Senator Fulford, Advertising King.
THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE
When Senator Geo. T. Fulford, of Brockville, passed away last month, as the result of an unfortunate automobile accident, Canada lost one of her most remarkable and successful business men. The late Senator was a self-made man, a firm believer in the efficacy of advertisingand a foremost exponent of its value.
FIFTEEN million dollars, a Senator ship, and a world-over reputation as a publicity king—all in a pink pill the size of a common white bean, is the nutshell epitome of the late Senator Fulford’s career. The death of this remarkable man of business once more flings the shadow of a strong life across the public gaze. One more figure is added to the sum total of evidence that Canada is able to produce business men of the broad twentieth century type as well as any country on the face of the globe. On a continent of money kings George Taylor Fulford had his own enviable place. He did a big man’s share in giving the world proof of an enterprising Canadian.
More than a century had the name Fulford been known in Eastern Ontario, since 1783, when the late Senator’s great-grandfather, Jonathan, Jr., came from Connecticut to Elizabethtown, in Leeds county, with his parents. As may be judged from the date the “Fullofoude” family, as they were then known, were U. E. Loyalists. Further back still the familv originated in Devonshire, celebrated all over England as a shire of cottages. There were thus in the derivation of the Fulford family two
great primal factors in producing good citizenship—loyalty to the State and love of home. At home in Devonshire the family has developed a titled aristocracy. Similarly the fourth generation in Canada evolved a Senatorship—in the last year of the 19th century. Blood will tell.
These early Fulford forbears had plenty of room to try out these sterling qualities. It took a stretch of the imagination somewhat akin to that of the Pilgrim Fathers to recognize in the Eastern Canada of that day a home fit for civilized people. The Senator’s forbears knew what it meant to help clear up Leeds county, which was no light job. Little dreamed that forbear Jonathan, Jr., as with his boys he handspiked the logs into the burning heaps, that on the last day of October, 1905, a Toronto evening paper should contain this item of news :
The five millions odd of an estate left in Ontario by no means represents all that Senator Fulford left. He had valuable interests in Britain, France, the United States, Australia and even China, and auxiliary letters of administration will have to be taken out in those countries.
But those Fulford lads in the three generations were workers. On the Fulford farms there was tireless in-
dustry. About the Fulford places there was thrift. And yet it seems that none of the early Fulford generations made money, which was no wonder when one recalls the thousands of mortgages that less than even one generation ago summed up the story of small crops and starvation prices in Canada.
It was in 1852 that George T., the son of Hiram and Martha Fulford— thrifty old-fashioned names these — was born in the then humptv-dumpty pretty little town of Brockville. Hiram was a stonemason. He knew what the rocks of Leeds county lifted like, but he had never been able to turn many of them into money. The lad George never had a taste of farm life, which has helped to make so many of Canada’s broad men. Collegiate education he had none, except a term or two at the Brockville Business College. His elder brother William had already become a chemist in Brockville when George became old enough to go clerking. The lad’s first job over a counter was in his brother’s drug store. He became an apprentice. In due time, and some TTears before the College of Pharmacy became the centre of drug education in Ontario, he became a qualified mixer of drugs. He went into a drug store of his own on the corner of King street and Court House avenue. It was yet not many years since the Brockville post office had been carried on in a general store. George Fulford added a small percentage to his humble income in those early years by selling tickets for the Grand Trunk Railway. Probably he never dreamed that within a few years people on most of the railroads everywhere would know Brockville through the medium of
the most marvelously exploited proprietary medicine ever known.
Just why George Fulford should have chosen drugs for a business must have puzzled not a few of his friends, and some of his poor relations. If there’s any business that to the average hustling man looks slow and excessively genteel it’s the drug business. Nobody ever had an opinion that George T. Fulford was a verv eminent chemist. He didn’t pretend to be. He was scarcely the sort of man to dote on puddling all forenoon with some sort of experimental mixture in a mortar just behind the partition where he had his laboratory. But he had a good general knowledge, and he laid in stocks of patent medicines. So far as is known he was not a dealer in coal oil, which made the fortunes of some Canadian druggists before grocery stores began to handle kerosene. But he usually had the latest and the surest and the safest thing in proprietary medicines. The townsfolk and the farmer folk for many a mile around Brockville read George Fulford’s little ad in the weekly paper in which he kept them posted on the changes in fashions. His store was always a kind of homelike place, and many of the old folks, who on fine days managed to “git t’ town” in the buggies and democrats, made it a sort of rendezvous, where they talked over the weather, the crops and the symptoms. And while it was tolerably easy for George to sell the natent medicines whose names they had seen on the board fences and in his newspaper ads, the good folks little knew how keenly this rather reticent voung druggist w~as studying them out; how when the last goodday had been said he could see in his
mind’s eye a whole portrait gallery of his customers whose symptoms he might have forgotten, but whose habits of mind he was getting to know with the shrewd perspicacity of a Wanamaker or a Mark Twain.
Somewhere during those early drug years 'George Fulford invented a medicine of his own. The air was pretty damp all along the St. Lawrence, and lots of the good people had catarrh. Those who hadn’t thought theTT had. Anyhow, the ailment became highly fashionable. A bad or chronic cold was enough to make twenty-five per cent, of the people imagine they had throat trouble for good. And to cure this everlasting, ubiquitious catarrh George Fulford contrived his Nasal Balm, which was destined, in a restricted way, to vie with Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral and Burdock Blood Bitters as a family phrase. Having some confidence in his balm, he pushed its sale. He was his own traveler. He went forth with his grip over the Grand Trunk, being gone for days at a time, writing ads for newspapers, getting “Nasal Balm’’ on the board fences, and personally selling it to local druggists.
However, Nasal Balm, though it did some people a lot of good, did not heap up a fortune for George T. Fulford. It proved a slow going, sort of half-and-half doubtful commodity that made people wonder around Brockville—for they knew that there was nothing half-and-half or doubtful about George Fulford. Pushing this medicine in the newspapers cost Fulford a lump of money, too, and if the profits on his balm hadn’t been respectable he would have been under the necessity of giving a lot of editors lien notes on his
goods and chattels. As it was he had a hard enough time to pay his bills for advertising space—but he never missed one. Somehow he had an instinctive idea that if there’s one man on earth that ought to be paid on a preference it’s the man who prints a newspaper. Some of these * publishers were not any too flush of good clothes, as George very well could see during his frequent visits to the sanctums. Therefore, he always gladdened their souls with money which he raked and scraped together somehow—and he never wanted a rebate. All the while, too, he was studying these editors. He had a certain measure of strong faith in these publicity people, and they all liked to talk to him about business, and politics, and people; for if there’s anybody that knows most of the people most of the time a little better than a druggist, it’s the country town editor. These talks about people were George T. Fulford’s second series of lessons in publicity. Once he had known his own customers over the drug counter as he sold them patent medicines. Now he was knowing them on a bigger scale through the editor men. And all this instinctive knowledge of people never left George T. Fulford.
Meanwhile the druggist had become an active citizen of his county town. He had been town councillor, chairman of the finance committee in the same, and was once water commissioner. In these capacities he displayed good executive ability, shrewdness, and unswerving integrity. He had faith in his home town. He also believed in all round publicity, including the public service end of it, which so many publicists so in-
consistently miss. But George Fulford dearly and deeply loved the private retirement of his home in which already there were bright children who had inherited much of their father's optimism. Fulford had a knack of not telling any hard luck stories around home. He believed in a gospel of cheerfulness. He knew what the raw edge of the world felt like, but in his home he always managed to be both gentle and happy. He was never much of a hand for a “hooraw” or a big company. A handshaking politician he never, was. He had independence enough in his fibre to tell the cantankerous crank and the “knocker” to go to the dickens. There were plenty of talking machines, even in those days, who were ready to give Fulford amazing pointers about public business. Fulford never permitted them to disturb his equipoise. He studied them. His knowledge of people was not based on politics; neither on business alone; nor on church relationship, of which he had plenty, being an active adherent of the Wall street Methodist Church.
So much of struggle and of hope, of success and of failure, had marked George T, Fulford’s career down to the year 1890. He was then still a young man, under forty, had traveled much on this continent at least, and as yet was mainly a comfortable citizen. He Still had a drug business and incidentally sold tickets for the Grand Trunk. But as yet he had not made a fortune. There were not wanting those who, having some real or pretended knowledge of physiogmony, predicted that George Fulford would yet make his mark in finance. There were others in town who deemed that George Fulford had about
reached his limit in a good useful citizenship and a moderate competency. They regarded him as a successful man, but they never expected to see his name in any document bigger than one of the Brockville newspapers, where his ad had been standing ever since he set up shop. And there were folk out on the concessions near Elizabethtown, the old “Fullofoude” settlement, who reckoned that George Fulford was just as great a man as he needed to be, or would probably ever want to be. But these, also, missed their guess.
Fulford, the druggist, and the town councillor, already had his finger on the public pulse, not in matters of politics but in matters of sentiment. And there were times when he may have said to himself that he would fetch the public yet. If there was one side of people that George Fulford knew it was their foibles. He had studied their symptoms for years. He knew just about what sort of mixture of piety and prejudice, of faith and doubt, of scepticism and credulity, constituted the public heart. And he knew that it was not Carlyle who made the people follow after him, but, rather, Abe Lincoln.
About the year 1890 Fulford got into his hands the formula of a certain pill which was the invention of Dr. William Fred. Jackson, a clever Brockville doctor. He was chemist enough to see in this formula something that might come mighty near working a miracle on some people. He had seen formulae before that only missed world-wide publicity by about one item. This one looked to Fulford as if it might go all the way. It had never been pushed. Like many another good thing, it had lain
dormant for need of a man who understood the public mind and was willing to spend some money in advertising. There was a good deal of iron in these pills—and just how much of other ingredients Fulford knew a good deal better than some of the doctors who afterwards thought they had “spotted” the formula. He knew one thing—that the said formula would make a rattling good pill, in which there was no ingredient that could be classed as “dope.” Of this Fulford made sure before he paid $300 for the small list of drugs that constituted the basis for the biggest publicity pill the world has ever seen.
Having got the magic formula into his grip it was this man’s first study how to give it an effective shape for world-wide publicity. This did not come in a moment of inspiration. We may be sure that Fulford put in many a patient perspicacious hour on that formula before he got it christened in shape for the newspapers. Back in the middle ages, when astrology was all the rage, such a formula would have been locked in a secret hole in a wall, with pious incantations by a magician, up in some lonesome tower such as is so weirdly described in Scott’s “Kenilworth.” Fulford was not an astrologer. He was not bent on extorting lavish fees from a few princes and duchesses. He was after the whole people. He was a democrat who believed in the people, who knew the people, and felt sure that the remedy he had in his possession was intended to work out Hobbes’ definition of “the greatest good to the greatest number.” So, instead of coining for this pill-name some mystical nhrase half Latin and the rest doggerel, he hit on the hap-
piest and most optimistic idea that ever dawned on a man in the patent medicine business. He had looked out with a keen eye on civilization. He had noted its obvious tendencies. He saw the people of this American continent beginning to crowd into the cities. He saw that ‘ out on the farms other people were denying themselves light and ventilation. In brief, he saw¡ the indubitable fact that civilization was beginning to drive blood out of business; that anaemia was on the quick march; in a word, that paleness was an epidemic. Therefore, with consummate insight and the happiest possible phraseology, he coined the optimistic phrase, “Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People.”
Had Fulford never printed more than that popular phrase, summing up the Greek and Latin formula which he had bought from Dr. William Jackson, he would have gone on record as an advertising expert. The phrase caught on. It was easy to sav: it was alliterative; it was optimistic; it emphasized not the ailment but the cure; it advertised not svmptons so much as blood for anaemic arteries and health for pale cheeks. The word “pink” was an inspiration. Who is there that doesn’t like to be in the “pink” of condition; to have pink cheeks ? And it was so eminently easy to color the pills to suit. Besides, these pink pills were not microscopic dots that you have to put under a magnifying glass in order to see how to get them into your gizzard. They were large, bean-like realities that in the cylindrical wooden boxes, packed with cotton batting, looked for all the world as hopeful and business-like as one of George T. Fulford’s ads.
So much for the premises. The conclusion, however, did not come in a day. Pink Pills were not fated to become a fleeting furore, up in the clouds to-day, down in the bog tomorrow. Like all good things, they had at first to fight their way. In spite of all the work put on their preparation for the public, they hung fire for many months. They seemed to give the lie to the accepted belief that in proprietary medicines the novelty always takes the money. But Fulford had faith in this pill. With more than his old-time determination he pushed the sale. Again he went on the road with his grip and did his own drumming and advertising* as he had done years before for Nasal Balm. Incidentally, he handled Baby's Own Tablets which, also, he had bought from Dr. Jackson. He had accumulated a few thousand dollars. He threw practically every cent into advertising these pills. Still they refused to become the rage, and still George Fulford continued to return to Brockville at the week-end with nothing but comparatively hard luck stories which, as usual, he kept to himself.
Again, and more presciently than ever, some of the knowing ones about Brockville began to assert that George T. Fulford had just about reached the end of his rope. So far as revenue was concerned, this may have been true. In the light of possibility and the personality of George T. Fulford it was a myth. The turn was coming. Whether Fulford foresaw it or not is not generally known. Wjhether he despaired or not was equally in the dark. Fulford never made his face a barometer.
But the turn did come, and with just as much of incredibility in its
movement as a romancist could have wished. A certain man in Hamilton named Marshall had been ill with constitutional maladies for years. For months he had been alid off work, confined to his bed; so long that he had been paid his total disability claim by a benevolent society to which he belonged. This man, at any rate, was at the end of his rope, whether George Fulford w~as or not. In his despair he turned to Pink Pills, whose ad he had been reading in the newspapers, and some talk of whose curative properties he had heard among his friends. With pious regularity and abounding faith he took the pills as a last chance. In a few weeks he was able to move about. Seized with gratitude, he wrote a thankful letter to Mr. Fulford, in which he attributed his marvelous recovery to Pink Pills.
And in this letter Fulford recognized at last the “tide” in his affairs which, taken at the flood, would lead on to fortune. This letter, with its “miracle,” he blazoned abroad in the newspapers almost from coast to coast. The man’s name was signed in full. The cure was beyond a doubt. From the appearance of that letter Pink Pills became a proverb. Their fame began to spread. The newspapers were placarded with the phrase and with the testimonials of people who had been actuallv cured by the said Pink Pills and were willing to come out over their signatures and say so. Unlike the average patent medicine exploiter, Fulford believed less in causes than in results; less in symptoms than in actual cures. To publish these cures cost him big money. He cheerfully paid the price. In all the newspapers of Canada, and many
of the United States, there was no one fact so steadily conspicuous as “Pink Pills for Pale People.” Everybody got it by heart. Children were able to lisp it. Foreigners who knew no other English got it on their tongues. Sceptical people who all their lives had poohpoohed patent medicines got sample boxes—just to see what there was in them. “Have you tried Pink Pills ?” became about as much of a commonplace as “Good morning!” Out on the concessions the long wooden boxes went from the country store; into the city boarding house from the drug stores. Dealers ordered them in gross lots, for they were quick sellers and a sure thing. People wanted more Pink Pills. A dozen boxes were as good as guaranteed to cure almost anything. By the time the dozenth box was reached the patient’s mind had been so long intent on getting cured that it had to be a dead-set incurable that failed to yield somewhere and show symptoms of decided improvement.
In brief, Pink Pills became one of those almost universal habits which are almost too fundamental to be called fads. They were the first medicine by means of which people seemed to be getting next to the reality of repeated cure, and the cures, conveniently called “miracles” — which, indeed, many of them seemed to be—occupied acres of newspaper publicity. The habit of looking in the dailv or the weekly paper for some fresh story of a Pink Pills wonder became as pronounced as the habit of scanning for the “probs.” It was a case of sheer publicity in which the newspapers were the universal medium, it mattered little in what language. The name was easy to translate. The world was full of
pale people, very few of whom were so color blind as not to know the color of a pink pill. And the famous Pink Pills made in Brockville traveled over most of the civilized world. They became as big an international fact as tuberculosis. Invoices were sent out of Brockville in 1 a dozen languages. Bills of exchange came back in practically all the coinage of Europe and some of Asia. The pills were comparatively easy to make, the necessary staff was not large, and the output became tremendous; therefore the profits were enormous, and before many years began to reach into the millions. The more money that came in, based on a world-encircling demand for the pills, the more money went out in advertising the pills and increasing their publicity. Whereas, in the case of most manufactured articles, the appropriation for advertising is but a small fraction of the yearly operation expense and interest on investment in plant, in the case of Pink Pills the ratio was more than reversed. Latterly, in a single vear, the annual appropriation for advertising the pills reached a cool million dollars—many times the value of the whole plant which made them. Almost everv dollar of this went into ordinary advertising in the shape of readmenotices. Senator Fulford never had any penchant for the display ad. He knew well enough that people wanted to read about his pills in the ordinary course of reading; that the cures related by his copy were remarkable enough in their naked simplicity without any embellishment of the printer’s art. Therefore, he stuck to the one idea and hammered it in. He published photographs and facsimiles of hand-
writing—but he never had recourse to the cartoon, the doggerel verse, or the epigram. Always the straight hard facts, as hard as the iron in the pills; always the abiding faith in the public; everlastingly the increase in the constituency of Pink Pills.
The rest of Senator Fulford’s career is easily epitomized. The incidents in it came as a natural evolution in the desires and potentialities of a very wealthy man and prominent citizen. His fine house, “Fulford Place,” costing a hundred thousand dollars; his works of art; his yachts, horses and automobiles; his travels round the world; his Senatorship—all these came easy. They were but minor details in the evolution of a remarkable career behind which was a no less striking personality.
As to this personality public opinion, around Broekville at least, is pretty well pronounced. Singularly enough, it was but little known to the country at large. Senator Fulford rarely made any public utterances or appeared conspicuously at any large public functions. Of that sort of publicity he was not fond. His was a different sort. To his acquaintances he was always the same genial, unobtrusive personality they had known in his days of but doubtful success. Wealth and fame never turned his head. He never became arrogant, neither did he develop vanity. Personally, he ran to no excesses. He smoked a good cigar and was fond of travel. He liked books and read widely. When traveling he used his eyes and ears. He imbibed a useful, practical culture which well adorned a strong, steady and honorable character. More ac-
quaintances he may have had after his accession to wealth and a Senatorship; greater intimacies he scarcely indulged. The old friends of his early manhood he kept to the last. To but few of these was he an open book. Shrewd, incisive and genial, he was vet a hard man to get “next” to. He cared not for parade; neither was he ashamed of his wealth. He remained the simple, practical and largely plain George T. Fulford who would have found the simple hospitalities of a Devonshire cottage more delightful than the luxuries of a palace. In his own home he was at his best. For his own family he retained the best of his moments of leisure. To them he gave the best of his life. His public acts were not conspicuous, but he never refused aid to a good cause. Always he preserved what from his earliest days he had in a remarkable degree—strong poise of temperament, which never permitted him to be carried away from purpose by the glitter of gold, the blandishments of social position, or the distractions of a public career; the poise which, when the crash came with the shadow of death behind it, enabled him to say on his death bed, “I'll play the game.” By honorably playing the game all his life he rose in a few years from being an ordinary business man to the position of a king in the world of finance; but he never plunged into speculation. He remained a manufacturer, a business thinker, a student of the public—and the most phenomenal advertiser in the world. So far as average public opinion is concerned, this may resolve itself back to Pink Pills. In truth, it analyzes back to a remarkable personality.