by Kevin Walsh

FLETCHER’S Castoria ads have been a staple in the Forgotten New York ancient painted ads category from the very beginning, back in 1999. They can be seen frequently in photographs of NYC from the early 20th Century and were absolutely ubiquitous. An extraordinarily high grade of paint must have been used to produce them as many have stood up to full sunshine for over a century.

Fletcher’s Castoria, marketed as a gentle stomach remedy for kids, has been sold since 1871 when Charles Henry Fletcher purchased the rights to a formula developed by Dr. Samuel Pitcher as a cathartic. It has been marketed ever since then, though in recent years the “Castoria,” (for castor oil) has been dropped and it’s now called Fletcher’s Laxative for Kids, though adults can also use it.

Castoria was marketed extensively through much of the 20th Century, with large painted ads appearing on sides of buildings in major cities. The paint used proved quite resistant to sun bleaching; only during the last 20 years have they started to fade considerably. 

Recently, Lamppost King Bob Mulero snapped an extraordinarily preserved set of Castoria ads at 478 Jersey Street between Corson and Stanley Avenues in New Brighton, Staten Island. The ad features Charles H. Fletcher’s distinctive signature script along with the frequent “Children Cry For…” slogan. You can also see an ad for “S. COLLER PRESCRIPTIONS” which must have been a drugstore with a shelf full of Castoria.

This has been an empty lot for many years; however, some tall ailanthus trees in the lot were cut down, making the ad easier to spot. It’s best accessed in winter: you can see that vines obscure some of it in spring and summer.

A panel next to the main ad features a slogan that is relatively rare on Castoria ads around town: “The kind you have always bought.”

The ad can be seen prominently on this 1940 tax photo. The painted ad is at least 20 years old here, but has held up remarkably well. Apparently, the adjacent lot has been empty for a long time.

More Castoria

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Alan March 24, 2023 - 10:16 am

When living on Utica Av. near Church Av. in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, the ad could be seen on a nearby building, when looking out a back window. I seem to recall the slogan on that ad was “Especially made for infants and children.”

Edward March 24, 2023 - 2:42 pm

That gap between buildings on Jersey Street has been there seemingly since the block was built sometime before 1924. The aerial map of the city on the nyc.gov website from that year shows the same building with the gap already in place. That whole block is very unlike most of the housing stock on Staten Island and has much more of an urban feel very much like you’d see in Brooklyn or the Bronx. There are very few buildings of that type left on the island, and this row of tenements is pretty much the only remaining of its type on Jersey Street, which has been somewhat bedraggled at least since the 1940s (as evidenced by the tax photo). A perfect spot for that Castoria Oil advertisement, 100 years on.

C Fletcher March 24, 2023 - 4:01 pm

From 3/19/2014 from C Fletcher: Being a part of the clan, it’s always a treat to see this and other signs, in various states of decline, all over the city. Maybe like linseed oil can be added to paint to make it more durable, perhaps the syrup was added for longevity, too?

Tal Barzilai March 25, 2023 - 3:42 am

Until I saw that link I thought that Fletchers no longer exists in this day and age.

John March 26, 2023 - 6:20 pm

It is most likely lead based paint. Now it can only be used for specific purposes.


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