Biography of Henry A. Tilden


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA




Page 317


    Henry A. Tilden was born April 1, 1821, in the town of New Lebanon, Columbia Co., N. Y., and has spent his days here for the most part, except when absent at school.  In 1843 he became in part interested in a business which induced him in 1847 to lay the foundation of the extensive business in which he is now engaged,--the manufacture of chemicals and medicinal preparations for the use of the medical profession,--and which has become one of the largest interests of the kind in the United States.  The business embraces a great variety of articles, and hence involves great detail in their handling and management, requiring not only complete order and system, but a knowledge and an assortment marvelous in extent and accuracy, combined with great organizing and executive qualities.  For these Mr. Tilden is noted, and his laboratory and shops afford one of the best examples of organization in business to be found anywhere.

     In connection with this business Mr. Tilden early organized a printing department, and since 1857 has published the Journal of Materia Medica, a monthly periodical, with a circulation at this time of over twenty thousand copies.  He also edited and published a "Book of Formulae" of over four hundred pages, and a supplement to the Journal of Materia Medica of over three hundred pages, which is now in the hands of nearly every physician, and which contains an epitome of the properties of the indigenous materia medica of the United States, and has become a book of reference for physicians.  The composition and printing of these books, as well as circulars, catalogues, labels, etc., is carried on in Mr. Tilden's establishment, which is furnished with several power-presses of different sizes.

     Mr. Tilden was married in 1844 to Susan Gould, daughter of General Gould, of Rochester, N. Y., and has six children living,--two sons and four daughters.  The sons, at this writing, are in business with him at New Lebanon.

     The business firm of Tilden & Co., with their usual enterprise, made arrangements to place their goods in a suitable manner before the International Exposition, at Paris, during the present year.  A letter dated Paris, June 19, 1878, says,--

     "The Exposition is well advanced, although we observe new exhibits in nearly all the sections, especially in our own.  There is one of which we cannot resist the temptation of giving a detailed account, namely, that of Messrs. Tilden & Co.  The handsome pavilion is in black walnut and gilt, upholstered in blue granite cloth, bordered with red; it is arranged so as to cover the entire exhibit at night, and during the morning interval of sweeping the aisles.  Like the majority of the American and English exhibits, the curtains remain closed during Sunday; a fine gilt eagle surmounts the top of the large pavilion inclosed by a railing of maroon, black, bronze, and gilt.  The roof is sky-blue.  The ceiling is blue satin.  With gilt mouldings and rosettes in the corners.  The exhibit consists of solid and fluid extracts, sugar-coated pills, elixirs, syrups, chemicals, crude articles, etc., which are in handsome gilt-labeled bottles:  both bottles and jars set in alphabetical order on pyramidal counters covered with crimson velvet bordered with gilt.  In the centre of the pavilion is a desk, upholstered in a style in keeping with all the surroundings, at which the courteous and popular representative of Messrs. Tilden & Co. presides.  This desk is behind a brass railing, highly polished, around which visitors are allowed to walk.  We cannot speak too highly of the taste displayed in the choice of colors, the carpet being mottled black and red, in harmony with the velvet on the cases.  We learn that Dr. Merkel, at this early date, has rendered professional service to more than fifty of our exhibitors and commissioners, marines and sailors, who were suffering form malaria and other diseases.

     "During the late Turko-Russian war, Tilden & Co. shipped large quantities of bromo-chloralum for hospital use, with very favorable results.  It must be borne in mind that since the disciples of Mohammed cannot enter heaven with their limbs cut off, they prefer death to amputation; the bromo-chloralum, diluted in water and applied on lint to the wounds, in many cases removed the necessity of the surgeon's knife.  Large quantities of their medicines are consumed, not only in the United States, but also in Canada, South America, Cuba, Sandwich Islands, Japan, England, and Australia.  The firm contemplate opening a branch house in London next year, in order to supply the foreign market.  Tilden & Co.'s exhibit is the largest and finest of its kind in the whole exhibition; highly interesting and instructive to foreigners, to Frenchmen in particular, who had no idea of the importance and rank of our chemists and manufacturers."