Warner’s Safe Cure: Dunedin Reconsidered – The 4-Cities Office (1891-1900)

I’ve been doing this blog now for over 10 years and sometimes I struggle with trying to find new material that hasn’t been covered in one way or another. That accounts for my somewhat infrequent and spotty posting. Fortunately, there are other Warner’s Safe Cure collectors out there, who rescue me and help me find new material or even correct some of my misconceptions or erroneous conclusions. Enter Trevor Gatfield.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Trevor challenging a notion that I had posted back on  June 11, 2008. Namely, that, even though Warner claimed to have a Dunedin (I used to misspell it Dundein – sorry to my Kiwi friends) Office, it may not have actually existed. https://warnerssafeblog.wordpress.com/2008/06/11/warners-foreign-offices-melbourne-1887-1915-and-dundein-1891-1900. 

This conclusion was based upon the fact that I had never seen any evidence of a physical location in Dunedin. This can be compared with the offices in Rochester, London and Melbourne, among others, that had documented offices with published addresses in the contemporary literature.  While Trevor did not have evidence of a building in Dunedin with a Warner’s Safe Remedies sign on it, he postulated that the Dunedin Office was, in fact, the office of Kempthorne,  Prosser & Co.,  The New Zealand Drug Co., Ltd., who according to a December 22, 1900 article in the New Zealand Times were SOLE AGENTS for Warner’s Safe Cure. They were headquartered at 31 Stafford Street in Dunedin with other offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. 

Kempthorne, Prosser preexisted the Warner’s Safe Remedies Co. having started in business in 1869 and lasted well after the remnants of Warner’s were long gone, closing its doors in 1978. 

Trevor was kind enough to  discover a couple photos of their offices;  however, as of this date we do not have permission to use those photographs. We hope to link to them later with permission. In the interim, I found a picture of the Wellington Office as well as a advertising card from 1901.


While I don’t want to read too much into the apparent use of a Sole Agency as giving Warner’s Safe Remedies a physical presence in a foreign city, such as Dunedin, it might shed light on how Warner could claim a presence in other cities like Paris, Brussels, Belgium, Rangoon, Burma or Kreuzlingen, Switzerland.  The proof of such a hypothesis would require us to determine, which company, if any, held the sole agency for Warner’s Safe Remedies in those cities. Unlike Dunedin, which boasts the 4-Cities bottles,  there are no bottles with embossing for Paris, Brussels, Rangoon or Kruezlingen. There is one French label Safe Cure and, of course, the mysterious “No City” Safe Cure that first appeared several years ago.

Thanks to Trevor for stirring this pot. Sometimes you need to take a second look at what seems to be established fact. Of course, we cannot know what H. H. Warner intended, but it’s fun to make some educated guesses. If you have any more information on Kempthorne, Prosser & Co. or its connection to the Warner’s Safe Remedies Co. as sole agent in New Zealand, please let me know.



Warner’s Safe Cure: A Message from the President

Several months ago, I was contacted by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce. The lady who contacted me was in the process of assembling a history of the Rochester Chamber and knew that H. H. Warner was its first president, but did not have much more information on him. A Google search had led her to my Warner’s Safe Cure Blog. She had very little information on Warner, so I helped fill in some gaps. I also asked her if she had a copy of Warner’s Inaugeral Address to the Chamber. She did not have that either. Fortunately for both of us, Warner had preserved his words for posterity. Never one to miss a marketing opportunity.

In fairness, Warner did not publish his remarks in their entirety, but merely “Extracts” from his address. Apparently, the office of President was not uncontested and Warner was pitted against another Rochester favorite son, George Eastman, the inventor of the Kodak and progenitor of popular photography. By 1893, the members of the Chamber would have ample reasons to wish they had elected Mr. Eastman. But, it was 1888 and Warner was at the pinnacle of his success. The members of the Chamber had every reason to believe that Warner’s Safe Remedies and H. H. Warner would be around for many years to come.

Warner speaks in glowing terms of the assets of Rochester and surrounding cities and proposes improved railroad service from Western New York into New York City. He then shifts gears and applauds the solid moral foundation of the city which is enhanced through the work of organizations like the YMCA. Ironically, he encourages the successful businessmen in the Rochester community to reinvest 1-2% of their capital in helping other manufacturers to locate there. It it pretty clear that Warner was not heeding his own advice. Rather than reinvesting in his business or in helping other relocate to Rochester, he was engaging is speculative investments in mining and other interests. It was that very speculation that would bring his empire down.

Warner concluded his remarks by encouraging the Chamber to take up the cause of monuments to the Union dead of the Civil War. He contrasts what he sees as the efforts of the South to memorialize its dead with what he sees as inadequate efforts on the part of the North. This is particularly interesting given the fact that there is no record that Warner served in the Union army despite the fact that he was 19 at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Whether Warner’s remarks led to any effort to increase the number of memorials to the Union dead is unknown. It did, however, provide an uplifting message in an otherwise unremarkable speech.

While Warner seemed like an obvious choice for the first President of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce in 1887, it was a choice the members of the Chamber undoubtedly regretted a mere six years later. Fortunately for Rochester, the Chamber of Commerce flourished and continued to grow, notwithstanding the infamy of its first President.

Warner’s Safe Remedies Proprietary Tax Stamps

On occasion, you will find a Warner’s Safe Cure with its label in tact along with some of its contents. In some instances, the top of that bottle may include a proprietary tax stamp similar to the one below.

I wrote about these little gems back in 2008. They were originally used to generate revenue to offset the costs of the Civil War, but later evolved into a means that patent medicine manufacturers, like Warner, used to assure the public of the genuineness of their product. Note the warning on the stamp below: “NOT GENUINE IF STAMP IS BROKEN”.

Warner’s Safe Cure: A Sampling of Safe Cures

During the lifetime of the Warner’s Safe Remedies Company, it is impossible to say how many samples were distributed to the public, but over the years, it would likely to be millions of bottles. Below are three examples of labelled Safe Cure samples. Examples of labelled Safe Cure samples are fairly rare and examples of the labelled Diabetes Remedy and Nervine are almost unheard of. 

Warner's Safe Cure Samples for Safe Cure, Safe Diabetes Remedy and Safe Nervine

Warner’s Safe Cure Samples for Safe Cure, Safe Diabetes Remedy and Safe Nervine

These wonderful examples were part of the collection of Dan Cowman and the photograph is courtesy of Terry McMurray.  Most of the Warner’s samples from Rochester that turn up today are the “Safe Cure” sample. Much rarer is the “Safe Remedy” sample for whatever reason. Prior to see this photograph from Terry, I had never seen a sample in clear glass.  All of the above bottles would be considered rare by Warner’s collectors.

Warner’s Safe Dictionary Revealed

Blogging about H. H. Warner means blogging not only about his extensive line of cures and remedies, but also about his amazing advertising pieces that he used to make his products a household name in the late 19th Century. Unlike today, people of that era did not have access to reference material that we take for granted. Even something as simple as a dictionary was probably not something that most people had access to. Indeed, unless you lived in a large city, access to public libraries was a luxury denied to the masses.

Warner understood this unfulfilled need and tapped into it by providing advertising pieces that highlighted his product line while also providing information that people could use in their daily lives. The best examples of this nexus between advertising and resource material included his almanacs loaded with household hints and tips. He issued one or more almanacs each year that were distributed to the public by local druggists. Another excellent example was his Safe Dictionary.  I featured the Safe Dictionary is a post I did back in October, 2008. At the time, I was limited to providing a picture of the cover.

Recently, however, I stumbled upon a digital version of the Safe Dictionary put online by the National Library of Medicine. The great thing about this version is that it allows you to read through the entire Safe Dictionary by clicking on the pages. Pretty cool. Now, you don’t have to settle just for the cover but ALL 5000+ words!