Looking at Austen’s Forest Flower Cologne Ephemera
11 January 2014
While working on the post yesterday for the King’s Liver and Kidney Bitters, based on the below trade card from Joe Gourd, I said I would circle back and look at the advertisement for Austen’s Forest Flower Cologne that dominated the card. As this was the only trade card I could find for the King’s Bitters, I thought I would find little on the Austen name. Well I was wrong. Austen’s was a major brand based out of Oswego, New York with plenty of ephemera. The Gourd trade card was kind of like an old 45 record. One side had the major piece of music, while the other side pushed a little known and many times, less desirable song.
Austen’s Forest Flower Cologne was manufactured by W. J. Austen & Company, of Oswego, New York. The cologne was advertised as “The Most Fashionable Perfume of the Day” or “The Most Fashionable and Lasting Perfume of the Day.” Some of the widely celebrated Austen specialities were Forest Flower Cologne, Regina Bouquet Extract and Oriental Toilet Water etc. This brand was obviously marketed to women as many brands are, as they are the ‘buyers’ and ‘keepers’ of the house and family. Some of the cards were actually scented with the cologne, reading “Perfumed With” at the top of the card, which I find really interesting. Some of the cards say “not scented”. There were various sized bottles priced at 25 cents, 50 cents and a dollar.
The word and symbol for “Forest Flower” was registered by W. J. Austen in September of 1878, according to an entry in “New Remedies, An Illustrated Monthly Trade Journal,” a publication of the day for American druggists.
W. J. Austen & Co. began operations in 1878 and failed in business in 1886 when it turned over all its stock to Thomson Kingsford (a previous partner of Austen) of Oswego. Prior to that, Mr. Austen had been in the drug business and the manufacture of baking powders. The company transition was managed by R. Van Valkenburgh who for many years ran Austen & Companies New York office. Some of the later trade cards actually say “Manufactured by T. Kingsford, successor to W. J. Austen & Co.” T. Kingsford was then noted as a Manufacturer of Perfume located at No. 106 Duane Street in Oswego, New York.
Here is another trade card, front and back, where a small portion of the back was used to push Austen’s Oswego Bitters. I have also pictured an example of a labeled Oswego Bitters that appeared in a recent Glass Works auction.
Austen’s “Swa-geh” Or Oswego Bitters: Has Now Been Before the Public as a Proprietary Medicine for Half a Score of Years, and Its Medicinal Qualities Have Been Tested by Thousands of People…. When this Medicine and the Valuable Vegetable Secrets of Its Composition Accidentally Came to the Knowledge of W. J. Austen & Co., Oswego, N.Y., They Cause it to be Tested in Numerous Cases, … Twenty-five Cents for Full Half Pint Bottles, which Brings it Within the Reach of All. Directions on the Bottle. For Sale by All Dealers in Medicines