ATWOOD-L ArchivesArchiver > ATWOOD > 2007-03 > 1173638939
From: "R Bradley Potts" <>
Subject: [ATWOOD] Moses Atwood Medicine Man part 3 of 3
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 14:48:59 -0400
Moses AtwoodThe Man and the Medicine (Part 3)
by Calvin Bandstra <>
(printed here with permission of the author)
published by the New Sharon Area Historical Society v14, #1 (Spring 2006)
1860 Moses F. Atwood, the 21-year old son of the senior Moses Atwood, moves
back to Georgetown from Iowa. He begins working with the Bateman family to
manufacture the Bitters. He lists his occupation in the 1860 Census as "M.
1861 Moses F. Atwood sells the recipe for preparing and compounding
Atwoods Bitters in the State of Maine to Nathan Wood.
1867-1872 At one point Benjamin Dodge sells his interest in the Bitters to
William Dorman; at another point he sells his interest to the firm of Noyes
& Manning. It appears
he sold the same interest to two parties, both which produced the Bitters.
1870 The Federal Census shows the senior Moses Atwood living in New Sharon,
with the occupation of "Manufacturer of Medicine." His son Moses F. Atwood
back in Prairie Township, and his occupation is now carpenter.
1875 The New York firm of Manhattan Medicine Company formally purchases the
rights to Atwoods Bitters from:
the heirs of L. H. Bateman
the firm of Noyes & Manning
all the Carter heirs
1878 Manhattan Medicine Company sues Nathan Wood for trademark infringement
in the Federal Circuit Court of Maine; Wood prevails.
History of Prairie Township is printed and states: Moses Atwood was the
first Doctor. He was not a physician of any school, but manufactured and
sold "Atwoods Medicines," and they were found to possess valuable
1883 Manhattan Medicine Company appeals the 1878 court decision to the U.S.
Supreme Court. Once again, Wood prevails.
1926 American Home Products (AHP) was formed as a holding company for
various drug-related companies. One of the companies is Whitehall
Pharmaceutical Company, which later changed its name to Whitehall
Laboratories. At some point Whitehall Pharmaceutical Company purchases
Manhattan Medicine Company, and for a time continued to manufacture
1931 AHP buys Wyeth from Harvard University. Wyeth was started as a patent
medicine company in Philadelphia in 1860 by brothers John and Frank Wyeth.
Johns son Stuart inherited the company, which was willed to Harvard
University upon his death. In 1930 Wyeth purchased the headache product
1984 Whitehall Laboratories begins manufacturing Advil, the first
non-prescription ibuprofen product in the United States.
1989 AHP purchases A.H. Robins, the makers of well-known consumer products
Chapstick, Dimetapp, and Robitussin. This company started out in 1866 in
Richmond, Virginia, as a small drug-making company owned by Albert Hartley
1994 AHP combines Whitehall Laboratories and A. H. Robins into a consumer
products division known as Whitehall-Robins Healthcare.
2002 In a tribute to the companys early drug-making heritage, American
Home Products changes its corporate name to Wyeth, with the New York Stock
Exchange symbol of WYE. The Whitehall-Robins Healthcare division is renamed
Wyeth Consumer Healthcare.
So from its humble beginnings in 1840, the bitters-making endeavor started
by former New Sharon resident Moses Atwood is now part of a multi-national
Supreme Court Case: Manhattan Medicine Co. vs. Nathan Wood
During the mid-1870s, several firms were manufacturing the popular product
of "Atwoods Bitters." The bottles used were very distinct, being aqua in
color, about six inches high, and containing 12-panels around the bottles.
On the panels were raised letters blown into the glass with the inscription:
ATWOODS JAUNDICE BITTERS
MOSES ATWOOD GEORGETOWN, MASS
In 1875, Manhattan Medicine Co. of New York City had spent considerable
time and money purchasing those interests which stemmed back from Moses
Atwoods sale of the product over 20 years earlier. This company heavily
advertised the Bitters, and was naturally upset to see a Maine company
owned by Nathan Wood selling the same product in the same distinctive
bottle. Manhattan Medicine sued Nathan Wood to quit selling the product and
to give an accounting of the profits he had fraudulently obtained. Nathan
Wood countered that he had been manufacturing the product since 1861, when
he bought the product rights from Moses F. Atwood, the son of Moses Atwood.
Since the case involved interstate commerce, the trial was held in Federal
court, in the Circuit Court of Maine. The case centered largely on
trademark issues. After a long trial, in which "the evidence is voluminous
and somewhat conflicting," the judge ruled in favor of Nathan Wood, and
dismissed the case in 1878. It appears that Moses F. Atwood did go from New
Sharon to Maine to testify in the trial.
This did not satisfy Manhattan Medicine Co., and they appealed the case all
the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. But here is where the case took an
interesting twist. Instead of looking at trademark issues, the Supreme
Court concentrated on the words being used on the bottle, and invoked the
famous "clean hands" legal theory. This states in essence that if you are
going to sue somebody, you better have "clean hands" yourself. In 1883 the
Court wrote these words in its ruling:
A court of equity will extend no aid to sustain a claim to a trade-mark of
an article which is put forth with a misrepresentation to the public as to
the manufacturer of the article, and as to the place where it is
manufactured, both of which particulars were originally circumstances to
guide the purchaser of the medicine. It is not honest to state that a
medicine is manufactured by Moses Atwood, of Georgetown, Massachusetts,
when it is manufactured by the Manhattan Medicine Company in the city of
The lower court decision was therefore affirmed by U. S. Supreme Court.
This scolding to Manhattan Medicine Company resulted in a change of
advertising tactics by the bottlers. The raised print on the bottles was
immediately changed to:
ATWOODS JAUNDICE BITTERS FORMERLY MADE BY
MOSES ATWOOD GEORGETOWN, MAS