February 9, 2007

Smith Brothers

And the men behind the brand were...
William Smith and Andrew Smith

Serendipity named them Trade and Mark and their images have been commercially reproduced more times than any others. They were so successful they spawned a spate of cheap imitators such as the “Schmitt Brothers” and the “Smythe Sisters.” They are the Smith Brothers.

James Smith was a Scot who emigrated to Quebec, Canada for 15 years before migrating to Poughkeepsie, New York where he opened a restaurant. He sold candy as a sideline, with his oldest son William hawking the confections so successfully he was known around town as “Candy Boy.” Legend has it that one day a peddler stopped in the restaurant one day, and not having the money for a meal, swapped a cough drop recipe for some food.

Whatever the origins, by 1852 James Smith & Sons Compound of Wild Cherry Cough Candy was on the market “for the Cure of Coughs, Colds, Hoarseness, Sore Throats, Whooping Cough and Asthma.” The claims were later toned down but if there was anyplace that needed such a remedy, it was the bitter, windswept Hudson Valley.

James Smith died in 1866 and the Smith brothers, William and Andrew, inherited the business. The next generation concentrated more on the cough drops than the restaurant. They converted a barn on the edge of town into the first cough drop factory and sold their Smith Brothers cough medicine in glass counter-top jars.

To discourage counterfeiters the brothers molded the initials “SB” on each drop - and began advertising the fact. To further thwart imitators they developed a trademark based on their own bearded visages. To announce their government protection they printed the word “TRADEMARK” on the label where it was divided; the “TRADE” by chance appearing under William’s picture and the “MARK” resting under Andrew. the labels were pasted on the glass jars.

In 1877 the Smiths produced one of the first “factory-filled” consumer products by selling their black licorice and cherry cough drops in small packages - each adorned by Trade and Mark. In their lifetime William and Andrew Smith saw production of their cough drops soar from five pounds a day to five tons.
The business would remain in family hands until 1963 but the only Smiths anyone ever knew were Trade and Mark.

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