Warner’s Safe Cure: Early H. H. Warner and Reynolds Arcade (1874)

For most Warner’s collectors, the history of H. H. Warner begins about 1879 when Warner introduced his intial line of Safe Cures to the public. I covered some of Warner’s history in my series “The Rise and Fall of the Warner Empire.”  We know that prior to his life and death struggle with Brights Disease and his miraculous discovery of Dr. Craig’s Kidney Cure, Warner made a fortune selling fireproof safes in the post-Civil War era. Indeed, some of those safes have survived down the years as testimony to Warner’s first career. However, it seems that very little paper has survived from that enterprise. One exception is the above letter from Warner to a customer in 1874. The stationery is engraved “Office of H. H. Warner & Co., Fire & Burglar Proof Safes, Combination Locks, Vault Work [Etc], No 18 Arcade, Rochester,  N.Y.”

This terrific piece of paper is merely the confirmation of the order of a safe and nothing more, but it gives us a glimpse into the world of H. H. Warner before patent medicine. The other interesting tidbit we get from this otherwise seemingly innocuous piece of stationery is the address “No. 18 Arcade.” Thanks to the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, I was able to learn a bit more about Reynolds Arcade. Architectually speaking, I love arcades because they combine the feeling of an open space with the beauty of natural light.  The structure was the brainchild of Abelard Reynolds (1785-1878) and was completed in 1829 with additions in 1838, 1842 and 1862. Fortunately, both illustrations and photographs of the Arcade have survived.

Floor plan, Reynold's Arcade.interior, Reynold's Arcade.

Based on the above floor plan, the Arcade apparently stretched between East Main Street and Exchange Place. The location of No. 18 would have placed Warner’s safe business on the outer edge fronting on Exchange Place opposite the Post Office. This is interesting because, although we usually associate Warner’s Safe Cure business with his Safe Remedies Building on St. Paul Street, his initial location was on Exchange Place as depicted in one of his early almanacs.

My initial thought was that perhaps this early Safe Remedies office was simply converted from selling burglar and fireproof safes; however, the building depicted in the almanac seems too tall to have been part of the Arcade. At any rate, we now have a better sense of where Warner was doing his safe business in the early 1870’s. Sadly, the Arcade in its original form has not survived.

Reynolds Arcade before being replaced.new Reynold's Arcade.

The original Arcade and any vestiges of Offices of H. H. Warner & Co. Fire & Burglar Proof Safes at No. 18 were razed in May, 1932 and replaced by an Art Deco style building bearing the same name. Time marches on. Special thanks to Jack Stecher, who owns this nice piece of early-Warner stationery and to the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County for the wonderful information on Reynolds Arcade.


6 thoughts on “Warner’s Safe Cure: Early H. H. Warner and Reynolds Arcade (1874)

  1. Did you notice the fancy scroll in HH Warner’s signature (at the end of it)? Pretty fancy and it looks like it was something that that was done often as the scroll is pretty smooth. It may have been something common in the victorian era or something – in his other signatures that I have seen the scroll was dropped.

  2. I recently aquired a similar letter , but mine is dated 1880, is two pages long, and appears to be a collection letter. Not sure if it was penned by Warner; the handwriting is slightly different.

    Let me know if you would a scanned image? Here is the copy of the letter, which is quite interesting….

    31 Exchange Rochester  

    Mrs Mary J Reuder

    Greenville GA

    The enclosed bill has been referred to me for settlement with JM Parks letters of May 25th & June 8th. I have already sent copy of the contract you signed and in which I ordered Safe shipped to you. JM Parks letter says that you only signed your name to enable my agent to sell safes to others and intended nothing more, and yet he says that you wrote to Mosler Bahmann & Co within a month telling them not to ship. This shows that you were aware of the order and expected the Safe could be shipped. You contracted for the Safe as fair and square as you ever agreed to anything in your life– told what size you wanted it and ordered your name put on it and two extra shelves put in on purpose for you. You may or may not have read the contract before signing. Of course as I have a hundred or more agents in all parts of the country selling Safes I cannot be with them to hear all they say or if I were there I could not tell what misunderstanding a customer might
    get from the conversation. The contract is made not with an agent with me and that reads as plain  as the English language can make it and when I see it with a signature I know just what I agree to do and what the signer agrees to do. I am obliged to know the bargain and the whole bargain before I can ship a Safe and for that reason my contract is so made that no outside bargain can be claimed.

    Now Mrs R I desire no trouble in this matter. You did contract for the Safe at $75.00 cash. I made and sent you just as fine a Safe as could be designed– that fills the contract completely. I expect you to do as you agreed to and send the cash as per contract. If you thought you were signing something else I am sorry, but can’t help it– that is not my fault and I certainly could not be expected know what you thought. Several things however I know that you did think you had agreed to purchase a Safe. I filled the contract as it came to me and as you signed it. I look to your for settlement according to the terms plainly stated therein. Please send settlement at once.

    Yours truly

    HH Warner.

    • Thanks Stephanie. Another great letter. This one is also interesting because the date of 1880 suggests that Warner was still running his safe business while at the same time running his fledgling patent medicine business. Can you tell me more about how you came to get the letter? I would love a scanned copy to use on the blog. All the best,


      • Steve,

        Yes, I noticed that as well. Also, it appears that he moved the office to Exchange Street. I went to Google maps today, and located the original location of the arcade on E Main. What seems to be confusing is that there is an Exchange Blvd that intersects E Main, but it is difficult to determine whether Exchange Place/Street/Blvd is actually one in the same or whether or not 31 Exchange Street (on the letterhead) was also a part of the arcade. A period map would probably clear up the confusion.

        How did I come across this? I think you might hate me for this one… I check Ebay daily to see if there are any interesting Warner’s items. About a week ago this letter came up for a “buy it now” price of $18.95 with $1.50 for shipping. Needless to say I snatched it up in seconds flat! I had about $11.00 in Ebay bucks so this letter cost me just about $10.00.

        I would love to see this letter featured in your blog, and feel free to use it as you see fit. If this was actually authored by Warner then all I can say is WOW! Such a wonderful personal glimpse of the man himself!

        High resolution scans are located here

        Feel free to hotlink if you wish!

      • Thanks Stephanie. Great scan. I will do a followup post with the letter. The Exchange Place on your stationery is probably the building featured in the early pink almanac. It seems clear to me now that Warner did not give up his fireproof safe business when he started selling Safe Cure. Guess he figured that if the patent medicine business didn’t take, he had something to fall back on. You got a great deal on the letter. Let me know if you see another. I have lots of Warner paper, but not a letter from the safe business. Do you also collect the bottles? All the best,


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