This record is held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London

Details of B/SIN
Reference: B/SIN

Records relating to proprietorship of the recipe for "Doctor Johnson's Golden Ointment", manufacture and sale of the ointment and family/estate records

Date: 1780-1930

The list appended here has been divided into three sections: records of the proprietorship of the recipe; records of the manufacture and sale of the ointment; and records relating to the persons and estates of the proprietary families and of families related to them by Stephen Green's three marriages. The legal papers have posed a particular problem. The earliest litigation decided the ownership of the ointment. Records of it have been listed in the first section and to them have been added records of later transactions altering or establishing the proprietorship. However, were litigation is concerned with the general estate of a proprietor or proprietary family, in which the recipe and the emoluments of the business feature as an integral part of the estate but the proprietorship is not directly involved, the records have been listed in the third section. Where possible materials presented in evidence have been listed under the heading of the cause and in the order of presentation, where this can be established. However, owing to the fragmentary nature of certain groups of legal papers, a more lengthy introduction precedes them than is customary in a list of this nature.

Held by: London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Stephen Green Limited, patent medicine manufacturer

Physical description: 269 documents
Publication note:

Extracts from the records have frequently appeared in the brochures issued by the firm and the origins of the delft jars in which the ointment was sold have often received notice. Certain deeds in the collection were used in the compilation of Volume XXIII of the Survey of London, South Bank and Vauxhall, L.C.C. 1951, cf.p.123, and at the same time these and other deeds and correspondence were rough-sorted into eleven parcels. When the firm closed recently, these parcels and the series of modern financial records were deposited in the Record Office by L. Bull, Esq., their custodian.

  • Chemical industry
Administrative / biographical background:

Preservation and the care of records are perhaps inherent in a firm which manufactures a patent medicine, since its existence depends upon the careful protection and safe descent of an original recipe or formula. According to tradition the ointment in question was invented by a Lambeth doctor, Thomas Johnson, in the seventeenth century. On his death it passed to the Hind family, passing from them when a daughter married Thomas Singleton and took the recipe with her as a marriage portion. Thomas Singleton died in 1779 leaving the recipe to his son William and on his death it passed via his daughter to the Folgham family. Stephen Green, the Lambeth stone potter, married into this family and by 1848 acquired the proprietorship of the recipe. It eventually passed to the Carlill family who continued manufacture as Stephen Green Ltd. The descent of the recipe was surrounded by many ad hoc legal safeguards, designed to preserve its secrecy. Where they failed, elaborate litigation commenced between claimants to the proprietorship and this accounts for the preservation of deeds and settlements of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The remaining early material seems to have survived largely as a result of the prominence given to the "historic" nature of the firm in its publicity, a feature which Stephen Green, in particular, seems to have emphasised.

Link to NRA Record:

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