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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 B/SIN
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1770-1957
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 2.55 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Stephen Green Ltd | patent medicine manufacturer


Administrative/Biographical history:

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. It was used for eye complaints. 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.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Stephen Green Limited, patent medicine manufacturer, 1780-1930. The records relate to proprietorship of the recipe for "Doctor Johnson's Golden Ointment" including legal documents and legal case papers; and records relating to the manufacture and sale of the ointment including financial accounts, order books, correspondence, sales summaries, testimonials, advertising, legislation involving patent medicines and history of the ointment. Also various family and estate records.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In three sections: 001-023: Proprietorship of Recipe; 024-187: Manufacture and Sale and 188-269: Estate and Personal Papers.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright rests with the City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated to the Archive in 1964.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
July to October 2009

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