If you could point to only one quality of H. H. Warner that accounts for his phenomenal success in the fireproof safe business and then, most notably, in the patent medicine business, it would have to be his ability to market his products. He was, perhaps, decades ahead of his competitors in understanding the power of branding and establishing a product as a household favorite. Although he achieved this success through a variety of means, one of those means was simply visibility of his products in the newspapers. Between 1879 and 1893, when Warner was forced out of the business, he undoubtedly spent millions of dollars in print ads.
His advertising was not limited to major newspapers such as the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune. Indeed, Warner placed ads in newspapers large and small, including The Great Bend Weekly Tribune (Great Bend, Kansas) or The Commonwealth (Scotland Neck, NC). His advertising was designed to reach ordinary people throughout the United States. In order to do this, Warner relied upon his own in-house advertising department to distribute canned advertising to the various newspapers. Interestingly, this canned advertising was similar ad to ad, but might also contain modest changes. A particularly good example are ads used for his Tippecanoe. Tippecanoe was introduced by Warner between 1883 and 1885 to replace his original line of Safe Tonic, Safe Bitters and Safe Tonic Bitters. It appeared in the figural log-shaped bottle with the mushroom top rather than the familiar embossed Safe Cure bottle.
A new product meant new advertising and Warner went right to work. At first glance, many of the Tippecanoe print ads appear to be identical. Upon closer inspection, there are subtle differences about the maladies that Tippecanoe was designed to address.
The above ad was featured in the July 8, 1885 edition of The Daily Republican from Monongahela, Pennsylvania. It states “Warner’s Tippecanoe Bitters” and “The Best Tonic Bitters” “For All Stomach Disorders.” The ad also captures the namesake of Tippecanoe, Major General William Henry Harrison, the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe.
Just a month earlier, Warner had published a similar ad in The Dighton Herald in Dighton, Kansas. While the layout of the ad was virtually identical, there were clear differences. In that ad, Tippecanoe was no longer the Best Tonic Bitters, but rather “The Best Blood Purifier” for Tired Feelings and even for Malaria. In all other material respects, the ad is the same.
This same Tippecanoe ad continued to appear in newspapers in 1885 and 1886. In addition to its claims to remedy all Stomach Disorders, Tired Feelings and Malaria, the advertising department of the Warner’s Safe Remedies Company included other vague and implausible claims, including those to remedy “All Gone Sensations,” “Bilious Headache,””Female Debility,””Skin Eruptions,””Spring and Summer Weakness” and “Mal-Assimilation of Food” among other things. Below are a few of those ads with their spurious claims.
The above ad was featured in the May 15, 1885 edition of The Great Bend Weekly Tribune. A week earlier, the ad below was featured offering to deal with Bilious Headache and Female Debility.