Archive for December, 2012

Dec 18 2012

Warners Safe Cure

Hulbert Harrington Warner came to Rochester in 1870. He started his career as a fireproof safe salesman, but his business really began to boom when he started selling his own brand of remedies. He was considered the “patent medicine king” with products like Warner’s Safe Liver Pills and Warner’s Safe Kidney Cure. He erected the Warner Building on St. Paul Street for his factory. He built a grandiose $150,000 mansion on East Avenue, the likes of which Rochester had never seen. In 1882 Warner built the Warner Observatory for the use of Professor Lewis Swift. Warner served as the first president of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce. Once considered a millionaire, he lost his fortune in a poor mining speculation in the Panic of 1893. Warner moved out of Rochester and lived the rest of his live in relative obscurity in Minnesota.


Hulbert Harrington Warner

Hulbert Harrington Warner


This is the exterior of the H.H. Warner house at 269 East Avenue, the southeast corner of East Avenue and Goodman Street. The sign “Seneca Club Property” is on the lawn. The design of the house was inspired by Rhineland castles. Warner was the first president of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce and was the owner of Warner’s Safe Remedies, patent medicine products. The house was purchased by Leon Grisheimer in 1893, whose daughter resided here before it was demolished in 1929. The site was donated by Edward Bausch to the Rochester Museum and Science Center in 1941 and the property was used for parking in 2000.


The H.H. Warner house at 269 East Avenue

The H.H. Warner house at 269 East Avenue

Warner’s “Safe” Cure….

Warner’s Safe Cure bottles are accepted as classics all around the bottle world and every bottler seems to appreciate them. Very few bottle collectors really know very much about them though. Sure, they might know something of the company history, and have a few words of wisdom on the famous Mr Warner himself. But what about the bottle? What did it really contain ? How much were the bottles sold for? Exactly how did the medicine work ? Read on, as we provide for you the essential background knowledge, that helps you to enjoy your bottles that little bit more…………………………….


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“Pure blood can be obtained by the use of Warners Safe Cure”
Warners Safe Cure bottles contained a preparation that was marketed as a cure for all diseases and problems relating to the kidneys and the liver. H H Warner seemed to have no problem tracing all types of disease back to problems with these two organs- even malaria ! This was quite a clever idea, for the kidneys and liver do indeed function to remove wastes and toxins form the bloodstream, and in theory, keeping then in good condition had to be a good idea. However, Mr Warner went ever so slightly over the top with the wild claims for his medicine. Read now some samples from a Warners Almanac from 1888, setting out the theories that were literally swallowed by a gullible middle class…


Kidney Disease is the most insidious malady that attacks the human frame. It may be present for a long period of time without manifesting itself. It is the cause of nearly all diseases, no matter where located or by what name called……Treatment – Neglected kidney disease always results in Bright’s Disease.. Kidney affections are very common and their very commonness encourages fatal neglect. To effect a cure, a high class scientific compound such as Warner’s Safe Cure should alone be taken, as it frees the system of poisonous uric acid, strengthens the blood vessels which are inflamed and prevents the albumen (or life of the blood ) from escape. It should be taken as directed on the bottle in sufficient quantities and will be found to prove a specific


All disorders connected with the liver are exceedingly troublesome. The following list of symptoms will enable anyone to detect whether their liver is out of order;
Boils, Vertigo ,Pimples Dizziness, Heart Burn, Moth patches, Sour stomach,, Dry hacking cough
Treatment – The liver and kidneys are in such intimate union that one organ cannot be affected without the other becoming diseased ; therefore a remedy must be so compounded as to act both upon the liver and kidneys at once…….
As well as claiming to cure Kidney, Liver and Bright?s Disease, Warner?s Safe Cure would also help with, Jaundice, Gravel, Stone,, Catarrh of Bladder, Pain in back, Headache, Dropsy, Dyspepsia, Inflammation of the Kidneys, Liver & Urinary organs, Tumours, Abscesses, irregular periods and convulsions, Female Complaints, Change of Life, Beneficial in Gestation, Debility, Malaria, Heart, Blood, Skin and other diseases caused by deranged kidneys and livers.
Not bad value at ONLY four shillings and sixpence for a large bottle and two shillings and ninepence for a small size.?


The fully labelled bottle of Warner’s Safe Cure came complete with explicit instructions;
DOSE for ADULTS; One tablespoonful six or eight times a day, taken neat. Discard all drugs and medicines during treatment CLOTHING; Wear flannel or warm underclothing. avoid all exposure and give the body a thorough rubbing over once a day, taking care not to take cold
DIET ; Do not use fresh or salt meats, or pork, spirits ,beer, wine coffee, tea, tobacco, hot bread, pies, pastry or any rich, greasy substances. Eat sparingly. ; fresh fish, soft baked potatoes, boiled onions, raw oysters, milk if agreeable, simple broths, corn and brown bread, tomatoes, asparagus, celery, fruits, moderately in season…
Sounds more like a spell at a health farm, than medicine , doesn’t it ?


By now, you may well be wondering what type of idiot was gullible enough to fall for all this hype. Well, you must remember that there was no national health service in 1888, all medicines and treatment had to be paid for. Many people regarded doctors with some suspicion, and buying a remedy from a chemist or apothecary was standard practise. Hubert H Warner also used advertising to great effect. His almanacs, distributed by post contained a wonderful selling aid – testimonials. These would explain to the amazed reader how taking Warners Safe cure really could change your life, for example…



3, Woolford Terrace, Eccles, Manchester , England . July 1 1887 – I was a sad sufferer for two years. was off my business duties, tried everything under several hospitals as well as private doctors without ant benefit at all. I was prostate, my body swollen twice its size, I could scarcely move, and my urine was like brickdust, and burnt like fire; in fact I was given up as past cure until I got Warner’s Safe Cure, when after taking it according to directions it was like a saving angel. I was after three months, restored to perfect health and strength for which I feel no pen can describe my everlasting thanks.
I W Cowe

Having dug on the tip at Eccles, Manchester, and having dug two one pint Warner’s Safe Cures there, it occurs to me that I may have recovered Mr Cowe’s bottles – that is if he ever existed at all !! The Almanac actually invites “doubting Thomas?s? to write off to all of the writers of the testimonials, claiming not to use fictitious testimonials. It appears that Warner?s Safe Cure was certainly good enough for a Mr Howell, Bicycle champion of the World, along with Sister Teresa of the St Mary’s Convent, Allahabad, India .. Champion Sculler of the World, William Beach of Sydney, Australia felt quite unwell during training so his trainer got him some Warner’s Safe Cure!

Judging by the number of Warner’s Safe cure bottles there are around, Warner’s medicine was hugely popular. He was able to operate in an age where wild claims could be made without any possibility of checks being made to see if such claims could be substantiated. He spent a fortune on advertising; indeed his advertising budget was greater than the total income of some of his competitors. H H Warner built up a worldwide empire based on his various bottled medicines. There were large plants at Rochester, Toronto, London , Frankfurt , Melbourne and later at Pressburg and Dunedin. Warner’s Safe Cure bottles are known from all but the last mentioned city. The base for operations in London was a large five floored building at 36 Clerkenwell Road, E C

So just exactly what was inside this wonder medicine? The formula for Warner?s Safe Cure was ;

Extract lyceums Virginia 308 grains
Extract liverwort 322 grains
Extract Wintergreen 7.5 grains
Potassium Nitrate 39 grains
Glycerine 10 drams
Alcohol ( 90%) 2.5 ounces
Water sufficient to make … 1pint

If you know anything about the kidneys, Potassium and alcohol are actually kidney irritants .. and consuming all that alcohol would not do the liver a lot of good either!


Above Article Copyright @ Mike Sheridan 1994