A. Trask Magetic Ointment Bottles

The Trask bottles have always been a favorite of mine – I guess it is the magnetic cure aspect of the item that is most appealing.

Collecting the Trask Bottles

There are several variants – none is particularly common although a quick glance at eBay seems to turn up at least several for sale.

  • Perhaps the most frequently encountered is a small size, 2-1/2″ tall jar in aqua.  Smooth base. Body 1-1/2″ square.  Tooled square lip.  Chamfered corners on the body.  Embossed: A. TRASK’S / MAGNETIC / OINTMENT
  • Large size, aqua, smooth based, tooled lip.  Embossing same as above.  Height 3-1/4″ body 1-3/8″ square with chamfered corners.
  • Open pontil variant.  2-1/2″ tall, rolled lip.  Same embossing.
  • Flared lip open pontil variant.  Same small size and embossing but different lip finish.  Scarce.
  • Clear flint glass variant.  Tooled lip.  Smooth base but an earlier bottle.
  • Modern screw top bottle, label only.  See pictures below.
  • Have you seen other variants?  Let us know!

Competition

  • Dr. Wilson’s Magnetic Ointment – same 3-1/4″ tall size with the same body.  See photo below.
  • Might there be others?

Photos

Trask magnetic ointment

Dr. Wilson bottle on left, large size Trask bottle on right.

A crudely formed pair of Trask bottles recently seen on eBay.

Trask jar in paper wrapper seen on eBay. Date on wrapper suggests age 1912-20. The same graphic is used on almanacs of this era to advertise the product.

Modern Screw Top Example

The neat thing about this bottle (which turned up on eBay recently) is its label and the information it provides about the product.  The label states “Since 1846” and also says new label adopted 1939 so we get both clues on dating this example as well as the lifespan of the company.

We also get a list of ingredients:

  • Lobelia
  • Leaf Tobacco
  • Skunk Cabbage
  • Smart Weed
  • Rosin
  • Lard
  • Tallow
  • Oleostearine

Intended uses of the product:

  • For Superficial Congestion resulting from Exposure, Fatigue, and Exertion
  • Irritation
  • Irritability
  • Muscular Aches and Pains
  • Promote Healing
  • for Minor Superficial Injuries

 

Finally, the company.  Still D. Ransom, Son & Co. Buffalo, NY and Fort Erie, Canada.

Homeopathic Qualities of Ingredients

Indeed Lobelia is cited for its ability to relieve problematic respiratory symptoms.

Tobacco or plants of the Lobelia genus may have healing properties – going against the negative impacts of smoking.

Medicinal properties of skunk cabbage or Dracontium foetidum.

I assume the other ingredients listed above are inactive…but cannot confirm this.

 

Johann Hoff bottles – Value, Use and History

Johann Hoff, The Bottle

johann hoff bottle in olive green

Your (very) basic Hoff bottle

Most people encounter a dark olive green bottle marked “JOHANN HOFF” on the bottle’s shoulder. Occasionally they are found in other colors. There are other variants which are described below. The typical Hoff bottle measures 7-3/4″ to 8″ tall with a body around 3 inches in diameter. Some have applied lips, others have tooled tops. These bottles date from the mid 19th century into the early 20th century.

What Was Inside?

The Hoff product was malt extract and was marketed as a medicinal tonic those who were convalescing, with general disability, the weak, nursing mothers, etc.  But the bottom line is this – this was an product containing alcohol, plain and simple. It was beer in medicinal packaging. Much like bitters, this was a clever way of selling alcoholic drinks to a public that wrestled with temperance and later, prohibition.

Collecting Hoff Bottles

The most common variant is the olive green bottle as described above which are marked JOHANN HOFF.  These are found in abundance, that is, they are very common.  This bottle probably makes my “Top 20 Most Common Antique Bottles of All Time” list.  As for value, good luck.  If you can sell one for even a few dollars, consider yourself lucky.

Less commonly seen are those in either a plain amber color, a light, translucent amber color as well as emerald green.  While these colors are less common (and emerald probably scarce) this really does not add much to their appeal.

Another embossing variant is marked JOHANN HOFF / BERLIN on the body of the bottle.  I consider these scarce.

Labeled examples are also scarce and will find greater interest.  As always, the condition of the label is really important to value.

I wonder whether the company continued selling the product into the teens and 20’s but perhaps in unembossed bottles.  One advertising piece claims the company was founded in 1847 but I do not have accurate final date for the company.  I do find them in the 1908 New York City directory as well as 1917-18.

Locations of business (in no particular order):

  • 152-154 Franklin St., New York, NY
  • 6 Barclay St., New York
  • 90 West Street

Looking for help with the value of your Hoff bottle?  Post photos and ask questions on our antique bottle forum.

The Hoff Marketing Machine

The Johann Hoff Company was fond of large advertisements in the periodicals of its time.  Below are samples of several ads which utilized the endorsements of famous names including actress Viola Allen, operatic soprano Nellie Melba, Olga Nethersole, and a variety of military generals.

Competition

The sheer number of these bottles found today suggests malt extract was a popular product.  The collector will find other similar shaped bottles both embossed and unembossed.  The image below shows two amber bottles – on the left has no markings, the right is marked on the base PURE MALT DEPT / CA KING / BOSTON MASS.  These two bottles date to the late 19th century.  A later example of the King bottle with full label can be found on this page on the Smithsonian Institute website.

Two malt extract bottles

Two malt extract bottles, unembossed and CA KING

CA KING embossing on base

CA KING embossing on base

A Bit of Bottled History

Johann Hoff was a nondescript product but contained a wildly popular stimulating beverage.  It is also counts itself in the minority of bottled products which may be best known for its legal battles, clever marketing, and huge popularity. That’s more than you can say about most antique bottles today..

 

Sources

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Volume 61, Page 1552, October 25, 1913.

Johann Hoff v. Tarrant & Co., The Federal Reporter, Vol. 71, Feb-March 1896, pp. 163-167.

Researching the person named on your antique bottle

“What can you actually find out about the average person named on an 19th century bottle?” In many cases, the answer is not much, or at least not much besides what a genealogist might find out.

I ask you to think about small business owners who you know in your town or neighborhood. How much really is written or published about them? Consider that in the 19th century, there was no such thing as a human interest article in a local paper. Many companies did not print much in the way of advertising – they relied on their local market to sell their goods. In short, it can be a major research effort to find any information.

Some sources of information:

  • Your town / city historical society
  • City directories which often contained ads for businesses. Use to find when someone was in business. Find where business was located. If you get lucky, the ad may say something about the products sold.
  • State historical societies
  • Published genealogies.
  • Sanborn Fire Maps. Available back to the 1880s. Maps show precise diagrams of buildings on properties with property boundaries. Owners of properties are listed.
  • DIY genealogical research. Start with familysearch.org and ancestry.com
  • Books on antique bottles. There are lots of specialty books on bottles. Many are out of print. Many are not found on Amazon or book stores. You need to do some digging online to find what you need. Check ebay.com. Check abebooks.com
  • Auction catalogs. Some bottles, especially those of significant value, get special consideration in auction catalogs. Both American Glass Gallery and Glass Discoveries have done some great work in this regard.
  • Collectors of local bottles for your town, city, state or region.

Washington Taylor, Father of His Country flasks

The Washington Taylor flask described by McKearin as GI-37 is a fairly common item whether they be the original 19th century bottle or the abundantly reproduced 20th century copy. Determining whether one is a true historical flask or just a replica made by the Clevenger Brothers or other late 20th century manufacturer is not always an easy task for the non-collector.

The #37 quart mold is the first of 32 different variations thought to have been made at either Dyottsville Glass Works in Philadelphia, PA or Lockport Glass Works in Lockport, NY. Original bottles exist both as smooth base or with a pontil scar; lip finishes vary from the common shear to single or double collar and even in some cases a square or tapered collar.

Let’s compare:

(1) Some modern replicas are quite different, in shape, size and embossing. It’s the Clevenger Glass Works product which is fairly faithful from the original and causes the greatest confusion. The differences are subtle and in some cases only the experienced collector is going to be able to tell the difference.

(2) Originals were produced in a wide variety of colors, some of which are rarely seen in 19th century bottles. Modern pieces are found in both the common aqua color as well as brilliant green, yellow, puce and cobalt blue, among others. Colors other than aqua should be an immediate warning sign that the bottle is likely modern.

Commonly Found Colors for Modern Reproductions

(3) Modern and old are found in smooth base or with pontil scars. Modern and old can have a plain sheared lip or some type of lip finish.

(4) Both modern and old can show similar thickness of glass; similar straw marks, bubbles and potstones. A common trait in modern examples is the bumpy, “orange peel” effect to the glass surface.

(5) The junction of the neck and body of the modern bottles is often abrupt. As you see in the photos below, the modern examples look like the neck was just jammed onto the bottle. In 19th century bottles, the transition is smooth without a seam or crease.

(6) The bases of 19th century examples are either flat or with a large oval recess. Modern examples have a precisely round concave recess in the bottom center. In some cases, the round recess is obscured by the pontil scar.

Value

Reproductions are abundant and do not have much value. Figure $5-20 decorative value. Originals without damage begin in the $75-100 range for aqua and can reach into the $20-30 thousand dollar range for a great example in a rare color. $2-6 thousand is more typical for a good quality colored example.