Warner’s Safe Cure: Dan Cowman’s Warner’s Safe Cures


Dan Cowman (1955 - 2015)

                                                 Dan Cowman (1955 – 2015)

I was distressed to learn of the passing of Dan Cowman in 2015. Over the years, Dan was a good friend of the Warner’s Safe Cure Blog and was most generous with pictures of his extensive collection of labelled Warner’s as well as his collection of Warner’s ephemera. Although Dan and I never met in person, we corresponded by email and talked on the phone. Undoubtedly, his was one of the premier collections in the country, especially when it came to labelled bottles. In addition to being a collector of patent medicines, Dan was a radiologist. His obituary provides some idea of his expertise and passion for medicine. Below are a few of the pictures of his collection of labelled Warner’s that he shared with me.

Dan Cowman Collection Dan Cowman Collection Dan Cowman Collection

With Dan’s passing, the bulk of his collection is going up for auction by Terry and Ryan McMurray. Terry McMurray has one of the great collections of 19th Century patent medicines, including some rare and unique Warner’s Safe Cures and advertising. Terry and Ryan were kind enough to provide me with some photos of a few of the Warner’s that will be up for auction.


Labelled Safe Tonic, Safe Bitters and Safe Tonic Bitters as well as the Asthma Powder, Asthma       Remedy and Asthma Cure tins.

Safe Tonic Bitters with Label

Warner’s Safe Tonic Bitters Half Pint with Label

Log Cabin Rose Cream 1

Warner’s Log Cabin Rose Cream


Warner’s Safe Strap Sided Compound from London with label and Safe Pills from Frankfurt. In the background is a “Diabetic Cure” from Pressburg.


The Log Cabin Scalpine is perhaps the rarest of the Log Cabin Remedies, especially with a full label and box.


An early Warner’s Safe Cure advertisement. Because “Safe Tonic Bitters” is on the safe depicted on the box, the ad is prior to 1883 when Tippecanoe was introduced to replace the Safe Bitters, Safe Tonic and Safe Tonic Bitters.


Although Safe Cure samples are not uncommon, labelled versions are pretty rare for Safe Diabetes Remedy and Safe Remedy.



Few of the Warner’s Safe Asthma Cure, Asthma Powder and Asthma Remedy tins survived because the user was instructed to burn and inhale the contents. The burning process destroyed the label.

Undoubtedly some of these items will fetch premium prices and will become part of another collection. Indeed, as bottle collectors, we are never truly the owners, but merely the caretakers of great bottles. Dan’s collection will live on and his contributions to the hobby will not be forgotten.



Warner’s Safe Cure: Labelled Animal Cures

Labelled Animal Cures (McMurray 2016) 2 (Edit)

In the world of Warner’s Safe Cures, there are a few things that you don’t often see. Certain Safe Cures are just plain RARE! It might be a Frankfurt Nervine in pint size, a labelled Presssburg “Diabetic Cure” or a labelled strap-sided Safe Compound from London or even a labelled Animal Cure with contents. For the uninitiated, the Animal Cure or Mammoth Cure is the granddaddy 40 ounce Safe Cure that was marketed by Warner for livestock.

Animal Cure in 1888 Artist Album

Animal Cures are scarce in their own right and often fetch in excess of $1500 or more. Add a label to the mix and, well, all bets are off. I am aware of three documented examples of labelled Animals, two in amber and a third in olive green (about 75% label). The ambers examples, however, are labelled with contents. Recently, they appeared in the collection of Terry and Ryan McMurray. Behold:

Labelled Animal Cures (McMurray 2016)

Up until recently, these two examples had been in separate collections. Having them both in one place at one time is an event that may not repeat itself. The last place I remember seeing such a nice collection of Animal Cures was at the 2001 Rochester Show when a group of us collaborated on the Great Warner’s Safe Cure Exhibit.


At that time, one of the two labelled Animals was in Jack Stecher’s collection. A somewhat plumper version of me got to pose with that bottle in front of Jack’s Safe Cure display case.


Not sure if or when Terry and Ryan might break up this pair, but, if they do, be prepared to open your wallet. A labelled Warner’s Safe Animal Cure with contents would be the crown jewel for any Warner’s collection.



Warner’s Safe Cure: The Assassination of James A. Garfield

As I have recounted before, H. H. Warner had a brief, but heady flirtation with national politics. Although he served a the president of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, Warner did not actively seek out political office. He seemed, however, infatuated with it early on in his patent medicine enterprise. This infatuation may have been driven by his sense that he could use politics and politicians as yet another means to market his Safe Remedies products. Also, his wealth and local celebrity, gave him political influence.

Murder of a President

Warner attended the 1880 Republican Convention in Chicago, where James A. Garfield was nominated for the presidency and was ultimately elected as our 20th President. I was reminded of this fact by a commercial I saw for a documentary on the Assassination of Garfield to be aired on PBS on Tuesday, February 2, 2016. The documentary is part of the wonderful series American Experience.

Unfortunately for President Garfield, his tenure was not long. In office barely six months, Garfield was shot by a disgruntled office seeker, Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881. Despite the assassination of Abraham Lincoln only sixteen years earlier, presidents of the United States were afforded little or no protection and there was no Secret Service. Although he was shot in the back, Garfield did not die immediately, but lingered for over two months. Indeed, his death may have been indirectly caused by the efforts of his doctors to save his life, by probing for the bullet without first sterilizing their hands. The autopsy of President Garfield revealed that inflection had spread for the site of the bullet wound. In the end, Guiteau was convicted of the murder of Garfield and hanged on June 30, 1882.

To many, the assassinated president was a martyr. To Warner, his death had marketing value. That is not to say that Warner was uncaring. However, he realized the value of testimonials. His almanacs and newspaper advertising were loaded with testimonials. Whether Garfield ever used Safe Cure is unknown, but Warner used him as an endorsement. You need look no farther than his 1882 Almanac.

1882 Warner's Safe Almanac (Front Cover)06232015

1882 Warner's Safe Almanac (Page 1)06232015

1882 Warner's Safe Almanac (Page 2)06232015

Considering that Warner’s Safe Cure had been on the market for scarcely three years, the endorsements contained in the 1882 Almanac were a “who’s who” or, in the case of President Garfield, a “who was who.” In addition to Garfield, the list included three other presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and Chester A. Arthur.  It included Garfield’s mother, Eliza Ballow Garfield, and his wife, Lucretia R. Garfield. The list included several of Garfield’s physicians, who may, unwittingly, contributed to his demise. Other notables on the list were:  Gen. Philip Sheridan, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, Gen. Wade Hampton, Oliver Wendall Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Robert Lincoln among others.

One is left to wonder whether any of Warner’s Safe Remedies were in the medicine cabinets in the White House. If three former presidents really used them, the odds are pretty good that they were.

Warner’s Safe Cure: Christmas Wishes from Down Under

Although I am a couple of weeks late, I recently stumbled upon this full-page Christmas Warner’s Safe Cure ad from The Sydney Mail dated December 20, 1890. I really like the ad because it is an excellent example of the classic Warner’s Safe Cure pitch. That is, lots of claims about the health benefits of Safe Cure supported by a variety of testimonials from happy patrons. Because of the size of the ad, I had to break it into three parts:

The Sydney Mail - Dec 20 1890 - A Christmastide Greeting 1

In 1890, the British enterprise, H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. was distributing products not only to London, but also to Melbourne and Dundein. The ad contains the classic mix of sweeping health claims along with testimonials to the effectiveness of Warner’s Safe Remedies.

The Sydney Mail - Dec 20 1890 - A Christmastide Greeting 3

The final portion of the ad gives us a snapshot of the products that H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd were marketing in 1890. Those products included “Safe” Cure, “Safe” Diabetes Cure, “Safe” Rheumatic Cure, “Safe” Nervine (in two sizes), “Safe” Asthma Cure, “Safe” Pills, “Safe” Plasters and Tippecanoe.

The Sydney Mail - Dec 20 1890 - A Christmastide Greeting 2

This is particularly interesting because I had always wondered if Tippecanoe had been marketed outside the United States. I had never seen any evidence that it was sold from London or Frankfurt. It had been suggested to me that it was sold from the Melbourne Office, but I had never seen confirmation of that fact. This advertisement provides that confirmation and also includes the Asthma Cure and Safe Plasters among the products available to Australasians. It also confirms the location of the Melbourne Office at 147 Little Lonsdale Street in 1890.



I find that Warner’s Safe Remedies newspaper advertising can provide some very interesting clues about the scope and extent of the available products. My initial reading of this ad was that it was merely an expression of seasonal greetings. A closer look, however, revealed some more important details from down under.

Cooking with Warner’s Safe Cure – The Warner’s Safe Cook Book Revisited

One of the ways that H. H. Warner used to market his products and to make them household names was to appeal to American women. In the 1880’s, women were, for the most part, relegated to running the household and raising the children. Their civil rights did not include the right to vote or the right to sit on a jury. Consequently, an appeal to them meant an appeal to something that would assist in their daily work. That included cooking and baking. In 1887, Warner published the Warner’s Safe Cook Book.

The Fifth Edition of the Warner's Safe Cook Book was published in 1891

The Fifth Edition of the Warner’s Safe Cook Book was published in 1891

Like most cookbooks, the Warner’s Safe Cook Book contained hundreds of pages of recipes broken down into categories that included Meat, Poultry, Fish, Vegetables and Desserts. Unlike most cookbooks, it yet another promotional publication designed to make Warner a household name.

The interior of the front cover reminded readers that the cookbook was the product of the Warner's Safe Remedies Company

The interior of the front cover reminded readers that the cookbook was the product of the Warner’s Safe Remedies Company

1891 Warner's Safe Cookbook (5th Ed. 1891) (Title Page)

The Cook Book promoted  Safe Yeast in particular with the puzzling admonition “The Best Authority That Experience Can Command.” Like many Warner’s Safe premiums, the Cook Book was available by redeeming 10 pictures of the Safe from the Safe Yeast box along with postage.

The back cover of the 1892 Warner's Safe Cure Almanac promoted the Cook Book

The back cover of the 1892 Warner’s Safe Cure Almanac promoted the Cook Book

The Cook Book contained all manner of recipes along with illustrations of kitchen utensils and other helpful hints.

1891 Warner's Safe Cookbook (5th Ed. 1891)(Utensils)

Interestingly, the recipes were not formatted in the manner we expect to see today with a list of ingredients and measurements followed by preparation instructions. Rather, they seem to use a narrative format.

1891 Warner's Safe Cookbook (5th Ed. 1891)(Recipes)

Judging by the number of Safe Cure Cook Books I have seen over the years, they must have been handed down one generation to the next. Cookbooks and recipes were not nearly as available as they are today and these books were probably used until they literally fell apart. Yet another way in which the Warner’s Safe brand name became part of the American household.

Warner’s Safe Cure: Test Your Kidneys!

Part of the appeal of Warner’s Safe Cure was the fact that it sold the notion that any person could effectively be his or her own physician. With the United States in the throes of becoming an industrial world power, the exercise of self-reliance was encouraged. This was particularly true given the primitive state of American medicine. Only a small percentage of physicians received formal medical training and most were either self-taught or apprenticed to an established physician.

Warner offered individual Americans the chance to be their own physician. Part of that pitch was what appeared to be a way to test your own kidneys for the maladies that were manifesting themselves in other ways.  For Warner, the kidneys were the key to good health. Over the years, he ran countless ads offering up the same psuedo-scientific test. Below is an advertisement from the December 6, 1903 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Test Your Kidneys - St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO) - 6 Dec 1903

According to the ad, the user was directed to “[l]et some morning urine stand in a glass for 24 hours: if a reddish-brown sediment forms, or if particles float about it, or if it is the least cloudy or smoky [sic], your kidneys are seriously affected and utterly unable to carry the waste out of the body…” Sounds pretty scientific, right? Truth is, any urine left to sit will likely precipitate out or remain cloudy. In short, the fix was in. Almost anyone doing the test, would be convinced that their kidneys were unhealthy. No worries, good health was but $1 away (or perhaps several dollars). So, what are you waiting for? Test Your Kidneys!

H. H. Warner Goes to Sea: Maritime Images in Safe Cure Advertising

As you can imagine, part of doing a blog on Warner’s Safe Cure involves research. Although I would consider myself to be knowledgeable about H. H. Warner and his patent medicine empire, I am always reminded of how much remains to be discovered. Part of my research includes looking at the vast array of advertising that Warner used to develop his brand. That includes newspaper advertising, almanacs, trade cards, posters and on and on. 

The American Reformer - Warner's Rheumatic Cure - Dec. 6, 1884

Warner’s Safe Rheumatic Cure Ad in the American Reformer on December 6, 1884

When you look at that much advertising, you start to notice that certain themes emerge repeatedly as well as certain images. Warner was a master at using the media available in the 1880’s to make his product a household name. For example, much of Warner’s advertising was designed to encourage potential customers to take charge of their own health with the help of Warner’s Safe Cure. Ironically, Warner also made frequent use of testimonials by physicians, who recommended the use of Safe Cure. 

For whatever reason, one of the themes that seems to show up in Warner’s Safe Cure advertising is the notion that Safe Cure provided hope for the hopeless. Indeed the early Safe Cure almanacs contain the story of H. H. Warner’s claim that Dr. Craig’s Cure saved him from certain death as a result of Bright’s Disease. It was for that reason that he claimed to have purchased the remedy to market it to the public at large.

Rescue of the hopeless is often portrayed in a maritime context. I imagine that in the days before GPS and satellite navigation, being lost at sea was the epitome of hopelessness. This is perhaps why Warner seized upon that as a theme. Indeed hope for the hopeless showed up repeatedly in Safe Cure Advertising. Here are a few examples:

An Anchor to Health - The Metropolitan (Kevin Taft)

Warner’s Safe Cure Ad in The Metropolitan of August, 1890

The above ad was featured in the August, 1890 edition of The Metropolitan and was located by Kevin Taft. It is loaded with symbolism. First, of course, is the anchor, which represents safety in stormy seas. The words “SAFE SURE STEADFAST” speak for themselves as does the rainbow with the words “HOPE HEALTH HAPPINESS”.  In essence, the ad offers Safe Cure as hope to navigate the stormy seas of disease. Not exactly subtle, but the Victorians were not known for their subtlety. 

Warner’s Safe Cure as a beacon of hope to the distressed appeared on the cover of one of the almanacs in 1887:

1887 Beacon Light of Safety Almanac

Warner’s Safe Cure Almanac – “The Beacon Light of Safety” (1887)

The theme was even included in advertising issued out of Warner’s London Office:

Warner's Safe Cure Life RaftIt was also used in the sale of Warner’s Safe Yeast, which claimed “Be Guided By This Beacon Light, Your Healthful Course Will E’er Be Right”. Below is one of the Safe Yeast trade cards that promised to guide distressed mariners through the rocks and shoals of Indigestion and Bad Health.


The Safe Yeast/Safe Cure almanac of 1886 featured a girl perched on the shoulders of a sturdy sea captain. Note that the word “Reliable” is prominently featured on the cover of this almanac as well as on the British almanac above. It has an almost subliminal character.

Warner’s Safe Yeast Almanac – “The Old Mariner” (1886)

The constant recurrence of the notion that Warner’s Safe Cure offered the sick safe refuge from the stormy seas of disease was no accident. One must remember that in the 1880’s, the United States was still largely a rural country with a literacy rate far below what it ultimately achieved in the 20th Century. Images were nearly as important as words and Warner knew that. Indeed, the idea of a “Safe Cure” was designed to encourage the public that the product offered a risk-free path to health. Apparently, it was a theme that worked.