On the heels of my last post on the Mebourne and Dundein foreign offices, it seems appropriate to take a bit of time to focus on the entity known as H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. In a week that has seen the passing of one of our great sportscasters, Jim McKay, it seems appropriate to think in terms of one of the catch phrases that McKay made immortal on ABC’s Wide World of Sports: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Without trying to stretch the cultural reference too far, Warner’s Safe Cure business experienced both of those extremes and H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. lay somewhere in the middle.
In my earlier post on Going Public and the Panic of 1893, I talked a bit about how H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. came into being as the result of Warner’s sale of his Safe Cure business in 1889. It is amusing that you frequently see the purchasers referred to as an “English Syndicate,” which sounds like something out of a sleazy novel. That 1889 sale was, perhaps, the high-water mark of the Safe Cure empire. It may have been the last time that Warner had total control over the business. Although he ultimately reacquired the business from the syndicate (with the exception of the Melbourne office) and subsequently offered stock to the public, it can be persuasively argued that he was controlled by events and by bad business decisions. Indeed, by 1889, the thrill of victory was waning and the agony was close on its heels.
As mentioned before, the H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. embossing appears on bottles from Melbourne and, according to Wayne Harris, marks the point at which Safe Cure bottles began to be manufactured in Australia and bear the embossing “AGM” on their base for Australian Glass Mfgs. Later variants of the H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. bottles appear without the AGM. These bottles were far more efficient, because they allowed the company to fill them with whichever variety of remedy and simply slap a different label on the bottle.
Both of the bottles pictured above are embossed H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd; however, one has a Safe Cure label and the other a Nervine label.