The Centaur Company, est 1871

 

[we are in the process of redesigning the site since it is somewhat unwieldy, but our focus has been on the product and company more than the web site, so far.]

Fletcher's Castoria is still being sold by Mentholatum(which was acquired by Rohto Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd of Osaka Japan in 1988) and they currently have a Fletcher's Castoria FAQ, which discusses Castoria from a medical point of view. You can do a search on it here at Yahoo.com. The brief summary is that Fletcher's Castoria was patented in 1868, and has been in continuous manufacture since (as of July 2001). Unlike some of the other patent medicines of the day, Castoria's effectiveness was not merely hyperbole. Please read on if you wish to read more about it.

About The Centaur Company and Fletcher's Castoria:

[This page is still under construction as we have a LOT more information to put online, just insufficient time to do so.]

1868, May 12: The "U.S. Patent Office grants patent to Dr. Samuel Pitcher of Barnstable, Massachusetts for a cathartic composed of senna, sodium bicarbonate, essence of wintergreen, taraxicum, sugar and water." There is a copy of the Patent here, it is somewhat large.

1871 - The Centaur Company is formed by Charles H. Fletcher at 80 Varick Street, New York, New York to manufacture Pitcher's Castoria after purchasing the rights and formula from Dr. Pitcher. It was renamed Fletcher's Castoria. He partnered with with Joseph B. Rose who had, in the same year, purchased forumla for Centaur Liniment. They had financial backing from Demas Barnes [he was later U.S. Congressman from New York 1867-1869].

(Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, (Washington DC), ties in with Castoria via Mildred Barnes (Demas Barnes' daughter with Anna Blaksley) who married Robert Bliss. It is considered by many scholars to be the preeminent collection of Byzantine art in America.)

Here is an example of three Castorias: Two Fletcher's and one Pitcher's. The bottles are approximately 5.75 inches tall. Today (July 2001), this type of bottle is reasonably common and worth around$1-$3 each. The older the bottle the more it is worth, likewise, bottles with labels are worth more.

 

 

Here are some examples of Centaur Liniment:

 

 

In the 1870s, the Centaur Company began doing significant advertising to create its brands, but primarily the advertising was for Castoria. There are some nice photographs of Castoria ads from the 1870s through 1920s on the buildings of New York that are still visible today (or at least at between the 1970s and 2001). See Forgotten-NY Ads and see Frank Jump's pages.

1883: At the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, Chas. H. Fletcher put ads on virtually every blank wall in sight. They are quite visible in images of the opening of the bridge (see The Miami Herald, Nov 11, 1984):

[Stereoscopic image scan here.]

March 25, 1884: From the Centaur Company, Chas. H. Fletcher, President to William Evarts, chairman of the Statue of Liberty's pedestal committe: ''So far as we know the largest single subscription for the Pedestal Fund is $5,000. To promote the good work we tender you a subscription of twenty-five thousand dollars, provided that for the period of one year you permit us to place across the top of the pedestal the word ' Castoria. ' Thus art andscience, the symbol of liberty to man, and of health to his children, would be more closely enshrined in the hearts of our people. ''Very respectfully, yours'' The offer was declined. (As was again reported in the New York Times, May 18, 1986 and July 3, 1986, Los Angeles Times also see Time Magazine, July 1986)

April 9, 1922 - Charles H. Fletcher passes away at age 86: "As its President and General Manager, he built the business from a very small beginning until it reached the proportions of the present day institution--probably the largest proprietary medicine concern in the country, if not in the world. " - Standard Remedies (Industry trade publication of the time, if anyone has more information about this, I'd love to hear it!). (see New York Times: (Apr 11-1922), p 19, col 4; Tribune (Apr 11-1922) etc)

1923 Sterling Drug buys a 1/4 interest in The Centaur Company (New York Times, Feb 9, 1923, Page 24, col 1)

1934 The Centaur Company Division of Sterling Products purchased Z.B.T. products from the Crystal Corporation. See below for some pictures of ZBT products

1937 Harold B. Thomas becomes President and Albert Bryant retires as General Manager

1946 - re-packages entire line in shell cartons (NYT).

[At some point during this time period it seems the formula for Fletcher's Castoria was changed slightly e.g. "New Castoria" vs "Castoria Classic" resulting in a much poorer taste.]

 

1972: The mothers of singer Pat Boone, basketball star Wilt Chamberlain and football quarterback Bob Griese to appear in separate 30-sec TV commercials to endorse Fletcher's Castoria. (NY Times, Dec 28, 1972)

1984 - Sterling Drug sells Fletcher's Castoria to Mentholatum Co. Inc.

1986: If anyone knows where to obtain a copy of the 1986 VHS movie, Liberty, directed by Richard Sarafian, please let us know!

1988: Mentholatum purchase by Rohto, a Japanese company. (May 30, 1988, The Globe and Mail) ["Or take the purchase of $ 120 million (estimated 1990 sales) Mentholatum Co., Inc., the 100-year-old maker of the famous deep-heating ointment, Medi-Quik antiseptic, and Fletcher's Castoria, the children's laxative. Mentholatum was privately owned by the Hyde family of Buffalo, N.Y. until 1988, when it was sold to Osaka-based Rohto Pharmaceutical Co. "for a very handsome price," according to Robert Crandall, Mentholatum's president." (Forbes March 19, 1990)]. The Mentholatum Company's roots trace back to Wichita, Kansas, in the late 1800's. In 1889, despite a severe economic depression, Albert Alexander Hyde began a new venture, the Yucca Company, and turned it into a successful manufacturer and marketer of soap and shaving cream.

1989: Mentholatum Co Inc. has sales of $60 million, 329 employees. Based in Buffalo, NY.

2001


Some of the advertising that was done by the Centaur Company includes:

The Centaur Receipt Book

 

Chubby's Magic Wonder Words

 

An example of advertising, circa 1927:

Some of the early advertising featured the legendary American boxer Joe Louis (the "Boxer Who Beat Hitler" when he fought Germany's Max Schmelling in 1938 after an earlier loss), from the mid 1930s. The company had been ahead of most of its competition in earlier advertising and was not afraid of any racial consequences of this ad:

:

 

Prior to that, in the 1920s, the Centaur Company was one of the earliest advertising targeted directly to women (see "Devil-may-care 1920s found papers giving women more voice and space", By Martin Kady Journal Now, 1997, Centennial, 1897-1997, Piedmont Publishing). Their advertising prior to that had targeted both men and women, but here they began to advertise additionally in the new publications specifically targeted to women.

 

The Centaur Company teamed with P.T. Barnum to advertise Castoria and Centaur Liniment in the late 1800s:

 

Packaging in the 1950-1970 time frame was similar to this:

 

Another example of the 1950s-1970s packaging:

This is a Fletcher's Castoria bottle with a rubbing of the embossing on the sides, reading "Chas. H. Fletcher's" and "Castoria" on the other side.

 

Some private die and revenue Stamps:

 

Some ZBT Baby Powder examples. Many were "A Gift from the makers of Chas. H. Fletcher's Castoria":

 

 

An even older example of the original Pitcher's bottles, from the late 1860s-1870s:

A Lehn/Fink Advertisement, probably from the late 1800s:

A 1906 postcard of a "Witch House" in Salem Mass., with a Chas. H. Fletcher's Castoria sign visible out front (look for the facsimilar signature in gold on the brown sign, lower left quarter).

 

 

There were two Fletcher's Castoria Flying Fortress B-17 bombers during World War II. The first was lost, but the crew survived. The second survived the war. They were part of the 100th Bomber Group in World War II. Its pilot was William H. Fletcher (not a descendant of Chas. H. Fletcher), hence its name. You can see a photograph of the second bomber here, along with a crew jacket. Its mission log is here. An account of its last moments is here. There are more pages here and here. For a many more picutres you can go here. If we can get permission to reprint a photo or two, it will appear below:

One of the best known slogans between 1870 and World War II: "Children cry for Chas. H. Fletcher's Castoria"

We have collected a lot of other Fletcher's Castoria history and trivia which we are currently planning on placing online.

 

 

 

Please note:

1. There was no "Dr. Fletcher." It was Chas. H. Fletcher

Copyright 1994-2002

if you have additional information, we'd love to hear about it, particularly photos or references!