Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Agnes Botanic Company

Here's a letter from Agnes Botanic Company on company letterhead--New York, 1885. I thought this was an interesting logo for a company, especially a botanical/patent medicine company.

So who was Agnes and what was it about her that her image would be deemed appropriate for a botanical company?

I found one (and the only) answer on a Web site for a current-day company with similar products to that of their namesake company from the 1880s: Sister Agnes Soap. Their FAQ offers some clues about their Agnes, informing us that she was a virgin saint martyred at age 10 or 12 and is the patron saint of girls. Don't know if that is the same Agnes, but the company uses a similar logo.

Looks like an interesting little company with a very creative and interesting looking Web site. I hope they are thought of in a better light than their counterparts in 1885. The following jab at patent medicine in general, and Agnes Botanic in particular, was included in the Chicago Medical Review, Volumes V and VI, January 1882 to December 1882:
Religious Newspapers And "Botanic Medicines."—Some benighted patent medicine man took the Alienist and Neurologist for a religious journal. The recent article of the editor on moral insanity doubtless led to this mistake, which, however, does not reflect credit on the patent medicine man's intelligence. The editor makes the following apt editorial reply:

"To the Agnes Botanic Company: The Alienist and Neurologist is not a religious journal, its editor is not a divine (that point at least is settled), and is not interested in disseminating the wonderful virtues of the ' Sister Agnes Herb Cure,' and consequently cannot engage to hand your communication ' to the principal newsdealer of our congregation.' "

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

C.W.F. Dare - Carousels, Carriages & Toys

Here's an artistic and aesthetically pleasing letterhead from one of the best craftsmen in his trade at the time this letter was written (1874)--C.W.F. Dare, of Brooklyn.

Dare seems to have been in business from the 1860s to 1890s, starting out making hobby horses. He later expanded his line to include children's carriages, toys, and carousel horses, for which he may best be remembered.

He pioneered a style of horse known as County Fair. While less sophisticated stylistically than what his competitors were crafting, Dare's creations were built for endurance and mobility, featuring the rare flying horse style where the horse swings outward as the carousel builds up speed. Their construction also allowed for greater portability in the world of one-night carnival stands. This simplistic carving style gained many followers in the trade.

The company added other animals to the carousel (camels, deer, donkeys and elephants) and also made the carousel platforms upon which the animals were placed.

One of Dare's carousels, made in the 1880s, is the oldest carousel still in operation today in the United States. The Flying Horses can be found on Martha's Vineyard.

Research on C.W.F. Dare led me to The Splendid Peasant, Ltd., whose owners, Martin and Kitty Jacobs, deal in beautiful antique American Folk Art. They have kindly given me permission to use their photo of a C.W.F. Dare Carousel horse, circa early 1900s (sold from their gallery). Anyone interested in American folk art antiques will enjoy browsing the pages, gallery, and archives of this Web site.

For more information about Charles W.F. Dare and his and other carousels, a must read is Painted Ponies, by William Manns, Peggy Shank, and Marianne Stevens.