ebay By John E. Golley, Email: nasa

Thisis the history of a family, a “patent medicine”company and ultimately, of a city. The Kilmer family started outin the small village of Cobleskill, New York and through severalgenerations, influenced the health and politics of the city ofBinghamton and made their mark upon the world... this is thestory.

S. Andral Kilmer, M.D.

Dr. Sylvester Andral Kilmer, MD was born inCobleskill, New York on December 19, 1840, one of eleven childrenof Daniel and Maria Shaver Kilmer. He attended the log school inCobleskill, the Schohareie Academy and then the Warnerville andRichmondville Seminaries. At the age of eighteen, he entered theoffice of Dr. Scott, a prominent Allopathic physician inSchoharie County. Wishing to get away from the “oneschool” idea, he then studied with Dr. Downing who hadbeen called the successful pioneer of Homeopathy in the Schoharieregion of New York State. Dr. S. Andral Kilmer started is ownpractice of medicine as county physician at Barnerville,Schoharie County. Following through with the idea of a broadacquaintance with medicine and surgery, he studied Eclectic andBotanic Practice with Dr. Patrick of Wisconsin. He attended thepreliminary and regular course of the Bellevue Hospital andMedical College in New York City, where he had instruction at theEye and Ear Infirmary on Blackwel's Island and other hospitals.He also received a special practical course at the PhiladelphiaLying-In-Charity Hospital, where he received instruction at theCentral Dispensary of Chicago. He received further instruction atthe Philadelphia School of OperativeSurgery under the special tutelage of the noted physician Dr. D.Hayes Agnew and he also had a diploma from the Bennett MedicalCollege of Chicago. After a successful tour of medical lecturesand practice in the West, he settled in Binghamton, New York.

In Binghamton, he was first employed invisiting Binghamton and the surrounding cities on advertiseddays, in which practice Dr. Kilmer was so famous ad successfulthat he was soon enabled to begin erection of his Laboratorybuildings for the preparation of his remedies, which becamenecessary to supply the ever increasing demand. In 1878 hisbrother, Jonas Kilmer, moved to Binghamton to run the businessend of the proprietary medicine business, and in 1892 Jonasbought out Dr. S. Andral Kilmer's share of the business. Theirfirst major laboratory and manufacturing plant was located at thecorners of Chenango and Virgil Streets in Binghamton. Dr. Kilmerprepared many different medicines, some of which were Dr.Kilmer's Ocean Weed Heart Remedy, Female Remedy, Indian Cough andConsumption Cure, Autumn Leaf extract, U& O Ointment andPrompt Parilla Pills, but the most well known remedy was Dr.Kilmer's Swamp Root Kidney Liver and Bladder Cure. Swamp Rootcontained Buchu leaves, Oil of Juniper, Oil of Birch, ColomboRoot, Swamp-Sassafras, Balsam Copaiba, Balsam Tolu, Skullcapleaves, Venice Turpentine, Valerian Root, Rhubarb Root, MandrakeRoot, Peppermint herb, Aloes, Cinnamon and sugar and containedapproximately 9 to 10 1/2% alcohol.

Dr.Kilmer's Cough Cure Consumption Oil, Catarrh Specific.

In the years prior to Dr. Kilmer's sale of hisinterest in the proprietary medicine business, during its growthand increasing professional services, Dr. Kilmer kept looking fora place which included the peculiar properties required and knownonly to him. He located such a place in Osborne Hollow, situatedapproximately ten miles east of Binghamton, where there was asulpho-phosphate spring. He induced the townspeople to rename thearea Sanitaria Springs and at a cost of $100,00 he built aSanitarium and Hydrotherapium in 1892. The outside grounds were awell arranged system of natural parks and the buildings containedevery modern convenience of their time including electric lights,steam heaters ad elevators. In addition to the sulpho-phosphatespring, therewere ten others including the Blue Lithia, Red Iron, BlackMagnetic and Ferro-Manganese. All types of baths were in usesummer and winter, including Sulphur, Turkish, Russian andElectric. Dr. Kilmer's son Ulysses was employed as AssociateSuperintendent and a daughter, Edith, was the Librarian. Anotherof Dr. S. Andral's brothers, Andrew G. Kilmer, gave up his lifework as a teacher (He had been Associate Principal of theSchoharie Academy, Vice-President of the Franklin Institute,Principal of the grade school in Cobleskill and Principle of theAcademy in Bainbridge, New York. He also organized the academy inSchenevus, with much success.) and entered the business office ofDr. Kilmer and Company and later, was the AssistantSuperintendent of the Sanitarium. Andrew Kilmer was my maternalgrandmother, Alice Cooper Kisselburgh's great-grandfather. Sheand her sister used to visit him and Uncle Sylvester at thesanitarium in the summer when they were young.

"Dr. Kilmer'sOcean Weed Heart Remedy" The BloodSpecific.

It was also around this time that Dr. S. AndralKilmer began formally treating patients for cancer, both at theSanitarium and also at his Cancertorium at 254 Conklin Avenue inBinghamton. He advertised his cancer cure nationally and wouldpay train fare to the Sanitarium upon commitment of a stay ofthree to six months of effect the cure. He advocated ahomeopathic approach to the treatment of this disease, whichinvolved a controlled diet, treatment with the different springsas well as a secret medicine which, after a time, would cause thecancer to be expelled from the body, they would literally falloff. My grandmother and her sister had both been witness to thesetreatments and witnessed the results first-hand, and swore thatthey had seen the eradication's occur. Dr. Kilmer was decidedlyagainst plasters, radium, x-rays and surgery on these cancers ashe felt that not only did they injure the patient, but theycaused the cancers to be harder to treat and might even causethem to spread. At this period of time in Binghamton, there was avery heated clash between the traditional medical doctors and thehomeopathic and allopathic teachings. This fact, as well as histies to the proprietary medicine business, keep him underconstant scrutiny by the “old school” doctorsof his time. His assertions of having a cure for cancer, whichthey felt was impossible given his methods, made if the brunt ofridicule by his colleagues. He offered to share his knowledge inthe non-surgical treatment of cancer with them, according toconversations his daughter Hattie Marquerite had with mygrandmother, but his help was refused and rebuffed, and he was soprofessionally ridiculed by his colleagues, that he took thesecrets of his “cure” to his grave. Thepatients who were treated by Dr. Kilmer held him in high esteem,and he was treating patients three days before his death of acerebral hemorrhage. He died in his home at 44 Beethoven Streetin Binghamton on January 14, 1924. Whether of not he held a curefor cancer is open to conjecture – my grandmother and hersister would both state a resolute yes, however, testimonials andthe like especially of that era, quite often are at bestquestionable; my only thought is... what if?

Dr. S. Andral Kilmer and Jonas M. Kilmer hadtwo other brothers who were also in business for themselves.Augustus Kilmer established the Kilmer Manufacturing Company inNewsburgh, New York which manufactured baling ties and wirefencing. Another brother, Thomas J. Kilmer, was a physician inSchoharie, New York and several old bottles embossed with hisname are known to exist.

KilmerBuilding, 141 Chenango Street, Binghamton.

Theformer home of Swamp Root.

Jonas M. Kilmer was also born in Cobleskill,New York on April 11, 1843. He was a graduate of the Bryant andStratton Business College in Albany, after which he worked for ayear in the general store of Joseph Taylor of Schoharie CourtHouse, and then worked the next eighteen years in the mercantilebusiness in New York City with several different firms, rising toimportant positions. His brother convinced him to move toBinghamton in 1881 where he ran the business end of the “patentmedicine” business as an equal partner. In 1892 hebought out Dr. S. Andral Kilmer's interest in the company, thoughsome would say he “swindled” his brother inthe deal; the purchase price is unknown. Jonas' son, WillisSharepe Kilmer became the Head of Advertising for the company,and business began to increase rapidly. The company wasincorporated in 1909 as Dr. Kilmer & Company and had branchoffices in NewYork, Chicago, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and Kingston, Jamaica, WestIndies. In 1899, Jonas Kilmer was elected Director of The PeoplesBank of Binghamton, in which capacity he served from October 2,1899 until February 9, 1907, at which time he was chosen as atrustee of Binghamton Savings Bank and also served as Presidentof the Binghamton Press from 1904 until his death. People's Bankmerged with Broome County Trust Company on April 20, 1914 andbecame People's Trust Company. From 1893 to 1908, Jonas Kilmeralso served as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners.Jonas Kilmer died in Binghamton in 1912, but not without firstgiving all the credit of the success of the family business tohis son, Willis Sharpe Kilmer.

Front view of theKilmer Mansion, Riverside Drive, Binghampton, as it looks today.

Willis Sharpe Kilmer was born in Brooklyn, NewYork on October 18, 1869. He graduated from Cornell University in1880 and went to work in the family business. Willis was put incharge of the advertising department of Dr. Kilmer and Company,which lead to swift increase in business. Advertising in the late1800's was not the “science” that it is todayand Willis Sharpe Kilmer was one of advertising's earliestpioneers. His first wife was Beatrice Richardson who's sociallyprominent father was one of the brightest executives in afledgling newspaper advertising agency in New York City. WillisKilmer had a more metropolitan upbringing than many of his peersand his relationship with Mr. Richardson and his familyconnection all helped benefit Willis and his new ideas. Dr.Kilmer and Company utilized all the forms of advertising of theday including painted wooden signs, posters and printedcirculars, but with the entrance of Willis' leadership, beganpurchasing ad space innewspapers expounding the virtues of their numerous cures andthey were amongst the fore-runners in printing Almanacs, whichnot only would list the normal items such as moon phases, bestplanting times and the like, but at every turn of the page,listed one or more of the products, printed testimonials for thesame and helped diagnose “ailments” of whichone of their products would “cure”.

Jones M.Kilmer.

The packaging of their products was also easilynoticed on the shelf. For ease of finding the correct cure, theirHeart Remedy had an embossed heart on it, Swamp Root Kidney Curehad a kidney embossed on it and so forth, and their packaging wasbright orange with the likeness of a whiskered Dr. S. AndralKilmer printed boldly on the front. The package also invitedcustomers to write to Dr. Kilmer for advise and prescription,which long after Dr. S. Andral Kilmer had sold his share of thebusiness, caused Kr. Kilmer to initiate a lawsuit against hisbrother and nephew in which he accused Dr. Kilmer and Company ofrepresenting him as the physician in charge of their medicaldepartment and also, that they pretended to give medical adviseand prescribe medicines for disease which they pretended todiagnose. When a lower court ruled against Dr. Kilmer andCompany, Willis pursued the suit in The Appellate Court, and in1917, the decision against the company was reversed. It wasWillis Sharpe Kilmer's advertising prowess as well as his “muscle”via political and professional contacts that made Swamp Root ahousehold word. When other patent medicines were losingpopularity due to The Pure Food and Drug Act as well an increasedrespect for medical science, Swamp Root was good for, WillisKilmer once replied, “About a million dollars a year!”.

Patent medicine wasn't the only thing WillisSharpe Kilmer was involved in. On April 11, 1904, Mr. Kilmerfounded The Binghamton Press which became a very will –respected newspaper in the country. It has been alleged, althoughnever proven, that he started the newspaper for he purpose of putting The BinghamtonEvening Herald out of business and he could also control theadvertising of various patent medicines and any articlescondemning the same. There were several people such as SamuelHopkins Adams, who were very much against patent medicines andwere lobbying very hard for the passage of the Pure Food and DrugAct. Mr. Kilmer was very successful in “squashing”their stories and did eventually put The Evening Herald, run byhis long-time personal and political enemy Guy Beardsley, out ofbusiness. Mr. Beardsley later sued Willis Sharpe Kilmer chargingconspiracy to put him out of business; Beardsley lost the suit.

Willis Sharpe Kilmer.

Willis Sharpe Kilmer was also a very fine judgeof horses. The family mansion is still located on Riverside Drivein Binghamton, and on the surrounding grounds, Mr. Kilmer builtSun Briar Court, which had 1/5 mile indoor track, an outdoortrack connected to a half-mile circular track, 100 fire-proofstalls and the main stable included offices, quarters and aclubhouse. The Kilmer racing colors were brown, green and orangeand he owned many fine horses; Genie-the son of Man O-War, SunBriar, Sun Beau and Exterminator, which won the 1918 KentuckyDerby and was the leading money winner for four straight seasons.Sun Beau held the American record for money won until Sea Biscuitbroke the record in 1939. Mr. Kilmer owned a large estate on theRappahannock River in Virginia known as Remlik (Kilmer spelledbackwards) as well as a game preserve near Binghamton called SkyLake and he was a pioneer in forest and game preservation in NewYork as well as Virginia. He established the Kilmer PathologicalLaboratory in Binghamton and started Binghamton's first nine holegolf course, which later became the Binghamton Country Club. Willis Sharpe Kilmer died ofpneumonia on July 12, 1940 leaving an estate estimated at ten to15 million dollars, and is interred in the family mausoleum inFloral Park Cemetery in Binghamton, New York.

Dr.Kilmer's biggest selling medicine. The Famous 'D. Kilmer's SwampRoot Kidney Liver & Bladder Cure, The Great Specific'.

After World War II, he secondwife, Sarah Jane Wells, sold the rights to make and manufactureSwamp Root to MedTeck Laboratories of Cody, Wyoming. The eightstory Kilmer Building built in 1902 after the original buildingwas damaged by fire, still stands at 141 Chenango Street andSwamp Root was still on the shelves of the E.C McKallor DrugCompany in Binghamton in 1983 – it can still be orderedtoday, more than almost 120 years after it was first produced, atestament to the advertising skill of Willis Sharpe Kilmer andthe strength of the Kilmer name and reputation...


-Binghamton and Broome County, NewYork, Volumes I, II and III, The Lewis Historical PublishingCompany, 1924

-Broom County Historical SocietyNewsletter, Spring 1982

-The Binghamton Press, June 30,1983

-The Sunday Press, July 24, 1983

-The Binghamton Press, July 12,1940

-The Binghamton Press, January 14,1924

-The History of The Kilmer FamilyIn America, Rev. C.H. Kilmer, 1897

-Lost Landmarks of Broome County,New York, Marjory Barnum Hinman, 1983

-One For A Man, Two For A Horse,Gerald Carson, 1961

-Willis Sharpe Kilmer's Use ofAdvertising in the Promotion of Swamp Root, Annette Bakic, 1981

-Dr. Kilmer's Swamp Root Almanac,1930

-Dr. Kilmer's Swamp Root Almanac,1941

-Dr. Kilmer's Red Book of Hope

-Valley of Opportunity

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