundred pages of hardware illustrations, followed by twenty packed pages of short catch phrases. For example, one of the catch phrases proposed was: “Sometime Mr. Burgler will drop in on you, unexpectedly, and informally, and you’ll wish you had purchased one of those high-grade revolvers we called to your attention the other day.”  The book ended with a register for recording advertising contracts, and a twelve month ledger for recording daily sales and advertising costs.  The book was sent along with a separate booklet of coupons which the advertiser could return to Bates’s agency to request such services as a critique of advertising copy, or to order the Bates Agency monthly house circular on advertising, or to order, for an additional charge, cuts of the ad illustrations and copy texts which they could place in their own local papers.  Bates was no fool.  The book was not sent to the advertiser until the whole subscription fee (at the time $25) was remitted to the Bates Agency, and all return mailings answering coupon requests or enclosing cuts were either pre-paid before mailing or sent Collect On Delivery by the U.S. Postal Department.  No credit.  No exceptions.

LaxakolaCo-5a(HardwareBkAdPlanPgs-1899)     LaxakolaCo-5b(HardwareBkAdPlanPgs-1899)


Other books in the same series were:

The Bakers and Confectioners Book;

The Clothing Book;

The Coal Book;

The Drug Book;

The Dry Goods Book;

The Furniture Book;

The Grocery Book;

The Jewelry Book;

The Laundry Book;

The Liquor Book;

The Men’s Furnishing Book;

The Real Estate and Insurance Book;

The Shoe Book;

The Tailoring Book;

The Wall Paper Book;

plus 18 volumes issued under the general title “Retail Advertising”, which includes:

The Piano Book;

The Optical Book;

and the Carriage and Harness Book.

LaxakolaCo-5c(HardwareBkAdPlanPgs(SampleAd&Woodcut)-1899)     LaxakolaCo-5d(HardwareBkAdPlanPgs(SampleCatchPhrases)-1899)


By 1899, Bates was rich enough to take his flyer on Laxakola.  He lost big, and moved out of the copywriting phase of advertising from that time on, but, as a successful businessman and a perpetual optimist, it hardly fazed him.  He had already sold his advertising holdings and become, in effect, an early venture capitalist. He organized the Keystone Syndicate, which, in turn, launched the Fidelity Bond and Mortgage Co in 1909, an organization of which Bates became President. This investment brokerage firm continued to prosper and advertise up to, and into, the Depression.



Bates also played a major role in financing the Colorado-Yule Marble Co., which was capitalized at $10,000,000 in 1905 and employed seven hundred workers to quarry and market the largest marble deposit in North America, located in a newly formed town called Marble City, CO that by 1911 boasted a population of 1700 inhabitants.  The Company’s marble graced the facades of many important public buildings built in that era, and was ultimately utilized in both the Lincoln Memorial and, ultimately, in (what is now known as) the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington, D.C.  Bates served as the chairman of the company’s Executive Committee.  He also garnered a separate income as Vice-President of the Crystal River & San Juan Railway Co. which traversed the twelve-mile route that connected the quarry to the main trunk railroad lines.  The Marble Company prospered until 1916, when demand for marble to build monuments slackened as U.S. entry into World War I began to appear inevitable.  The company’s extremely large developmental capitalization maintenance cost then outran market demand for its product, and it went into receivership.  Whether by this time Bates was still an investor is unclear, but he was not present at huge three-day party excursion trip the company staged and hosted in Marble City in 1915 for the 525 delegates to the National Convention of the Retail Monument Dealers Association then taking place in Denver.  Even if it never threw another party that showy, the town of Marble, CO still stands in the Crystal River valley on the slope of the Elk Mountains, some two hundred miles southwest of Denver, and reported a population of 131 in the 2010 census.  Since 2004, Bates’s former mine has been owned by the Polycor, Inc., a Canadian corporation.

LaxakolaCo-7REV(Colorado-YuleMiningCoAd-1914)-1     LaxakolaCo-7REV(Colorado-YuleMiningCoAd-1914)-2


By 1908, Bates also had formed the Rutherford Rubber Co., of which he was also President. That company ultimately morphed into the Sterling Tire Co. of Rutherford, NJ. Bates remained involved in directing its affairs until he sold his interest in 1921. For the last fifteen years of his life, he acted as an independent advertising and promotional consultant to various companies. Married twice, with two children from his first marriage, he was an active member of many significant social organizations of the times, including the New York Athletic Club, the Columbia Yacht Club, and the Longshore and Yountakah Country Clubs. One quotes of his is found today on every positive motivation website: “it is the trouble that never comes that causes the loss of sleep.”  Bates may have harbored such anxieties from time to time, but he never let them show!


1.        This author thought that he was the first in a hundred years

to excavate this gem, but diligent research shows that it has

been reproduced once before in a blog devoted to design of

product packaging a few years ago.


[Double click on illustrations to expand them for better viewing]

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2015


Ladd & Coffin

Ladd & Coffin cancel on a non-proprietary, R164 2 cent documentary stamp.

Ladd & Coffin Co’s battleship cancels are not only frequently seen (at least on proprietary stamps, unlike the documentary example), but come in at least four formats: small with a year date; small with a month, day and year; large with a year date; and large with a month, day and year date. The company had started much earlier in the era of the first revenues and had even issued its own private die proprietary stamps (RT26-33). Since Holcombe’s book dealt only with the medicine companies, and it was a manufacturer of perfume, it escaped Holcombe’s scrutiny. The RT stamps were ordered and used by L & C’s predecessor, Young, Ladd and Coffin. They came in four values, from 1c to 4c, and are known perforated and imperforate, as well in the b, c and d paper varieties, accounting for 24 varieties in all, most moderately uncommon, and RT32b genuinely rare. By 1898, these private die proprietary perfume stamps themselves were already being catalogued and offered to the public by stamp dealers.

Civil War era private die of Young, Ladd & Coffin

The company’s product was a line of Lundborg’s Perfumes, and its history predates the Civil War. Its founder was a Swede who emigrated to the United States, John Marlie Lundborg How he acquired his knowledge of perfume seems now lost in time. He is listed as a “perfumer” in the 1860 Trow’s Business Directory for New York City, but apparently lived in Hudson, NJ. By 1872, he had sold an interest in his business to Richard D. Young, and by 1873, the firm was reorganized as Young, Ladd & Coffin. Although an advertising brochure was issued in his name as late as 1876, he retired when the firm reorganized, and died of “softening of the brain” in Hudson in 1880 at age 57.

Richard D. Young took the premier spot in the new partnership because he was already an established businessman. Born in Pennsylvania in 1840, by 1876 he was influential enough to be a member of the New York City Board of Trade. He remained associated with Y, L & C from 1872 to 1887 when that company dissolved by “mutual consent.” He then established his own perfume manufacturing business, the R. D. Young Perfumery Co. It did not fare well, for reasons which will become readily apparent.

The bland explanation for the undoing of Y, L & C may have concealed more profound difficulties Young was experiencing. He had married Emma Bushnell, who came from an old New York City family, but after their five children had begun to mature, the marriage had gone stale. Emma had filed for a separation in 1885. Apparently, since the two were already pursuing their separate lives, she did not force him to litigate to divorce, perhaps because blatant evidence of adultery was the only acceptable proof to obtain a divorce. In 1888, Young later declared, his business difficulties caused him to go temporarily insane. He suffered from “melancholia” and was hospitalized in three different sanitariums. During this period, in the Spring of 1888, while she was exercising “undue influence” over him (according to his later account), he deeded to Emma their house together with several perfume formulas. However, by 1889, he had recovered his health. Now robust and reinvigorated, he not only sued Emma to recover the deed to the house, but also persuaded her to withdraw her separation action.

Peace did not ensue. In 1890, Emma decamped to her mother’s house in Montclair, NJ. A strange event then transpired. One of Young’s clerks, Melano Reichardt, who, coincidently, was boarding with Emma’s mother, accompanied Emma to the Hamilton Hotel in Patterson, NJ. She said Reichardt was “attentive to” her and they stopped during a normal Sunday drive merely to have dinner. Out of the same circumstances, Young shaped a different narrative. He charged that he and another of his clerks had discovered Emma at the hotel in a “compromising position” with Reichardt. She renewed her suit for separation and he cross-sued for divorce. By November, 1889, Emma was being shadowed by Young’s “private Hawkshaws,” as she called them (“Hawkshaw” was then a popular detective cartoon strip). She averred they had tried to break into her quarters and so harassed her that, in the supercharged words of the New York Times reporter, “she began to feel that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were but a hollow mockery.” After one detective so menaced her as she made her way to the Astor House hotel (where, she stated she was merely picking up a left umbrella), she had him arrested. The same New York Times reporter cynically concluded his article on the incident with the aside that the detective posted $300 bail “and left apparently delighted at the leniency of the court.”

When the marital cross-suits of the Youngs came to trial, Emma testified that the deed to the house was Young’s birthday present to her that year, and, further, she had abandoned the family home only after Young tried to shoot her. Young testified his “melancholia”prevented his even remembering his conveyance of the house to Emma. But the tale of Young’s degradation grew even juicier. During the divorce trial, a Grand Jury in New Jersey indicted Young and his two clerks for the crime of “conspiracy” in connection with the Hamilton Hotel incident. The indictment charged they had tried to trump up against Emma false evidence of the “in flagrante delicto” act necessary to demonstrate adultery. By then, Young’s company was a shambles. In December, 1890, Young made an assignment of his business, and in early 1891, a trade journal stated that the “stock, plant and fixtures … of Richard D. Young, the well known manufacturer of perfumes … had lately been sold at auction by an assignee.” Young was bankrupt. That journal sympathized that “his recent troubles are a matter of profound regret to his many friends in this part of the world.”

As Young’s criminal conspiracy trial approached, the other clerk died and Young fell out with Reichardt. In May, 1891, both went on trial in New Jersey. The prosecutor introduced a love poem which Young had written to some “Loved One.” Young claimed it predated his marriage, although the document bore the date of March 4, 1890, and refused to identify the “Loved One.” The Times reported that Young and Reichardt each tried to proclaim that he had been duped by the other and that only the other should be blamed for the conspiracy. The Times, summarized the cross-purposed defenses: “This novel spectacle has excited great interest.” Naturally, both were found guilty. Young was sentenced to pay a fine of $100, plus half the court costs, which amounted to an additional $37.50. Reichardt drew a $50 fine and the other half of the costs. After that humiliation, an initial ruling setting aside Young’s conveyance of the house to Emma was reversed on appeal, with the appellate court noting that it could only conclude from the trial evidence that Young knew perfectly well what he was doing when he deeded the house to Emma. A final court decision granted Young a “partial” divorce, while recounting the circumstances of his conviction. With Young finally divorced, convicted of criminal behavior and bankrupt, the newspapers tired of both the Youngs and they disappeared from the news. A trade journal offered one last grace note: in 1894 it related that Young had brought his 36 years of experience in the perfume business to the Crown Perfumery Co as its “American agent.” In the 1900 Census, Young’s wife listed herself as a widow and the head of her household. Apparently, neither the Times nor the industry trade journals reported Young’s death or eulogized him.

By contrast with Young, the intertwined lives of John B. Ladd and Sturgis Coffin were much more “prosaic,” although the wealth that they both amassed through their perfume partnership meant that their comings and goings were chronicled in the social columns of the New York Times. Ladd was born in New York City in August 1839. When he joined with Young and Coffin, he had been a salesman for Colgate & Co (yet another company to be explored in this series). Ladd’s wealth enabled him to amass his own collection of old masters, nineteen of which he lent to an exhibition in 1897 celebrating the opening of the Brooklyn Art Institute’s new building, now the Brooklyn Museum. In 1908, he exhibited at the Union League his collection of Dutch Masters and other more modern works by such artists as the 19th Century French artists as Corot and Boudin.

The closest tie between Ladd and Coffin was that they were in-laws. Ladd married Coffin’s sister Emily, and before his own marriage, Coffin lived with the Ladds in Brooklyn. His sister, Mrs. John B. Ladd, was the one whose name appeared most frequently in the social columns through her involvement with her many charities benefitting institutions serving the then separate city of Brooklyn and their various balls, galas and “tableaus,”(live portrayals of famous old masters). One of her other significant activities was her association with a group of prominent Brooklyn women who issued a manifesto to the New York State legislature denouncing the women’s suffrage movement, They wrote: “from a studious contemplation of the governmental principles involved, came a firm conviction that woman suffrage would be against the best interests of the State, its women and the home.” Since the broadside dates from 1894, the ladies must have had their way. Despite his wife’s now seemingly retrograde views suffrage, Ladd as well as Coffin both considered themselves reformers enough in 1902 to sign a petition in support a Citizen’s Union plan for a reform mayor and refreshed government of the now united New York City.

Coffin and his wife were also linked with many charities. Coffin was born in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1845. His father, Henry, was a well-known and prominent wholesale druggist, first in Poughkeepsie, and after 1867 in Brooklyn, who served as a trustee of the Long Island Trust Company, a director of a plate glass company and an major investor in the Atlantic Avenue Railway Company. By the time Sturgis became part of Y, L & C, his mother was already a part of the Brooklyn social scene, and the younger Coffins associated with the same charities as had his parents and his sister. In 1892, he also served on the perfumers’ committee of the drug trade industry’s effort to raise money for the construction of Grant’s Tomb, and, in 1894, he and his brother-in-law Ladd were both members of the Board of the Brooklyn Homeopathic Hospital that was called upon to fire and replace the hospital’s entire professional staff to settle a festering internal quarrel. In 1894, he was listed as among the attendees at a New York City Board of Trade meeting where the principal address concerned tariff reform, and, a month later, as both and attendee and sponsor of a $25 prize awarded at the Brooklyn Horse Show. The Times described that affair as being Brooklyn’s social equivalent of the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden.

Over the next several years, Coffin’s name continued to be mentioned in connection with the Brooklyn Horse Show and many other society affairs. In 1903, the Times noted his daughter Natalie’s engagement to Johnston de Forest, the only son of an old Washington Square family, whose grandfather had been the first president of the New York Stock Exchange. Natalie married de Forest in October, 1904, but her health apparently was poor from the outset. After attempting to recuperate in Colorado Springs, CO, then her family’s summer home in New Canaan, and finally in Asheville, NC, she died in April, 1906. Shortly thereafter, Sturgis Coffin’s life ended tragically. In August, 1907, he died suddenly of a ‘cerebral hemorrhage” at age 62 in New Canaan. Several days later, when the coroner’s report was released, the papers revealed that the hemorrhage had been induced by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The speculation was that he had been distraught, never having recovered from Natalie’s death. Mrs. Coffin’s name continued to grace the social columns until her own death in 1924.

Ladd & Coffin disappeared on January 1, 1910. With Coffin dead, Ladd, who was in ill-health, retired on December 31, 1909. The company was restyled as Coffin & Price. The Coffin was T. J., a nephew of Sturgis Coffin and Mrs. Ladd. Price was a W. C. Price. Both had been long-term employees of the company, and a trade journal reporting on the re-alignment speculated: “it is safe to say they will continue the business along progressive lines.” Ladd died in November, 1910, much honored by the industry and trade associations. By 1914, the company had changed its name to the Lundborg Co. By 1917, it had become strictly a manufacturer and wholesaler and had abandoned its downtown New York City address for Fifth Avenue. Circa 1930, it was still introducing new fragrances and in 1954 the company remained on Fifth Avenue. Currently, its products do not appear to be in production, although vintage bottles and advertising abound.

While in operation, the company drew singular praise from one visitor to its establishment. During the Nineteenth Century, European travelers from de Tocqueville to Dickens delighted in exploring the brave new, raw United States, and publishing their observations to enlighten their more sophisticated brethren about their strange country cousins. In 1884, an English woman, Emily Faithfull, who was investigating the position of women in American society observed:

“Another scene of female industry interested me greatly in New York. Mr. Rimmel [Eugene, 1820-1887, born French, but operated a world famous and still extant business in London after 1834] claims to have been the first have employed women in England on a large scale in the manufacture of perfumes, and Messrs. Young, Ladd & Coffin, the makers of Lundborg’s exquisite perfumes and Rhenish Colognes, are entitled to the same honour [sic] in America. ‘The rich man’s luxury is the poor man’s bread;” if scent must rank as a luxury, it certainly is one which affords work for thousands. But it is more than that, it is a sanitary agent as well, and an adjunct to the refinements of life with which high civilisation [sic] cannot dispense.”

Let us close with one further glimpse of L & C’s business as it hummed along in 1888:

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2012