by Kevin Walsh

Charles H. Fletcher began selling his Castoria, a mild stomach remedy for children, in 1871, acquiring the patent from its inventor Dr. Samuel Pitcher. The medicine was heavily promoted on ads and billboards in the late 1800s and early part of the 20th Century, and evidently the paint used for the ads was of a very high grade, because several ads survive to this day all over town. Fletcher’s Laxative, as it is now called, is still sold today, distributed by Mentholatum.

From before 1900 until the 1920s, painted ads for Fletcher’s Castoria (which was still being advertised on TV commercials when I was a kid) were ubiquitous around town, and the company employed a high quality, indelible brand of paint that stands up in many cases after decades.

Here’s one in New Brighton that has escaped my notice all these years — it’s in a tough neighborhood and, in any case, is obscured by vegetation much of the year, at 478 Jersey Street north of Corson Avenue. This is a propitious location for such an ad as Jersey Street takes a bend here, and the ad could be easily seen by southbound motorists.

Even now, in 2020, it’s among the best-preserved Fletcher’s Castoria ads in the city. The script at the top originally read: PRESCRIPTIONS DRUGS AT CORNER.

In 1940, the ad was even more perfectly preserved than now, as two shots from the 1940 Municipal Archives indicate.

Above photo: Pat Salmon History on Facebook.


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