If one is to understand the accomplishments of Hulbert Harrington Warner (1842-1923), one must understand his spectacularly successful rise in not one, but two separate businesses and his mastery of available marketing mediums to create brand appeal. Perhaps one of the most thoroughly researched and detailed accounts of Warner’s rise and fall is Edward C. Atwater’s “Hulbert Harrington Warner and the Perfect Pitch: Sold Hope; Made Millions,” New York History, 56(2): 154-190 (April 1975). For those interested in Warner history, this source is essential and I refer to it liberally in this post and future posts recounting the history of one of the greatest patent medicine magnates.
In 1870, the United States was just beginning to rebuild from a devastating Civil War. A hero of that War, Ulysses S. Grant, occupied the White House. In that year, Warner arrived in Rochester. He was just 28 years old. He became a dealer for the predecessor of the Mosler Safe Company of Cincinnati. His first successful business would provide the enduring symbol for his second. Warner’s safe business grew exponentially, especially given sales of fireproof safes to those engaged in the oil exploration and drilling business that was just beginning in Pennsylvania. By the close of the decade, Warner was a millionaire, having sold some 60,000 safes for $10 million. By the time Warner exited the safe business in 1884 to devote his full attention of the patent medicine business, he employed some 200 salesman grossing $2 million a year. At the close of the turbulent 1870’s, Warner’s interest in the safe business had waned. Spurred by his own recovery from unspecified kidney disease, Warner realized the potential market for empowering the common man to serve as his own physician. He would employ all of the marketing devices at his power to harness this power and to amass his second fortune.
The above picture accompanies an article by Dr. Richard Cannon entitled “A Real Warner’s Safe” published by Antique Bottle & Glass Collector.