Albert Sidney Aloe, 1841 – 1893
Sadoc Aloe, ca. 1796 – 1890
William Henry Hernstein, 1852 – 1908
Henry J. Penfold, 1854 – 1936
Louis P. Aloe, 1867 – 1929
Howard Feist Baer, 1902 – 1998

A.S. Aloe, 1862 - ca. 1865, ca. 1867 – 1875
Aloe & Son, ca. 1865 – ca. 1867
Aloe & Hernstein / Aloe, Hernstein & Co., 1875 – 1885
A.S. Aloe & Co., 1885 – 1959
Aloe & Penfold, 1891 – 1901

by Brian Stevenson
last updated June, 2022

Albert S. Aloe opened a small optical business in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1862. By the end of the century, it had become one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of scientific, engineering, and medical equipment in the U.S.A. The firm continued as an independent business through the mid-1900s.

Albert immigrated with his parents and sister from Scotland to New York City, where his father, Sadoc, established an optical business. Sadoc followed Albert to St. Louis in the mid 1860s, and formed a father-son partnership for about two years. Albert later formed separate partnerships with William Hernstein (in St. Louis) and Henry Penfold (in Omaha, Nebraska). After Albert Aloe’s death, the firm was continued by his son, Louis, and then by Louis’ son-in-law, Howard Baer.

Microscopes are occasionally encountered with Aloe’s name attached. Most, if not all, were manufactured by outside makers, initially from Europe, then later from American manufacturers such as Bausch & Lomb and Spencer. Surgical supplies and other medical items with Aloe’s name were probably made at the Aloe factory in St. Louis.

Figure 1. “French Popular Microscope”, retailed by Aloe & Co. This was the name of the Aloe business from 1885 onward. Images adapted from an internet auction site..


Figure 2. “Diagnostician” microscope, retailed ca. 1890 by Aloe & Co. It is essentially the same as Bausch & Lomb’s “Investigator” model – it is even marked with Bausch & Lomb’s patent information – and was undoubtedly manufactured by that business. Images courtesy of Jeffrey Silverman..


Figure 3. Microscopes that were offered by A.S. Aloe & Co. in their ca. 1893 catalogue..


Figure 4. Spencer compound microscope, retailed ca. 1924 by A.S. Aloe & Co. (see Figure 17, below). Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from .


Albert Sidney Aloe was born on September 5, 1841 in Edinburgh, Scotland, son of Sadoc and Nancy Aloe. Father Sadoc was an optician, originally from Amsterdam, Netherlands. Mother Nancy had a hatmaking business, which employed 18 women at the time of the 1851 census. According to later documents, the Aloe family emigrated to New York City later in 1851, where Sadoc again established an optical business.

An unattributed history of Albert Aloe states, “In 1856 the young Albert left New York. He sailed around Cape Horn working as a deck hand. Albert quit the ship at San Francisco where he remained for a year, probably working in the optical trade as a lens grinder. In search of adventure and fortune, Albert made his way to South America. There he was employed as a mechanical engineer in charge of the construction of a sugar mill. By 1860 Albert had amassed, or so it seemed to him, a young fortune. With this as his backing, he returned to the United States settling in St. Louis, Missouri. Across from the Post Office he established a small business dealing in optical goods.” The story may be relatively accurate, but the dates are probably incorrect. The 1860 US census recorded that Albert Aloe was then living in New York with his parents and younger sister, working as a “clerk”.

According to A Tour of St. Louis (1878), written when Albert Aloe was alive and presumably with his cooperation, “Mr. Aloe begun business as an optician in the year 1862, occupying a small room in the building on the northwest corner of Fifth and Chestnut streets. His means were limited, which made his progress slow, and success seemed uncertain. In 1864, he changed the location of his business to the corner of Third and Olive, where he remained until 1867, when he again moved, to No. 206 North Fourth Street.”

Albert married Isabella Prince in 1863. They had four children, all sons. Louis, born on July 20, 1867, would later run the family business.

Around 1865, father Sadoc Aloe moved to St. Louis, and partnered with Albert as “S. Aloe & Son” (Figure 5). The partnership apparently ended around 1867, and the firm’s name reverted to “A.S. Aloe” (Figure 6).

An 1868 advertisement from A.S. Aloe described the business as an “importer” of a wide variety of scientific and engineering equipment, including “all kinds of Optical Goods” (Figure 6). By 1870, catalogues were printed. Entry 118 in Aloe’s 1870 catalogue was described as “a cheap microscope, of very elegant form, and quite sufficient for the student of most schools”, selling for $20 (Figure 7).

Albert Aloe became a naturalized US citizen October 17, 1874.

A new partnership was formed in 1875. From A Tour of St. Louis:

“Aloe & Hernstein - Optical and Surgical Instruments.

That perseverance and attention to details will always win, find excellent illustration in the business career of A.S. Aloe, the largest dealer in optical and surgical instruments in the Mississippi Valley. Mr. Aloe begun business as an optician in the year 1862, occupying a small room in the building on the northwest corner of Fifth and Chestnut streets. His means were limited, which made his progress slow, and success seemed uncertain. In 1864, he changed the location of his business to the corner of Third and Olive, where he remained until 1867, when he again moved, to No. 206 North Fourth Street. Here the dawn of success appeared to him, but not without the most persistent effort and diligence. In the year 1875, Mr. Aloe associated with him W.H. Hernstein, Esq., and added surgical instruments, starting a manufactory at No. 311 North Fourth Street, up-stairs, which is still running, giving employment to fifteen skillful workmen. Their business increased rapidly, until the firm was forced to seek a more capacious building, and in April, 1877, they removed to their present location, north-east corner of Fourth and Olive streets, one of the most eligible positions and finest store-rooms in the city.

The stock carried by Aloe & Hernstein comprises every conceivable optical, surgical and mathematical instrument invented; and nearly all their goods are of their own manufacture, enabling them to give the most complete warrant to everything they sell. The firm are now not only the largest dealers of the kind in the West, but are also the largest manufacturers of mathematical and surgical instruments.

Mr. Aloe is a gentlemen who has attained his present high position by a display of the most astonishing energy; and St. Louis credits him with an enterprise few possess. Mr. Hernstein is thoroughly posted in the business of surgical instruments, and gives to this department his exclusive attention, the partnership being confined to these goods, Mr. Aloe remaining alone as a dealer in optical instruments. Their business is very large and their facilities unsurpassed, which enables them to sell their goods at closer figures than their competitors.


The Aloe and Hernstein business was dissolved in 1885:

“St. Louis, January 1st, 1885. We herewith beg leave to inform you that the firm of Aloe, Hernstein & Co., Importers and Manufacturers of Surgical, Optical, Mathematical and Electrical Instruments, doing business in this city, is this day dissolved by limitation and mutual consent, Mr. W.H. Hernstein withdrawing. The undersigned therefore take great pleasure in acquainting their friends, patrons and the Trade in general, that they have this day formed a co-partnership for the purpose of establishing a business similar in character to that of the late firm above mentioned. The Surgical and Electrical departments will continue under the immediate and personal supervision of Mr. W. H. Hernstein, whose past 18 years experience in these branches fully qualifies him for the office of intelligently understanding and supplying the wants and requisites of the trade. Mr. D, Prince, also a former member of the late firm of Aloe, Hernstein & Co., will give his individual attention to the Optical, Mathematical and Engineering Instrument branch of the business. Mr. Prince's long connection and experience in this line is well known to many of his former customers, and warrants him in stating that all orders received will be accurately and promptly executed. We will give particular and special attention to Orthopedic and Deformity work, our facilities for such being in every respect most thorough and complete. We also call the special attention of Oculists to our Spectacle and Eye Glass Department. It is complete in every detail; and having secured the most competent workmen, and experienced Glass Grinders, our facilities for the grinding of Compound Spherical, Cylindric, and Prismatic Lenses are the very best. Oculists Prescriptions a specialty. All orders will receive our prompt attention. Prescription Blanks furnished on application. In conclusion we wish to extend to you our sincere thanks for all past favors, and trusting we may merit a liberal share of your valued future patronage, we remain, Yours very Respectfully, Hernstein & Prince, 317 N. Fourth St., St. Louis, Mo.”


In 1891, Albert Aloe formed an auxiliary business in Omaha, Nebraska, in partnership with Henry J. Penfold, a pharmacist of that city (Figure 14). Aloe and Penfold dissolved in 1901, with Penfold continuing the Omaha enterprise.

Albert Aloe died on January 30, 1893. The government record of his death attributed it to “suppression of urine”.

The business passed to Albert’s four sons. From Mercantile, Industrial and Professional Saint Louis (1903):

Hand in hand with the science of the surgeon, the oculist, astronomer, mathematician and photographer goes the art of manufacturing surgical, optical, mathematical and photographic instruments. The development in these scientific branches has kept and is still keeping pace with the progress of the age, and so has and does the production of the various instruments and appliances used in these vocations. The A.S. Aloe Company devotes itself to the manufacture, respectively the sale of the foregoing articles and have gained the unlimited confidence of the men of science, the artists and the public at large by the quality of their goods, the superior workmanship of the articles of their own manufacture and the strict execution of all orders entrusted to their care. The firm was founded in 1860, by Albert S. Aloe, who was born in Edinburgh (Scotland), and came to this country when quite young. He first located on Third and Olive streets, then on the northeast corner of Fourth and Olive, but the constant growth of business made larger quarters necessary from time to time, causing a removal to 517 Olive street, where they remained for a great many years, but even this entire building became inadequate and the firm occupies now the much larger one, number 414 North Broadway. The surgical department comprises the manufacture and sale (wholesale and retail) of every kind of instruments used in surgery and is probably the most extensive west of New York; the optical branch is exclusively retail and includes a manufacturing department, in which a number of skilled artisans are employed in grinding lenses and glasses to fit physician's prescriptions, the mathematical instruments are made under their own roof and are known over the whole United States for their exactness; photographer's instruments and supplies form an important branch, likewise artist's materials and the assortment in both is at all times so complete, that even the largest order can be executed without the least delay. These various divisions stand under the direct superintendency of the Messrs. Aloe and their able assistants, whose constant aim it is to give the fullest satisfaction to the patrons of the firm. The company was incorporated in 1893, after the death of the father, by the three eldest sons, Sidney A., Louis P., and David B. Aloe; the first named left St. Louis a few years ago, to engage in business in Philadelphia, since which time Louis P., David B., and Alfred Aloe form the company and are its officers. Close attention to even the smallest details, long experience, strict business principles and polite treatment of their customers were deservedly rewarded by an enviable success and an uninterrupted extension of business. The members of the firm, cultured gentlemen as they are, enjoy the respect of the business community, the esteem of a large circle of friends and are public-spirited citizens, who never fail to take an active interest in everything tending to promote the general welfare of their native city.


Louis eventually became the primary operator of A.S. Aloe & Company. When Louis died on January 12, 1929, the operation fell to his son-in-law, Howard Baer (husband of Louis’ third daughter, Isabel). During the Great Depression, Aloe sold off all of its departments except that which produced surgical equipment and supplies. It was purchased by Brunswick Corporation in 1959.

Figure 5. Circa 1865 advertisement from Aloe & Son, St. Louis.


Figure 6. 1868 announcement and advertisement for A.S. Aloe. From “St. Louis City Guide and Business Directory”.


Figure 7. 1870 advertisement, from “The American Scientific Monthly”.


Figure 8. Circa 1875 – 1885 trade label from Aloe, Hernstein & Company.


Figure 9. A circa 1875 – 1885 amputation kit that was manufactured by Aloe, Hernstein & Company. Images adapted from an internet auction site.


Figure 10. An 1882 advertisement from “St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal”.


Figure 11. 1892 advertisement from A.S Aloe & Company, from “Medical Record”.


Figure 12. 1892 advertisement from “The Kansas City Medical Index”.


Figure 13. 1896 advertisement from “The Sentinel Almanac and Book of Facts”.


Figure 14. An 1898 advertisement for the Aloe & Penfold Company, from “The Chicago Clinic”.


Figure 15. Aloe & Co. sold a wide variety of items, such as this musical moving picture device. From “The Moving Picture World”, 1909.


Figure 16. A 1913 advertisement from Aloe & Co., to “rent to own” a Spencer compound microscope, centrifuge, and other apparatus/supplies. From “American Medicine”.


Figure 17. A 1925 advertisement from Aloe, who facilitated purchase of a Spencer microscope for 12 payments of $5.00 each. From “The Medical Journal and Record”.


Figure 18. Top row and lower low, left image: The A.S. Aloe factory and saleroom in 1910, from that year’s catalogue. Lower right: The A.S. Aloe Building in 1940, which consisted of the original 5-story building on the right with a new addition, all covered with a Modernist façade. The building was torn down in 1996.



Thank you to Jeffrey Silverman for sharing images of his Aloe microscope.


American Medicine (1913) Advertisement from A.S. Aloe

The American Scientific Monthly (1870) Advertisement from A.S. Aloe, Vol. 1, page 126

A.S. Aloe Building (accessed June, 2022)

A.S. Aloe & Company (accessed June, 2022)

The Chicago Clinic (1898) Advertisement from Aloe and Penfold, Vol. 10

Dacus, Joseph A. (1878) A Tour of St. Louis; or, The Inside Life of a Great City, page 220

Death record of Sadoc Aloe (1890) accessed through

Death record of Albert S. Aloe (1893) accessed through

The Kansas City Medical Index (1892) Advertisement from A.S. Aloe, Vol. 13

Kargau, Ernst D. (1903) “A.S. Aloe Company”, Mercantile, Industrial and Professional Saint Louis, pages 416-417

Medical Journal and Record (1925) Advertisement from A.S. Aloe, Volume 121

Medical Record (1892) Advertisement from A.S. Aloe, Vol. 41

The Moving Picture World (1909) Advertisement from A.S. Aloe, Vol. 4, page 78

Naturalization record of Albert S. Aloe (1874) accessed through

The Omaha Clinic (1891) Advertisement announcing the formation of Aloe and Penfold Co., Vol. 3

The Optical Journal (1901) “The drug and optical instrument firm of Aloe & Penfold, Omana, have reorganized under the style of the H.J. Penfold Co. The capital stock is $30,000. Incorporators, H.J. Penfold, E.E. Moffatt and M.L. Penfold”, Vol. 8, page 109

Passport application of Albert S. Aloe (1892) accessed through

St. Louis City Guide and Business Directory (1868) Announcement and advertisement from A.S. Aloe, pages 13 and 66

St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal (1882) Advertisement from Aloe and Hernstein, Vol. 42, page 16

St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal (1885) Editorial notes: dissolution of Aloe & Hernstein, Vol. 48

Scotland census data, accessed through

Trow's New York City Directory (1860) “Aloe Sodic, optician, h 263 Division”, page 31

U.S. census data, accessed through