If you have ever done a search on the internet for Warner’s Safe Cure, whether on eBay or some other site, inevitably, you will get hits for another patent medicine proprietor of the late-19th and 20th Centuries by the name of William R. Warner of Philadelphia. While I had always discarded references to this “other Warner”,” the guy rates a second look. One things for sure, H. H. Warner and any vestiges of his company were gone by the early 1940’s. In contrast, William R. Warner’s pharmeceutical business is still with us, albeit in a somewhat larger form. Perhaps you’ve heard of it……..does the name Warner-Lambert or Pfizer ring a bell?
That’s right. The folks that bring you Listerine and Schick razors. Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert in 2000. However, back in 1856, William R. Warner opened his drug store in Philadelphia. Not content with being a simple pharmacist, William R. invented a tablet coating process that allowed harsh tasting medicines to be encased in a sugar shell. William R. gave up his retail pharmacy business in 1886 and turned to drug manufacturing under the name William R. Warner & Co. Consequently, it can be fairly said that William R. and Hulbert H. were contemporaries. Whether they knew each other or considered themselves competitors is a fact lost to history.
Although William R. clearly wins the award for longevity, Hulbert H. regins supreme when it comes to packaging. Most of the WIlliam R. Warner bottles I have seen over the years bear only the printed name of the company or the name and a monogram. Indeed, they look more like what you would expect as a pharmacy bottle. I will defer to others about the collectability of William R. Warner bottles and, for that matter, about the history of that company. I am sure they are collectors in Philadelphia that can shed more more light on the contributions of William R. What I can say, however, is that I have a new found admiration for this pioneer in American medicine.