Several months ago, I was contacted by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce. The lady who contacted me was in the process of assembling a history of the Rochester Chamber and knew that H. H. Warner was its first president, but did not have much more information on him. A Google search had led her to my Warner’s Safe Cure Blog. She had very little information on Warner, so I helped fill in some gaps. I also asked her if she had a copy of Warner’s Inaugeral Address to the Chamber. She did not have that either. Fortunately for both of us, Warner had preserved his words for posterity. Never one to miss a marketing opportunity.
In fairness, Warner did not publish his remarks in their entirety, but merely “Extracts” from his address. Apparently, the office of President was not uncontested and Warner was pitted against another Rochester favorite son, George Eastman, the inventor of the Kodak and progenitor of popular photography. By 1893, the members of the Chamber would have ample reasons to wish they had elected Mr. Eastman. But, it was 1888 and Warner was at the pinnacle of his success. The members of the Chamber had every reason to believe that Warner’s Safe Remedies and H. H. Warner would be around for many years to come.
Warner speaks in glowing terms of the assets of Rochester and surrounding cities and proposes improved railroad service from Western New York into New York City. He then shifts gears and applauds the solid moral foundation of the city which is enhanced through the work of organizations like the YMCA. Ironically, he encourages the successful businessmen in the Rochester community to reinvest 1-2% of their capital in helping other manufacturers to locate there. It it pretty clear that Warner was not heeding his own advice. Rather than reinvesting in his business or in helping other relocate to Rochester, he was engaging is speculative investments in mining and other interests. It was that very speculation that would bring his empire down.
Warner concluded his remarks by encouraging the Chamber to take up the cause of monuments to the Union dead of the Civil War. He contrasts what he sees as the efforts of the South to memorialize its dead with what he sees as inadequate efforts on the part of the North. This is particularly interesting given the fact that there is no record that Warner served in the Union army despite the fact that he was 19 at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Whether Warner’s remarks led to any effort to increase the number of memorials to the Union dead is unknown. It did, however, provide an uplifting message in an otherwise unremarkable speech.
While Warner seemed like an obvious choice for the first President of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce in 1887, it was a choice the members of the Chamber undoubtedly regretted a mere six years later. Fortunately for Rochester, the Chamber of Commerce flourished and continued to grow, notwithstanding the infamy of its first President.
On occasion, you will find a Warner’s Safe Cure with its label in tact along with some of its contents. In some instances, the top of that bottle may include a proprietary tax stamp similar to the one below.
I wrote about these little gems back in 2008. They were originally used to generate revenue to offset the costs of the Civil War, but later evolved into a means that patent medicine manufacturers, like Warner, used to assure the public of the genuineness of their product. Note the warning on the stamp below: “NOT GENUINE IF STAMP IS BROKEN”.
During the lifetime of the Warner’s Safe Remedies Company, it is impossible to say how many samples were distributed to the public, but over the years, it would likely to be millions of bottles. Below are three examples of labelled Safe Cure samples. Examples of labelled Safe Cure samples are fairly rare and examples of the labelled Diabetes Remedy and Nervine are almost unheard of.
These wonderful examples were part of the collection of Dan Cowman and the photograph is courtesy of Terry McMurray. Most of the Warner’s samples from Rochester that turn up today are the “Safe Cure” sample. Much rarer is the “Safe Remedy” sample for whatever reason. Prior to see this photograph from Terry, I had never seen a sample in clear glass. All of the above bottles would be considered rare by Warner’s collectors.
Blogging about H. H. Warner means blogging not only about his extensive line of cures and remedies, but also about his amazing advertising pieces that he used to make his products a household name in the late 19th Century. Unlike today, people of that era did not have access to reference material that we take for granted. Even something as simple as a dictionary was probably not something that most people had access to. Indeed, unless you lived in a large city, access to public libraries was a luxury denied to the masses.
Warner understood this unfulfilled need and tapped into it by providing advertising pieces that highlighted his product line while also providing information that people could use in their daily lives. The best examples of this nexus between advertising and resource material included his almanacs loaded with household hints and tips. He issued one or more almanacs each year that were distributed to the public by local druggists. Another excellent example was his Safe Dictionary. I featured the Safe Dictionary is a post I did back in October, 2008. At the time, I was limited to providing a picture of the cover.
Recently, however, I stumbled upon a digital version of the Safe Dictionary put online by the National Library of Medicine. The great thing about this version is that it allows you to read through the entire Safe Dictionary by clicking on the pages. Pretty cool. Now, you don’t have to settle just for the cover but ALL 5000+ words!
Over the years, I have written a number of posts celebrating the importance and value of labels on Warner’s Safe Cures. It has always been my feeling that a good label adds both value and interest to a Safe Cure. Many of my posts have featured bottles in the collection of Dan Cowman. Dan passed away in 2015 but not before he amassed one of the greatest known collections of labelled Warner’s.
Over the past year, Dan’s collection has been auctioned off to eager collectors with many of his bottles fetching record prices. The auctions have been handled by Terry McMurray, who is no stranger to labelled Warner’s and whose collection of patent medicines also includes many unique labelled Warner’s and advertising pieces. Terry has been kind enough to photograph a portion of Dan’s collection at my request. Here are a few of those photographs showing Dan’s amazing collection.
The above photograph features an array of foreign labels including Safe Cures from Frankfurt, Pressburg, London, Melbourne and Toronto (3-Cities). It is unlikely that this unique set of foreign labels will be reunited at any time in the future.
The Safe Tonic Bitters was part of Warner’s early line of products that predated the introduction of Tippecanoe in 1883. Although the Tonic Bitters appeared in both a pint and half pint size, the Tonic Bitters label was sometimes adhered to a Safe Tonic bottle. In this case, a labelled Tonic Bitters with its original box is a true rarity.
The Asthma Cure tin is a rarity in and of itself because the product required that the user burn the contents, thereby destroying the container. Take a closer look at this tin. Not only is it a full labelled tin but it’s from Melbourne! I’m not sure that I have seen another one of these.
This is a nice example of a 3-City Safe Cure with a full label and box. Although the 3-Cities bottle is fairly common, it’s rarity and value are dramatically enhanced when you throw in the label and caddy.
The Warner’s Safe Remedies Company line included both a Nervine and a Sedative. The bottles appeared in amber, clear and aqua blue and the product was identified by the label. The Sedative is a much harder example to find. Notice that both the Nervine and the Sedative promise “Soothing, Calming, Quieting,” which makes it sound as though they were perhaps intended for young children.
The Log Cabin Remedies line is not know for unusual bottles, although some of it’s varieties are truly rare. Nevertheless, the packaging and the advertising are terrific.
Another piece of spectacular Warner advertising. This is a poster for Tippecanoe, which highlights the curative properties known to native Americans.