Old Home Bitters

This exceptionally large square cabin-shaped bitters bottle is modern.  It was made in the 1970s for a North Carolina furniture company for use as a lamp.  Most are found with a hole drilled in the base.  They are usually seen in amber but also occasionally green.

The bottle reads DOC DUNNING / OLD HOME BITTERS / GREENSBORO N. CAROLINA  on three of the four indented panels. It is about 14″ tall with a 5″ square body.  You will find in listed in the Ring/Ham Bitters book as O34.

They are attractive and do make a nice lamp, but they are not particularly valuable.  Figure around $50 for a drilled example; more if undrilled.

The Originals

This is a reproduction of similar bottles with similar embossing.

First is O35 which is embossed OLD HOME BITTERS / WHEELING, W. VA. / LAUGHLIN & BUSHFIELD.  This is an amber cabin which is around 10″ tall.

Second is O36 which differs from O35 only in that it is marked LAUGHLIN / SMITH & CO.  This is apparently the earlier of the two original bottles.  This is also found in amber and is a bit under 10″ tall.

These two original bottles are worth $1-4 thousand.

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Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup

I’m sure Mrs. Charlotte Winslow would be a popular woman in any era – who wouldn’t be if they were famous for dispensing a morphine laden medication that was sure to soothe…and get you entirely stoned in the process.  You will find plenty of discussion of opiate addiction in the 19th century – thanks to the institutionalization of the drug into medicines and other products.

Common to bottle collectors are the cylindrical vials marked “Mrs Winslows – Soothing Syrup – Curtis & Perkins – Proprietors” which are about 5 inches tall and about 1-1/4″ in diameter.  They are found with both an open pontil mark as well as with a smooth base.  Earlier examples have an inwardly rolled lip which later became a better formed tooled square lip.

Curtis and Perkins were druggists in Maine who became the agents for this medicine in the 1840s.  They later moved their operation to New York City in the 1850s.

Various agents continued the product into the 2oth century.  No doubt the Pure Food and Drug Act forced its retirement it in short order.

Pacific  Medical and Surgical Journal, 1873 reports a Providence, RI death by ingestion of Winslow’s Soothing Syrup.

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The McKearin Historical Flask Groups

Group I – Portrait Flasks

Numbers 1 through 61 are Washington Flasks
Numbers 62 through 79a cover Adams, Harrison, Jackson and Taylor
Numbers 80 through 93 are Lafayette
Numbers 94 through 98 are Franklin
Numbers 99 through 107a are Jenny Lind
Other portrait flasks are listed in molds 111 through 131

Group II – American Eagle Flasks

There are 144 molds in this group

Group III – Cornucopia Flasks

18 Cornucopia molds

Group IV – Masonic Flasks

There are 43 molds in the Masonic flask group.

Group V – Railroad Flasks

12 flasks

Group VI – Baltimore Monument Flasks

7 molds

Group VII – Cabin bottles

6 molds in this group

Tom Haunton officially extended this group and added molds as documented in his book, Tippecanoe and EG Booz, Too

Group VIII – Sunburst Flasks

There are 30 flasks in the sunburst group.

Group IX – Scroll or Violin Flasks

There are 52 in the Scroll group.

Group X – Miscellaneous Flasks

33 flasks include Good Game, Sloop, Murdock & Cassel, Summer/Winter, Jared Spencer, American System, Stoddard Flag among others.  This was the final group as documented in American Glass.  The following groups were added with the publication of American Bottles and Flasks and Their Ancestry:

Group XI – Pike’s Peak Flasks

54 molds

Group XII – Shield and Clasped Hands

There are 43 molds listed in this group.  There are several unlisted flasks known.

Group XIII – Pictorial Flasks from the 1850 to 1880 Period

Includes over 90 flasks.    Flora Temple, Horseman/Hound, Sheaf of Wheat, Baltimore Glass Works/Anchor and others.

Group XIV – Traveler’s Companion Flasks

9 flasks

Group XV – “Lettered” Flasks

These are mostly flasks with embossing indicating a particular glass works.  28 molds.

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Dr. Rogers Liverwort, Tar and Canchalagua

Dr. Rogers and His Bottles

For bottle collectors, this one is something of an oddity thanks first to the odd word “Canchalagua” but also to its shape. Sizewise, the body of the bottle is a bit larger than most rectagular patent medicines and to the trained eye it will stand out from the crowd. The embossing is A.L. SCOVILL (side) / DR. A. ROGERS / LIVERWORT TAR / & CANCHALAGUA (front) and CINCINNATI (side).

Examples of this bottle are found with both smooth base and with pontil marks. Those with the pontil mark are embossed with NEW YORK instead of CINCINNATI. Almost all are found in aqua – a few are found in a deep blue-green aqua and command a much higher price as a result.

Laura Crowley writes about Dr. J. Kearney Rogers of New York City who was marketing this medicine from the grand Gothic Hall Building in 1851. She notes the building was torn down in 1856 which leads one to wonder – was it demolished because of neglect or simply because the property had become valuable enough to put a much larger building in its place? Was this a low-rent ruse or a fashionably expensive location?

In any event, Amon L. Scovill came to New York in the 1850s already a prosperous druggist and acquired several products including Dr. Rogers Liverwort, Tar and Canchalagua as well as Hall’s Balsam for the Lungs.

This web page seems to contradict Crowley by stating ths Scovill and a Henry Morrill were in partnership in 1849 selling the Dr. Rogers product in New York. Unfortunately, this person does not cite a source. He goes on to say that Scovill seems to have exited the firm by 1862 and returns again in 1867. This leads me to wonder whether the smooth base bottles which are marked Cincinnati are perhaps from this 5 year period – perhaps Scovill returned home and marketed his product for a time?

John F. Henry took over the brand in the early 1870s. Apparently, the company changed hands at least once again because I found that in 1919, the Williams Company of Cleveland, Ohio was charged for having shipped a case of this “misbranded” medicine. Federal authorities seized the shipment, claiming it was misbranded as specified by the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Analysis of a sample showed that it consisted of “a sweetened aqueous solution containing small amounts of plant extractives, tar extractives, salicylates, alcohol and glycerin.” Apparently, the company got in hot water over their claims to “permanent relief of those Affections of the Throat, Lungs and Liver” ie. suggestive of a cure which was not allowed under the Act.

I do not know how long the product remained in production, but would not be surprised to find that the Federal inquiry led to its demise.

A Few Facts about Dr. Rogers Liverwort, Tar and Canchalagua

– In 1901, The Pharmaceutical Era reported that this product cost $1 per bottle or $7.50 per dozen.

– There were three pontilled (New York) examples in the Sam Greer collection – Lots 1468, 1469 and 1470.

– Examples are found embossed with both “NEW YORK” and “CINCINNATI” on the side panel.

– Most bottles are aqua. A few are known in a deep blue-green aqua color.

– Liverwort (Hepatica americana) is known an herbal remedy for liver disorder, indigestion, coughs, lung and respiratory issues.  Here is a modern liquid extract of the plant offered for sale.

– Canchalagua is a South American plant in the Sunflower family and is used as an herbal remedy. It is know for its positive affect on blood, liver and kidney functions.   Note that an entirely different plant in a different family which is native to North America shares this same common plant name.

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Square Bitters Bottles

So what exactly is a SQUARE bottle?  Quite simply, it is one with a body which has a square cross-section, or, in other words, it appears to be square when looking down on it from immediately above.

The square shape was adopted by many manufacturers of bitters.  Perhaps it was precisely because of the great fame achieved by two such companies that so many felt compelled to imitate the form.  Those two products are Lash Bitters and Hostetter Stomach Bitters.  One might also include Electric Bitters in this short list, but the bottle is a bit different in that it has recessed panels.

The square bitters bottle is plain and simple utility.  There are no fancy adornments in the molds and certainly economy was the word.  The men behind these popular products were eager to sell their product in great quantity and reap the profits.  Perhaps they knew that good days of selling high-alcohol content “remedies” would not last forever.

It is interesting to consider this bottle type in contrast to the many antique bitters bottles which are so fancy in form – bottles whose form defined the product, its desirable status and no doubt its expensive price tag.

Lash Bitters

Donald Yates (PDF file) has put together a good synopsis of this company (Bottles and Extras, Winter 2003) which was in operation in various holdings from 1850 to 1966.  Interesting, it is a Western Bottle – the company began in California – before expanding to offices in Chicago and New York, and then consolidating in its final years in Passaic, New Jersey.

Hostetter Bitters

Other Square Bitters Bottles

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