Ads From The 1800s

The Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising has over 60 Buffalo Lithia Water advertisements listed on their site!  One of my favorites is shown below:
Apparently there must have been a large segment of the population that was worried about uric acid poisoning, because that appears to be the headline of this advertisement more than Buffalo Lithia Water.  Testimonials and appeals to various authorities appear throughout ads of this era.  Buffalo Lithia Water was recommended by Dr. Lapponi, "Physician to the Late Pope Leo XIII., and now Physician in Ordinary to Pope Pius X.," Dr. I.N. Love, Dr. Alexander B. Mott, The Late Professor W.B. Towles, M.D., Hunter McGuire, M.D., LL.D., Graeme M. Hammond, M.D., J. Allison Hodges, M.D., and dozens more!  I think you get the point.  Nearly every Buffalo Lithia Water advertisement appeals to authority as their main method of advertising and persuasion.  But how reliable were these "recommendations"? 

Piggybacking on the last blog about Buffalo Lithia Water, I found more information (similar to that of the last post) in "Personal Hygiene Applied" by Jesse Ferring Williams (1922).  Concerning Buffalo Lithia Water and similar mineral waters in regard to actual health effects, he states:

"Some years ago Alexander Haig evolved the theory that most diseases are due to uric acid. The data on which he founded his theory were not corroborated by scientific men, and investigation showed that his methods were unreliable. In spite of the fact that Haig's theories are utterly discredited and have been for years, the uric acid fallacy still persists, although it is now largely confined to the public. Shrewd business men, especially those who are more intent on making money than they are concerned with the manner in which that money is made, owe much to Haig's theory. As a business proposition, uric acid has been one of the best-paying fallacies on the market - and possibly still is.

The government has shown that, to obtain a therapeutic dose of lithium from Buffalo Lithia Springs Water, it would be necessary to drink 200,000 gallons of the water. The government also declared that Potomac River water contained five times as much lithium as does Buffalo Lithia Springs Water. Contemporary with, and to a certain extent a corollary of, the uric acid fallacy was another, viz., that lithium would eliminate uric acid. This at once gave a good working principle for the proprietary men. Uric acid, we were told, causes disease; lithium, we were also told, would eliminate uric acid; therefore, lithium is the new elixir of life! Could anything be simpler?

Accepting this theory, it was inevitable that mineral waters containing lithium salts should become highly popular. Many exploiters of mineral waters began to place most emphasis on the lithium salts in their waters even in those cases in which lithium was present in such infinitesimal amounts as to render its detection impossible by any but spectroscopic methods.

One of the best known because most widely advertised, of the so-called lithia waters is Buffalo Lithia Water - or what used to be called Buffalo Lithia Water. After the Federal Food and Drugs Act came into effect, by which falsification on the label was penalized, the name of Buffalo Lithia Water was changed to Buffalo Lithia Springs Water When Buffalo Lithia Water was subjected to examination by the government chemists it was found to contain so little lithium that the amount present was unweighable - it could be demonstrated only by the spectroscope. It was evidently, therefore, not a lithia water in that it did not contain - at least in quantities that could be consumed - an amount of lithium that would give the therapeutic effects of lithium. Possibly the company imagined that by changing the name from 'Buffalo Lithia Water' to 'Buffalo Lithia Springs Water' it had cleverly evaded the federal law. Their argument, apparently, was to this effect: The springs from which this water is taken are known as Buffalo Lithia Springs; therefore, it is not a misstatement of facts to call this Buffalo Lithia Springs Water.

WHAT IS A LITHIA WATER? The Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, holding a district court, has recently given an opinion on the Buffalo Lithia Springs Water case. The findings of the court are refreshingly simple, and characterized by that broad common-sense view that is becoming increasingly more common among modern jurists. Read Judge Gould's opinion as to what constitutes a lithia water:

'Speaking generally, and as an individual of average intelligence and information, it would seem that if one were offered a water which the vendor told him was a 'lithia' water, one would have the right to expect enough lithium in the water to justify its characterization as such, thus differentiating it from ordinary potable water; and this amount would reasonably be expected to have some effect on the consumer of the water by reason of the presence of the lithium.'

Certainly a reasonable attitude, and one which the man in the street not only can understand but will agree with. Then came the question as to the actual lithium content of Buffalo Lithia Springs Water, and the court said:

'For a person to obtain a therapeutic dose of lithium by drinking Buffalo Lithia Water he would have to drink from 150,000 to 225,000 gallons of water per day. It was further testified, without contradiction, that Potomac River water contains five times as much lithium per gallon as the water in controversy.'"

It is amazing to see the development of science and medicine within just a few decade's time.  This obviously still happens today - the science or medical world makes a new discovery about a disease, or gene, or medicine, or diet, and everyone jumps on board with the new theory.  Many times, these same ideas may be changed or even refuted entirely by the same community.  In the meantime, pharaceutical companies and others that see an opportunity for profit capitalize on the latest medical/health "trends."  I guess if just goes to show that history really does repeat itself.  We can look at some of these ads and almost laugh at how absurdly ridiculous they seem, and yet our modern-day advertising (in the same vein) will likely be mocked by those in generations to silly we
Since this ad is small and hard to read, I am going to print the text below:

                                                                BUFFALO LITHIA WATER                        Spring No. 1.
                                               Nature's Antidote to the Liquor and Opium Habit.
    Dr. GEO. A. FOOTE of Warrenton N.C., ex President of Medical Society of North Carolina, Member of North Carolina State Board of Health, etc., referring to Spring No. I, writes: "Its most remarkable action is in destroying or preventing the desire or thirst for intoxicants and narcotics. During a stay at the Springs the past summer I had large opportunity of observing the action of the Water in the alcohol and opium habit. Among the sufferers from the alcohol habit many who had used the Water for some weeks assured me that they were able, without difficulty, to give up the alcoholic stimulant, and then had no thirst for it. Sufferers from the opium habit generally represented that they were enabled gradually to give up the drug; there were some very remarkable instances of relief among this class of patients."

     Dr. EBERLE O. WELCH, of Baltimore, Md., Member of the Medico-Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, writes: "I have recently treated a case of Dipsomania which came under my care in February last. For the ten years prior to that time he had never missed a month without going on a spree. I placed him on strychnine and BUFFALO LITHIA WATER (Spring No. 2) and since then he has restrained from the use of alcoholic stimulants, a period of over five months. I have every reason to believe that a cure was effected mainly by the use of BUFFALO LITHIA WATER.

Buffalo Lithia Water is for sale by Grocers and Druggists generally. Pamphlets on application.                         PROPRIETOR, BUFFALO LITHIA SPRINGS, VA.

Who knew that a drink could cure you of your alcoholism and narcotics addictions!  A member () of has chronicled the brief history of Buffalo Lithia Water:

    "The first European-Americans to visit Buffalo Springs in Virginia and record their visit are believed to have been a survey group led by William Byrd II in 1728. In his diary, later to be published as 'The History of the Dividing Line: A Journey to Eden', Byrd poetically wrote that the waters of Buffalo Springs was 'what Adam drank in Paradise … by the help of which we perceived our appetites to mend, our slumbers to sweeten, the stream of life to run cool and peaceably in our veins, and if ever we dreamt of women, they were kind.' Byrd's survey party also sighted many signs of buffalo near the springs, hence the name 'Buffalo Springs.' The tract of land was first recorded being purchased by one Ambrose Gregory in 1798 and later selling the land to John Speed in 1817. It was John Speed who sowed the first seeds of development by building a tavern that catered to the local population and travelers by selling meals. The property changed ownership several times until by 1839 guided by various visionaries it had become a small resort. The local fame of 'medicinal benefits' derived from drinking the spring water was starting to spread to the surrounding regions. Thomas F. Goode obtained the property in 1874 and his vision of what Buffalo Springs could be; led to national prominence and the bottles we collect today. It was Goode who had a chemical ****ysis completed of Buffalo Springs No.2 which reported that the spring was unusually high in Lithia. Goode promptly changed the name and was doing business in 1900 as Virginia Buffalo Lithia Springs and selling 'Natures Great Specific for Dyspepsia and Gout' to the world in earnest. It would be advertised for, 'Uric Acid Diathesis, Gout, Nephritic Colic, Calculi, Bright’s Disease, Rheumatic Gout, Rheumatism, a valuable adjunct to the physician in the treatment of fevers, malaria, typho-malaria, and atypical typhoid' and 'recommended physicians!'
    Goode’s bottling operation at the resort is believed to have been started about 1876 for Spring Number 2 as Spring Number 1 was reported to give headaches to users. Once bottled these were packaged twelve to a wooden crate and transported by horse drawn wagon to the railroad depot in nearby Clarksville for shipping to customers for a retail of price of $5.00 per case.  As the resort business grew so did demand for the perceived and much touted medicinal benefits of the 'lithia' spring water. So much so that in 1890 a spur for the Atlantic and Danville railroad was laid to connect Buffalo Springs to the main line in town.  It has been estimated that Buffalo Springs Lithia Water was sold in an estimated 20,000 stores comprising mainly of pharmacies and grocers throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States during its heyday. Thomas F. Goode’s passing in 1905 was followed by several events which would lead to the eventual demise of the now world famous Buffalo Lithia Water. Possibly the single greatest was the application of discoveries and new medical knowledge concerning the causes and treatments of disease and illness.  Piloting the creation and passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act passed by United States Congress in 1906, changing for ever the business practices of patent medicine.  As a result of this passage a study was completed in 1907 from which the government shared tests that established the Potomac River actually had five times the concentration of lithium than did Buffalo Lithia Water. Part of the court ruling stated that '… for a person to obtain any therapeutic dose of lithium by drinking Buffalo Lithia Spring Water he would have to drink from 150,000 to 225,00 gallons per day.' It was after this ruling, in 1908 that the business altered the Buffalo Lithia Water brand name to its official name, Buffalo Lithia Springs Water trying to end run the intent of the law.
     It was a good attempt and bought more time to continue touting the lithia properties of the water. This ended in 1914 when the US Supreme Court ruled that Buffalo Lithia Springs could not use the word 'lithia' to advertise or sell their spring water. This is another significant milestone to bottle collectors as the name now embossed on bottles would become Buffalo Mineral Water. Sales plummeted for the water due to the lack of medical value for the water and the golden years had come to an end. The resort continued and water was sold for many years to come until ceasing operations in the 1940’s."

...more to come on Buffalo Lithia Water!
I have to admit that when I first read the word "sanitarium," I thought of an insane asylum.  However, the content of the ad made me question my initial presumption and piqued my interest enough that I embarked on a researching scavenger hunt of sorts.  Apparently, a sanitarium was a 19th century version of a hospital. They were often located in mountainous regions or near the ocean - places that people associated with clean air and water, since the air of 19th century cities was very polluted.  Notice in the ad above how the emphasized words (in bold) are "air," "magnificent water," and "scenery."

A sanitarium was originally a long-term care facility for people suffering from tuberculosis (TB) before the development of antibiotics.  However, many of these facilities also took on other patients, such as invalids and those suffering from other communicable diseases.  According to the Transactions of the...session of the American Institute of... (that's the actual title!) by the American Institute of Homeopathy, Walter's Sanitarium opened for patients in 1878, under the executive officer, Robert Walter, M.D..  In 1897, the value of the hospital property was $150,000, it had 120 beds and 500 patients (not sure how the math worked out on that one), and four patients died that year. 

I thought that the Walter's Sanitarium ads had remarkably good looking pictures for advertisements from the late 1800s.  I also found the "amenities" to be quite extensive: baths (electric and galvanic), Swedish movements (both mechanical and manual), electricity (static, galvanic, and faradic), oxygen, vacuum, bay windows, hydraulic elevators, electric bells, extensive natural park, appliances operated by steam, post office, long-distance telephone, livery, dairy, library, steam heat and open grates, sun parlor, orchestra and entertainment, artesian well, and so much more!  What more could you want in a "health resort"!

Most of the general information available on this facility seems to be contained in their own advertisements.  Here are a few other examples of ads that this facility ran in periodicals, books, newspapers, and other printed works:

One of the most interesting things I have found from reading through advertisements from the 1800s is how much they tell you about another era and culture simply through word choice.  I must admit up front that I am an English nerd, and I do love a good word study, but particularly when it ties into the bigger picture in a meaningful way.  There are so many little details in these advertisements that make me think of a number of questions that I would love to ask someone from 150 years ago.

For example, if you look at the ads in the "Food & Drink"section of this website, you will notice a few of these differences between modern day and the 19th century.  The "Huckins' Soups" advertisement says, "Send 15c. or 7 two-cent stamps (to help pay express) for 2 sample cans."  Perhaps it's just me, but I thought it was a bit bizarre that companies were sending soup cans through the mail!  Not only that, but you had the option of sending them stamps or money in order to help with shipping.  I can't remember the last time I sent coins in the mail anywhere.  It was probably when I was a child sending away for something from a comic book or cereal box.  I have included another Huckin's Soup advertisement from 1892 below.  By the time of the ad below, the cost was up to 20 cents, and you didn't have the option of sending them stamps this time.  I guess they figured out that they could make money off of their "free" sample if they just had people send cash.
One of my favorite ads, for curiosity's sake, is the Hunyadi water advertisement.  It is described as the "best natural aperient."  I looked up aperient, and it means "having a mild purgative or laxative effect" or "a medicine or food that acts as a mild laxative."  The ad goes on to say: "Prescribed and approved by all the medical authorities, for constipation, torpidity of the liver, hemorrhoids, as well as for all kindred ailments resulting from indiscretion in diet."  I must admit that this description made me laugh.  Perhaps it was because I pictured a torpedo heading for someone's liver or the somewhat condescending and condemning tone of "indiscretion in diet," which would not be very politically correct today.  (For you word nerds out there, torpidity means inactive, sluggish, dull, slow, lethargic, dormant, etc., so it is actually the opposite of a high-speed torpedo, however, my mind tends to create word pictures as I read, hence torpedoes.)  In any case, the British Medical Journal Advertiser printed a number of testimonials about Hunyadi Janos Mineral Water, which brought a smile to my face, so I thought I would share (see below).
I also found an interesting article on Hunyadi Janos Water in the New York Times from October 14, 1893.  It states that "Hunyadi" became a generic name for "Hungarian Bitter Waters," because the original brand came from the famous "Hunyadi Springs" in Budapest, Hungary (which was apparently named after John Hunyadi).  This era seemed to be plagued with look-alikes and rip offs of original brands, which wouldn't be allowed with modern copyrights - someone would be in for a lawsuit!  Additionally, it was interesting that companies would print articles in big newspapers, like the New York Times, in order to distinguish themselves from other companies "hocking" lesser goods of the same type or variety (see below).

Even as I am writing, I am realizing that there are so many more examples (and tangents) on just the "Food & Drink" section that I could write about, so this is going to become "Part I" in a series.  Stay tuned for more!
        "She was a better cook than the Laird: a better caterer than Little Billee, and a better saladist than Taffy" (when she used Durkee's Salad Dressing). -Trilby, Part II.

        Send for FREE booklet on "Salads: How to Make and Dress Them," giving many valuable and novel recipes for Salads, sandwiches, Sauces, Luncheon Dishes, etc.      Sample 10 cents.
                                            E.R. Durkee & Co., 135 Water Street, New York.

The Durkee of the 1800s looks quite different from the Durkee of today, but I am always amazed at how many companies have survived for over a century, despite many economic hardships and crises.  Now, it seems like everywhere you turn, another company is going bankrupt and disappearing, but many of these "forerunners" are still going strong.  Some of these products and companies bear familiar household names (Coca Cola, Vogue, etc.), while others may be a bit more obscure (Durkee, Mellin, etc.), but all in all, they have quite interesting histories. 

Take Durkee, for example - they were founded in 1850 by Eugene R. Durkee as a manufacturer of spices, extracts, sauces, condiments, and food preparations.  According to King's Handbook of New York City, their goods were "the acknowledged standards of excellence, and their trademark of the 'Gauntlet,' coupled with the signature of the firm, always constitute[d] a guarantee of purity."  The company was started in Buffalo, but soon based in New York and had offices, salesrooms, factories, and warehouses in New York City, as well as mills in Brooklyn that employed several hundred workers back in the 1890s.  They were a well-known household name throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. 

Besides having a booming business in the food industry, E.R. Durkee & Co. also sold various pieces of machinery, tools, and even steam-engines.  In fact, some of their equipment, including a steam-engine, became the subject of a Supreme Court Case in New York (Wells vs. Kelsey), according to Reports of Practice Cases, Determined in the Courts of the State of New York...  

In the year 1900, the State College of Kentucky conducted an inspection and analysis of foods to determine whether or not foods that were advertised as pure and unadulterated could actually hold up under scrutiny.  These findings were published in the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station of the State College of Kentucky: Bulletin No. 86.  According to the bulletin and "An Act Regulating the Manufacture and Sale of Food" passed by the Legislature of Kentucky effective June 13, 1898, any foods found to be "adulterated" or "misbranded" were "subject to a fine not to exceed $500, or not more than one year imprisonment."  Different articles of food had differing standards, and according to the bulletin, "Spices, mustard, pepper, etc. must not contain any foreign substances or coloring matter introduced to dilute or cheapen the article, and any such admixture constitutes an adulteration and can not be sold unless its kind and amount are indicated on the label."  In the "Pepper, Spices, Coffee, Etc." section of the report, it says that, "Seventeen samples of these articles were examined by means of the microscope, twelve of them being found adulterated by admixture with foreign material."  That's over 70% of the samples!!  And how does E.R. Durkee & Co. fit into this equation?  Their ground black pepper stood the test, and was "not found adulterated."  You may be wondering (as I did), what these products were "adulterated" with - the number one culprit was starch.

In a culture where many companies "watered down" their products, E.R. Durkee & Co. was creating products that truly could be labeled "pure and unadulterated."  E.R. Durkee was one of the first people/businesses to take advantage of the ability to register trademarks.  E.R. Durkee & Co.'s salad-dressing and sauces (our featured ad) U.S. patent# 55,239 was filed May 2, 1905, and published on May 15, 1906.  Although the company has traded hands over their 150+ year existence, they are still an established business today and still purveyors of fine spices and seasonings.

To see more of E.R. Durkee & Co., check out these links:

Flickr Photostream of E.R. Durkee & Co. buildings, factories, etc.
E.R. Durkee Antiques for sale on eBay