Thursday, July 23, 2009

PFF brought to you by the Smith Brothers

Dear Audrey,

Hazel and I had lunch in this quaint, old restaurant. It was opened by the Smith Bros. of Cough Drop fam. We travel back to Greenwich Friday night.
Nellie L. Schlosse

The postmark reads Greenwich, N.Y. Oct 14 3:30 pm 1947 and is addressed to
Miss Audrey James
Box 124
River Falls, Wisconsin

I darkened the back of the card quite a lot in order to decipher the writing as well as enlarging the image. I don't think I could have read Nellie's handwriting without the help of my modern aids.

THE HISTORY Smith Brothers Cough Drop packaging portrays one of the world’s most famous trademarks. The two bearded gentlemen who distinguish it, affectionately known to generations as Trade and Mark, are legendary. Not well known, however, is the fact that the Smith Brothers really existed. Their names were William (Trade) and Andrew (Mark) and they helped found Smith Brothers in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1847.

William and Andrew were sons of James Smith who moved to Poughkeepsie from St. Armand, Quebec in 1847 to establish a restaurant. Though James was a fine carpenter by trade, he was an even better candy maker and a businessman. The story of the birth of the first Cough Drop is a good example. As that story goes, a journeyman stopped at the Smith restaurant and gave James the formula for a delicious and effective cough candy. James saw a need for such a product in the cold, windswept Hudson Valley and immediately mixed up a batch on his kitchen stove.

The Drops were a quick success and demand for the "cough candy" grew fast up and down the river. Only a few years later, in 1852, the firm’s first advertisement appeared in the Poughkeepsie paper, inviting all "afflicted with hoarseness, cough or colds" to test it. Young William and Andrew were active in the new business from the start. They helped mix the family secret formula in their father’s kitchen and busily sold the product in the streets of Poughkeepsie. The two boys inherited the fast growing business on the father’s death in 1866, and the company officially became known as Smith Brothers. As sales grew throughout the Hudson Valley, this success was met with a whole flurry of imitators-"Schmitt Brothers", "Smythe Sisters" and even other "Smith Brothers" appeared with imitative product. The real Smith Brothers, by this time having long, flowing beards, decided to place their own pictures on their product packaging, which consisted of glass bowls for a counter display and small envelopes into which the shopkeeper counted the Smith Brothers Cough Drops for each sale.

By chance, the word "Trade" appeared under the picture of William and the word "Mark" under that of Andrew. Thus, it happened by a mere coincidence that the famous Smith Brothers’ trademark was born and the Smith Brothers became known to generations of Americans as Trade and Mark. The glass bowl and envelopes then in use, had definite limitations. For one thing, the Smith Brothers could not be sure that only genuine Smith Brothers Cough Drops would be sold in envelopes which bore their pictures, so in 1872 the brothers developed a package bearing their likenesses, which was filled under their own personal supervision. This package was one of the first "factory filled" packages ever developed. Andrew (Mark) died in 1895 but William (Trade) continued as President of Smith Brothers almost up to his death in 1913. He was succeeded by his son, Arthur G. Smith, under whose direction the company continued to prosper. Menthol Cough Drops were added in 1922, a cough syrup in 1926 and the famous Smith Brothers Wild Cherry Flavor in 1948.

So there you have it....famous in Poughkeepsie for generations....the Smith Bros.

Happy Postcard Friendship Friday. Check out all the other PFF posts this week by clicking here.

ps. Yes, Nancy and Pam, I did research this one!


  1. Wonderful postcard, and I love hearing the history behind it all.

    Happy PFF!

  2. Beautiful old postcard.;)
    The story reminds me of everything else in life; the greatest success comes from a lot of hard work, but also from luck, great ideas and from meeting the right people. And from being a true visionary as well.;)
    Never knew about the first cough drop, now I will think about it every time I have one.;))
    Have a happy Friday.;))

  3. I loved hearing the history of this card. It must have been really popular.....look at all those tables!........My favorite painting at Princeton University's Art Musuem was the Monet of his Bridge at Giverny. There are many versions of this around, but to have this tresure in New Jersey is amazing to me!!!

  4. Lovely card, fascinating story about the Smith Brothers and I just love the name of that town, Poughkeepsie!
    Happy PFF.

  5. so cool postcard and thanks for these information!
    happy PFF

  6. I have an old college friend who lives in Poughkeepsie! My college years were peppered with stories about this town. I'm going to send him your link! He'll get a kick out of the card and the history! Happy PFF!

  7. I'm coughing, better get some of their cough drops now.

  8. Great post. As a child, Smith Bros. Wild Cherry cough drops rivaled Vicks at my house. I much preferred the former. Funny how the first part of Pough of Poughkeepsie looks like cough but sounds so different. ;) Actually, the full word sounds like a sneeze.. can a cough be far behind? Pass the Smith Bros., please!

  9. WOW!!! Great post, the card is awesome. So much history. Oh, whatever happened to the good ole days?

  10. I love their cough drops. I love the postcard, and I love the research you did. You are so cool!

  11. Happy Friday my sweet friend, hope you'll have a great time in Greenwich tonight!

  12. Wonderful post, as a kid we 'ate' Smith Bros. Cherry Cough Drops like candy ..

  13. This was a huge restaurant, and the photo of the card is fascinating with its repetition of the tables and the lamps. I wonder what Nellie and Hazel ate here and if that was quaint too. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Great card...and research! :)

  15. A lovely postcard....and great info on Smith Bros.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    I hope you have a beautiful weekend.

  16. A great card and the history that comes with it is great too! Now, if someone would just explain to me how to pronounce Poughkeepsie, my day would be perfect. :)

  17. What a fun post!...My husband and his partners have always joked that they looked like the Smith Bros. on the cough drop box...a bearded...all with beards...

  18. I love this card, and I'm sure it was quite the site to the folks back home in Wisconsin.

    Sheila: It's "puh-KIP-see".

  19. Confession: I loved Smith Brothers red cherry cough drops as a child and used to eat them like candy!

  20. Oh, I'm like most here that loved those cherry ones! Never heard of the black ones!

  21. Stories are everywhere, between the lines of old postcards, on the Missed Connections link of craigslist, in faces in crowds.

  22. I can just picture Hazel and Nellie there, can't you?

  23. I think I would quite enjoy dining in a restaurant or cafeteria done in olive green tones. For some reason, I've never seen that. I wonder if its just too difficult to get the 'right' olive tone. Mysterious and rich without being 'military' or 'drab'.

    Hmmm, tricky colour. Maybe there's an idea for an art project for you, "Study in Olive".....

  24. Very cool postcard!

    I love it when an old postcard has hand writing on the back. Though some of it is quite tiny, it offers a glimpse into the past and into another time.


I'm glad you stopped by and I look forward to your comments. As Dr. Fraser Crane would say, "Hello, I'm listening."