Included in the category of beauty products recovered from the SS Republic are seven bottles that once contained Murray & Lanman’s Florida Water, the most popular product sold by Lanman & Kemp, a leading New York City wholesale druggist firm founded by Robert J. Murray in 1808. Touted as a multi-purpose toilet water with both cosmetic and restorative qualities, company advertising proclaimed the product was associated with the Spanish explorer Ponce de León and his legendary search for Florida’s Fountain of Youth in 1513.
Of particular interest is the pervasive role of Lanman & Kemp in the 19th-century wholesale drug trade throughout the United States and worldwide, with major operations in Central and South America and in the Caribbean Islands, supported by travelling agents. Product orders were also sent through the maritime mail. Lanman & Kemp records document business correspondence addressed to the company dating to 1859 and 1861 that was shipped aboard the SS Tennessee from Vera Cruz in Mexico to New Orleans, when the steamship later known as the Republic was under the ownership of Charles Morgan.
In addition to selling their own patent medicines, Lanman & Kemp’s New York-based enterprise also sold other products. Records testify that these included those of James C. Ayer, Edward Phalon, J.A. Tarrant, Charles Osgood, Thomas Holloway, William B. Moffat and B.L. Fahnestock, company names whose products are well represented in the Republic’s patent medicine cargo. The firm also dealt in opiates, medicinal and culinary herbs, spices, liquors, flavorings, perfume extracts and a sundry of other medical and non-medical items. With its extensive business connections throughout the United States and abroad, it is plausible that Lanman & Kemp’s drug firm was responsible for the shipment of at least some of the Republic’s bottled goods other than just their own cosmetic line.
Murray & Lanman’s Florida Water is still produced today, having thrived on the market for over two centuries. A modern advertisement recommends using the cologne “like Holy Water for cleansings, good luck and protection.”