Some Early Buffalo, N.Y. Patent Medicine History

Text and Drawings by Jeff Rosenthal

One of the earliest patent medicine men from Buffalo, N.Y. with an embossed bottle is Cyrenius C. Bristol. This enterprising individual is believed to have begun his business in the year 1833. The first concrete information comes to light in 1835 where he is found listed as a chemist/druggist at 207 Main Street. His business continued at this address for several years and in 1837 Harrison Bristol (a relation) opened his own drug store at 302 Main Street. Possibly he had backing from Cyrenius and they may have been partners by some mutual agreement; or Harrison saw a good thing and decided to try this druggist business for himself. Either way... Harrison apparently did not have good business smarts, nor a product (that we know of) to proclaim his greatness to mankind and as a result somewhere between 1837 and 1844 he threw in the towel and went to work for Cyrenius.


By 1844 C.C. was doing quite well. He is listed as the following in the City Directory - CYRENIUS C. BRISTOL - Druggist and chemical laboratory and manufacturer of Bristol's Sarsaparilla and etc. This small "blurb" brings to light the first mention of his Sarsaparilla. Production of this product must have begun-prior to this date. This is probably his small size, embossed, open pontiled bottle. In the late 1843's he also began running advertisements for a new product called "BRISTOL'S BALSAM OF HOURHOUND" proclaiming it's beneficial greatness to one and all. No known embossed pontiled or un-pontiled bottle has appeared (to my knowledge) and my suspicions are that this product may have been bottled in his small open pontiled, six sided vial embossed "C.C. BRISTOL/BUFFALO". By -the way, there is a variant to this bottle in respects to spelling. In the word "BRISTOL'S" the first "s" is backwards, and the periods in "C.C." are at the top of the letters instead of at the bottom.


To continue... 1844 lists Harrison Bristol as a clerk with C.C. Bristol and a Erasmus D. Bristol as "with C.C. Bristol". So it appears it became a family business sometime between 1840 - 1844. Sometime between 1844 - 1847 Cyrenius decided to employ a bookkeeper. The first listing for this bookkeeper is in the 1847 Directory. This gentleman was probably keeping a very watchful eye on how the patent medicine/drug store business operated, because by the beginning of the year 1850 he was in this business himself, and became very successful. Who was this bookkeeper, you ask? Why it was non other than. Oliver H.P. Champlin, but that's another story. In 1848 Bristol moved his business to 225 Main Street. His business continued for the next two years into the 1850's, where he divided his interests. In 1850-51 he put up money to begin business as a forwarding and commission merchant with a man named Henry Darrow.


He also either sold part of his interest in his Sarsaparilla and business or let another up and coming drug entrepreneur by the name of Andrew B. Moore of Buffalo buy into his business so in 1852 we have the following listing in the City Directory: Firm of BRISTOL, MOORE & THORNTON, druggists at 225 Main St. (note-same as Bristol's 1848 address) Firm of BRISTOL & DARROW, forwarding and commission merchants.

Andrew B. Moore was the originator of these pills in Buffalo, N.Y. around 1850-51. It was sold in a wooden pill box with a paper wrapper which read "DR. MORSE'S INDIAN ROOT PILLS - A.B. MOORE, PROP." Moore also came up with another product which is not so well known. This little known 7" hair bottle is open pontiled and embossed (front) ROSE HAIR GLOSS (side) A.B. MOORE (side) B.G. NOBLE (back) BUFFALO. So in 1852, BRISTOL'S SARSAPARILLA, BRISTOL'S BALSAM OF HOURHOUND, DR. MORSE'S INDIAN ROOT PILLS, and ROSE HAIR GLOSS were being marketed by the above mentioned drug store. Also between 1850 - 1853 Bristol or Moore began selling the sarsaparilla in New York City. Why should Moore be included in the above statement? Read on.... Sometime in 1853 Bristol relinquished his hold (or lost them) on the forwarding and commission trade and the drug/patent medicine game, as proclaimed by the ads for James Fish & A.B. Moore in the 1854 City Directory - So... in 1854 we find Moore in business for himself, and C.C. is now involved with of all things, the printing industry.

It seems Bristol and another man named Benjamin Welch, Jr. started a newspaper called - The Daily Republic which operated out of the Clarendon Hotel on the corner of Main and South Division. By 1855 Bristol is doing fine and moves his paper to 204 Washington St. Moore, however, begins to have problems. Right around 1855 Moore's claim on "Indian Root Pills" was contested by a company called Comstock. The Comstock Company out of N.Y. City came across the "formula" by a somewhat shady deal and consequently the "rights" to this product became tied up in a court battle for some years to come. This brings us around to 1857-58. Andrew Moore is now listed as a druggist at 47 East Seneca St. His court case is still unresolved. C.C. Bristol is now manager and editor of the Daily Republic and boosts the largest circulation in the city. Welch, his partner, is not listed anywhere in the 1858 Directory. Possibly he moved or died, who knows. In 1860 Moore's court battle comes to its finale ending in Moore losing the rights to "Indian Root Pills". Since the ROSE HAIR GLOSS bottle has never (to my knowledge) turned up in a plain based bottle, I think this product along with Moore went down the "tubes" into obscurity And what of Bristols products? ... Well, we know that his sarsaparilla, in the large size came plain based. Possibly, Moore or even Bristol (if he had any royalties left, who knows) sold off the "rights" to the N.Y. City agent. I'm really not sure. It's also conceivable a Buffalo druggist worked out a deal. C.W. McCray ended up with the "rights" to Bristol's Balsam of Horehound. He was still selling this balsam in an unembossed bottle with a label at the turn of the century. Cyrenius himself fades out in the 1860's. He's listed in 1866 as with the Franklin Steam Printing House. Apparently he sold out or lost his paper. In 1870 I found a listing for a C. Bristol-watchman. If this is the same man, his 30 years of business speculation in the city of Buffalo has come to a quiet end.

The Comstock Company continued in business until 1959, almost 100 years, and Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills were still being manufactured by a company in Australia into the 1970's. Perhaps they are still being made today in that country, who knows. Today, many collectors eagerly seek these embossed bottles of early 19th century quackery, which then sold for one dollar and now sell for 50 to 100 times that amount. Cyrenius is probably rolling over in his grave, because even today, 150 years later C.C. BRISTOL'S SARSAPARILLA is still sought out by those who yearn for a "cure" to antique bottle collecting. CYRENIUS C. BRISTOL - (BRISTOLS SARSAPARILLA) A) Believed to have started in 1833 B) First listing in 1835 as a chemist/pharmacist at 207 Main St. C) In 1837 Harrison Bristol (related) opens a pharmacy at 302 Main St. D) 1844 Directory listed the following: "Cyrenius C. Bristol - druggist & chemical laboratory & manufacturer of Bristols Sarsaparilla & etc." ALSO - Erasmus D. Bristol - w/ C.C. Bristol Harrison Bristol - clerk w/ C.C. Bristol A further note: BRISTOLS BALSAM OF HOURHOUND was first found advertised in a late 1844 Buffalo newspaper. 1848 - Listed as a druggist at 225 Main St.'Erasmus D. Bristol - listed as clerk 1852 - C. C. Bristol is listed as a forwarding & commission merchant with Henry P. Darrow. His sarsaparilla comes open pontiled, iron pontiled (large size) and plain based (large,. size). ROSE HAIR GLOSS (A.B. Moore) (B.G. Noble) In 1852 Buffalo directory Andrew B. Moore is listed as with the firm of Bristol, Moore & Thornton druggists at 225 Main Street. 1852 listing - Thornton, Henry - firm of Bristol, Moore & Thornton (no listings for any B.G. Noble or Nobles). Bristol is none other than Cyrennius C. Bristol who is listed as with this firm in 1852 directory. He is also listed with the firm of Bristol & Darrows - forwarding and commission merchants. (Darrow is Henry P. Darrow) 1848 directory has Darrow listed as sole owner - Bristol bought in some time between 1849 - 1852. 1848 - A. B. Moore is listed as a bookkeeper. So possibly these three people pooled their money and started an apothecary somewhere between 1849 and 1852. Exactly how A. B. Moore or B. G. Noble came up with this hair gloss is not known.

THE ORIENTAL ITROLEPTIC PANACEA - Manufactured by Dr. C. D. Stuart, Buffalo, N.Y. 1848 advertisement in the Buffalo Courier (Morning) Express. (cannot find any listing on this person in 1844 or 1848 city directory.)