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History of Hamamelis

(Witch Hazel)

Extract and Distillate


    In 1865, the senior member of the writers of this treatise was acting as
clerk in the establishment of W. J. M. Gordon and Brother, Ninth and Central
Avenues, Cincinnati, Ohio.

    Mr. Gordon specialized in physicians' supplies, and made a feature of the
"Concentrations" and other Eclectic preparations, then rapidly coming into
favor. This was natural, as the Gordon establishment was but two
blocks from the Eclectic Medical Institute, Court and Plum Streets. Drs. King
and Scudder, and other professors of the Institute, were patrons of the Gordon
establishment, and contributed, constantly and helpfully, to Mr. Gordon's
pharmaceutical researches. They naturally fraternized with the physicians of
other schools, who met in Gordon's large, comfortable and hospitable front room,
where all, alike, considered themselves at home. A "No Man's Land" it was, but
one of cheer and helpfulness, not of war, personalities and misrepresentation.
The physicians who there met, differed in views, but they personally respected
each other's ideals and processes. They had no desire to suppress the efforts of
others who were endeavoring to serve the needs of the American people. That was
left to medical politicians.

At that time, 1865, Mr. Gordon had in his employ a business representative
named Leon Hurtt, a brother of F. W. Hurtt, a banker in New York City. Through
Leon, F. W. Hurtt proposed to purchase the right to make the preparation then
known as "Pond's Extract." The senior writer of this chronicle well remembers
when, in his presence, Leon Hurtt informed Mr. Gordon (who, I was told, had
declined to purchase the Pond Extract rights) that he wished to resign his
position with the Gordons, to devote his time to the introduction and sale of
the proprietary medicine, "Pond's Extract;" it was then used almost exclusively
by the Homeopathic medical profession of America, being scarcely known either to
other physicians, or to the public generally.

In one of my visits (J. U. L.) to Los Angeles, California, I learned that Leon
T. Hurtt was yet living, a resident of that city. I located his home, and in
1915 made him a personal visit, with the object of obtaining from him an
authoritative statement concerning the history of Pond's Extract, as well as his
connection therewith. In this and other later visits, he gave me in detail the
history of the preparation, which was first a water-made extract, but is not now
an "extract," although established and sometimes sold under that title. I have
not hesitated to utilize Mr. Hurtt's words verbatim, as a part of this paper.

    To the foregoing I will add that in my opinion the story herein told could
not, at the date of my interview with Mr. Hurtt, have been handled
authoritatively by any other person, he being the only living "charter member"
of the organization originally known as the "Pond's Extract Company."
    Pond's distilled hamamelis was quietly introduced into the Homeopathic
school of medicine. Coming gradually into the practice of Eclectic physicians,
creeping into that of Allopathic physicians, it finally came into the use of the
public generally. The chemist, finding little in the distillate other than
alcohol and traces of an essential oil, accepted that distilled hamamelis must,
if it had any virtues, depend onthe water and the alcohol it contained.
    And yet, after many decades have passed, distilled hamamelis stands firmly
entrenched as one of the most popular of physicians' favorites, being also
largely employed as a toilet application in America. And that, too, in the face
of resistance by authority such as Dr. John Marshall, and H. C. Wood, of
Philadelphia who, in 1886, made a strenuous scientific laboratory investigation
of hamamelis, deciding that there was nothing of therapeutic value in the
distillate. Their article ended as follows:
"This much used, and still more lauded witch-hazel, or the so-called distillate
of witch hazel, must depend for its virtues upon the alcohol they contain, and
the faith they inspire." This view is upheld by the United States and the
National Dispensatories, as follows:

"As whatever slight therapeutic virtues witch-hazel possesses seems to depend on
its tannin, it is obvious that this distillate cannot represent the drug." U. S.

"The good that it exerts in the treatment of sprains, bruises, wounds,
chilblains, sore eyes, headache, and a host of other conditions, resides more in
the activity of a cleansing and evaporating lotion and in the mind of its user,
than in any decided curative properties that the preparation may possess."
National Dispensatory, 1916.

In this connection, I am of the opinion that no claim is made by any maker of
the distillate that it represents the fixed astringent principles of the drug.
Nor am I convinced that alcohol is the only serviceable content of the

"Golden Treasure"

As written by Leon T. Hurtt, of the Pond's Extract Company.

(Edited slightly in phrase directions L.)

In the early 1840's, Theron T. Pond, a resident of Utica, New York, became
interested in, and associated more--or less, with a tribe of Indians known as the
Oneida tribe then located in Central New York. He found that they were using for
burns, boils and wounds of every description a 'tea' made by their Medicine Man
from a species of bush known as 'witch hazel,' a shrub supposed by them to grow
only in Central New York. The Medicine Man made his extract by steeping the
shrub in an ordinary teakettle. The liquid which he obtained was colored but as
clear as water, and had a peculiar aroma obtained from no other shrub.

The 'Witch Hazel' is peculiar (Cuts B & C), in that it blossoms in the fall,
producing small, yellow flowers. The medicinal properties of the extract were,
in the opinion of the Oneidas, remarkable. A sudden electrical and thunder storm
(it was stated) would turn the liquid milky, but within forty-eight to seventy
hours it would return to its original clearness. (This needs corroboration. J.
U. L.)

Mr. Pond, believing in the wonderful medicinal properties of the 'Witch Hazel'
tea, decided to learn from the Indian doctor the peculiar species of shrub used.
With the Indian Medicine Man he spent several months, searching the underbrush
until he fully informed himself of the shrub they employed. He then formed with
the Indians a sort of partnership to make the extract, putting it up in a shape
to be sold among their friends.

The Medicine Man was extremely particular about the species of shrub used, and
its manipulation. He would gather it himself in the woods, bringing it in by the
armful, and steeping it at once.

At first they boiled the shrub in an ordinary iron kettle or cauldron, over a
direct fire.  Thus they produced a fair article, but they could not preserve it.
After studying different preservatives, they finally used about 3% alcohol, but
in warm weather that amount of alcohol failed to keep the product, and the
alcohol was increased.

They decided to give to their extract the trade name, 'Golden Treasure,' a name
suggested by Mr. Pond. After his death, this name was changed to 'Pond's

Mr. Pond and the Medicine Man worked together for several years, introducing the
product mainly among their personal friends. They finally decided to put the
'Extract' on the market, and did so, in a local way, in 1848.  When we sold the
Pond's Extract Company, in 1898, there was in the company's safe a two-ounce
bottle, made in 1848, which was apparently still good. Whether that bottle can
now be found, I do not know.

Theron T. Pond died some time between 1847 and 1850. It is said that he lost his
life from exposure in the woods. 

Between 1846 and 1850, Pond and the Indian Medicine Man sold their business to
Hart and Munson, iron foundry men of Utica, New York. They took in with them
Isaiah A. Palmer, a friend and neighbor of Theron T. Pond. The business was next
sold to a firm in New York whose name I have forgotten, but as no business of
any consequence resulted, the company was sold by the sheriff. It was bought in
by Isaiah A. Palmer, who claimed never to have sold his interest therein. It
should here be repeated that Palmer, Hart and Munson had given the product the
name 'Pond's Extract,' dropping the name 'Golden Treasure.'

Dr. Frederick Humphrey, a Methodist minister, and also a Homeopathic physician,
proprietor of the Homeopathic Medicine Company, 562 Broadway, New York, claimed
that for years he had been Mr. Pond's family physician, and that Pond had given
him the right to manufacture and sell the extract through his 'Humphrey
Homeopathic Medicine Company.' He did, indeed, commence to manufacture the same,
continuing the name, 'Pond's Extract.' His claim was denied by Palmer, who
commenced suit and applied for an injunction forbidding Humphrey from either
using the name 'Pond's Extract,' or manufacturing the article.

A party from Connecticut who had worked for the original firm of Pond and the
Indian, also claimed that he had the right to make 'Golden Treasure,' but he was
unable to establish his claim.

At that time, the 'extract' was still made by using the old cauldron, over a
direct fire. Palmer employed a copper kettle, with a very crude concentrating
hood and worm. Cold water was used for condensing the vapor.

In 1871 or '72, while the lawsuit (Palmer vs. Humphrey) was still pending, Mr.
F. W. Hurtt, a banker of New York, bought the interest, or the alleged interest,
ofthe Humphrey Homeopathic Medicine Company, and to quiet Palmer, took him into
partnership, giving him an eighth interest in the new corporation, which was
capitalized at $100,000. At that time, the sale of Pond's Extract was less than
$5000 per annum.

Harry Cole, of Cincinnati, myself and F. W. Hurtt, of New York, bought the
concern, which we reorganized, electing F. W. Hurtt, President, L. H. Hurtt,
Vice-President, Harry Cole, Treasurer, and I. A. Palmer, Manufacturer. We
transferred the company from 562 Broadway, New York, to 76 Williams Street, New
York, the firm name now being, F. W. Hurtt and Brother, Wholesale Druggists. The
company then had three factories, small and crude, with four kettles at each
factory. One of these factories (all in New York State), was located at
Tightsville, one at Little Falls, and one at Frankfort. These three factories I
consolidated into one, at Rome, New York, and for four years ran that factory
from November, each year, until April or May.

In the meantime Isaiah A. Palmer had died, and E. D. Palmer, the sculptor,
became interested with us. However, besides holding the office of vice-president
and running the drug department nafter I. A. Palmer's death, I added to my other
duties the manufacturing of the Extract.

We then moved from Rome, New York, to Chester, Connecticut, the only other
locality I knew where the Indian species of Witch Hazel was obtainable.  I
immediately decided to build steam stills, believing that I could obtain better
extract from the shrub than I could with the old-time, direct fire, copper
kettles. This I proved by making an extract nineteen per cent stronger than we
had before obtained.

About a year after our purchase of their alleged interest from Dr. Humphrey and
the Homeopathic Company, Humphrey's Medicine Company sued us for reformation of
contract and agreement. We in turn injoined them from using the term 'Pond's
Extract,' or from manufacturing that product. This lawsuit was in the court for
several years.

The day after our charter was issued by the Secretary of State, our president,
F. W. Hurtt, started on a trip around the world. It then became my duty
to assume the entire responsibility of the company. We ran the Extract in
connection with our wholesale drug business (F. W. Hurtt & Brother), but the
establishment was inadequate for both the drug and medicine, and the Pond's
Extract business. We therefore leased a whole building at 98 Maiden Lane, and
there we conducted the business for five years, until 1878. On our president's
return, and on account of the rapid increase of business, we bought a brick
factory in Brooklyn, E. D., a four-story building one hundred feet square. This
was used only for bottling and shipping, and for the Business and Advertising
Departments of the Pond's Extract Company. Our distilleries were still in
Chester, Connecticut.

When the bridge crossing East River was built, the site of our building in
Brooklyn was needed, and F. W. Hurtt bought the old Belmont home, 76 Fifth
Avenue, New York, and No. 1, West 13th Street. This we remodeled, moving into it
in 1883. As stated, we were then manufacturing our Extract at Chester,
Connecticut. There we abandoned the old kettle previously employed, changing to
400-gallon copper stills made under my own supervision. I understand that the
same stills are in use by the Pond Extract Company, at the present time. With
our new stills, I added about twenty-two and one-half percent to the strength of
the extract.

There seems to be only two or three sections of the United States where the true
species of Witch Hazel grows, of the quality employed by the Pond Company and
the Indian 'Medicine Man' of the Oneidas, namely, Central New York and
Connecticut. I am told that each year the tribes of Indians on the plains
send their Medicine Man East, for their supply of what they term 'Witch Hazel

In 1884, our president, F. W. Hurtt, passed away, and I was elected President of
the Company, remaining in that position until I resigned, in 1898. At that time
our business was about half a million dollars each year.

In 1882 I added several new preparations, consisting of toilet cream,
dentifrice, lip salve, ointment, porous plasters, catarrh remedy and toilet
soap. Special machinery for their manufacture was erected in our laboratory at
Number 1 West 13th Street, that building being connected with the one containing
our offices, at 76 Fifth Avenue. All the articles above mentioned were made from
the product of Pond's Extract, in different forms, and proved very successful
with a large trade.

In 1878 we had opened a branch on Great Russell Street, London, opposite Bridges
Museum, and there built up a reasonable trade, principally on Pond's Extract. We
also established an agency with Roberts and Co., of Paris, France. We exhibited
our preparations at the Paris Exposition, and received a medal. The date of that
Exposition I have forgotten, and have no data by which I can recall it. I think
the present Pond's Extract Company retains the London Branch, at the present

While in London, I made a contract with the Hotel Syndicate that controlled all
the first class hotels in London. The contract was as follows: The Syndicate to
buy from the London Company ten gross of Pond's Extract, of the small size, and
pay our regular wholesale price for it. They were to place a bottle in each
guest's room, charging same to the room. When occupied by a guest, it was the
duty of the chambermaid to report to the office whether or not the guest had
used the bottle. If so, it was charged to the guest, and another bottle
immediately put in its place. We were to place in the 'lifts' of each hotel a
large mirror with the words 'Pond's Extract' lettered across its top. Other
mirrors were to be placed in the reception room and the public rooms on the
first floor. This wouldhave required an expenditure of ten or eleven thousand
dollars. For this privilege, for one year, we were to pay the Hotel Syndicate
One Thousand Dollars. However, the Board of Directors of my company refused to
sanction my agreement, and the contract was not consummated.