Henry Thayer & Company: A Rich & Proud History
In 1847, Henry Thayer M.D., opened a laboratory on Main Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts to produce his newly developed line of herbal extracts for sale to the medical profession. Born in 1828, into one of Massachusetts’ founding families, he was trained in the medical arts of his day by his physician father. His method produced, for the first time, standardized strengths, enabling physicians to regulate dosages accurately. The company, named Henry Thayer & Company, prospered and broadened its line of products and has been described as the largest manufacturer of pharmaceuticals in America at the time of the Civil War.
In 1875, the company published “Descriptive Catalogue of Fluid and Solid Extracts in Vacuo” listing over 800 of its products: herbal based, presented in the forms of tinctures, infusions, syrups, poultices and wines. Prominent among these products was a Fluid Extract of Witch Hazel, listed as a “Tonic, astringent, and sedative; useful in checking hemorrhages and excessive discharges.” The final pages show sugar-coated pills, a physician’s dose list, apothecary’s tables, a diet for invalids, and some diagnosis-related formulas including numerous combinations for cough remedies, a “Lotion for Humors and Eruptions”, “Hair Restorative”, and “Effervescent Lemonade Without a Machine.”
The Torch Is Passed (A Couple of Times)
After Dr. Thayer died in 1902, ownership of the business passed to his great niece, Mrs. Joseph Sturdevant. The nature of the business changed from emphasis on extracts of herbs to the preparation and sale of compound formulas marketed to the public through drug stores as “patent” medicines. Included were a line of 9 children’s remedies, marketed under the brand name “Tots”, a pile ointment, and a line of lozenges, including Slippery Elm Lozenges.
In 1947, Chase, Storrow Co. of Boston, a partnership of former Harvard roommates and recent Navy veterans, bought the company from Mrs. Joseph Sturdevant. A vigorous program of sales and advertising was begun based on a strategy of first increasing sales in New England, to be followed by expansion west of the Hudson River. The next decade saw distribution of the lozenges in the U.S. and Canada in independent drug stores and natural product stores, and the addition of related items, Cough Syrup, Nose Drops, Cold Sore Balm, and Coughmasters.
In 1989, the decision was made to add a line of Witch Hazel products for sale in the health food trade, with the addition of Aloe Vera to not only soothe and clean skin but soften as well.
In 1999 the company was sold to Karen Clarke, who for five years had served as General Manager. The Thayers family-business tradition was carried forward yet again in 2003, when Karen’s son, John Gehr, came aboard as Vice President of Sales & Marketing and Business Development.
A Bright Future
A longstanding commitment to making effective, natural remedies with high-quality ingredients has ensured Thayers’ longevity. Its owners are confident that with this unwavering dedication, the company will flourish throughout the 21st Century.