Saturday, June 16, 2012

On Beyond Holcombe: B. H. Bacon Company

Editor's Note: Malcolm A. Goldstein is a contributing blogger for 1898 Revenues.  This post is part of a continuing column on the companies that used proprietary battleships.

B. H. Bacon printed cancels from the collection of the late Henry Tolman.  Tolman noted that the second and fourth stamps were "unlisted", meaning that the type was not listed in the Chappell/Joyce listing of proprietary printed cancels published in the 1950s.


B. H. Bacon spent his working career in up-state New York..  He began his manufacture of patent medicines in 1885 in Le Roy, N.Y., an Erie Canal town between Rochester and Buffalo in Western New York.  His two most prominent products were Otto’s Cure and Celery King.  An 1895 announcement in one of the pharmaceutical trade magazines stated: “B. H. Bacon & Co., manufacturers of Otto’s Cure, have decided that Rochester is the Garden of Eden and have located there ...”.  This rosy picture may have glossed over a dispute between the various patent medicine manufacturers of Le Roy and its postmaster, who ruled that sample packages the manufacturers wished to mail pursuant to fourth class postal rates were too thick to qualify under those regulations.  Apparently, the postmaster in Rochester, N.Y. was already accommodating the Warner Safe Cure mailings of similar kinds of samples and Bacon decided that business would be easier to transact there.  

By 1901, Bacon himself had died, and the company incorporated.  Otto’s Cure was advertised as late as 1906 as “the cure for coughs, colds, the grippe, whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis and incipient consumption.” Celery King was a nerve tonic meant to sooth everything from sleeplessness and nervous prostration and was advertised as a “positive cure” cure for an encyclopedia of ills ranging from constipation to heart disease.

In 1907, another patent medicine company, S.  H. Wells & Co., itself located in Le Roy, N.Y., purchased the B. H. Bacon Co., and removed the manufacturing facilities back to Le Roy, N.Y.  While its important brand names continued, the Bacon company itself probably determined that it was not worth it to comply with the new Pure Food and Drug Act, passed in 1906.

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