N, S

Sterling Remedy Co. (III.1)

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


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



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



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


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



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



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


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



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


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




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

The Four Smaller Companies Acquired By Weiss & Diebold In 1909

1) J. W. James Co. Cancels

1898 Revenue Stamps

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


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


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


1898 Cover and Trade Advertising Material




1904 Invoice










2) J. G. Dodson Medicine Co.

1915c Cover


1920 Ad






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




3) Drake Co.

1910 Ad





4) Pape, Thompson & Pape Co.

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


1910 Additional Trade Ads





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

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018







Sterling Remedy Co. (II)

Sterling Remedy Co., Manufacturer

Chapter 2 – Formation & H. L. Kramer






 SterlingRemedyCo-2-RB21-t1-1898-2(gc)     SterlingRemedyCo-2-RB21-2a(gc)




SterlingRemedyCo-2-RB25-t1-1898-1a     SterlingRemedyCo-2-RB25-t1-1898-2(i)



SterlingRemedyCo-2-RB21-t2-1901-03-07-1     SterlingRemedyCo-2-RB21-t2-1901-04-07-1(gc)


SterlingRemedyCo-2-RB23-t2-1900-12-10     SterlingRemedyCo-2-RB25-t2-1901-06-03




          The Sterling Remedy Co. blossomed around 1896 under the guidance of H. L. Kramer. Kramer was yet another of those self-made men businessmen that abounded in 19th Century America. His mature photo shows him to be a man of ample girth as these titans of industry all seem to have been. On the scale of potential harm to the public, he falls somewhere between the alpha of the distantly-profiled Frank Cheney of Hall’s Catarrh Cure fame, who:  1) proclaimed all diseases, including heart disease and cancer, to be forms of “catarrhs” curable by his liquored infusion;  2) actively blocked efforts to regulate patent medicines; but  3) grew rich enough to be a patron of the arts to his locality – even while drawing continuous fire from the medical establishment; and the omega of the recently profiled George Presbury Rowell, who:  1) molded his fortune by devising the modern form of advertising, then 2) calculatedly and deliberately coupled this new art with the reliably popular selling gimmick of a miracle “patent medicine” elixir; but 3) at least calibrated his “medicine” to do no harm.


SterlingRemedyCo-3-1900c-1     SterlingRemedyCo-3a-1900c-1b

H. L. Kramer was born in Keokuk, IA on August 25, 1861. At age 24, in 1885, he moved to Lafayette, IN where he apparently formed a publishing and advertising company, but also held interests in, or positions with, the Humane Remedy Co., which was manufacturing a cure for opium addiction and operating a sanitarium, as well as the Universal Remedy Co., which was manufacturing No-To-bac, a cure for tobacco addiction. That he began his career by hawking addiction cures marks him as a man willing to live by the caveat emptor ethic of his time.



           Kramer became involved with the Sterling Remedy Co. through one of his advertising clients, one John W. Heath, a local banker who owned the company and employed Kramer to investigate whether he should invest in the development of a local healing spring. Kramer made a favorable assessment and Heath invested. Kramer took charge of the development of the project, but Heath soon brought litigation to have him replaced, claiming that Kramer was wasting or misappropriating the development company’s funds. Heath’s motion to replace Kramer was denied, but when other creditors also complained they were not getting paid, the court tossed out Kramer. When it looked like Kramer’s career in nostrums had been cut short and he would leave Indiana for greener pastures, Heath’s own financial management of the health resort project brought on “nervous prostration” that – fortuitously for Kramer – caused Heath to drop dead at age 50.



          Kramer found a new financial backer in the person of Ambrose L. Thomas, a senior partner in the advertising agency Lord & Thomas of Chicago (some of whose history was recounted in the article concerning the B. J. Johnson Soap Co.) and bought out Heath’s widow’s interests in both the medicinal springs and the Sterling Remedy Co. The health spa operation was soon renamed the Indiana Springs Co. By mid-1891, Kramer had finished the planned hotel and successfully launched it as a fashionable Midwestern health resort. Over the generation that it remained prominent and popular it became known as “Mudlavia,” because the springs specialized in mud bath cures. Kramer married in 1892 and soon installed his wife and their two sons on the fourth floor of the hotel. They continued to live there until a fire destroyed the building in 1920, at which time it was estimated that the Kramers suffered a personal loss of $25,000 in jewelry and furniture.


SterlingRemedyCo-Cascarets-3-1895c-1a     SterlingRemedyCo-Cascarets-3-1895c-1b

          As well as overseeing the Mudlavia resort, Kramer also became the general manager of the Sterling Remedy Co. He combined No-To-bac from the Universal Remedy Co. with the two products that Sterling apparently had already been producing. One was Cascarets, a natural laxative made from bark of the buckthorn shrub, a plant long recognized to possess such cathartic properties. The other was Dr. Hobb’s Spargus Kidney Pills. Among these products, Cascarets soon emerged as the big seller. A story that circulated was that No-To-bac tended to make people constipated, so Kramer introduced Cascarets to relieve the problem. However, the impetus behind this sudden surge of popularity of Cascarets was an enormous infusion of advertising money, and when the Sterling Remedy Co. incorporated in 1896, not surprisingly its President and Vice-President were the self-same Daniel M. Lord and Ambrose L. Thomas of the Chicago advertising agency Lord & Thomas. By 1900, Kramer boasted he was spending $400,000 per year to advertise Cascarets and predicted that he would soon be spending $1,000,000. While (like George Presbury Rowell), Lord and Thomas, already advertising millionaires, owned a large share of the Sterling Remedy Co., by 1898, at age 37, Kramer had joined them as a fellow millionaire.


Some sources claim that the true genius behind the advertising for Sterling Remedy Co. was George Ade (1866-1944), later recognized as a journalist, writer and playwright, whom it is said Kramer lured into Sterling’s advertising department by doubling the salary he was earning at a local newspaper. If that story is true, it is not reflected in a 1896 article that reviewed Kramer’s management team at Sterling in Attica, IN, which was headed by one Major A. B. Schanz, the company’s secretary, a civil war veteran. (Perhaps because his aide was a civil war major, Kramer, although he was far too young to have participated in the Civil War, was also often referred to by his contemporaries as “Major” Kramer.) By then, the company was operating “branch offices” in Chicago, New York City, Montreal and London. Among the dazzling numbers thrown about in this article praising the company were the fifteen million Cascarets tablets given away by the company as samples every year, the $30,000 spent on postage every year by company corresponding with 40,000 retail druggists and the 4,000 checks written every month, not including employees’ salaries (which were paid in cash). There was a full printing department with two printing presses turning out 30,000 “impressions” per day of circulars, booklets and other advertising material serving a mailing department of seventy-five “young ladies” who addressed the envelopes.




          Once established as a millionaire, Kramer invested extensively in mining, publishing and other ventures. Eventually, he became a member of the Board of Directors of Lord & Thomas. He ran Sterling Remedy Co. flamboyantly until 1909 when he sold the company to a group from Wheeling, WV. In 1916, he turned active management of Mudlavia over to one of his son to concentrate on his other holdings. The resort never recovered from the fire in 1920, and his fortune began to wane. In the late 1920s, Kramer ran into legal difficulties, including allegations of mail fraud, in connection with oil lease speculation on land holdings both in California and outside St. Louis, MO. The stock market crash in 1929 diminished his fortune further, and he retired to Lafayette, IN where he lived modestly until he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1935 at age 74 in its auto license registration bureau.

Sterling Remedy Co Products


Showing 1919 Proprietary Revenue Stamp

Showing Canadian Proprietary Medicine Stamp

Cascarets Transferred To The R. L. Watkins Division Of The Company

Chocolate Flavor Added

Another Version


Modernized In The 1950s


Comic Postcards 1900 to 1910

SterlingRemedyCo-Cascarets-4-1905c-1a     SterlingRemedyCo-Cascarets-4-1905c-2a

SterlingRemedyCo-Cascarets-4-1909-1a     Cascarets, Sterling Remedy Company Chicago, IL

Trade Cards and Signs



SterlingRemedyCo-Cascarets-6a-1920-1     SterlingRemedyCo-Cascarets-6a-1906-1






Coins – Heads I Win, Tails You Lose


Radio Show Puzzle




Contemporary Views Of Hotel



SterlingRemedyCo-Mudlavia-6-2     SterlingRemedyCo-Mudlavia-6-3



Brochure And Complementary Pass


Treatment Regimen




1945 Hotel Rebuild With Ruins Of Original In Background


Current View Of Original Hotel

SterlingRemedyCo-Mudlavia-6-7(Bldg-2017-05-05 at 9.08.55 AM)


Trade Card And Advertising  Material

SterlingRemedyCo-NoTobac-5-1a     SterlingRemedyCo-NoTobac-5-2a

Dr. Hobb’s Spargus Kidney Pills



©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018



Sterling Remedy Co. (I)

Sterling Remedy Co. , Manufacturer

Chapter 1 – Introduction



The history of the American pharmaceutical industry is one of ceaseless expansion achieved by a handful of companies relentlessly gobbling up their competitors.  Fully recounting the story of the Sterling Remedy Co. demonstrates this pattern of growth, for, by the time its successor, Sterling Drug Inc., was itself dismembered in 1994, it had through its acquisitions come to enfold within its ambit some 130 other companies – patent medicine, drug, cosmetics and otherwise.  Often these engulfed companies had themselves formed through mergers of even smaller patent medicine businesses that had also cancelled battleship revenue stamps.  Thus, while there were thousands of entities that cancelled proprietary revenue stamps to comply with the 1898 tax regulations, there were only about ten major drug companies in the United States in the year 2000.

An Overview Of The Companies Absorbed

Below is a display of those patent medicine companies that both cancelled proprietary revenue stamps and were ultimately assimilated by Sterling Drug, Inc.  It is arranged in chronological order to show the manner in which Sterling evolved.  Where necessary, to explain particular twists in its evolution, the chart includes other patent medicine companies that formed either before or after the Spanish-American War period. Depending on when they had begun to sell patent medicines, some of these companies themselves had cancelled earlier or later proprietary revenue stamps which will also be displayed.  To add an additional complicating factor to this study, Sterling did not always buy an entire patent medicine company, but rather only its single most popular product.  On one occasion, it first purchased one brand and then later bought the remainder of the company.  Some of the companies that sold only a product line to Sterling continued on their own as pharmaceutical companies, and on one major occasion, Sterling also divested itself of some of the very companies it had assimilated. All of these diverging pathways also will be noted.  Most of the companies and patent medicines  purchased by Sterling continued to exist and be marketed under their own names, but products sometimes shifted from division to division within the company.  Where evident, these changes will be noted as well.  In fact, because of the way Sterling grew, it became a model for the conglomerate corporation, a type of company popular in the late Twentieth Century which consisted of many successful businesses in varying and often unrelated fields strung together like beads on a single senior corporate management necklace.  This study does not attempt to exhaustively list every company that became part of Sterling, nor does it include any of the various different companies in more remote fields, such as floor wax, that Sterling came to encompass in its far-flung conglomerate divisions.

Subsequent chapters of this Sterling Remedy Co. column will discuss the peculiar wrinkles of the various patent medicine companies, and their products, that were consumed by Sterling, as well as displaying the colorful propaganda and product packaging used to persuade the public to buy these products.


1890c – Sterling Remedy Co. – launched by H. L. Kramer

1901 – Neuralgyline Co. formed – principals William E. Weiss, Albert H. Diebold

1906 – Knowlton Danderine Co. purchased by Neuralgyline Co.



1909 – Sterling Remedy Co. purchased by Neuralgyline Co. and combined with J. W. James Co., J. G. Dodson Medicine Co., Drake Co., Pape, Thompson & Pape Co.



1912 – California Fig Syrup Co. purchased by Neuralgyline Co.



1917 – Neuralgyline Co. name changed to Sterling Product, Inc.

Sterling Products I – Companies Purchased

1918 – Farbenfabriken Bayer (American Assets)



1920c – Wells Richardson & Co.



1923 – The Charles H. Phillips Co.



1925c – Bovinine Co.

1925c – The Centaur Co.



1926 – American Home Products Co. formed encompassing parts of Wyeth Chemical Co. (John Wyeth & Brother), W. H. Hill Co.’s Cascara, O. H. Jadwin Co., Kolynis Co., Pepsin Syrup Co., St. Jacob’s Oil Co., Whitehall Pharmacal Co. (including Manhattan Medicine Co. and its Atwood Bitters)









1928 – Antidolor Manufacturing Co.

1928 – Scott & Bowne



The Major Merger And The Formation of Drug, Inc.

1928 – United Drug Co. encompassing the Louis K. Liggett Co., Owl Drug Co., Rexall Drug Co. and the English Boots Drug Store chain









1928 – Drug, Inc. merger which brought together Sterling Products, Inc., United Drug Co., the outside pharmaceutical companies Bristol-Myers Co. and Vicks Chemical Co. and the outside candy maker Life Savers Co.

1933 – Drug, Inc. “unmerged” back into its constituent parts

Sterling Products II – Acquisitions

1934 – R. L. Watkins Co. including I. W. Lyon & Sons

Lyon IW-2-RB23-101-1R


1937 – American Ferment Co.

Am FermentCo-2-RB28-1cR


1942 – Sterling Products, Inc. name changed to Sterling Drug, Inc.

Sterling Drug, Inc. – The Later Acquisitions

1944 – Frederick Stearns Co. including Nyal Co.





1946 – Fairchild Bros & Foster (which has already been profiled in this column)



1966 – Lehn & Fink including A. S. Hinds





1988 – Sterling Drug, Inc. Purchased By Eastman Kodak, Inc.

1994 – Assets Of Sterling Drug, Inc. Sold To Various Other Drug Companies

©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2018

B, S


Martin H. Smith Co.




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



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



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

SmithMH-10-2cRV     SmithMH-10-2dRV



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

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2014


Andreas Saxlehner (Hunyadi Janos Mineral Water)

The Philatelic Quandary of the “A.S.” Cancel

Andreas Saxlehner and his Hunyadi Janos Bitterquelle/Hunyadi Janos Natural Mineral Water, have never drawn much philatelic attention since the one “A.S.” cancel listed by Mustacich and Giacomelli is not printed, but handstamped, and, at best, tentatively linked to Andreas Saxlehner because of an old attribution by Morton Dean Joyce. His identifications have certainly been questioned and even in some cases apparently disproved. Moreover, “A.S.” cancels have been observed only on a minimal number of 1c and 2c proprietary stamps, values more traditionally used for taxing alcohol products. While Schedule B of the Revenue Act of 1898 included “waters” claiming medicinal properties among taxable proprietary medicines, that specific inclusion was followed by: “ except for natural spring waters and carbonated natural spring waters.” Since the paper label attached to the bottles of the Saxlehner company denominated its product “natural mineral water,” why would it have bothered to stamp its bottles, collect and pay the tax, and, if it did, where are all the stamps?

While this query poses a most vexing question, there are some possible explanations. The first, and most facile, is that the company conducted some a side-line business in a more traditionally taxable alcohol based product, and cancelled stamps for that purpose. That explanation protects both the clear import of the Act and accounts for the relatively few, pesky observed cancels on non-traditional values, but does require a McGuffin in the form of another undisclosed (and so far undiscovered) Saxlehner product. While Saxlehner also did manufacture pills at some point, the time frame was probably not in 1898, and pills do not fit the 1c, 2c mold either. Another, admittedly more circuitous, possible explanation arises from discussion of Hunyadi Janos containers in bottle collection circles, where they are fairly common and their attributes have often been discussed. There, as well informed bottle websites have noted, Saxlehner’s water is often mistakenly classified as a “bitters” because the name “Hunyadi Janos Bitterquelle” is pressed into the glass forming the bottom of the bottle. A “bitters” is a solution of ingredients dissolved in alcohol. Bitters were explicitly taxable under the Revenue Act of 1898. Might it not have been possible that Hunyadi Janos Bitterquelle was regarded either in some places, or at some time, as a bitters, even if only temporarily? (At the risk of prematurely revealing the punch line of a very different story,) certainly, the Coca Cola company stamped, collected and paid tax under the Revenue Act of 1898 only to sue and recover it back from the government later. (This series will eventually tackle that well documented company, as well, although that story has already been told in several places.) Of course, the better-safe-than-sorry explanation would require either a battleship stamped Bitterquelle bottle or a record of some tax recovery proceeding brought by the Saxlehner Company against the U.S. government, neither of which appears to exist. Of course, the simplest, most straight forward and least interesting solution would be to concede that the A.S. cancels belong to an unidentified alcohol distributor.

Having thus stated the paradox, I choose to commit philatelic heresy and accept the attribution of the “A.S.” cancels to Andreas Saxlehner for the sake of profiling an interesting nostrum company.

“Hunyadi Janos.” During his
lifetime his name was synonymous
with deeds of valor on the field
of battle and destruction of human
life; today it is synonymous with
preservation of health and life.
Pacific Medical Journal, March, 1898

Andreas Saxlehner, whose Hunyadi Janos Natural Mineral Water occupied a significant niche in the market of United States nostrums at the time of the Spanish-American War, probably never even visited this country and, because he seems to have lived and died in Hungary, may not have ever considered America significantly in his thinking. While the company participated as a member of the powerful Proprietary Association of America and the market for Hunyadi Janos Water was booming in the United States in 1898 – the very year the company issued a 129 page manifesto, from which the introduction above is quoted – Saxlehner was not even alive by that time. He was born in Pest in 1815 and died in the unified city of Budapest in 1889. Yet the business, after 1889 owned by his wife, Emilie, and managed by his son, Kalman, was always conducted in his name. Extant immigration records indicate that Kalman visited the United States at least in 1897 and 1905.

The name Hunyadi Janos and the stern countenance of the product’s logo derived from the great Hungarian warrior John Hunyadi (1407-56) renowned for driving the Turks out of the Balkans in his time, and lifting a Turkish siege of Belgrade shortly before his untimely death from plague. The water itself came from the Buda district of Budapest, about five miles from the town itself. As the company’s tract explained, although Buda had been known as a site for medicinal springs and baths even in Roman times, it was Saxlehner himself who bought the spring and the surrounding land in 1863 from the peasant who discovered the water’s healing properties.

In 1898, the company could justly crow “Hunyadi Janos water has been a household word wherever the sun of civilization shines, for more than a quarter of a century.” Saxlehner shrewdly gathered the 120 acres of the Orsod valley surrounding the spring as a compound to preserve its purity and boasted that: “The greatest care is taken in collecting and bottling the water, the whole process being carried out entirely by machinery, and every possible source of contamination is most scrupulously guarded against. “ The collection plant, gathering water from the 112 wells comprising the spring, was manned by approximately 250 employees, who, along with storehouses for the water, had cottages and a fire station right on the estate premises. Before turning to a very long recitation of the encomiums the water had received from eminent scientists and other leaders of society, the book carefully analyzed the geological formations which accounted for the springs and, in minute detail, the mineral components of the water and each of their healing properties, as well as providing a discussion of the benefits the water brought to the treatment of disorders such as constipation (first and foremost), “torpidity of the liver,” dyspepsia, hemorrhoids, obesity, specific diseases of women and children, various diseases of the heart and circulation, the respiratory organs, the brain and spinal chord, eyes, urinary tract, fevers, gout, rheumatism, as well as mental diseases, which the book defined essentially as constipation of the character best regulated with a purgative: “Faecal [sic] accumulation not infrequently causes delusions, which are dispelled by a purgative that clears out the intestinal canal. In all forms of disease of the mind regulation of the bowels is an important part of the treatment.” So much for Freud and his ilk!

The Hunyadi Janos name was so much a part of the marketing of Saxlehner’s water that the company fought titanic struggles in the courts of both England and the United States to protect its exclusive rights particularly to the Hunyadi portion of the name. Saxlehner had first sold his Hunyadi Janos water in England in 1870, but in 1876 had entered into a ten year contract with the Apollinaris Co. Ltd., an English importer and dealer in mineral waters of various kinds, granting that company the right to represent itself as the sole distributor of his water almost anywhere in the world except Europe and Smryna, Turkey. The arrangement was successful enough to be continued and renewed. However, in 1888, Apollinaris began to add an additional red diamond label to the Hunyadi Janos label for purposes of denominating the water an Apollinaris mineral water product, apparently without informing Saxlehner. At the same time, Apollinaris also purchased land in Buda which, coincidently, also contained mineral water springs. In 1896, after Apollinaris cancelled its distributorship contract with Saxlehner, it immediately began marketing in England its own “Arpenta” water, bottled at the “Uj [New] Hunyadi” springs in Budapest , which bore a label similar to the Hunyadi Janos label and mentioned Hunyadi prominently several times. It also transferred over to the Arpenta label the additional Apollinaris red label.

Emilie Saxlehner then sued in the English courts to bar Apollinaris from selling any water not from her springs as “Hunyadi” water, claiming that her water had become commonly or popularly identified with the name “Hunyadi” water, and further asserting the steps Apollinaris had taken since 1888 indicated its deliberate effort to trade on Saxlehner’s “Hunyadi Janos” name. Apollinaris’s defense turned on two points. First, as Saxlehner’s distributor for so long, the red diamond it had established as its identity and then transferred to the Arpenta label belonged to it not Saxlehner. If people paid more attention to the red diamond than the Saxlehner label that was Saxlehner’s problem, but not a problem the court could fix. Second, Saxlehner had no exclusive right to the “Hunyadi” term, since Hunyadi was regarded as a Hungarian regional designation and its use of the term on its own Arpenta water was proper because its water came from the same geographic area. Quickly cutting to the heart of the matter, the Court ruled in favor of Saxlehner. In its one long paragraph decision, it found that regardless of the circumstances which created the situation, the simple governing legal principle was that: “Nobody has the right to represent his goods as the goods of someone else.” To the English court, that legal certainty sufficiently covered all the legal ground necessary to uphold Saxlehner’s rights. However, it carefully circumscribed the relief it granted: it gave Saxlehner the exclusive right to use the “Hunyadi” name (which it felt`sufficiently protected Saxlehner’s rights), and granted an accounting for lost sales damages, but it did not enjoin Apollinaris’s switch of its subsidiary red diamond label to its own new water, relying upon level headed English consumers to recognize the difference between Apollinaris’s own mark on the revised Arpenta label and the absent Saxlehner “Hunyadi” mark.

In the United States, Emilie Saxlehner took her fight to protect the Hunyadi Janos name all the way to the Supreme Court. Saxlehner’s opponent in the United States was an importer named Eisner & Mendelson (another company which also cancelled battleship revenues and will be visited by this series in due course). When the case arrived at the Supreme Court, that Court noted the same basic facts as in the British case, although recognizing, much more pointedly than the English court, that the contract between Saxlehner and Apollinaris had included the United States as part of the distributorship territory granted to Apollinaris. E & M argued its right to sell a Hunyadi Matyas water, which both came in a bottle and bore a label suspiciously similar to that of the Hunyadi Janos water, derived from a separate grant made in Hungary to another producer of mineral water. In addition – in what must have been a claim particularly galling to Saxlehner – E & M argued that Apollinaris, as Saxlehner’s agent in the United States, had known about and approved E & M’s use of the Hunyadi Matyas name. The Court set out both these arguments at length, reviewing in detail the histories both of convoluted Hungarian grants of licenses to bottle mineral water, together with that of mineral water designations in the United States. Essentially accepting E & M’s explanations, it found both that Hunyadi was a regional designation from which more than one mineral water could emerge, and that Saxlehner had not been vigilant enough in challenging the use of the name “Hunyadi” by others in the United States.

Yet, the Court still ruled in Saxlehner’s favor, ultimately holding that E & M had deliberately manipulated both the bottle shape and the label of its water – apart from its invocation of the Hunyadi name – in a deliberate attempt to mislead and deceive. It too awarded damages for lost sales, and, again, exempted from the ban, as did the English Court, only a special additional label that E & M, like Apollinaris, had affixed to the bottle to identify the product as its own import, reasoning as did the English, that consumers could distinguish between the importer and the bottler once the label confusion itself was resolved. In this manner, two different courts approached the same question by two different routes, one circuitous and one direct, and reached the same conclusion. While neither court relied on a specific written law for its ruling, the sense of both opinions is that the courts should stop unfair competition, and, as Justice Potter Stewart said a hundred years later about pornography, the courts “know it when they see it.” The kind of legal reasoning that both courts implicitly applied is one that permits the courts to address the totality of the circumstances of an entire situation – using so-called “supplemental jurisdiction” – to decide a clutch of different possible legal claims that arise out of a single set of facts. In the United States, Saxlehner immediately issued an industry-wide warning to all retailers to stop selling E & M’s water. The Philadelphia branch of the retail drug industry had to make a special plea to the Saxlehner company to refrain from threatening suit against local drug stores, but once the label changes were made, the courts had no further trouble allowing the Arpenta water to be sold in competition to the Hunyadi Janos, and further legal efforts by Saxlehner to disrupt its sales were denied.

In the 1900s, the Andreas Saxlehner office in the United States continued to prosper, apparently managed by one Charles Edward Ensko. In 1913, the company even addressed a letter to the Ways and Means Committee of the United States House of Representatives, expressing its view that mineral water should be exempted from import duties. However, during World War I, the company was seized by the U S government and confiscated under the Trading With The Enemy Act as an importing business operating at 130 Fulton Street in New York City and still owned by Emilie, a Hungarian citizen, and, as such, a enemy national. This wartime legislation authorized the U S government to confiscate all money, stock and property in the United States owned by enemy nationals. The government transferred seized assets to an Alien Property Custodian (at that time, U S Attorney General Mitchell A. Palmer), who had the war time power to administer it in the manner best suited to advance the war effort, including conserving it, licensing it or even selling it at public auction to American interests. To raise money for the government, Saxlehner’s company was sold at auction in 1921 and ultimately transferred to a new Hunyadi Janos Corporation, which then resumed advertising and sales of Hunyadi Janos water.

All seemed well until April, 1922 when a man named Alexander F Stoeger, whose principal business appears to have been guns and firearms, advertised to the pharmacy trade that he had just completed a contract with the Saxlehner family in Hungary to import and distribute the real Hunyadi Janos water from the original spring in Hungary. (On the same trip to Europe, Stoeger apparently had also negotiated a license to sell Luger pistols in the United States.) Now there were to be Hunyadi Janos products distributed by the American company, and the imported Hungarian Hunyadi Janos water distributed by Stoeger. Who actually owned the rights to call its water Hunyadi Janos water?

Curiously, a question very similar in legal consequences to this one had been litigated years before in 1886 in a case also involving Saxlehner arising from somewhat different factual circumstances. In the earlier case, Apollinaris, as Saxlehner’s American distributor, had clearly marked its bottles of Hunyadi Janos water as being legitimately for sale only within Apollinaris’s sales territory. Another importer, Scherer, purchased legitimate Hunyadi Janos water from Saxlehner’s European distributor, imported it to the United States without Apollinaris’s restricted marking, and then undersold Apollinaris in the United States. Apollinaris sued for trademark infringement. The court denied the injunction on the grounds that the trademark on the other importer’s Hunyadi Janos water was perfectly legitimate, so their could be no infringement of trademark, thus holding that the trademark protected the genuineness of the underlying product, not the distributor’s exclusive contractual right to sell in the territory assigned to it by the producer. It cautioned that if the other water had been some other kind falsely labeled instead of genuine Hunyadi Janos water, the injunction would have been granted. Even by 1922, scholars and some other courts had challenged the legal reasoning of that decision as not going far enough to protect the legitimate distributor’s right to its territory.

In 1922, The new American Hunyadi Janos company, now possessor of the underlying trademarks, immediately sued Stoeger, claiming precedence for its water by way of its purchase of the Saxlehner Hunyadi Janos trademark from the Alien Property Custodian, and stating that the 1921 purchase had established a territorial boundary against encroachment by a later trademark user, no matter how legitimate the second usage might claim to be. Stoeger, using one of Saxlehner’s attorneys from the E & M dispute twenty years earlier, defended on two grounds: first, that the trademark actually was part of the Saxlehner’s Hungarian water well property, not the New York business, and thus had never properly been seized by the Alien Property Custodian; second, on the grounds raised in the 1886 case, that since the water he was selling was the real Saxlehner product, there certainly could not be a violation of the registered trademark rights. Stoeger won the preliminary court skirmishes in 1922 largely on the strength of the 1886 ruling. The court permitted him to sell the Hungarian water as genuine Hunyadi Janos water. Given clear sailing by the federal court, he pressed his advantage, advertising widely that the federal court had blessed his distributorship.

In 1923, the Supreme Court took up the issue of whether trademarks only guaranteed genuineness of the product or protected the distributor’s territorial rights to exclusive use as well, and changed the law by extending the ambit of trademark protection to protect the distributor’s exclusive right to use within its territory. In 1925, when the lawsuit between the American Hunyadi Janos Corporation and Stoeger finally was tried, the trial court had no difficulty following the 1923 Supreme Court ruling. Yet, when the federal appellate court reviewed that trial record and sorted the legal issues through completely, it reversed the trial court and again supported Stoeger’s claim. This court approached the matter quite differently than the Supreme Court had either the E & M case or the 1923 case. First, the appellate court took an extremely narrow approach to its power to determine the dispute. It ruled that since both parties lived in the same state, only the state court had the proper authority to hear all claims of unfair competition or rights to images acquired by use. Instead of invoking, either implicitly or explicitly, its “supplemental jurisdiction” to examine all of the commonalities of the appearance of the two products and the entire set of circumstances surrounding the two differing claims, it held that the federal court only could rule on that claim which pertained to the trademarks directly registered with the federal government. By avoiding the very issue of unfair similarities in shape and look that the Supreme Court had earlier determined to be critical in the E & M case, the federal court narrowly circumscribed its legal examination to the issue of whether the Alien Property Custodian had, in fact, properly seized the registered Saxlehner trademarks.

To accomplish this inquiry, the court then recounted the history of the trademark registrations. It found that Andreas Saxlehner had originally filed two trademarks in 1887 patterned on the same logo design, the difference being that one specifically protected the term “Hunyadi” and the logo, and the other protected the term “Janos” and the logo. The court then ruled that the decision in the E & M case had effectively cancelled any protection under the “Hunyadi” trademark, and, further, that since the current record did not identify the owner of the 1887 “Janos” trademark as an alien, it could not determine ownership of that trademark. However, the court noted, more significantly, the Saxlehner family had made two later registrations of Hunyadi Janos trademarks in 1909. These trademarks, it concluded, were “appurtenant to” the Hungarian wells themselves and thus owned by the Saxlehners personally, not the business office in New York located at 130 Fulton Street. Reasoning from that conclusion, the court held that the Alien Property Custodian had never properly attached or seized them. Because the Alien Property Custodian had not seized them, the Custodian could not sell them as part of the 1921 auction of the Andreas Saxlehner Hunyadi Janos business located at 130 Fulton Street. The American company was entitled to no protection under trademarks it had never owned. In other words, although the court did not use this coarse expression, it ruled: “no tickee, no washee.”

A large moral can be adduced from thoughtful consideration of this last court opinion. While the decision appears wrong intuitively, most federal courts in most ages have actively inclined to narrow the scope of their judicial intrusion into normal commerce and the lives of American citizens, a position that is often articulated today as “strict construction,” and such a view always must be considered and analyzed most carefully, in light of the peculiar practical consequences which follow from it, as in this case. Too often the forest can be missed while one is busy staring at the trees. This is the modern moral the reader should carry away from this absurdly extended treatise on mineral water long ago evaporated by time.

However, a more twisted, conspiratorial theory for this decision – even if more banal and pedestrian in its motivation – can also be elicited, and so, in the interests of full disclosure, must be reported. Records, available today even on line, show that the Alien Property Custodian, in its report for the year 1919, clearly lists the 1909 Hunyadi Janos trademarks as part of the property of the Andreas Saxlehner firm the Alien Property Custodian had seized and now considered within its control. The 1921 sale most definitely included those 1909 trademarks, so the American company’s claim should have had precedence over Stoeger’s.

In the plane of legal reasoning, the second theoretical question, left unexamined by the appellate court, of whether the new company with proper ownership of the trademarks could have barred the original company through its new distributor from selling the same product should have been resolved by the Supreme Court’s 1923 decision. That court should have barred the new distributor from selling the original company’s water. While that ruling might have led to the further difficulty of where the new American Hunyadi Janos Company would have obtained its future supply of genuine Hunyadi Janos water (since Saxlehner, after 1922, was dealing with Stoeger), the court could have left the market to resolve that difficulty: reasoning that if Stoeger were barred from selling the Hunyadi Janos water, Saxlehner would either have to return to supplying its product to the American Hunyadi Janos Company that owned its U S trademarks, or risk not having any representative in the United States market selling Hunyadi Janos water. The trial court was prepared to permit this result.

By completely ignoring, discounting or nullifying the seizure of the 1909 trademarks, the appellate court rendered that issue merely hypothetical, and what stands out about the 1925 decision is the error the court permitted to stand concerning the seizure of the 1909 trademarks. The appellate court attached no credence, and certainly no legal significance, to the 1919 report of the Alien Property Custodian that specifically listed the 1909 trademarks among the seized property. How could the court overlook that fact? What purpose did the Alien Property Custodian serve, if not to seize the “business” of foreign nationals? How could the trademark remain in Hungary with the wells, and not represent the “good will” associated with the trademark image that the American company had clearly purchased? If not the exclusive right to use the image, what did the 1909 trademark stand for?

Normally the litigants themselves must be blamed when courts draw improper impressions of the facts. The conspiratorial twist enters the plot here. Judge Martin T. Manton, one of the three judges responsible for the appellate court opinion (although not the judge who signed it) was subsequently stripped of his office, convicted of selling his court vote for money and sentenced to prison, some fourteen years after this decision, in 1939. While the Depression, which began in 1929, is blamed for Manton’s terrible plight and downfall, it is possible to speculate that maybe there was hanky panky going on even at this early date! While this explanation is extremely fanciful and far fetched, just as Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa draw asterisks in the home run record books, an asterisk might well be applied to this 1925 court decision. All decisions in which Judge Manton played some role still draw extra scrutiny, even almost ninety years later. Conspiracies can exist where ever one chooses to look for, and find, them.

Sadly, for all the hoopla surrounding the various court decisions, little more is recorded about the ultimate fate of the dueling companies in New York City, their products and their distributorship businesses in the United States. While the Hungarian Saxlehner company was still advertising its water in Australia in 1928 and registering Hunyadi Janos trademarks in the United States in 1931, the record is silent about the ultimate fate of the Hunyadi Janos brand. Perhaps the contending distributors succumbed to the effects of the Depression. There are no buildings, as some other companies left, to memorialize their passing, and mentions of the water, the pills and all of the contending companies in advertising and public documents just ceases in the 1930s. Stoeger’s arms business continued well into the 1950s. The Saxlehners continued to live in Budapest until 1938, just after Emilie’s death, when growing European unrest compelled them to flee from Hungary to the United States. There is left only one last philatelic quirk: Andreas Saxlehner’s mansion in Budapest now serves as the Hungarian Postal Museum.


T. Sisson & Co.

T. Sisson & Co was a prominent wholesale and retail establishment in Hartford, CT for a century. It existed as a variety of partnerships until 1874, when it became known by that name, and it incorporated in 1907 as Sisson Drug Co. Thomas Sisson began work as a clerk for the predecessor firm of Lee & Butler in 1843 at age fifteen, became a partner in that firm in 1858, and maintained his establishment in the same Hartford location for sixty-four years until his death in 1907. A canny businessman, he served as a member of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank in Hartford as well as the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co. He traveled in the highest circles of Hartford society, for his son-law, also raised in Hartford, later bragged of being a friend and neighbor of Mark Twain, then a prominent resident of Hartford. The firm was the proprietor of Hartford Smelling Salts and the distributor of Griswold’s Family Salve, a concoction originated by Chauncey G. Griswold, another pharmacist and physician in Hartford whose recipe was sold to Sisson in 1892 after Griswold’s death by Griswold’s son-in-law.

Every story about patent medicine contains the obligatory story of the lone genius sweating over a hot fire in quest of the perfect formula, while his ceaseless endeavors potentially threaten the economic stability and well-being of his family. In this case it was Griswold, originally a schoolteacher by training, not Sisson, who struggled to perfect the blend of secret, exotic ingredients for the Family Salve and whose tribulations were later memorialized by his grandson (recounted on a local museum’s website). While the American Medical Association never denounced this compound, perhaps because it was applied externally, in 1934 the Food and Drug Administration seized a lot of Griswold’s Family Salve as misbranded and asserting fraudulent claims. Navigating this setback, Sisson Drug Co. apparently continued to market the salve until 1955, when a principal ingredient, oleate of lead, was determined to be a potential toxin. Despite its hidden danger, Griswold’s Family Salve was a popularly marketed salve for about seventy five years. Even now requests appear on the Internet for its formula, which many fondly recall was greatly helpful in removing splinters. One inquirer claimed to still have a stick handy for use as recently as 1998. Sisson Drug Co itself ultimately evolved into the Hartford Wholesale Drug Co. sometime in the latter part of the Twentieth Century.

One other mention of the T. Sisson & Co. is noteworthy as an illustration of the infighting that existed in the drug industry in the Spanish-American War era. In 1901, the company was named one of many defendants in a lawsuit brought by a Brookline, MA retail druggist asserting that it participated in a conspiracy to block plaintiff retailer from purchasing pharmaceutical goods unless it adhered to rules and regulations essentially dictating plaintiff retailer’s resale price. Price fixing and competitive edge were on-going subjects of concern, discussion and litigation in an era which was just beginning to grapple with the implications of trusts and monopolies. The contemporary news reports discuss only a pre¬liminary decision which actually favored the retailer. The case then disappears from the records. Whether it was later settled by an unreported agreement made out of court (as most law cases ultimately are), or whether it dragged on indefinitely while the retailer’s finances declined, the only known certainty is the challenging retail firm went bust in 1904! One way or the other, price control seems ultimately to have won out in this instance.

© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2011