Philadelphia Trades and Businesses Illustrated

Philadelphia began to serve as a center of the pharmaceutical industry beginning in the early-19th century. By the Civil War, a number of Philadelphia firms dominated the business, including Powers & Weightman, the partnership between Thomas Powers (1812-1878) and William Weightman (1813-1904). This advertisement, one of a series drawn by Anthony Blanc and published ca. 1876 by Longacre & Co., adds to a number already held by the Library Company in its popular medicine collections. Originally founded in 1818 as Farr & Kunzi, this company that introduced quinine to the United States in 1822 reestablished itself as Powers & Weightman in 1847 following the death of original partner John Farr (1791-1847), uncle of Weightman. As Powers & Weightman, the firm became internationally renowned for its manufacture of medicinal and other fine chemicals. With one complex operating in East Falls and another in Northern Liberties, the company continued in business until the 1920s as Powers-Weightman & Rosengarten Company before merging with the 21st-century industry giant Merck.

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Charles Godfrey Leland, Ye Book of Copperheads (Philadelphia, 1863, with lithographed advertisement).

A[nthony] Blanc. Works, East Schuylkill Falls. Powers & Weightman Manufacturing Chemists, Philadelphia. Established 1818 (Philadelphia: Longacre & Co., ca. 1876). Chromolithograph. Acquired from the Jay T. Snider Collection.

 

In 1844, soon after its establishment as Powers & Weightman, the company began constructing the first buildings of this large industrial complex that included warehouses, storage sheds, and a reservoir. Although the entire works appears impressive, the “Tartaric and Citric Acid Department” garners its own inset as the company recently introduced citric acid to the United States in 1874. The image of the expansive operation must have proved successful since, following the 1905 merger of  Powers & Weightman with one of its top rivals, Rosengarten & Sons, the advertisement was issued again. Retitled with the new company name Powers-Weightman & Rosengarten Co., the print remained otherwise the same and served as a testament to the work of Blanc and Longacre, who ironically had also issued a similarly composed advertisement for Rosengarten & Sons ca. 1876.

A Nest of Copperheads. Albumen print cartoon (Philadelphia, 1864). And, The Great Copperhead Jubilee ! On the Banks of Salt River. Illustrated cartoon card (Philadelphia, 1864).

A[nthony] Blanc. Exhibit at the Centennial Exposition 1876 (Philadelphia: Longacre & Co., 1876). Chromolithograph. Digital File Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The Centennial Exhibition, an international fair in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the nation, included hundreds of exhibits related to art, agriculture, and industry, including the pharmaceutical trade. According to the “Reports & Awards” pamphlets from the fair, the Powers & Weightman display was a “magnificent exhibit.” The pyramids of salts, the crystals encased in bell jars, and the glass canisters of glimmering minerals in a myriad of colors effectively portrayed the “fairy scene” noted by the judges.

Henry Louis Stephens, Our Relations at Home and Abroad. Chromolithographed cartoon cards (Philadelphia, 1863).

 

Henry Louis Stephens, Our Relations at Home and Abroad. Chromolithographed cartoon cards (Philadelphia, 1863).

Powers & Weightman. Preservation of Timber (Philadelphia, February, 1849).

Testimonials have long been used in advertising, as in this broadside promoting a Powers & Weightman corrosive sublimate solution to “kyanize” wood, i.e., treat it against decay. On the recto, the testimonial written by William Jackson (1783-1855), a railroad promoter and former U.S. congressman, swears to the economic efficiency and effectiveness of the method. On the verso, diagrams of the proper construction of tanks to hold the solution appeared alongside instructions for the safe handling of the mixture. Tips for proper use include the wearing of a handkerchief over one’s face during mixing and the washing of one’s hands after handling the chemicals, in addition to the low-tech use of a silver coin to supplement a hydrometer to test the strength of used solution.

A Nest of Copperheads. Albumen print cartoon (Philadelphia, 1864). And, The Great Copperhead Jubilee ! On the Banks of Salt River. Illustrated cartoon card (Philadelphia, 1864).

Illustrations from Catalogue of Drugs, Pharmaceutical Preparations, Utensils, Apparatus, Surgical Instruments, etc. (1857), p. 20.

 

Also present at the Centennial was the booth of Bullock & Crenshaw, another respected drug house, noted at the fair for its “fine” sugar coated pills. As demonstrated by this catalog, the partnership between Charles Bullock (1826-1900) and Edmund A. Crenshaw, established 1849, also manufactured pharmaceutical and surgical apparatus.

 

Directories served as guides to the products and services available in a particular area. Directories ranged from strictly utilitarian lists, sized to fit in a gentleman’s pocket, to large, beautifully designed albums where the presentation of the advertisement was as important as the products or business themselves.


A Nest of Copperheads. Albumen print cartoon (Philadelphia, 1864). And, The Great Copperhead Jubilee ! On the Banks of Salt River. Illustrated cartoon card (Philadelphia, 1864).

Wenderoth, Taylor, & Brown. Gallery of Arts & Manufacturers of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1871).  Gift of S. Marguerite Brenner.

 

This album, designed for public display, includes fifty-eight albumen advertising photographs, each set within an ornate lithographic frame with space below the frame for text. Most of the photographs depict factory or business exteriors such as this view of the Powers & Weightman facility, but the album also includes images of interiors and elaborate displays of artfully arranged products. The photographers inserted an advertisement for their own services on the album’s first page.

A Nest of Copperheads. Albumen print cartoon (Philadelphia, 1864). And, The Great Copperhead Jubilee ! On the Banks of Salt River. Illustrated cartoon card (Philadelphia, 1864).

Centennial Advertising Album (New York: Heppenheimer & Maurer, 1875). Acquired from the Jay T. Snider Collection.

 

This massive album contains sixty pages of advertisements primarily for businesses in New York City and Philadelphia, with product offerings as diverse as musical instruments, furniture, swimming lessons, life insurance, fireworks, and patent medicines. To capitalize on the intense interest and pride in the country’s 100th anniversary, the lithographers included either an image of a Revolutionary War scene or a Centennial Exhibition building as the central focus around which advertisements were arranged. The album ends with a full page advertisement for the lithographic and engraving services of Heppenheimer & Maurer. These albums sat in the lobbies of almost 200 hotels around the country, including leading establishments in San Francisco, Boston, New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia.

A Nest of Copperheads. Albumen print cartoon (Philadelphia, 1864). And, The Great Copperhead Jubilee ! On the Banks of Salt River. Illustrated cartoon card (Philadelphia, 1864).

Byram’s Illustrated Business Directory  (Philadelphia: J. H. Byram, publisher and engraver, 1856).

 

Joseph Byram planned to publish an annual directory and to spare no expense in making it “as attractive as possible, so that it will be an ornament to the centre-table of any steamer or hotel in the country.” Nearly 200 Philadelphia businesses paid to have their advertisements included in his directory. At their fingertips, Philadelphians would have information about where to attend the theater, buy an artificial limb, sit for a photograph, or purchase industrial equipment as shown here.

 

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