Dan Weiskotten's Alvin Foord History, Foord's Pectoral Syrup The Question (from DV 8/31/1998 and MY 3/6/1999):
I have an old bottle that is embossed "Dr. Foord's Pectoral Syrup, Cazenovia, NY."  Who was this Dr. Foord and what did he do?  Are there other bottles by him?

Dan Weiskotten's Answer (9/5/1998, last modified 9/2000):
Alvin Foord (1799-1877), a physician, druggist, and patent medicine maker from Cazenovia, NY, was known across the country during the 1840s, 50s and 60s for his famous patent medicines such as "Pectoral Syrup," "Tonic Cordial," and "Universal Pills".  Foord obtained his Doctorate at Dartmouth College and began his medical career in Cazenovia in 1828.  After nearly 20 years practice as a physician, Foord "broke down in health" and became a druggist.  Feeling moral obligations to sell cures that really worked, he prepared his own formulas using tried and true chemicals and compounds.  In 1858 he gave up the drug store and devoted his full time to manufacturing the medicines that would make is name an almost household word in the mid-19th century.

Foord's Pectoral Syrup is advertised locally as early as 1842 and in 1851 it was advertised as "For sale in every Town and Village in this country."  One of his day books, which still exists in private hands, shows that he shipped cases of his medicines all over New York, and as far away as Cincinnati and Chicago.  In August 1855 he announced that he had doubled the size of his Pectoral Syrup bottles without proportionally increasing the price!  Foord's Tonic Cordial and Universal Pills are found as early as 1844, and his Citrine Ointment as early as 1851.  He may have been producing earlier than 1842, but the newspapers for this important period are missing.  In 1855, according to the census of that year, Foord annually produced 200 dozen (2,400) bottles of Pectoral Syrup, 300 dozen (3,600) bottles of Tonic Cordial, and 100 dozen (1,200) boxes of pills.

Several of his recipes are known and it is seen that he used a wide variety of natural herbs and extracts, some of which are quite unsafe to use without extensive knowledge of their effects, but most of which are today used to some extent in folk and herbal medicine practices.  Exotic compounds and herbs from all over the world went into making his various medicines and pills.  His primary ingredient, though, appears to be somewhat less dangerous: the recipe for making 25 gallons of Pectoral Syrup calls for 180 pounds of sugar!  In other evidence to the heavy use of sugar, the 1855 census shows that he used 2000 (two thousand!) pounds of sugar in the single year of the 1855 enumeration!  (He did use $300 worth of "Drugs" that year.)  Several of the recipes show that his concoctions included alcohol, a favorite ingredient of many 19th century medicine men, but it is clear that Foord primarily used the alcohol as a dissolving agent for other compounds.

Dr. Alvin Foord was a Dartmouth graduate, completing his Doctorate of Medicine some time in the late 1820s.  Exactly when he first came to Cazenovia is not known, but he first advertised in the Cazenovia newspapers that he had a Doctor's Office on the north side of the Public Square in September of 1828.  In 1829 he became a member of the Madison County Medical Society (see his interesting 1867 paper read before the society).  About 1831 he purchased the property west of the Public Square (and near the Presbyterian Church).  (see the 1852 map of the Village of Cazenovia).  This property (the early history of which is in the next paragraph) included what is today 19 and 21 Albany Street.  In July 1832 Foord moved his office to a building somewhere on the lot (there had been houses and a store on this lot since 1800 so it may have been in one of these).  The drug store seems to have remained in or near his house for a short time and then he moved it to somewhere in the center of the business district.  In January 1848 he announced that he was going to close his store on March 1, of that year, which he did, but he moved to a new location.

About a year after he moved to the center of the business district, in March 1849, that a near tragedy struck a Cazenovia family and Dr. Foord was at the heart of it, although no way at fault.  The records of the famous case of Thomas v. Winchester, which was tried in the State Court of Appeals in 1852, detail how Dr. Foord had given what he thought was extract of dandelion to Mary Ann Thomas, the wife of village harness maker, Samuel Thomas.  Unfortunately for Mrs. Thomas (as well as Dr. Foord and the others involved!), the medicine had been labeled incorrectly by the manufacturer, the New York City drug firm of Winchester and Gilbert, and Mrs. Thomas received instead a debilitation dose of extract of belladonna.  While it did not kill her and she lived for another 20 years, "her life was despaired of, &c".  The court report states that the mistake "produced very alarming effects; such as coldness of the surface and extremities, feebleness of circulation, spasms of the muscles, giddiness of the head, dilation of the pupils of the eyes, and derangement of mind."  After some time Mrs. Thomas recovered from this mistaken application although for a short time her life was thought to be in great danger.

From this it can be seen that a well established drug business and distribution network was used extensively by country doctors.  From the manufacturer, Winchester and Gilbert in NY City, the drug went to the huge NY City pharmaceutical firm of James S. Aspinwall, from whom Foord purchased it and then sold it to Samuel Thomas who administered it to his wife.  Cazenovia's newspapers of the time include advertisements for the local doctors and druggist and Aspinwall's store is frequently mentioned as a supplier of the best medicines available.  In addition to this inward flow of goods, it is seen from Foord's day book and advertisements that he had access to a wide network of salesmen and outlets in distant communities.

The spot where we know Foord had his first store, at 21 Albany Street, just west of the Presbyterian Church, was formerly the location of the store and post office of Jabish N.M. Hurd which was opened here about 1800.  An 1809 map of the village Jail Limits shows that Hurd's store was located on the corner of Albany Street and the Public Square, and it is presumed that his residence was situated fronting Albany Street just to the west of the store (at 15 or 19 Albany Street).  Hurd kept his store until 1820 and the post office until 1822.  In 1827 Hurd moved to Albany and sold the large surrounding lot to Augustus W. Smith, a math professor who soon became the principal of the Oneida Conference Seminary (he later was a teacher at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and then, after 1851, was a principal of a Wesleyan University in Middletown CT).  About 1831 the house and lot were purchased by Dr. Alvin Foord, who continued to live there until 1866.  The 1852 map of Cazenovia Village shows a large house on the western half of the lot and the eastern part, where Hurd's store had been, is vacant of buildings.

The location of the store that Foord had occupied before March 1848 is not known, but I presume it was located in the business district.  A few days after he closed it George Sheldon reopened it as a drug store.  In July 1848 Sheldon was joined by Charles C. Curtis as Sheldon & Curtis and they stayed together until August of 1849.  Sheldon left town in 1851 but no mention was ever made of where this store was located except to say that it was in the place formerly occupied by Dr. Foord!

On March 1, 1848, when Foord vacated his old store, he immediately moved into a new one at 45 (or thereabouts) Albany Street (this would be right over the "R" in "ALBANY STREET" on the 1852 map).  In January 1850 he opened a Doctor's office in the second floor over his store.  The September 20, 1854 Cazenovia Republican noted that Foord's store was robbed, that of April 27, 1857 noted that the awning over his storefront had collapsed from too much snow, the April 7, 1858 Cazenovia Republican notes that Foord had given up the drug business to devote more time to manufacturing his celebrated medicines and that he had relocated to Mill Street just south of Albany Street.

In 1866 Foord sold his home property at 19 Albany Street to George S. Ledyard and the "ancient building" that had been long occupied by Foord was removed.  Ledyard built the house which still stands (see photo at top right) for his mother-in-law, Mary J. Fitzhugh.  It was designed by Horatio Nelson White, a Syracuse architect, who also designed many buildings in Syracuse and several in Cazenovia.  This once fanciful house has long been stripped of its ornate exterior decoration and the fanciful woodwork which surrounded the porch, windows, and under the roof line.

Upon selling the old place to Ledyard, Dr. Foord built a new home close to the corner of the Public Square near the Presbyterian Church.  Groundbreaking of the new and modern place took place in July 1867.  This house still stands and is owned by the Presbyterian Church.  It has become known in the 20th century as the "Wendell House." (see photo at bottom right)  It was originally clapboard covered, with wooden quoins on the corners but has since been covered with artificial siding which detracts from its original appearance.

Dr. Foord was active in local politics but usually served as chairman of civic committees rather than as an elected official.  The family attended the nearby Presbyterian Church.  Tax records indicate that in 1863 his annual income was $625.00, 1864 less than $600.00, 1865 $794.00, 1866 $1278, 1867 $1283, so it seems that business boomed just after the war and he was able to build a finer home.

Alvin Foord died April 16, 1877, age 78 years.  After he died his wife, Emily, lived in the house for several years.  He and his wife and several other members of his immediate family are buried in Cazenovia's Evergreen Cemetery.  I do not know the later history of the house and family.

Notes on Dr. Alvin Foord, his family, and his business

I know little of Edward Foord except that around 1878 he had a hardware store in the village.

Since the family was active in local affairs for many decades I am sure that there is much more information out there, but buried in unexamined sources.

Foord family burials in Evergreen Cemetery in Cazenovia Village:
                 (compiled from Village Interment Book Records and tombstones)
        Foord, Alvin, MD, born January 1, 1799, died April 16,1877
        Foord, Anna Malcolm, wife of Edward Foord, born October 31, 1847, died April 11, 1906
        Foord, Bertha C., born August 22, 1878, died October 11, 1963
        Foord, Charles, died January 28, 1851, age 5 years 9 months
        Foord, Edward, born October 16, 1842, died October 2, 1899
        Foord, Emily Carter, born 1811, died 1889
        Foord, Francis E. / Fannie, daughter of Alvin and Emily Foord, born June 18, 1836, died November 24, 1893
        Foord, Henry, b 1839, d March 1883
        Foord, Willy / Willie, died May 7 or 17, 1836 age 2 years 4 months and 8 days
                (the tombstone of Willy / Willie says May 7, 1836 while the Interment Books note it to be May 17, 1836)

An 1856 Recipe for Dr. Foord's Pectoral Syrup, from a Recipe Book in the possession of David Foord, a direct descendant of Dr. Alvin Foord:

(I have taken the liberty making spelling corrections and extending abbreviations and dittos.)
(Information and links to botanical sources and chemical compounds follow the recipe.)

Identifications of ingredients:

1855 New York State Census, Schedule of Industry other than Agriculture, Town of Cazenovia, District 3

Extracted from Dr. Alvin Foord's Day Book, October 12, 1847 to October 12, 1848

        Sold 585 bottles of Pectoral Syrup at 75 cents per bottle.
        Sold over 250 bottles of Tonic Cordial at 25 cents per bottle, one bottle for 75 cents and one bottle for 20 cents.
            Places to which products were shipped:
                    Binghamton, NY (yuck!) (2.5 dozen PS)
                    Geneseo, NY (3 dozen PS)
                    Livonia, NY (6 dozen PS)
                    LeRoy, NY (1 dozen PS, 1 dozen TC)
                    Manlius, NY (1 dozen PS, 1 dozen TC)
                    Norwich, NY (4 dozen PS, 2 dozen TC)
                    South Brooklyn, NY (2 dozen PS, 1 dozen TC)
                    Cincinnati, OH (4 dozen PS, 2 dozen TC)
                    Mansfield, OH (6 dozen PS)
                    Chicago, IL (6 dozen PS)

Bottle of Dr. Foord's Pectoral Syrup


Bottle of Dr. Foord's Tonic Cordial

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