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Historic medicines infamously used dangerous chemicals or ineffective ingredients, resulting in people accidentally poisoning themselves or never getting better. The popularity of questionable medicines, lack of pharmacists with proper training, and pharmacies selling grocery items led to pharmacies getting a bad reputation in the late nineteenth century [1]. Despite these negative ideas, pharmacists Jarvis and Bliss ran a pharmacy from 1870-1895 in Cooperstown, New York where they worked with local partners to provide helpful medicine to the community [2]. While the medicine itself may have been problematic, Jarvis and Bliss strived to make quality products.

We know about the Jarvis & Bliss pharmacy thanks to some artifacts, namely a three-and-a-half-inch tall clear glass medicine bottle with “Jarvis & Bliss / Druggists / Cooperstown, NY” embossed on its side.  The glass material and a lack of an accompanying prescription label suggests the bottle was constructed to last, and customers likely often reused the bottle for refills, a popular trend for pharmacists and customers [3]. In fact, this bottle appears used due to some whitish film inside and a chip near the bottle opening, but it is unknown what this bottle actually contained.

F0044.1970.JPG

Medicine Bottle, 1872-1895, glass, L: 3.5  x W: 1.25 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0044.1970. Photography by Jen Vos.

While Jarvis and Bliss owned the pharmacy, they worked with others to provide quality products. A maker’s mark on the bottle, “S.B.W,” demonstrates the pharmacists cared about their bottles and their advertisement to the community as the bottle would need an expensive custom mold to include their label. The clear name “Jarvis & Bliss” on the bottle also guarantees that customers would not forget their local pharmacy every time they reached for their medicine. Even now, their name and the memory of the pharmacy remain because of the bottle’s construction and clear label.

Jarvis and Bliss not only cared about the reliability of their bottles, but also the medicine that went into the bottles. Much like they worked with S.B.W for a quality bottle, they worked with local doctors and physicians for more reliable medicine. As a result, they advertised having “Pure Drugs & Medicine,” although they still sold the popular nonprescription medicines [4]. By focusing on quality products and durable advertisements with the help of their partners, the pharmacists aimed to establish a good reputation with their community.

While the medicine in the bottles may be questionable, Jarvis and Bliss undoubtedly worked hard as entrepreneurs to serve their local town of Cooperstown by creating products with the help of partnerships from doctors and manufacturers. While pharmacies continue this work today, big name corporations replaced locally owned pharmacies and regulations better control medicine. Nevertheless, today’s medicine bottles feature brand names their customers develop opinions about. Today’s pharmacies continue aim to establish reliability and serve their customers, similar to Jarvis and Bliss’s work over a hundred years ago.

Thank you to Jen Vos for her research.

-Post by Brittany Boettcher

[1] John S. Haller Jr., American Medicine in Transition: 1840 – 1910 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 267.

[2] “Business Change,” The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, NY), October 24, 1895, New York State Historic Newspapers, accessed February 28, 2018, http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031222/1895-10-24/ed-1/seq-3/.

[3] Jane Busch, “Second Time Around: A Look at Bottle Reuse,” Historical Archaeology, 21, no. 1 (1987): 69, accessed February 28, 2018, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25615613.

[4] Jarvis and Bliss, advertisement, The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, NY), August 14, 1873, New York State Historic Newspapers, http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031222/1873-08-14/ed-1/seq-3/.

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“It’s after six, what am I, a farmer?,” remarks Jack Donaghy to Liz Lemon when asked why he is wearing a tux in an episode of 30 Rock.[1] As a member of the wealthy, corporate elite, Donaghy knows the social importance of wearing the right clothes at the right time. As such, he would have fit right in in 1800s Cooperstown, New York. This powder blue hat box in the collection of the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown reflects the style and social class of the residents of this small town as well as the ingenuity of local entrepreneurs to succeed in a small market.

Hat Box Side

Side, H. Hollister Hat Box, c. 1837, pasteboard, paper, H: 9.5″ x L: 12″ x W: 10.75″ x D: 8.25″ Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Dr. Carolyn Olendorf, N0518.1942 (02), photograph by Mary Kate Kenney.

Hat Box Lid

Lid, H. Hollister Hat Box, c. 1837, pasteboard, paper, H: 9.5″ x L: 12″ x W: 10.75″ x D: 8.25″ Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Dr. Carolyn Olendorf, N0518.1942 (02), photograph by Mary Kate Kenney.

When H. Hollister set up his hat shop on Main Street in Cooperstown around 1839, he knew it was no ordinary small town. Incorporated in 1812, William Cooper and the other founders of the village sought to attract residents “already of a higher order than that of most villages its size,” with “more liberal tastes and a better style of living” than other settlements of its size.[2] The success of James Fenimore Cooper’s books set in the area solidified Cooperstown’s status as a resort community in the lush, forested mountains of upstate New York. Despite the small size of the village, Cooperstown was able to support multiple shops that sold fine clothing to a more upscale clientele.

Hollister’s shop could be found “At the Sign of the Golden Hat” according to the advertisement on a hat box that had once been owned by local resident, Alfred Olendorf.[3] Olendorf could have chosen to patronize at least one other store in Cooperstown (J.R. Worthington), but whether due to quality of products, loyalty to the business, competitive prices, or effective advertising, he chose to purchase a top hat from H. Hollister.[4]

The fact that this hat box survives at all indicates that Olendorf made use of it beyond its first trip home from the shop. Most likely, Olendorf would have stored the purchased beaver top hat in this box while not in use. H. Hollister knew this about his customers and used it as an opportunity to further promote his business. Not only would Olendorf be able to tell his friends where he purchased his beaver top hat, he would also be encouraged to return to H. Hollister’s shop to purchase one of the other types of hats listed on the label. Whether the customer required a fine hat of beaver or silk for evening activities, or a straw hat for boating on the lake, H. Hollister’s hats could complete any ensemble.

Despite the small population of the village of Cooperstown, NY, H. Hollister’s hattery stayed in business for at least 30 years. An 1870 census recorded Hollister “as the owner of $4,000 worth of real estate and $3,000 worth of personal estate,” translating to about $51,900 and $69,000 respectively in today’s dollars.[5] With an above average demand for fine hats in a small community and a shrewd sense of business and marketing, H. Hollister threw his hat into the entrepreneurial ring.

By Jen Vos

 

[1] 30 Rock. “Tracey Does Conan.” Season 1, Episode 7, Directed by Adam Bernstein, Written by Tina Fey. NBC, December, 2006.

[2] S.T. Livermore, A Condensed History of Cooperstown, with a Biographical Sketch of J. Fenimore Cooper. (Albany: J. Munsell, 1862) 68, 80.

[3] Hat Box, Fenimore Art Museum collection, Cooperstown, New York, N0518.1942 (02), “Documentation.”

[4] Mary Kate Kenney, “Hat’s Off! A Cooperstown Hatter and Local Entrepreneurship,” Cooperstown Graduate Program. Cooperstown, New York, 2018.

[5] 1870 U.S. Census, Otsego County, New York, population schedule, Cooperstown, p. 3, dwelling 22, family 25, Harvey Hollister; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed February 6, 2018, http://ancestry.comwww.in2013dollars.com

Entrepreneurs are people who organize a business while taking on greater financial risks than normal. In the pharmaceutical business, everyone was taking a financial risk as they often had to take on other roles besides selling medicines to make ends meet. In Cooperstown N.Y., the pharmacy, Brazee and Boden which opened March 2, 1901, with  partners Edward Daniel (E. D.) Boden and Hubbard L. Brazee [1], had to be resourceful by selling paints, oils, dyes, and perfumes in tandem with their remedies [2].

A small container from Brazee and Boden, that was not used for medicine, made its way into the storage facility of the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown N.Y. This container was recycled from Palmer’s Perfumes, a prominent perfume company from New Hampshire [3]. The fact that the container was relabeled for Brazee and Boden shows that the pharmacy took advantage of the partnership they had with the larger company. Rather than letting items within the store go to waste, as the druggist bought their wares in bulk to save on expenses, they sold excess items and, evidently, reused containers from their stock.

image4

Box (Bottom), 1945, Cardboard, (H: 7.75 in X D: 3.25 in X C: 10.21 in). The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Withey’s Drug Store, The Farmer’s Museum Collection, F0114.1945, Photographed by Nathan Samoriski.

 

The bottom of the container reads, “PLEASE USE THIS PACKAGE FOR DISPLAY AFTER IT IS EMPTIED SOLON PALMER”, indicating that Palmer’s Perfumes wanted continued advertising of their product even after the item was sold by the smaller businesses. Brazee and Boden instead recycled the container for their own purpose, taking away this free advertising for the big perfume company.

 

Box, 1945, Cardboard, (H: 7.75 in X D: 3.25 in X C: 10.21 in). The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Withey’s Drug Store, The Farmer’s Museum Collection, F0114.1945, Photographed by Nathan Samoriski.

 

Their new label reads, “BRAZEE AND BODEN PHARMACISTS. COOPERSTOWN, N. Y.” The label also includes spaces for “No.,” “Date,” and “Dispensed by:” however these spaces remain blank. Following “Dr.” “1.00” is written and hand-written on the label is “Zebra Re[d]” which could be a pigment or dye powder. The original contents of this container cannot be determined without damage to the Brazee and Borden label.  The Freeman’s Journal advertise that Brazee and Boden sold dyes as well as paints. Dyes were no longer limited to natural pigments. As of 1856, synthetic dyes made any color available and it is possible that the name “Zebra Red” is an invention of Brazee and Boden as advertising of this powder.

These entrepreneurs decided to save their money and reuse the abundance of perfume containers that their partners sent to them. Even though Palmer’s Perfumes wanted these containers to be used for their advertisement needs, Brazee and Boden claimed the containers as their own. As entrepreneurs, these men are taking a financial risk running a pharmacy in the early 1900s as they would not make enough money selling drugs alone. By utilizing what they already had in their possession, Brazee and Boden were able to save money on their powder containers and earn money by selling other items in their drug store.   

By: Aubrey Kirsch

March 26, 2018

Sources:

[1] “Obituaries,” The Otsego Farmer (Cooperstown, New York), Friday, May 23, 1939.

[2] Brazee and Boden, “Announcement,” The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, New York), March 7, 1901.

[3] James E. Davis, Annual Meeting of the Manufacturing Perfumer’s Association of the United States, (Detroit: Speaker Printing Company, 1903) 127.

f00151960

Osage Rub Stoneware Jug, 1843-1910, stoneware, steel wire, wood, H: 9 ¾ x D: 7 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of the Estate of Wilson McGown, F0015.1960.

M. E. Waite’s Osage Rub – “Better than a Cocktail next Morning.” So says an advertisement in the 1903 edition of the Barber’s Journal. [1] Merton E. Waite originally operated The Barber Supply House out of Utica, New York, producing his hair tonic for men across the entire country. Waite advertised his Osage Rub for its remedial qualities as well as its practical qualities. He claimed that his hair tonic provided relief from sun headaches, acting as a cooling agent for the scalp and face after a shave, while also fulfilling the purpose of a styling product, which left the hair “as soft and glossy as a kitten’s fur,” and “Makes the old head feel like new.” [2]

A stoneware jug (F0015.1960), once use to carry this tonic found its way into the collections of The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York. But while smaller bottles and advertisements incorporate catchy slogans, the label on this jug is very simple, in fact, the jug as a whole is quite plain. In terms of advertising, the only words on the jug are, “Osage Rub for the Hair and Head, M. E. Waite, Trade Mark Registered, Utica, N. Y.” Looking at the material, stoneware was also traditionally a material reserved for utilitarian purposes. During the 1800s, porcelain was the highest quality clay, and stoneware was the lowest. The cheap material, with an absence of the colorful slogans suggests that this particular jug was not meant for the general audience. The qualities of this container did not necessarily demonstrate wealth to the average consumer. They do, however, speak to Merton Waite’s practicality as a businessman – knowing what his audiences demanded, and cutting costs at every opportunity.

With success came the need to market his products appropriately – Waite could not simply sell his Osage Rub in one size only. He needed to understand how to sell his product to different audiences, mainly the general public and professionals. Barbers would recognize Osage Rub from the advertisements. The container did not matter to this audience – only the product. Therefore, he did not need to make the container pretty to sell it, as he might with smaller bottles meant for the individual consumer. For large orders shipped to barber shops, he packaged Osage Rub in cheaper, stoneware jugs. To do this, he took advantage of local resources, partnering with another business in Utica, White’s Pottery, which specialized in stoneware. [3] The localized partnership with White’s Pottery made for fast and cheap shipping of the Osage Rub jugs, and took the responsibility of packaging materials out of the hands of Merton Waite, allowing him to focus solely on making his product.

The Osage Rub Jug portrays Waite as the quintessential businessman – competitive, yet economical. M. E. Waite’s entrepreneurial spirit shines through his jug, and shows the continued importance of partnerships and practicality in business.

 

Post written by Nathan Samoriski

 

[1] “Osage Rub,” The Barbers Journal 14, no. 1 (January 1903): 2.

[2] “Sun Headache,” Harper’s Bazaar (July, 1903): 34.

[3] Osage Rub Stoneware Jug, Farmers’ Museum Collections, S Museum, F0015.1960, Documentation.

MulkinsBaking Powder Can, tin, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of George P. Campbell, F0669.1946(1), Photograph by Greg Slye.

How do you choose items at the store? Do you stick to products you know? Does the labeling on a product affect your decision? Price? Does the fact that is was made locally come into play?

These questions have been on the mind of business owners, marketing teams, and entrepreneurs for thousands of years. As the consumer, the answer to why we buy things is often hard to pinpoint. For a business owner, brands are carefully considered and – when done well – able to separate a product from its competition, draw the consumers eye through design, speak directly to a targeted consumer, and showcase a product’s qualities.

Some things never change. Today, we see companies using a familiar vocabulary of “buzzwords” that attest to their product’s quality in their branding and advertisements. Whether we as consumers are conscious of it or not, these buzzwords speak to us in advertisement language that we are comfortable with and understand. If the price is right and the branding checks out, we might even pull the trigger on a product we have never tried before. Then, if the product works well, we might begin to seek it out – tracking it down with the help of the look the maker has built for us. Customer loyalty has been born, ad people rejoice!

Like any community, Cooperstown, New York has had its share of local entrepreneurs. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, one of its more successful was Frank Mulkins. Mulkins, the owner or part owner of a local grocery, sold a variety of products including foodstuffs, tobacco products, dishware, hygeienics, and games out of his local storefront. [1] Mulkins’ name became so well-known a block in Cooperstown was named after him. In the 1900s, Mulkins even tried his hand at local politics.

A Cooperstown mainstay for over forty years, Mulkins clearly understood a thing or two about marketing and customer loyalty. His “Mulkin’s Special Brand Baking Powder” is a prime example. What buzzwords did Mulkins use to market his product? Well, most of them. His baking powder has the words best, quality, high grade, strength, and purity all on its label. Like any good entrepreneur, Mulkins was ahead of his time. His baking soda includes an ingredient list – something consumers probably wanted but the FDA did not insist on until the 1990s. Through these words and the design of the can, Mulkins used age-old branding techniques to express the product’s quality and encourages consumer trust.

Clearly, it stuck.

-Karl Wietzel

Credit to Greg Slye for his excellent research on Mulkins and his Baking Powder.

[1] Daybook, Dec. 20, 1900-March 16, 1901, Mulkins and Mason (Firm). Fenimore Art Museum Library, Cooperstown, New York, Coll. No. 35 V.40 Special Collections, 3-

Slye, Greg. “Local Entrepreneurship Through Baking Powder.” Cooperstown Graduate Program. Cooperstown, New York, 2018.