Friday Flashback #42

Back in the 1970’s and ’80s, Westport was “the marketing capital of the world.” Our long heritage as an artists’ colony is also well known.

But even before that — when the death industry was just being born — we were home to the leading embalmers’ supply company on the planet.

It was formed in 1886 as a partnership between 2 Germans: inventor C.B. Dolge and pharmacist Max Huncke.

Four years later, the firm moved to Westport. In 1893 Dolge bought out his partner, and incorporated under the simple name The Embalmers’ Supply Company.

It manufactured embalming fluids using arsenic (formaldehyde was not yet available), as well as accessories like pumps and goosenecks, without which a body could not be embalmed.

After many years at 14 Wilton Road, Embalmers’ Supply moved to Ford Road — across the river from where Bridgewater is now. So the world’s biggest embalming supply company has been replaced (sort of) by the world’s largest hedge fund.

Today the company is called ESCO. It’s located in East Lyme — no connection to the “lime” once used to dispose of a corpse — and is strictly a chemical business.

(Hat tip: Seth Schachter)

14 responses to “Friday Flashback #42

  1. Thanks for that interesting post. I remember our after-school “Landmarks Club” at Coleytown Jr High, led by Peter Hanson, took a tour of that place one afternoon!

  2. Dan or someone who remembers… our first house in Westport in the early and mid 60’s was on Richmondville Ave. There was an embalming fluid factory at the curve where we used to ride our bikes. The sounds and the smell are with me to this day. Does anyone else remember this? It is an office building now but we would dare each other to ride our bikes into that parking lot with the sounds of the machinery and the horrible sweet smell …we thought there were corpses in there. But we were 5 and 6 years old.

    • Yes, Embalmers’ Supply Company was on Richmondville — at least through the mid-1960s.

      • Cool. I conferred with my sister today who remembers the rides into this factory parking lot as well with all of its fright sounds, sights and smells — especially that sweet sickening smell. Imaginations ran wild back in the day for us small kids. Interesting that Westport has such a connection to embalming fluid and its accoutrements :/ 🙂

  3. Diane Silfen

    C B Dolge remained on Ferry La for many years. Was That a spin off or just another co of his all together?

    • Charlotte (Thomas) Ciardi

      Diane – Yes that would have been the building I’m thinking of.

  4. Charlotte (Thomas) Ciardi

    Apparently there was still a C B Dolge Company in Westport after the buy out in 1893. My grandfather Edwin W. Thomas worked for the C B Dolge Company from 1919 as a purchasing agent and in 1926 became the sales manager until his retirement in 1957. I have a newpaper aticle with a picture of my grandfather and Karl A. Dolge. I believe I remember the company was located on Saugatuck Ave where the Railroad crosses over. There was an old brick building there. I remember my dad telling me they sold cleaners for grave stones. I guess they stayed in a similar business.

  5. Bruce Courcier

    Too bad they did so much damage to the Saugatuck river., and never held accountable.

    • Diane Silfen

      Bruce. Which co are you referring to and can you tell me what they did…I’m not questioning what you said in anyway I would just like to know. Thank you

  6. Mary Cookman Schmerker

    This brings back many memories. We lived just off Clinton Avenue from 1948 until 1964. We would ride our bikes down to “The Ford” wade, try to catch tadpoles and were just kids having fun. There used to be a “cable Car” that went from one side of the river to the other attached to two tall trees. Close to the factory. Last time I was in Westport I looked for signs of where it used to be but could not find any. There may still be some of the Dolge family in Westport or near by. Alan was in the class of 1958 (Staples of course) and later served in the Navy I believe.

  7. Brad Muscott

    In the early ’70’s, I was working at A.B. W. Toft & Co., a small industrial advertising agency over Oscar’s on Main Street. Among our clients was Embalmer’s Supply Company — ESCO. One of my responsibilities was to come up with numerous ads for their products (of which there were many) to be inserted in a particular newsletter published exclusively for the “death” industry.

    At the time, one Richard Beck was president of ESCO. Mr. Beck was as “New England” as you get — stone-faced and to-the-point.. Only Mr. Toft, the owner/president of our company, was granted audience pursuant to his advertising needs. As I recall, the C. B. Dolge company was also in the chemical business at the time; I don’t remember where.

    • Eric Buchroeder SHS '70

      CB Dole Company was cleaning/janitrial chemicals. I remember seeing their distinctively painted steel drum containers in the custodial room at school. Mr. Beck, Erie Beck used to be on the board of the YMCA. His wife, Mary Alice was one of my mother’s bridesmaids when she married Harry B. Wassell in 1942.

  8. Jon Nicholson

    BJ Magnes – when I was a kid (late 60s -early 70s), that building on Richmondville was “the Plastic Factory.” You could smell the cut plastic throughout the neighborhood. Sometimes there was some cool (to us kids) remnants in their dumpster around back. I don’t know if the Embalmers were on Ford Rd across the river from Glendenning (Bridgewater) before or after that but I remember that Ford Rd building looking very old…..and creepy. Those were the days….

  9. Yup, I remember both the creepy embalmers’ building on Ford Road, and the “Plastics Factory” as we called it in the early 70s, on Richmondville. There, we used to somehow scavenge these cool lucite, multicolored rings. I remember the dam off of Richmondville, which my Mom warned me not to walk across, or I would definitely “fall into it and drown”! And I remember when Richmondville was unfinished. I would ride my bike down the hill from Oak Street and the road would just stop (tho maybe there was a gravel goad), bounded by vast meadows on either side.
    As for the Ford Road building, we’d ride our bikes down there and cross the creek onto a small island in the middle. Someone told me it was an embalming supply place and we always got creeped out when we approached it. I wonder if all the plastics and the embalming run-off went straight into the river.