About 1852 or 1853, Dr. A. G. Bragg of “Mexican Mustang Liniment fame,” made a stir in town by his sensational publicity. His remedy was simply crude petroleum bottled up and described as “oil from the burning mountains of Mexico.” He advertised his nostrum in many ways. The most interesting was by a painting on the west side of his store, Northeast corner of Market and Third streets, opposite my drug store. There was a volcano in eruption and a lot of Mexican troops with Santa Anna heading them, his wooden leg lying on the ground where it had fallen. These pictures were life size and served as an excellent advertisement. At this time, Dr. James H. McLean was working for Bragg, putting up the liniment; but shortly after McLean opened up for himself by putting up “McLean’s Volcanic Oil Liniment” and “McLean’s pills,” a copy of the McLane’s pills of Pittsburgh. So much for primitive business ethics.
Up to 1857 the firm of Matthews, Levering & Company prospered. Then the panic struck us. A draft of $1,300 was sent to the banking house of Lucas & Simonds for collection, and as was our custom, I went there with our check for the amount drawn on Lucas & Simonds, where we kept our account. The house had closed its doors. I went in the back door, asked for the draft, offering a check on them in payment. This was refused, on the ground that the bank had closed. I went immediately to the old bank of the State, whose Board was in session, explained matters and said that if we could get that money we could safely pass the panic. I was told by Mr. W. D. W. Barnard, a director, and one of our competitors, to go back to my office and as he passed by, he would let me know the result. Shortly after he stopped in and said – “Matthews, you can have the money.” “What security shall we give,” I asked. He replied, “Oh, just ship a steamboat load of straw, and draw on it.” So we went through the panic “O. K.”
In those days of poor banking facilities, it was a common custom for various firms to borrow from each other. Many times our competitors asked us if we had anything over. Our answer was “Yes, “how much do you need?” “Say $5,000.” On giving our check we received a post-dated check for a like amount.
Shortly after the Panic of 1857, Charles Levering retired, my father taking his place, and the firm became J. Matthews & Sons. J. Matthews & Sons conducted the business up to 1860, when my father retired from the firm, which then became J. Matthews Sons. My father took charge of the books, and accepted a salary, at his own suggestion. My brothers, William and John L., withdrew from the firm some time during the Civil War.
Mr. Levering brought an interest with Wilson &
Brother in the hardware business, and soon afterward they took in Mr.
William H. Waters, under the name of Wilson, Levering & Waters. Later
needing help, Mr. Levering suggested a very likely lad, a son of Mr. and
Mrs. Simmons, living on Olive Street near 17th. This boy was E. C. Simmons,
a very bright and reliable young fellow, now famous around the world.
Shortly after this, both Wilson and Levering died and Waters took Simmons
into partnership as Waters & Simmons.