Strong Cobb Company
Digger Odell Publications © 2007
STRONG, COBB & CO. Cleveland, the Ohio metropolis, has long been the dominant factor of the Buckeye state in wholesale drugs and chemicals, tints, oils and varnishes. To attain to such a prestige comparatively but few years were required. Evolution was rapid, brains, vim and ambition being its underlying strata. When Cleveland's pioneer citizens made that memorable rush for commercial recognition, Samuel Merwin :Strong was abreast of the avalanche. Mr. Strong was a country boy. Born at Amherst in Lorain county, in 1832 his Educational advantages were necessarily narrow. Yet, after graduating from the Berea schools he gained admission to Berlin College. more through a liberal self-tutorage than Berea pedagogy.
At to age of 18 he was apprenticed to an Elyria druggist, with whom he remained to year. With his first savings of $100 and a great deal of ambition he drifted to Cleveland, in 1851, and entered the employ of J. D. Hayward, also a druggist for pharmacy had become his fixed aim in re-but Mr. Hayward retiring in 1853. our subject transferred his activity to the wholesale and retail drug house of Gaylord & Co. In 1855 he engaged in the manufacture of what became a popular remedy, "Dr. Samuel Strong's True Fever Destroyer." Three years later he, in company with A. C. Armstrong, purchased to wholesale business of E. F. Punderson, or Henderson & Punderson. whose origin dates back to 1833. This firm remained in business for about fifteen years, then, in 18742, the present company was oganized. Thus it will be seen that S.M. Strong's career, although marked by vicissitudes, or rather. interruptions, is straight and gallant line to what he aimed at. Its progressive stages are so well defined as to afford a subject for pleasant contemplation and a deep sense admiration and plaudit. In the history of Strong. Cobb & Co. the only setback was the fire in 1881, when about $40,000 worth of damage was done. Yet this never for a day clogged the wheels of progress.
S. M. Strong has always remained at the head of the house, and he is looked up to as the father, the maker of it all. When to National Wholesale Druggists' Association was organized in 1876, S. M. Strong was chosen its treasurer. He is its treasurer today-another evidence of characteristic constancy, which is a glorious tribute to his integrity and fitness. While model business man, Mr. Strong is also leader in society. Though retiring and Modest, he has had many public honors trust upon him. Recently, as a director the Chamber of Commerce, he again roved his high character as a citizen. and a lover and promoter of all things Clevelandish.
Of the other members of the firm of Strong, Cobb & Co.. Lester A. Cobb was admitted to partnership in 1870. Born in Birmingham, O. in 1850, he received his education in Cleveland schools. When old enough to choose his own career he entered S. M. Strong 's employ as a traveling salesman, continuing until he was promoted to the management of the sales department. Of late Mr. Cobb's attention partly given to his father's estate, of which he is the executor. While seldom seen at the company's office, Mr. Cobb maintains a live interest. His name is coupled with several large industrial home enterprises which arrest his immediate attention.
Ralph L. Cobb was, like his brother, born in Birmingham, O., but is six years -his junior. After finishing his education in Cleveland he eventually adopted his brother's career. This was in 18745. True to the life plan of his superiors, he started from the bottom of the ladder. After several years of assiduous application he was placed at the head of the sundry department, which position he now nominally holds. He devoted his entire attention to the interests of the company. For eight years he was the treasurer of the Cleveland Pharmaceutical Association.
Edwin L. Strong, son of the senior member of the firm, came to this world in 1860. He was educated in Michigan University, and at the age of 18 was given employment in his father's business. Edwin was a bright and attentive boy, and soon developed the traits inherited from his brave elder. With the exception of a short interval, when he put his agricultural by-instincts to a practical test at cattle raising In New Mexico, all of his business life had been given to the furtherance of the company's interests at home and abroad. He fills the position of general manager, and is apparently the right man in the right place. At the last election of the C. P. A. officers he was chosen treasurer.
Samuel E. Strong, while not as yet admitted to a partnership, deserves due representation in this sketch. "Sam" the younger is what the old weatherbeaten Cuyahogans term a chip from the old block. Coincidently it may be remarked that the ages of the Strong brothers are as far apart as those of the Cobbs-six years. Samuel was educated at Andover, Mass., and at the age of 20 espoused his brother's calling. After going through the several stages of what constitutes a drug man's training on the high standard set by his father. he was given the most important position within the company's gift, that of managing buyer, and this he fills with grace and alacrity in the traveling man's eye and with credit to himself and the company.
The accompanying illustration gives but an inadequate idea of the company's premises. In all 77,000 square feet are utilized by the business. The Superior street facade building, known as the Cobb Bradley block, one of the finest on the street, is five stories high and extends to Long street. The basement is given to sponges and liquor. On the first or office floor, are found the sample and sundries department; second floor, order department; third floor, corks and glassware department; fourth floor, patent medicine department; fifth floor, light drugs department. The Long street building is connected by a tunnel and bridge, and is also five stories high. The basement is fitted up with all manner of modern grinding apparatus. On the first floor paints and varnishes are stored; the second floor is the packing and shipping department; the third, the laboratory; the fourth and fifth are stock rooms. Adjoining the building is the company's capacious warehouse. Besides these departments the company carries a large and complete stock of cigars, which department is in charge of Perrin Sherley. The following gentlemen have charge of the other classified departments: Paints and brushes, J. E. Tyler; liquor, H. M. Dillhoefer; sundries, Ralph L. Cobb (nominal), Howard Brown (active); laboratory. O. B. Hannon. From 100 to 125 men are on the pay rolls, and the traveling men cover a wide space of territory. The memorable depression of 189394 did not impede the progress of and expansion of the business in any phase, materially speaking, no more than the war and the panicky times of '73 dwarfed its healthy evolution. This is in a measure due to the company's thrift, circumspect go-aheadativeness, experiments along modern lines and, last, but not least, to liberal resorts to printers' ink.
There are few Strong Cobb bottles known. The ones that existing are identical except for size. They can be found in pint, quart and half gallon size bottles. These generic bottles probably contained a variety of chemicals and preparations.