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.
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
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
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
And what was in the Kelsey-Baker potion?