Dr. Baker's Grape Cure
Grape Cure, just one dollar

The Holly Card Works was probably Kelsey's most successful side line. He also ran King Pianos and Organs from the same address around 1890, selling by mail order imported toy musical instruments. And Kelsey considered going into watchmaking, but thought better of it.

"Back in 1885, I think it was," he wrote to Snow, "we started to make watches. Press trade lagged, and I saw millions in a dollar watch. I got one of Seth Thomas's best men and set him working on a model. He kept at it for some weeks, and we began excavating in the rear for a big addition to the shop, but I soon saw the scheme was too big -- would involve too much capital -- so we quit. The Mr Lane with whom we had a 3-year deal was bought off. The excavated hole remained a hole for years." In place of making watches, Kelsey imported quantities from Switzerland which he sold at $2.50.

But my favorite of Kelsey's creative ventures was Dr Baker's Grape Cure. This, too, was made and bottled at the Kelsey Press Company plant.

The Grape Cure was launched in December 1892. All at once, an organized campaign hit the newspapers. Pharmaceutical wholesalers were bombarded with a distinctly ambiguous circular (but we know how Kelsey felt about being technically truthful): "'Dr Baker's Grape Cure' will hereafter be made in Meriden. Temporary quarters are now used in Kelsey Press Co.'s building, but we shall erect a modern, fully equipped laboratory very soon."

The only names on the letterhead of the Baker Chemical Works are those of Kelsey and Fred Edgerton, second-in-command at the Kelsey Company and Kelsey's brother-in-law, with "W. N. Barber, Ph., Superintendent." A reply came from West & Jenney of Boston: "We have your favor of the 3rd, and would say that we do not remember we have had a call for your goods, but..." West & Jenney took a sample order. Cutler & Bro.s were cautious too. They wrote, "Please send us an initial order one half gross of Baker's Grape Cure." Kelsey, or somebody, wrote across the letter, "Sent a gross:" the hard sell.

What was this Dr Baker's Grape Cure? If there ever was a real Paul Baker, then he was completely eclipsed by his new image and by Kelsey, the image maker. According to an advertisement of 1893:

Many years ago several fat and jolly Germans, in their own native land, who had got too much fat, through 'beer and sweitzer,' sought to reduce by dieting. It was the grape season and they took to a nearby vineyard and began a strict diet of the ripe fruit. For weeks they ate nothing else. The experiment proved a magnificent success. Their systems were cleansed, the liver was brought to a healthy activity, and the general health was made perfect... Large sanitariums were built and well patronized. But at length the cure became less popular, partly because the grape season was so short and partly because the peculiar disease, appendicitis, sometimes attacked the patient.

"Our own" Dr Paul Baker, stated the advertisement, studied this wonderful medicine, and reduced it to an extract which he sold for some years at $2. Now the price was reduced to $1, "placing the best medicine ever made for a general regulator of the body, within the reach of all people." A fine deal, indeed. And there was included a testimonial from "A Meriden Man," Charles H. Warner, first foreman of Meriden's Fire Department in 1862. In 1892 Warner was foreman of Kelsey's machine shop, though that was not in the advertisement.


And what was in the Kelsey-Baker potion?