Frederick Stearns & Co.
Digger Odell Publications © 2007
Frederick Stearns & Co.
To obtain an idea of the great magnitude and diversity of the business of pharmaceutical manufacturing, with its economy of labor and elaboration of product, there Is perhaps no better plan than to pay a visit to the establishment of Frederick Stearns & Co., situated at Detroit, Michigan. Here can be seen in operation upon a large scale all the many processes which in a great degree go to make up the science of pharmacy; and here all the varied forms of medication which the profession of medicine can demand are turned out. This establishment, of which an illustration is given above, is one of the largest of its kind in the world. It is situated on 21st street, in the western part of the city, and occupies an entire square, with a frontage of 300 feet and a depth of 180 feet. As the building was constructed especially for the purpose for which it is used, its general arrangement is such as to afford the greatest convenience and economy in the storage, manufacture, handling and shipping of the various products manufactured. The building is three stories high, rectangular in shape, and encloses two open courts which give convenient access for teams to all the different departments the establishment. These courts are reached by an arched entrance on the 21st street side, and it is through this that crude drug material from all parts of the earth enters the works, finally to emerge in the shape in which it appears upon the shelves of the druggist. It seems rather an anomalous condition in industrial affairs when we Imagine what often occurs in the passage of drugs through this arched gateway. A load of Cascara Sagrada enters, and the wagon wheels touch those of another vehicle conveying a load of Cascara Aromatic just starting on Its journey to the Pacific Coast. The eucalyptus of Australia could, if It were animate, exchange greetings with a more polished and educated portion of its family on its way back to its original home. The newly arrived coca from Bolivia might witness the departure of a consignment of some manufactured product bearing the same name, on its return journey to Cochabamba. Thus it is that there is a constant passing of crude products, coming from the most remote portions of the world to experience the mutations which the knowledge of man and the skill of his machines can give them. and many of them emerge in their improved condition to be returned to the same people who originally furnished them.
To follow in detail the various manipulations which belong to the manufacture of medicinal preparations is an exceedingly interesting procedure, and where such are reduced to a perfect system, as is the case in the laboratory of Frederick Stearns & Co., the subject becomes all the more interesting. Commencing at the north building, or that portion of the works comprising the wing to the left in the illustration, there will be found upon the first or ground floor the department devoted to the manufacture of Stearns' (now well-known) Wine of Cod Liver Oil. Two large rooms upon this floor are devoted to this product, one containing five large extracting machines, large tanks fitted up with power agitators, each with a capacity of 120 gallons, and a mixing tank with a capacity of 1,000 gallons, with an attachment of air force pumps, etc., and other appliances for conveying the finished material to a storage room upon the next floor above. The other room is devoted to finishing this preparation, and here can be seen in operation automatic bottling machines, capping machines, and J, force of thirty girls busily engaged in labeling, wrapping and boxing the goods. This product, which is now so deservedly popular with the medical profession, is a striking example of the readiness of the pharmacist to recognize the demand for improved methods of administering remedies of known value, and to make use of the most skillful methods In supplying that demand. The therapeutic virtues of cod liver oil are too well known to admit of any discussion of its value, but there have always been objections to its use, which became stronger as the pharmacist gradually showed that his skill was competent along other lines to make the rough way smooth In the matter of taking disagreeable medicines. There grew, therefore, an impatient demand that he rob the taking of cod liver oil of its greatest terror-its abominable taste-and many are the more or less futile schemes which have been employed to encompass this end. With the advance In knowledge of the properties of alkaloids, especially those of animal origin, and their therapeutic value, there began to dawn In the minds of advanced investigators an idea that those of cod liver oil could be isolated and administered in that form. The credit for this idea belongs to two eminent French chemists, Messrs. Gautier and Mourgues, who gave to the combined medicinal principles of the oil the name "Morrhuol." The agent employed in the manufacture of Stearns' Wine of Cod Liver Oil is identical with this, being known as Stearns' Extract of Cod Liver' Oil, which extract is twenty-five times stronger in active principles and alkaloids than the plain oil itself. This extract, in combination with wine and peptonate of Iron, furnishes a means of administering these important medicinal agents to a manner most agreeable to the patient, and a wealth of clinical reports from leading practitioners of the country Indicate that it has achieved an enviable position In the confidence of the medical profession.
Quite appropriately the room adjoining this special department is devoted to another branch of manufacturing pharmacy which has had Its growth from the demand for palatable medicines. Here are made the various elixirs, medicated wines., syrups glyceroles. etc. Although the work of this department is such that its success depends more upon the formulae and skill employed, yet the appliances and conveniences are of the best which ingenuity can suggest, and the popularity of the goods of this sort turned out is evidence of the care and skill employed in their manufacture. The production of perfumes is referred to by the firm as one of their "side lines," but the many admirers of Stearns' Fine Perfumes will be loath to regard them In anything but the light of products of great importance, and al glance through the department which ad- I joins those already referred to will convince the observer that "specialty" would, be the better designation. The perfume department embraces a mixing room, freezing room, filling room, finishing room and large fire-proof vaults for the storage of the costly materials, such as musk, ambergris, oil rose, etc., which enter into the manufacture of perfumes. The mixing room contains several large machines for washing pomades, copper agitators, and machines for mixing the perfumes. That the perfumes manufactured by this firm possess those characteristics which should distinguish a fine article, such as t fragrance in abundance without disagreeable "loudness;" delicacy with sweetness, freedom from sharpness, with permanency and lasting qualities, Is quite evident from the great demand which has arisen for them, and that there is a demand for them is further evidenced by the fact that their aggregate sales amount to over $75,000 per annum. Upon the second floor of the north building is found the Chemical Stock Department, and a dispensing or requisition department for the purpose of filling the requisitions of the differing manufacturing departments for the various drugs and chemicals used In the establishment. Adjoining this is the Analytical Department, in charge of Prof. Charles C. Sherrard, whose duties consist in examining all the materials used in manufacturing, and out 1, 33 ponds of this preparation per day, and the fact that the force is kept busy is quite satisfactory evidence that Cascara Aromatic (Stearns') Is in great demand. This particular preparation of cascara sagrada, in which none but twoyear-old bark is employed, to obviate the griping qualities of the new bark, was' first Introduced by this firm in 1889, and such was Its success that within two years after its advent the inevitable imitator came forward with his testimony that it was a good thing. But in spite of this the Steams' preparation seems to be firmly established in the favor of the medical profession, and as the process of manufacture is one which was originated by and is reserved by the firm, It Is safe to say that the original Cascara Aromatic will retain the field it has won for Itself. It is upon this floor that is found the storage of the Wine of Cod Liver Oil previously referred to. It is quite well understood that this preparation enjoys a large sale, but one is hardly prepared for the sight of four long rows of one hundred tanks, each containing one hundred and fifty gallons of the finished product.' These tanks are always full, as fast as one is emptied it is immediately refilled sothat the stock on hand always aggregates at least 10,000 dozen, and the orders from the large jobbing trade are almost always for round five or ten-gross lots.
The third floor of the north building is devoted principally to storage purposes. From seventy-five to one hundred thousand pounds of cascara sagrada bark are always kept in stock, and the firm state that, so far as they are able to learn, they are the largest users of this bark in the world. Immense quantities of mandrake, I sarsaparilla, etc., are also always in store. and on this floor Is also found the large stock of glassware which an establishment of this magnitude is always obliged to have on hand. The value of this material always on hand ranges from $?5,000 to $50,000. The eastern end of this floor is partitioned off so as to be practically isolated from the rest of the building, and is devoted to the manufacture of poison fly paper. It is provided with a cemented floor covered with absorbent material. upon which stand the drying racks for holding the paper after it Is taken from the tank holding the solution with which the paper is Impregnated. This department has a capacity for 50,000 sheets per day.
The first floor of the middle building Is devoted to that important branch of pharmacy-the manufacture of fluid extracts. It is divided into three rooms. I The first contains immense screw presses with two hundred tons pressure for thoroughly exhausting the drugs, and large vats and tanks where drugs undergo the macerating process. The second room contains the stills, evaporating pans, kettles. etc., and one especially large still for recovering alcohol. The third room is devoted to the process of percolation, and presents an imposing array of copper and stoneware percolators of from five to fifty gallons capacity. In connection with this department are the podophyllin works, located in a separate building in the court. Here are several large percolators of 160 gallons each, also drying closets, straining frames, drying racks. etc., used In making this Important resin. The second floor of the middle building la devoted entirely to the manufacture of pills. In the pill cutting department Is found a plant which consists, so the firm assaying saying samples of each lot of fluid extracts manufactured, before the goods are bottled and sent out from the establishment. The department for the manufacture of this firm's famous specialty. Cascara Aromatic, is also located upon this floor. This department has a capacity for turning states. of the only complete set of the Colton pill machines in America. This plant Includes machinery for making the strips or pipes, as well as that for cutting them into pills. The pill mass is fed into a machine in small chunks about the size of one's thumb, which are carried by means of wide rubber bands running upon two cylinders, between the latter, and rolled Into pipes of the required dimensions. These are collected in trays and fed a dozen at a time Into the second machine, which cuts them. All that ii necessary is to furnish the mass and M machines do the rest. A complete se' of such machines with the aid of five girls easily does the work of 25 girls watt the ordinary methods of pill making by hand. The capacity of this plant has beet proven to be a halt million 3-grain pllls per day, and the saving in labor through) its use is estimated at $6,000 per annum The adjoining pill massing room is fltted( with a complete line of rollers, varying from 3 inches to 12 Inches in diameter and constructed of steel and porcelain the latter being necessary for chemical! which would be damaged or altered b; contact with metals. The gelatine coating room is supplied with a complete set o apparatus, the process used having beet patented by the superintendent of the department, fir. Albyn D. Steams. This apparatus does away with the use o needles, using Instead hollow tubes from which the air Is exhausted and the pill held in place by atmospheric pressure during the process of dipping in the gelatine solution. Twenty girls are employed in this department. The gelatine coated pills of F. Stearns & Co. are note for their beauty of finish and were favored with a special award at the World' Fair. The sugar coating pill room is we] equipped with ten large revolving copper pans and turn out a product beautifully: finished and very soluble. The back building, forming the eastern side of the courts, has a carpenter and repair shop upon the ground floor, in which are mad all the tables, shelving, etc.. used upon the premises, and the force of carpenter Is kept busy doing the general repair work of the establishment, fixing packlng boxes. etc. The drug milling department also occupies two floors of this building the machinery upon the first floor being used for powdering. Chaser mills are used for this purpose, each consisting o two large mill stones set upon edge an, revolving upon an enclosed circular be of the same material. They are enclose In tight wooden boxes or houses, and a the material becomes reduced to an Impalpable powder the greater part rises a dust and settles upon the space outside the enclosed stone bed and the walls o the houses. The second floor is equipped with machinery for grinding, and include three disintegrators, turning at the rat of three thousand revolutions per minute each having a grinding capacity of on ton per day of ordinary drugs. This department is also well supplied with root cutters, sifters, ball mills, grist mills etc. The condition and poultry powder department is located immediately ad joining the milling department, the extent of the firm's business in this line being great enough to keep a large force em ployed In grinding, putting up. wrapping land packing this class of goods. On large room in this part of the building I devoted to the manufacture of compressed lozenges, tablets, tablet triturates, etc
The first floor of the southern portion of the building fronting on Twenty-first street is devoted to the storage of filled stock; the non-secret finishing room, 1211 by 30 feet in extent, in which forty girls are employed; and the packing and shipping department. In these latter rooms all the different items of a customer's order are assembled, and got ready for shipment. Sawdust is the packing mostly used, and is brought to the works in wagons and conveyed to huge bins on the third floor by means of blowers. As the j packers arrange the different articles in the packing cases, a slide is opened at intervals as the packing progresses, and the saw dust allowed to slide down a chute and fill the spaces between the articles being packed. After being marked the packages are then ready for shipment, and the directions upon some of the cases show that their journey is to be a long one. Among the orders ready for shipment could be noticed the names of Scott & Co., Rangoon, Burmah; Sen & Co., Delhi, India; N. S. Fernando, Columbo, Ceylon; Newzealand Drug Co., Christchurch, N. Z.; Lennon & Co., Cape Town, S. A.; F. D. Shepard, MI. D., Aintab, Turkey; Salvador Alsina, Barcelona, Spain; Arteaga Revenga & Co., Caracas, Ven.; Dr. C. Lopez Lascaro, Guayaqull, Ecuador, and many others In as equally remote corners of the earth. Upon the second floor of this section of the building Is found the department with special machinery for the manufacture of cartons and knock-down boxes, the paper stock room. and the bindery, where the work of folding and stitching the various publications of the firm is done, mostly by machinery, only the gathering of the printed sheets being done by hand. The seldlitz powder room upon this floor contains new and Ingenious machines devised by Stearns & Co., for weighing and measuring the powders. These machines work automatically. and insure the highest degree of accuracy in the powders which they deliver. This firm has always been favorably known for the high quality of the material used in their seldlitz powders, and for the attractive forms and original styles in which their goods in this line are put up, their latest attraction being a large envelope with the powders each In a small envelope, these latter being wrapped in waxed paper.
In another room a dozen girls are employed putting up Stearn's Instant Headache Cure. This preparation enjoys a remarkable sale, considering the fact that the formula Is not secret, and not a dollar has been spent in advertising It to the general public. It is put up in cachets which are imported, but the work of making the preparation and the filing are done at Detroit. The foreign factory furnishing these cachets state that F. Steams & Co. are the largest consumers of their goods in America, their orders sometimes exceeding a million cachets a month. This preparation is handled by all the prominent jobbers, and it has had great success in holding its own wherever introduced. An adjoining room, made dust tight, is used for the handling of powders such as tooth, insect, etc.. and goods of a similar light character. The remaining departments upon this floor are a large room devoted to the packing. labeling and finishing of pills for shipment, and another room devoted to the work of getting out agents' samples and keeping their traveling outfits supplied. Almost all the entire top floor, which is 220 by 30 feet, is devoted to the manufacture and storage of paper boxes. It is equipped with the most modern and improved machinery, employs fifty hands, and turns out every kind of box used in the institution except the folding cartons previously mentioned. Frederick Stearns & Co. have the reputation of putting out the handsomest packages of any house in their line of business and an inspection of the work done in this department seems to prove it.
The boilers and engine which furnish the motive power for this great establishment are in an isolated building located in one of the courts. This location affords a great protection against fire. Two boilers supply steam for the engine and for heating the buildings. In the engine room is located a dynamo which generates the electricity for lighting all those departments of the establishment where alcohol or other easily inflammable substances are used. The other departments are lighted by gas made on the premises by means of a Michigan gas machine. which supplies about 400 jets. As there are 300 electric lights in the building the firm may well claim to have one of the best lighted laboratories in the world. Adjoining the engine room Is a wellequipped machine shop, where an experienced machinist is kept continually employed in making new appliances, or repairing old ones. Much of the machinery used by F. Stearns & Co. was made in this shop, such as their gelatine pill plant, centrifugal emulsifiers, seldlitz powder, bottle capping machinery, etc. Over the boiler room Is an extensive dry room fitted with iron racks, blowers, etc., where all green drugs In bales are stored before being ground In the mill room, which is close at hand.
The foregoing Is but a brief mention of the various departments which go to make up this great pharmaceutical establishment. The great engine furnishing the motive power to drive the machinery has been referred to, but the visitor In search of the real motive power should turn his attention to the offices where all the business of the firm is transacted. These are situated upon the first floor facing 21st street, and extend from the main (and only) entrance, near the middle of the building, to the north end, a distance of 180 feet. Owing to the fact that this space is divided up into fifteen offices, including those on the second floor, the effect Is not so imposing as it would be were they all in one large room; but for retirement and quiet in the transaction of business the arrangement has decided advantages. Entering the front door, one comes into the reception office, where a girl is in attendance to wait upon the visitor and convey his message to the person whom he wishes to see. Adjoining this office is the city or telephone office, where all the city telephone business Is done, and where telegraph messages are sent and received. In this room is a circulating library donated by the firm for the use of all Its employes. The next office is that of the superintendent, Air. L. H. Gardner. In here is found the formula department, from which every formula used in the laboratory must be obtained by proper requisition. Such a perfect system of checking Is observed In this department that mistakes are almost, if not entirely, out of the question. The General Office is the next in rotation, and is presided over by Mr. N. A. Tabor, who has charge of orders, collections and claims. Here the mail is opened and distributed, orders entered and priced, drafts sent out, letters copied, etc.. etc. This office employs twenty persons, including three stenographers, and is an exceedingly busy place. Off from the main office is a large fireproof vault, 10x30 feet in extent, in which are kept the account books, order books and safe. Next adjoining the main office Is that of the vice-president and treasurer, Mr. F. C. McLaughlin, who, with his secretary, is pleasantly located. Mr. McLaughlin, In addition to looking after the finances of the firm, attends to the buying, which In itself is enough to keep any man busy the better part of his time. The next room is occupied by the assistant treasurer, Mr. W. 1. L. Steams, who, In addition to the duties of that position, has charge of the private formula work. Directly across the hallway is the office of the assistant superintendent, Sir. W. G. Rankin, and next in order is the bookkeeper's office, where four experts keep the accounts only, all the other clerical work being done in the main office. Next comes the office of the secretary, Mr. Thomas Bennett, who is assisted by Mr. S. C. Stearns, assistant secretary, two clerks and a stenographer. Mr. Bennett has entire charge of the foreign business, which takes up the greater part of his time, although he also attends to the correspondence of inquiry, and makes quotations on goods. The next office in order is that of Waylaid D. Stearns, assistant general manager, who has the assistance of four clerks and a stenographer. The last office on the ground floor Is that of the president and general manager, Mr. F. K. Stearns. This is fitted up modestly, yet in good taste, and, being the most remote from the works, is quiet and retired. Returning to go upstairs, one passes through the letter file room, where are stored away the thousands of letters and orders received during a single year only. A stairway in this room leads up to the agents' reception room and office of Mr. D. St. Gray, manager of the traveling department. It is here that the "traveling boys," some fifty in number, meet and compare notes, do their correspondence, etc. Mr. Gray's only assistant is his stenographer. Adjoining Mr. Gray's office is that of Mr. M. R. Gatell, manager of the Spanish Department, who attends to all the correspondence, making out of orders, arranging for the printed matter for the same, invoicing. etc.. and who, being a skillful typewriter himself, needs no assistant for such work. The last-office to be mentioned Is that of the Physicians' Department, ii charge of Dr. W. B. Winn. Here is kept account of the work of the detail men and the general correspondence with physicians. Dr. Winn has two stenographers and a clerk.
The various departments of the laboratory number forty-eight, and all are under the direct supervision of registered graduate pharmacists, so that all the operations of manufacturing receive that careful attention which only a thorough knowledge of all the details of the science of pharmacy can give.
In addition to the Detroit laboratory, the firm has another establishment at Windsor, Canada, in charge of Mr. Irving H. Taylor. This branch has charge of the firm's trade in the Dominion, and is fully equipped for everything in the pharmaceutical line. The New York office at No. 1 B Platt street, Is in charge of Mr. N. T. Pease. The London, Eng., office at 25 Lime street, is in charge of Mr. W. A. Richardson, resident manager. The Australian business is looked after by fir. R. H. Hoe, who has an office at 37 Pitt street, Sydney, N. S. W. The maintenance of these offices Is necessary on account of the firm's extensive foreign trade, which they estimate at about one-fifth of their output. They enjoy the distinction of being the first American pharmaceutical manufacturing house to engage extensively in foreign trade, having commenced in South and Central America In 1882, and in Australia, India and South Africa in 1885; and their elegant publications in the languages of, these foreign countries have been import-t ant factors in the development of this trade. In addition to the executive staff mentioned, the firm employs between four' and five hundred persons, and has a force of fully fifty travelers, including detail men, who are kept busy the year round informing the medical and pharmaceutical world of the superiority of the firm's' manufactures, calling especial attention to their specialties, the Wine of Cod Liver Oil, Cascara Aromatic, Haemoferrum (Blood Iron), their delicious Kola Cordial and Dike's Pepsin, and in this connection it Is quite pertinent to state the first two mentioned each received an award at the World's Columbian Exposition, 1893, the total number of awards received by the firm being fifteen.
A reference to the personnel of the house of Stearns would be incomplete, without a mention of its founder, Mr. Frederick Stearns. who, although a stockholder in the business, has had no official connection with the firm since his retirement In 1881. Mr. Stearns, senior, came to Detroit In 1855, and engaged in the drug business, and his successful experience of over thirty years as retail and wholesale 1 druggist, and finally as head of one of the largest manufacturing establishments in the country, to one which falls to the lot of but few men. Although he still retains great interest In the affairs of his chosen profession, his later labors have l been mostly those of a citizen of the republic of letters. He has traveled extensively in foreign countries, and his knowledge of the history, customs and manners of some of these, especially China and, Japan, has earned for him much favorable notice as a collector of curios and as a lecturer and writer upon the latter countries. The Stearns collection of Japanese and Corean art objects, numbering some sixteen thousand pieces, which was i presented by him to the Detroit Museum of Art. has been pronounced the most carefully selected, typical and complete' collection of Its kind In this country.