Warner’s Safe Cure: Safe Cures at the Sacramento Expo (2016)

I intended to post this back in August, but got busy with work. So, as the saying goes, better late than never.

Every once in a while, someone puts together a great Warner’s Safe Cure display. Fifteen years ago, a group of us put together a display at the Rochester Show and I have written about that display on many occasions. Although there has undoubtedly been displays since 2001, none of them really caught my attention until this month at the Federation National Antique Bottle Convention and Expo in Sacramento. 

Sacramento National Antique Bottle Show & Convention

Thanks to the hard work and creativity of Mike and Kathie Craig and Michael Seeliger, visitors to the Sacramento Expo were treated to one of the great Warner displays ever assembled. This display included not only an extensive collection of Warner’s bottles, but also lots of advertising and a video presentation about H. H. Warner and his medicine business. The display garnered rave reviews and lots of awards.

Warner Exhibit at Sacramento Expo (2016) While pictures alone do not do it justice, here are a few pictures to give you an idea of the scope of the display and what, by any definition, was an amazing effort to highlight the contributions of H. H. Warner to the patent medicine industry and to bottle collectors. The scope of colors and variations is amazing.  Kudos to the Craigs and the Seeligers for bringing this display together.

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H. H. Warner: His Company & His Bottles 2.0

If you collect Warner’s Safe Remedies to any serious degree, you are already familiar with the name Michael Seeliger. If you aren’t, you should be. I have collected Warner’s for nearly 40 years and I can credit or blame Michael, to some degree, for my addiction. You see, way back in 1976, I picked up my first old bottle and started what has become a lifelong hobby.

Michael Seeliger

   Michael Seeliger

When I first started collecting, I knew that I liked cures and remedies and made that the focus of my collecting efforts. Well, pretty soon, I realized that even that area of bottle collecting was enormous and I figured that I had better narrow my focus even more. About that time I joined my local antique bottle club to try to mingle with other collectors and to learn from their expertise. The Richmond Area Bottle Collectors Association had its own lending library and one evening, I chanced upon a copy of Michael’s original H. H. Warner: His Company & His Bottles (1974).

H. H. Warner: His Company & His Bottles (1974)

H. H. Warner: His Company & His Bottles (1974)

Michael’s original book was paperback with hand-drawn illustrations of the “then known” universe of Warner’s Safe Remedies. I was smitten. It was exactly what I needed and pretty soon thereafter, I purchased my first Safe Kidney & Liver Cure, then a Safe Nervine, then a Safe Diabetes Cure and so on. There was something special about Warner’s Safe Remedies. Perhaps it was the embossed safe or perhaps the variety of cures and remedies that extended beyond the United States to Canada, Europe and Australia.

Over the years, I have met and become friends with many other bottle collectors and Warner’s collectors, including Michael. I have expanded my collection to include some wonderful and unique Warner’s variants. Fortunately for all of us, Michael has decided to update his original paperback book with a digital version entitled H. H. Warner: His Company & His Bottles 2.0.  Gone are the hand-drawn illustrations; replaced by digital images of Safe Remedies bottles and advertising. Indeed, the entire book is on a credit card sized disk with an insert that goes into your USB drive.

H. H. Warner - His Company and His Bottles 2.0

Michael’s 2.0 version contains over twenty chapters on all aspects of collecting Warner’s including a history of the company, advertising, an updated catalog of bottles and even a copy of the 1974 original book. It is also loaded with pictures that help any collector appreciate the extent and variety of Safe Remedies that have come to light since 1974. In short, the 2.0 version is well worth the investment of $18.00 and $3.00 for shipping. In order to get a copy, email Michael at:  MWSeeliger@gmail.com.

Also, if you are planning to attend the Federation Expo in Sacramento in August, Michael  and Michael Craig will be doing a presentation on Warner’s Remedies that will provide lots of great information.

Warner’s Safe Cure – Rediscovering the London Office

When I was in London recently, I got to wondering if the building that housed the London Office of H. H. Warner was still standing. The London Office was one of the most successful of the foreign offices and existed from 1882-83 until well into the 1930’s. However, unlike the iconic Warner’s Remedies Building in Rochester, the London Office did not grace the company’s advertising. Indeed, I have only one almanac that depicts the London Office.

1888-1889 British Safe Cure Almanac Back Cover Detail

The back cover of the 1888-1889 British Safe Cure almanac featured sketches of all of the foreign office buildings, including the London Office located at 86 Clerkenwell Road, EC1. Unfortunately, the sketches are not great quality, but they gave me an idea of the type of building I was looking for. The question was whether the building had survived the last 115 years. London is a remarkable city that has existed since at least 43 A.D. Since that time, it has grown and expanded, endured invasions, plagues and great fires.

We know that the London Office moved several times during its existence. It was originally located at 81 Southampton Row, WC, which would have placed it near Russell Square and the British Museum. It apparently remained at that address until 1889 when it moved to 86 Clerkenwell Road, EC in the Borough of Finsbury. A few wooden shipping crates bearing that address have surfaced over the years.

Using the GPS on my phone, I was able to locate the site of the Clerkenwell Road office, but still was not sure if the building that had housed Warner’s London operation until about 1902 was still standing. After all, it might have fallen victim to the Nazi blitz during World War II or even to urban renewal. I wasn’t quite sure what I might find. However, as I rounded the corner of St. John Street and headed down the hill on Clerkenwell Road, I recognized it instantly. The drawing on the almanac was spot on. The rounded front corner of the building was unmistakable.

London Office - 86 Clerkenwell Road

       Warner’s London Office – 86 Clerkenwell Road

Not only was the building still there, it was in remarkable condition. There is no telling through how many hands this building has passed since 1902. It is currently the home of Club Zetter Wine Room & Kitchen, which looked to be a very upscale establishment. Indeed, the only significant change that I see when comparing the current building to the 1888 sketch is the fact that the front door has been moved to the side.

Club Zetter at Night (2016)

I was delighted to see that, much like the Safe Remedies Building in Rochester, this building has been restored and preserved. Bravo! As I was packing up my camera to head back to my hotel, I noticed on my London map that within a few blocks of the old Warner building was Warner Street and Warner House. Perhaps this is coincidence, perhaps not.

Warner Street, London EC1 IMGP6968

After 1902, the H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd moved to 18 Laystall Street, EC1. The location is less than a half mile from 86 Clerkenwell Road. There it remained until the mid-1930’s. My schedule did not permit a visit to the Laystall Street address, nor would I have known if the building there was the one occupied by the Safe Remedies company. It was, however, nice to know that Warner’s footprint in London remains.

 

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.

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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

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Warner’s Log Cabin Rose Cream

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.