Dr. James Pettit’s Eye Salve, Please!


James Pettit – (1777 Albany NY – 1849 Fredonia, NY) physician: later specializing in optical surgery. In 1843, the first batch of Pettit’s Eye Salve was manufactured – fifteen dozen tins. His son Eber M. Pettit, acted as the firm’s travelling salesman, flogging the tins in Chautauqua and surrounding counties.

The Versailles Botanic Mills, which began operation around 1859, prepared bark, roots and herbs to be used in patent medicines. They were sold to Starr and Pettit and later owned by D. R. Barker under the management of James Pettit, grandson of the Dr. James Pettit. When the Dr. Pettit passed in 1849, Eber M. Pettit took over the business, Barker, became a full partner. In 1858, with business booming, the travelling sales was handed to Eber’s son James, as though it were tradition, and concentrated on the office work.

The Eye Salve business relocated when the Barkers purchased a farm at the address of 278 Central Avenue, which now appears to be a fenced-in, empty lot beside a small apartment complex. The company continued to flourish during the Depression of 1873. Edward and Clarence Howard of The Howard Bro’s., offered to buy out Pettit’s portion of the empire in 1876, and the offer was accepted.

The Howard Bros., constructed a new factory in which to manufacture Pettit’s Eye Salve and sat immediately behind the Baptist Church building on Temple Street, complete with a basement and two stories above. The construction was well under way by the beginning of December 1877 and had taken most of 1878 and by January 15, 1879 within the issue of The Fredonia Censor, it was announced – “the Howard Bros., began making eye salve today,” – with Dr. E. M. Pettit in charge of operation.

The Howard Bros., purchased machinery not just for watch production, but also for medicinal lines for the production of Cough Cure and Blood Purifier. The brothers also purchased printing and binding equipment, which allowed for them to print labels, pamphlets and other advertising materials. By March 1880, a new factory had to be built due to their success; a 2-acre lot at 88-96 East Main Street.

The old building was transported – part by part – to the new site. As part of the new arrangement, Darwin R. Barker purchased Eber M. Pettit’s portion of the empire on 19 June 1880 – completely erasing the Pettit & Barker business name. There were fresh staff members hired, production increased on both lines, watches and medicines galore – The Howard Bros., continued to manufacture medicines on East Main Street and Railroad (Cleveland) Avenue until March 1888 – when they were forced to relocate and rebuild a factory at Buffalo NY, to keep up with demand – and another relocation 4 years later to house the works on Washington Street nearest Mohawk.

– altered by Hystoria


Origin: The Pettit Eye-Salve Business – By Douglas H. Shepard



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