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Dr. Baker's Grape Cure
A nickel into the melting pot


Kelsey loved to travel, and as the years passed he spent more and more time away from the office, setting up agencies in England, France, Germany, Australia, South America, India, and Japan. He showed a grudging respect for the Japanese as people who beat him at his own game. "They imitate everything," he wrote home. "They buy one order then manufacture. I even found there two imitation Kelsey presses already."

And by the age of forty Kelsey was on the way to being a very rich man, with business interests that included part ownership of the Meriden Record and the Los Angeles Express. He held considerable real estate in Meriden and outside. His catalogues and advertisements of around 1900 showed a photograph of four substantial houses in Fall River, and copy explaining that the youth who built them made his money with a Kelsey press. I have not traced those houses, but I suspect that Kelsey was the youth and that, in his mind, there was nothing deceptive in the advertisement. Some of Kelsey's other businesses complemented the press trade quite directly, others had nothing to do with it, and while he did not hide his name and address, you could say that there was usually less than full disclosure about the connection between his various businesses.

Kelsey bought type from the New England Type Foundry, among others, to be divided into smaller fonts and resold. He also ran a small foundry himself from 1898, and used the name Connecticut Type Foundry for its products. Type was renamed, as was the common practise, so Devinne, for example, became Saunders (Saunders was the name of Kelsey's type founder), and Jensen became Carleton Oldstyle (for Kelsey's son). Kelsey had a special line in nickel alloy type. This started, according to an account that he wrote for Snow, in response to Barnhart Brothers and Spindler's copper alloy type.

"I hit upon nickel as a good claim and to be technically truthful, ordered a nickel dropped into the melting pot at each mixture. We should keep it up."

The Keystone Foundry had the same idea, he said, but he was first. The Rubber Alphabets Company showed up next door to Kelsey in the early 1880s. Kelsey had some benign connection with it, but I haven't established that he owned it -- though for some years, Snow related, pieces of rubber type were shown in a display case in Kelsey's front lobby. And for a period in the 1880's the Holly Card Works occupied the whole third floor of the Kelsey press building, with seven or eight girls snipping and pasting fancy lithographed cards that were bought from wholesalers (later they were printed and die cut in the plant). The girls earned 60c to $1 a day, working 10 hour days. Kelsey, for comparison, drew a salary of $75 a month, and he rented the factory to the company at $90 monthly. As I have said, Kelsey's private and company finances were closely interwoven, and he must have had a hard time in the early 1900's when corporate law was tightened up.



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My favorite of Kelsey's creative ventures was Dr Baker's Grape Cure, made and bottled in the Kelsey Press Company plant....