Archive for September 2014

Illuminating George C. Taylor and His Oil of Life

September 30, 2014

On June 17, 2014, Illuminated History held its third annual cemetery tour in which twelve actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum due to inclement weather.  Greenvale Rural Cemetery in the village of Fairport, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts of Greenvale’s featured eternal residents will be posted until all twelve have been illuminated.  Although the scripts are based on in depth historical research, some creative license may have been taken.

Our second Greenvale resident highlighted is George C. Taylor, as portrayed by Bob Hunt.

How’s everyone feeling today? Any coughs, colds, asthma? Stomach problems, kidney problems, liver problems? Cuts, bruises, burns? Chapped hands or lips? Earache? Toothache? Rheumatism? My Taylor’s Oil of Life [hold up bottle] can be used to cure almost any ill! Inside or out, my liniment is good for what ails you…and your horses and cows, too! Good for man or beast! Good for horn distemper, galls, caked bags, cracked teats, botts, and bellyache.

My father, Alonzo Taylor, began making Dr. Taylor’s Pain-annihilating Liniment in Cato, Cayuga County in 1848, when I was a school boy. I’m his son, George C. Taylor, and I worked in the family business from its very beginning. After my schooling was over, I helped run the company, and I took it over in 1861 when my father died. I moved the Taylor Company here to Fairport in 1866. The Civil War years had taken a toll on business, but things rebounded in the late 1860s.

George C. Taylor, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society

George C. Taylor, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society

In addition to manufacturing my father’s liniment, which I marketed under the name “Taylor’s Oil of Life,” I expanded my company’s offerings to include many fine and useful products, including flavored extracts, laudanum, perfume, blackberry cordial, cough syrup, breath sweeteners, bluing for laundry, and shaving soap. We made many other popular products over the years. My business was very successful, because I was always ahead of the trends and made quality household products people could use.

My decision to move my business to Fairport was a good one. Business became so good, in fact, that I built a new 3-story brick factory with offices on the corner of North Main Street and High Street in 1873. It was called the Taylor block for many years, and that building still stands today. The railroad had a spur that came right to my building, and I shipped my products all over the country. My wife Wealthy, my daughter Lois, and I lived upstairs. I employed many local residents in the manufacture of my wares.

In addition to my own business, my building housed several retail shops on Main Street, including a grocery store, a meat market, and a barber. I also let the Fairport Coronet Band use one of the upper rooms to practice each week. I believed in building up Fairport and helping other businesses thrive. A strong business community makes for a prosperous town, and everyone benefits from that.

I also believed that an informed community, one that is well-versed in the issues of the day, both locally and nationally, is the back-bone of a strong democracy. To that end, I founded Fairport’s first newspaper, The Fairport Herald, in 1871. Of course, the George C. Taylor Company was one of its prime advertisers. Papers need advertising to thrive, and businesses need to advertise! It was a win-win situation for Fairport and the Taylor Company. But I only operated the paper long enough to get it established, then sold it about two years later. It flourished, and the community was the better for having it. Every community should have its own paper!

During the 1870s, my ever-expanding sales strained my facility’s capacity for production, so I had to enlarge my building several times. I needed more commodious facilities to produce all the fine household products my customers had come to expect from the George C. Taylor Company. In 1887, the famous showman Buffalo Bill Cody took his Wild West Show to London for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. He sent me the following letter:

Gentlemen, for some time past I have used Taylor’s Oil of Life in our stables with marked success and during our recent ocean trip from New York City to London it was almost indispensible. Kindly forward me 18 large bottles immediately and I will remit upon receipt of invoice.
Yours truly,
W.F. Cody

It was an honor and a pleasure to aid someone so famous as Buffalo Bill. But my life was not only about my work, as rewarding as that was. My wife Wealthy and I were active in town, especially in the temperance movement. We did not drink or smoke, and believed in moderation in all things. I was universally acknowledged as a man of sterling character. Here is a portrait of me in my later years. My beautiful wife Wealthy departed this life in 1905. We had been married 40 years, and I was not used to being alone. So a few years later I remarried, to Miss Minnie Burchaskie of Fairport, in 1907.

Although I never belonged to any of the churches here in the village, I helped regularly with their various charitable causes, and helped

George C. Taylor's headstone at Greenvale Rural Cemetery, Fairport, New York

George C. Taylor’s headstone at Greenvale Rural Cemetery, Fairport, New York

promote the general welfare of the town. I used my hard-earned wealth to improve the lives of those in Fairport. In 1908, I was elected president of the village, which was both an honor and a responsibility. I wanted to make the town more conducive to business in general, and to manufacturing in particular. The role of government is to help businesses thrive, and that in turn allows a community’s residents to thrive. I was not able to implement all of my plans, though, as my term was cut short by my death in 1909.

The George C. Taylor Company continued to operate after my death, with products such as vanilla extract, aspirin, shaving cream, shampoo, facial creams, and toothpaste. By the time the company was closed in the 1950s, it had been a fixture in American households for over 100 years, and it all began with Taylor’s Oil of Life.

Script by Suzanne Lee

(c) 2014 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

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