Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Ayer, James Cook

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AYER, James Cook, manufacturer, b. in Groton, Conn., 5 May, 1818; d. in Winchendon, Mass., 3 July, 1878. At the age of thirteen he removed to Lowell, and there resided with his uncle. His education was obtained at the public schools, where at one time he was a classmate of Gen. Butler, and subsequently at the Westford academy, after which he was apprenticed to James C. Robbins, a druggist in Lowell. While there he studied medicine, and later he was graduated at the medical department of the university of Pennsylvania. He never practised, but devoted his principal attention to pharmaceutical chemistry and the compounding of medicines. His success in this line was very great, and soon led him to establish in Lowell a factory for the manufacture of his medicinal preparations, which became one of the largest of its kind in the world, and was magnificently equipped. He accumulated a fortune estimated at $20,000,000. Much of his success was due to his advertising, and he published annually an almanac, 5,000,000 copies of which were gratuitously distributed each year. Editions in English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish, were regularly issued. In 1874 he accepted the republican nomination for congress in the 7th Massachusetts district, but was defeated. Anxiety and care brought about a brain difficulty, and for some time prior to his death he was confined in an asylum. His widow died 3 Jan., 1898.