ANOTHER "GREAT FEATURE ARTICLE" FROM THE PAGES OF
ANTIQUE BOTTLE AND GLASS COLLECTOR MAGAZINE
THE MAGAZINE OF THE ANTIQUE BOTTLE COLLECTING HOBBY
medicinebottle WHOWAS HENRY HELMBOLD? antique bottle
This article originallyappeared in the November 1912 Druggist Circular. It has beenpresented as found (with slight editing) togive the flavor of the times. The article is comprised of threebiographical sketches by people who knew or worked for Mr.Helmbold.
BIRDS EYE VIEW OF HISCAREER
By An Old Friend
The advertising of the buchu compound wascommenced in a small way in 1850, at Philadelphia, and increasedin volume until the amount expended reached the yearly sum ofabout $500,000 in 1869, 1870 and 1871. Europe and Asia were notexcluded from the mark. of paint and ink, as you will note bythese clippings from newspapers. In addition, the bare spacesavailable on the sides of the Rocky Mountains, which seemed tothe Western traveler as almost inaccessible and insurmountablefor the sign painter, displayed the irrepressible advertisementof "Helmbold's buchu." Even the ancient andrevered pyramids of Egypt were not exempt from the activity ofthe advertising artist in the Doctor's employ.
July 4th, 1872, Dr. Helmbold extended a generalinvitation to all Americans in Paris, France, to be his guests,which invitation was generously responded to by many Americans;the shah of Persia on that date also called and paid hisrespects. It was reported that the bill for this Fourth of Julyentertainment amounted to about $19,000, for wine, flowers andother incidentals.
HIS OUTSIDE INTEREST
The Doctor bought a summer residence at LongBranch, N. J. in 1868, arid built. a row of business houses on0ean avenue and Broadway, that place. The latter are, known atpresent and designated as Helmbold's Block. He was also one ofthe original backers of the Monmouth Park race track in 1869.Gen. U. S. Grant was an occupant of the Doctor's four-in-hand afew times at this seaside resort. The Doctor's racehorse "Helmbold"won the Grand Union Hotel stakes at Saratoga in 187O. It was atLong Branch that Dr. Helmbold died in 1892. The Doctor was alwaysperfectly rational, sensible and thoroughly conversant withaffairs around him when entirely free from his occasionalindulgence. In the heyday of his business progress he was alwaysconsiderate arid solicitous of the welfare of his employees, whoI have heard not only admired but loved him, and he was generousto a fault. He left no debts or any obligations for advertising.All his creditors were paid in full. The last five years of theDoctor's life were passed quietly at his old home at Long Branch,where he was visited occasionally by representatives of the pressfrom all parts of the United States, and by such socialacquaintances as Governor Biggs of Delaware, Senator JohnMitchell of Oregon, and others. The Doctor's youngest son, RobertPell Helmbold, married Miss Hattie Mitchell, the Oregon senator'sdaughter, this daughter being also a sister of the Duchess de laRochefoueauld of France. I may say in conclusion that at oneperiod of Dr. Helmbold's business career he operated threeprosperous drug stores in Now York and Philadelphia, andincluding the employees of the retail stores and the laboratory,the advertising agents and commercial travelers, there were onhis pay-roll 185 names. Probably no similar enterprise at thattime was so large, and his advertising expenditures were probablythe most extensive for a proprietary medicine.
Dr. Helmbold was a very short man-his heightaccording to the American passport measurement being 5 feet and 1inch-and weighed about 128 pounds. He always wore a mustache andfull beard, which was black.
Dr. Helmbold's stable, a building which heowned, was at 142 West Seventeenth street, New York, where therewere always from eighteen to twenty carriage and saddlehorses;-all Kentucky bred and purchased for him by WilliamBabcock, who afterwards became a timer in the judges' stand atMonmouth Park race course. Mr. Babcock was the trainer of theracehorse "Helmbold." His private residencewas at 156 West Fourteenth Street, New York, then considered avery select residential neighborhood. Here lie resided from 1863to 1870. The restaurant of the famous caterer, Delmonico, waslocated at Fourteenth street and Fifth avenue, at that time, andon frequent occasions this establishment served the Doctor withall the paraphernalia for his various entertainment's to themembers of the press, and drug trade. I might add that I haveheard him say that regardless of the social conviviality of thesereceptions, lie always considered that they were productive ofvaluable results as advertising.
Among the press clippings referred to by thewriter of the foregoing are several in which Mrs. Helmbold isreferred to as a woman of unsurpassing, sweetness and grace. andthe most brilliant and beautiful woman at the many fashionableresorts which ,she visited. Mrs. Helmbold died in 1907.
IN AN INSANE ASYLUM
A press clipping dated January 30th, 1885,tells of efforts made by Mrs. Helmbold before a Philadelphiacourt to secure the release of her husband from an insane asylum.It is stated in this clipping that the sales of Helmbold's buchuhad amounted to something like a million dollars a Year.Reference is also made to his four-in-hand -and his; quintet ofKentucky thoroughbreds, "' and it is stated that"his elegant equipages outshone any other, at Saratoga andLong, Branch." We also learn from the same source thatin 1871 "Dr." Helmbold, accompanied by hiswife and children, three bright boys of five, six and seven yearsrespectively-, started on a trip to Europe and the Orient; thatas soon as he was out of the country plans were made by those whowere envious of his success to get possession of his business,that he was thrown into bankruptcy, although it was said thathis; estate was solvent: and that upon his return to thiscountry, he was placed in asylum for the insane. His brotherAlfred came into possession of the drug store at 830 ChestnutStreet, Philadelphia, With its income, said to have been $20,000a Year. Much legal work was done, commissioners appointed allthat. In 1881, according to the same account, Mr. Helmbold wasincarcerated in the Norristown Hospital. Mrs. Helmbold assuredthe court that her husband was perfectly sane and anxious toreturn to his family. "He promised never to drink again, andhis long abstinence from intoxicating liquors, she thought,precluded any possibility of his return to the old habit.
In a dispatch to the New York Sun, from Long,Branch, dated August 19th (no Year given) the reporter quoted Dr.Helmbold as saying: "Am I crazy? Well, I guess not. I'mnot in a lunatic asylum that's certain. I was never in betterhealth." The reporter went on to say: "Mr.Helmbold is in appearance the same nervous, energetic little manthat he was when in the midst of his wonderful business successand fast way of living. He talked rationally about a plan for thefuture, saying that he intended to stay here until the middle ofSeptember, and that about the lst of November he expected to opena drug store in New York, friends having proffered sufficientcapital. His wife, who has lost none of the beauty that was oncea social attraction at the Helmbold cottage, has been here nearlyall the season with her children. This evening Mollenhauer'sOcean Hotel band serenaded Dr. Helmbold, and he made a briefresponsive speech. John W. Ferrier, who at the present timeconducted a pharmacy and cold-cream works at 1499 Broadway, NewYork, formerly managed the J. Niven Hegeman store at thenortheast corner of Broadway and Thirtieth Street. He thinks thatthe store was not the Helmbold store. He says: "Mr. Hegemanbought it from a Dr. Nixon, a female homeopathic physician ofgreat reputation, whose manager and factotum, George Dart, asplendid fellow, is now the druggist Of Tuxedo, N.Y. If hebrought the Twenty-ninth Street (or Gilsey store) to Thirtiethstreet, I know not. The Gilsey store was owned by Helmbold, thenby Slade, a former clerk of Helmbold's, and then by Wenck, the,present performer, who may be able to, corroborate or correct mystatement. It then may have gone to Thirtieth Street, but Hegemanhad no dealings with Helmbold." Mr. Ferrier has a vividrecollection of Mr. Helmbold, having,, been a clerk in his mostfamous store, and what follows may be called.
AN INTIMATE VIEW OF HIMAS DRUG STORE PROPRIETOR
By John W. Ferrier
My connection with Helmbold dates back to 1871or '72 about the time of his financial decline. In fact, I wasseveral days with the sheriff who closed up the beautiful storeat 594 Broadway, near Prince Street. This store was between theMetropolitan Hotel and Niblo's Theater, the rear wall of thelatter forming the north wall of the store; when shooting went onduring any melodrama the soda men could hear it through this walland get ready for a "soda rush" in so manyminutes afterward.
A DESCRIPTION OF THESTORE.
The store extended from Broadway to CrosbyStreet, and being perhaps the finest fitted tip place in the cityat the time, drew visitors from every part of the country. Anyclerk who was not busy would pilot the "Rubes"around and while showing the curiosities would extol the meritsof our preparations and the greatness of Dr. Helmbold. There weretwo soda fountains, one of the sarcophagus style to the left asone entered, but not used, and the second in the center of thestore about 50 feet back. There was method in this arrangement,for not only did customers have to pass through rows of showcases (there were, no "silent salesmen" then),but they got a curiosity- developing vista of the fairyland inthe rear. Next came a parlor about 25 feet square, carpeted withan Axminster woven in one piece to fit the place, plentifullycovered with silk-upholstered comfortable rockers and otherchairs, some of which were so expensive that they were protectedby a broad silk ribbon to prevent people, from sitting on them.On a table in the center of this parlor were magazines and papersfor waiting clients; and wall cases tempted them by their richand large assortment of perfumes and toilet articles. Asubstantial ornamental railing separated the parlor both from thefront store and the rear part; a colored attendant with threecolored aides, clothed in immaculate white, coats with brassbuttons, ruled this domain. NO king ever had moreceremony-demanding guards. It was only after much questioning andcard giving that the visitor could reach, "theDoctor". Then came another stretch of store, with rowsof huge columns and two perfume fountains which owing to theirsize and the expense of running them, were usually at rest.
Next came the advertisingdepartment with its velveteen-coated workers (notice everyonewore a species of uniform), then on one side a doctor's officefor medical consultation and on the other the "sanctumsanctorum" as the sign above the glass door to it read.This private office was small, fitted in a rich yet plain manner,the principal object, to my mind, having been a bust carved fromsome rare wood, representing the great "Doctor"himself--the then great H. T.
Adappeared in Saturday Evening Post August 22, 1857.
To give a small idea of the lavish expense infitting up "Helmbold's Palace": Brassmonograms were set into the marble floor at some places; everygas globe had a huge -H. T. H." on it and cost about $5;there must have been over a dozen mirrors reaching from floor toceiling; the price of the wood-carving alone would have bought asmall sized store; canary birds in cages hung along the fixtures;there was one of those distorting mirrors which reflected theimage of the onlooker fat or thin as it was turned probably theonly one of its kind in the city at the time. A splendid ladies'room with colored attendant was another luxury.
MAKING SODA WATER DOWNSTAIRS.
There was a cellar and subcellar. In the latterwere several huge vats ready for making the famous buchu compoundhad the Philadelphia laboratory been burned. These vats werenever used. The soda water was made in the old way, with marbledust and, acid, and the heavy plaster-like residue was allowed torun into the lower cellar from the upper one. Just imagine what ajob there was when the new tenant came in!.
THE MAN HIMSELF
The "Doctor" himself was avery small man with intensely black hair and beard; he was verypunctilious and courteous in his manners, and nearly wept onemorning as he told his secretary that the men were losing allrespect for him. This was because I had not seen him coming inand so had failed to bid him good morning.
Mr. Helmbold had a gorgeous open barouche drawnby three horses, tandem, and driven by "big Dave"-almostas well known as the "Doctor" himself-with oneor two footmen, all in livery and each wearing a huge bunch ofviolets. The horses' heads also had a bunch of these flowers oneach side. No emperor could have created more excitement as hedrove up. Crowds would gather and the little great man walkedbetween a double line of spectators. The huge glass doors of thestore opened as if by magic (they were never locked until hisfailure) and he made his royal progress, through the long store,first through the lines of clerks drawn up between counters toreceive him, past the Soda men, past the colored men-the chief ofwhom opened the little gate to let him into the parlor and outagain on the opposite side, past the bookkeepers, and at last tothe prime ministers," the Kearney brothers and the medicos,Dr. D. Every One said "Good morning, Sir."
The retreat in the afternoon was not soceremonious for he would stop to chat with this one and theother. Frequently he took a glass of soda and almost alwayscalled the attendant "Clarence," no matterwhat his name might be: Clarence was the name of a former sodaman to whom he had taken a liking. Occasionally his two sonswould accompany him, and like most small boys, they got into allkinds of mischief, so that we were always glad when they leftwithout having broken something. The "Doctor"walked with a brisk, energetic stop and spoke with a penetrating,not to say metallic, voice when giving orders. He impressed everyone with an idea of business action.
LABELS AND 'NEWSPAPERADVERTISING.
The labels on the, principal HelmboldPreparations were steel-engraved works of art by one of the mostfamous companies and showed a pleasant fiction, viz., a full -rigged ship which was supposed to be On top of the building As amatter of fact, there were masts spars and rigging on the roof,but no sails. He never put less than a column advertisement in apaper, latterly. He had a man look over the Sample papersreceived from their publishers. Huge bins were filled with these,for reference, and when they were discarded they were sent out bythe wagonload. His buchu preparation in particular was so popularthat on one of the variety stages a sketch team, Delahanty andHengler, if I remember right, portrayed Hottentots gathering theleaves for Helmbold.
The killing of "Jim" Fishand the orange riots were events that took place while I wasemployed at Helmbold's. On the morning of July 12th I was theonly person who got through the Police lines at Tenth Street andBroadway. But "Sic transit gloria mundi"; mylast glimpse of the famous 594 showed it a closed darkened store,in which a group of shirt-sleeved, card-playing, rough-voicedmarshals were sitting at the carved table on the silk chairs,while the canary birds were silent in death. A former manager ofMr. Helmbold, who requests me not to mention his name, suppliesfacts, which are presented in connected form below. We may callthis part of our story-
HELMBOLD AS PROPRIETARYMEDICINE MAN
By an Ex-Manager
Henry T. Helmbold told me that all the capitalhe had when he started in business was 50 cents. According to hisstory, he rented a basement for the manufacture of his so-called "highlyconcentrated compound fluid extract of buchu," and putadvertisements in thee daily Papers, the bills for which were tobe payable quarterly. Before the first payment was due he hadenough money to meet his obligations. From that time on hecontinued to advertise on the same basis. Mr. Helmbold was not adoctor, although often addressed and spoken of as one. He was noteven a graduate in pharmacy. The formula for preparing hiscompound given to me by Mr. Helmbold himself at 54 Broadway, NewYork, in 1878, was as follows:
The quantities are for 25 gross. The bottles held about 3 * fluid ounces.
Medley (short buchu, 2 parts, uva)ursi, 1 part 63 lbs. 12,oz.
Cubebs .. 21 lbs.
Licorice root-cut .. 7 lbs.
Alcohol 18 gal., 9 fl.oz Caramel 10 pts
Molasses 5 pts
Oil of 8 fl. drams
Water. 112 * gal
The product was prepared by pouring boilingwater on the medley and licorice root. The liquid that ranthrough was colored with the caramel, sweetened with molasses andflavored with oil of peppermint to give it the peculiar mintflavor, characteristic of genuine buchu (U. S. P.) and 1/6 of thevolume of tincture [?] of cubebs was added, and then sufficientwater to bring it to the required amount. It was labeled "highlyconcentrated compound" fluid extract buchu.
Directions:"Take oneteaspoonful three times a day before meals. Children 8 to 12years of age half a teaspoonful; under 8 years from 10 to 30drops. None genuine unless signed Henry T. Helmbold."
The label was engraved by the National BankNote Company of New York, and on it was a picture of "HenryT. Helmbold's Chemical Warehouse"; also "Helmbold'sGenuine Preparations." The circular, printed on oneside in English and on the other in German, recommended thepreparation for the usual list of symptoms and ailments for whichmost nostrums are recommended by their proprietors, ending with adireful reference to insanity and consumption. The wording of thecircular was no less a work of art than 'was the engraving on thelabel. The reader was referred to the United States Dispensatoryfor description of the medical properties of buchu; also to themedical works of Dewees, Dr. Physic, Dr. Ephraim McDowell, Berg,Travers and most of the old standard works on medicine. Thenfollowed an affidavit in which Helmbold swore that hispreparation contained no narcotic, no mercury, or other injuriousdrugs, but was, purely vegetable At that time his medical depotwas at 104 South Tenth companies-street, below Chestnut street,Philadelphia. It was here that he rented the basement, if I amnot mistaken. Helmbold published "The Patient'sGuide," a treatise on diseases, a work of one hundredpages, which was sold for 10 cents.
The price of this wonderful (?) medicine atwholesale was $90 per gross, but I have been informed that itsproprietor at one time was able to force it up to $112, and thatthe retailer at that time obtained $1.50 Per bottle for itinstead of $1.
All of which I have gathered, set down andoffer for publication in order that those of us who hear of thewonderful Helmbold from time to time may know who he was, andthat there may be preserved for future generations a chronicle ofone of the most erratic and successful geniuses that ever didbusiness under a druggist's sign.....
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