Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce - Table of Contents

Pierce Building
651 Main Street, Buffalo, NY



See also: Highlights of Buffalo's History, 1921


Pierce Realty Co.


Steel, Glazed terra-cotta


TEXT Beneath Illustrations

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Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce

Pierce Building

Pierce Building

Glazed terra-cotta

Glazed terra-cotta modillions

Glazed terra-cotta

Glazed terra-cotta Corinthian capital

Pierce's Palace Hotel: located on what is now the D'Youville College campus facing Prospect Park.

See also
Dr. Pierce's Hospital


Pierce Monument at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY

Egyptian Revival style


The Pierce Building

The Pierce Building was erected at 651-661 Main in 1921. It was the last home of the World's Dispensary Medical Association. Adjacent to the present Pierce Building, at 663 Main, stood Dr. Pierce's Invalid Hotel. The Pierce establishment, which included a convalescent hospital [named officially the Invalids and Tourists Hotel] on the west side of the city, was founded in 1867 by Ray Vaughn Pierce, whose son, Valentine Mott Pierce, and grandson, Ray Vaughn Pierce, continued the business until World War II. By the early twentieth century, Pierce's, which had originally occupied the former Merrill B, Sherwood house at 652 Main, had become one of the country's largest manufacturers of patent medicines. The factory was on Washington Street, behind the demolished hotel and Pierce Building. (The factory is now demolished.)

Doctor Ray Vaughn Pierce

The most famous of the patent-medicine wizards was Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce, who operated the World's Dispensary. In the thirteen years between 1867 and 1880 his ventures took in almost half a million dollars per year. With the possible exception of William G. Fargo (of Wells Fargo fame) he was probably the city's most renowned person.

Biography: Dr. Pierce was born at Starke, New York, August 6th, 1840, and received his education in public schools. Afterwards he took up the study of medicine and in 1862 was graduated from The Eclectic Medical College, of Cincinnati. Subsequently he practiced medicine in Titusville, Pennsylvania, for four years, and in 1867 became a resident of Buffalo.

Sales: Soon after coming to this city Doctor Pierce started the manufacture of a prescription which he called "Doctor Pierce's Favorite Prescription." He followed the marketing of this with several other medicines, including Smart Weed and Dr. Pierce's Pleasant Pellets. Nearly one million bottles of Dr. Pierce's Smart Weed and other preparations left Buffalo annually.

Dr. Pierce was a champion of free enterprise. As president of a proprietary association of mail-order medicine sellers, Pierce made sure that government would keep its hands off the regulatory tools. On behalf of his colleagues, Pierce vehemently responded to the doctors who questioned the effectiveness of the nostrums, cure-alls and tonics advertised in newspapers and sold through the mail.

Pierce's medicines were notorious elixirs, many containing opium until the mid-1890s. Pierce promoted his concoctions through his book, "The people's Common Sense Medical Advisor." A quasi-predecessor to the Physicians' Desk Reference, Pierce's book was in its 11th edition and had sold more than 2 million copies by 1907.


  • Pierce's son, Doctor V. Mott Pierce was general manager of the laboratory -- the World's Dispensary -- at 664 Washington Street, a six-story manufacturing facility.

  • Pierce's Palace Hotel was intended for invalids, and tourists, as well. It was located on what is now (2003) the D'Youville College campus facing Prospect Park.

    This building, erected in 1878, was destroyed by fire in 1881, and immediately replaced by one of the best known sanitariums of its kind in the country: Invalids' Hotel and Surgical Institute.

  • The Invalids' Hotel and Surgical Institute was run out of a grand brick building at 663 Main Street. Patients came from all over the United States and Canada during its heyday, including, supposedly, the Sundance Kid.

  • Dr. Pierce also had a facility in London.

Politics: In 1878 he was elected State Senator. In 1879 he was elected to congress on the Republic ticket, serving one term in the House of Representatives. He resigned his Congressional seat in 1880 because of ill health.

Pierce lost a fortune in a grandiose plan to tunnel for gold and coal in California.


  • "Second Looks: A Pictorial History of Buffalo and Erie County," by Scott Eberle and Joseph A. Grande. Donning Co., 1993
  • Victorian Buffalo, by Cynthia Van Ness
  • "Buffalo: Good Neighbors, Great Architecture," by Nancy Blumenstalk Mingus. Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

Color photos and their arrangement 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
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