Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes

Grouping of medicinal bottles dating from the 1860s to 1920s; click to enlarge.

Medicinal/Chemical/Druggist Bottles
HOME: Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes: Medicinal/Chemical/Druggist Bottles

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Lindsey's Blood Searcher bottle from 1855-1865; click to enlarge.

Medicinal bottles are probably the largest and most diverse group of bottles produced during the era covered by this website - the 19th through mid 20th centuries.  To quote Fike (1987) on medicine bottles - "Literally hundreds of thousands of brands and variations of vessels were manufactured..." during the noted era.  This variety is not too surprising since one's health was (and still is) probably the most important personal issue of all time, made even more important during the era of primitive medical knowledge and practices and universal ignorance about hygiene and even the causes of disease.  As noted in the opening line of Odell (2000), "Medicine is as old as man, no doubt born of necessity and wrought by trial and error."  Self-medication was often all that could be had by most people and the ability of doctors to help a person - if they were even available - was very limited and their training and/or backgrounds often suspect.  Thus, the allure of patent or proprietary medicines (Young 1961).

The picture at the top of the page shows just a tiny bit of medicinal bottle diversity which is frankly staggering in depth and variety as virtually any shape imaginable was used at some point.  The bottle pictured to the left is a mid-19th century medicine with a general shape (rectangular with indented panels) that was used for tens of thousands of different medicinal products from the mid-19th century until at least the Depression in the 20th century.  Though intimidating in its immense diversity there are some useful trends in shapes that mark a bottle as very likely to have been used primarily or originally as a container for some type of medicinal product.  The breadth of variety within the medicinal bottle category is indicated by Fike (1987) dividing his classic book (The Bottle Book: A Comprehensive Guide to Historic, Embossed Medicine Bottles) into over 40 different "product" chapters, ranging from "bitters" to "cures" to "purifiers" and many more.  Within each chapter is a listing of hundreds of different embossed bottles with many times more embossed ones not addressed by Fike's book.  Add in the fact that most bottles were not embossed with product or company names (probably less than 40% as late as 1890) and one can understand how this website can not cover but a sampling of the medicinal bottles one could find.

Owl Poison bottle from the early 20th century; click to enlarge.This section also includes druggist bottles (aka pharmacy, drugstore, or prescription bottles) due to their close connection to the other types of medicinal bottles.  Most of the many thousands of local druggists during the 19th and early 20th century typically concocted their own medicinal compounds to sell from their stores utilizing proprietary druggist or prescription bottles, i.e., bottles with the druggist or store name, address, city/state, and/or other information or a graphic feature (Feldhaus 1987).  There were likely ten's of thousands of different embossed druggist bottles made between the 1870s and 1920s - the heyday of the proprietary druggist bottle.  This section also includes chemical and "poison" bottles which, of course, contained liquids that were not for human consumption but were sold and/or distributed by some of the same companies as medicinal bottles (e.g., The Owl Drug Company - example to the right).  Poisons could have been covered also under the "Household (non-food related)" or "Miscellaneous Bottle Types" sections below, but are covered here because since some "poisons" were used for external human use (e.g., witch hazel, denatured alcohol).

Medicinal bottles were similar to liquor bottles (another very diverse category) in that bottle design was not inherently constrained by some quality of the contained product, i.e., the contents were not typically carbonated which demanded heavier glass and typically a round body shape.  (One exception was citrate of magnesia which was usually carbonated and bottled in heavier almost soda-like bottles.)  Generally speaking the glass thickness of medicinal bottles is distinctly less than for soda/mineral water, beer, champagne, and most wine bottles.  That is a diagnostic feature that can be useful in bottle fragment identification at times.  Most medicinal bottles also had a narrow neck and mouth (aka bore or throat) since this conformation was most useful for pouring out the typically liquid contents.  A narrow neck and bore likely limited evaporation through or around the cork also.  (Note: Various medicines were made in ointment form for external use so these type bottles had wide mouths for accessing the contents.)  Beyond the glass thickness and neck attributes - which are of course not medicinal group unique characteristics - there is little else that physically differentiates the extremely diverse medicinal bottle group from other groups.  The added strength inherent in a round (cross section) body was rarely an issue with medicinals so the limitations on overall shape were much reduced and the possible variety multiplied many fold.

Drakes Plantation Bitters from the 1870s; click to enlarge.The history of the patent and proprietary medicine industry is an exceptionally interesting subject though beyond the scope of this website, which covers primarily just the bottles - like the cabin shaped "bitters" bottle to the left which dates from the 1860s or 1870s.  If interested, users are directed to consult some of the various publications noted below or check some of the references mentioned throughout this page.  However, a few notable early 20th century historical events have some relevance to the dating and typing of medicinal bottles, as follows:


Not all medicine products came in glass bottles, of course.  The small (1 3/8" tall), ceramic, English ointment pot or  jar pictured above contained an ointment which claimed to be good for the "...cure of gout and rheumatism, inveterate ulcers, sore breasts, sore heads, bad legs..."  This interesting item was found in a Civil War era context in the Midwest.

The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 (effective January 1, 1907):  The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 imposed regulations on the labeling of products containing alcohol, morphine, opium, cocaine, heroin, alpha or beta eucaine, chloroform, Cannabis indica, chloral hydrate, or acetanilide.  It required that products containing any of those substances be labeled with the substance and quantity on the label.  Use of the word "cure" for most medicines was nominally prohibited, though there were little teeth in the law and enforcement was rare.  However, the word "cure" began to be replaced by "remedy" and other terms about this time, though "cure" was still used at least up to the passage of the next discussed law in 1912 - the Sherley Amendment (Fike 1987). 

NOTE: From implementation of the above Act (1907) until the early to mid 1910s, virtually all patent medicines were required to meet the requirements of the law and be labeled with the following notation - "This product guaranteed under the Pure Food and Drugs Act, June 30th, 1906."  Thus, labeled bottles (it was never embossed on bottles to the knowledge of the author) with this notation do not date prior to 1907 and appear to not date after - or much after - the passage of the following act in 1912 (Fike 1987; empirical observations). 

The Sherley Amendment to the Pure Food and Drugs Act (1912):  The Pure Food & Drugs Act was considerably strengthened with passage of the Sherley Amendment in 1912.  According the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) website - Congress enacts the Sherley Amendment to prohibit the labeling of medicines with false therapeutic claims intended to defraud the purchaser, a standard difficult to prove.  The use of the word "cure" was largely curtailed and this is for all intents and purposes the end date for patent medicine bottles for human use that are embossed (or labeled) with "cure."  However, enforcement was still not complete and some use of the term most likely did occur after 1912-1913, although not likely embossed on bottles after this point.  One of the first patent medicine producers to be prosecuted in 1913 was William Radam's Microbe Killer (pictured and discussed later on this page) whose bottles claimed boldly to "Cure All Diseases."  The company lost their case and the Microbe Killer - and most other "cures" - faded quickly from the market (Young 1967).

National Prohibition (largely implemented in 1919; fully by January 1920).  The various Prohibition and anti-alcohol laws (local, state, and federal) - and the temperance movement which drove that cause - "forced" many alcoholic beverages into becoming products "for medicinal use only."  However, the subject of Prohibition and liquor, beer, and wine masquerading as medicinal products is covered on the Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes: Liquor/Spirits Bottles, Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes: Wine & Champagne Bottles, and Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes: Beer & Ale Bottles pages.


Early 20th century proprietary citrate bottle; click to enlarge.This "Medicinal/Chemical/Druggist Bottles" page is divided somewhat arbitrarily into the categories and subcategories listed below, with the "Patent/Proprietary Medicinal Bottles" easily being the most diverse group of shapes.  Some bottle groupings naturally fall out as separate - milk bottles, fruit jars, liquor flasks, Hutchinson sodas, and many others.  However, many of the most recognized and accepted categories of medicinal bottles have been established primarily because someone wrote a definitive book on that grouping.  Though not all of these medicinal bottle categories or types are addressed as separate categories on this page, examples of this phenomena include Blasi's book on "balsam" bottles, Watson and later Ring/Ham on "bitters" bottles, Jensen with "Owl Drug Company" bottles, Agee on "cures",  Nielsen and later Odell for "pontiled medicines", Shimko and later DeGrafft for "sarsaparillas", and others which are noted and referenced on this page (and for that matter, throughout this website relative to other types of bottles).  No author has written a reference book on "Citrate of Magnesia" bottles, like The Owl Drug Co. example pictured to the right, though there was at least one book on that company's array of medicinal bottles (Jensen 1967).

A user must be cognizant of the fact that the number of exceptions to this or any medicinal bottle classification is so large that it defies any systematic organization system; there simply was too much variety.  Instead, the point of this webpage is to cover major stylistic bottle types that are at least somewhat closely identified with a particular product and to just provide a general overview on the universe of medicine bottles.  When referring to the collective grouping of categories covered on the "Medicinal/Chemical/Druggist Bottles" page, they are usually just referred to as "medicinal bottles" unless a distinction is necessary.

There have been published numerous books on the subject of the patent medicine era and/or bottles which are very informative and often quite entertaining.  Some particularly interesting ones are listed here, all of which are out of print though most are available via used book websites on the internet:


NOTE:  Attached to the "Bottle Types/Diagnostic Shapes" grouping of pages is a complete copy of a never re-printed, 280 page, 1906 Illinois Glass Company bottle catalog scanned at two pages per JPEG file.  Click 1906 IGCo. Catalog to access the page that links to all the scans of this very useful catalog.  Medicinal bottles are listed primarily on pages 22-35, 42-53, 94-103.

Other bottle makers catalogs are also available on this site (1920 & 1926 Illinois Glass Company; 1916 Kearns-Gorsuch Bottle Co.) by going to the Website Map page and clicking on the links listed under Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes section.
 


 

Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes:
"Medicinal/Chemical/Druggist Bottles" page
Organization & Structure

Group of Medicinal bottles dating from the 1860s to 1920s; click to enlarge.This page is divided somewhat arbitrarily into the categories and sub-categories listed below.  The "Patent/Proprietary Medicinal Bottles" grouping is easily the most diverse group of shapes, though generally only the more common shapes are covered here.  A user must be cognizant of the fact that the amount of shape and style crossover between categories and the number of exceptions to this - or any medicinal bottle classification - is large enough to defy any systematic organization.  Instead, the point of this page is to cover major stylistic types that are at least moderately identified with use as a specific type medicine container.

Early Medicinal bottle styles (Civil War & before)

Patent/Proprietary medicinal bottle styles
  
-Bitters/Tonics
  -Sarsaparillas
  -Cures, Remedies & Related Products
  -Other Types of Patent & Proprietary Medicine bottles

Druggist/Prescription bottle styles
 
-Cylindrical/round
  -Square
  -Rectangular
  -Oval
  -Druggist Bottle Dating Summary/Notes
  -"Shop Furniture" (aka "Shelf Ware")
  -Homeopathic Vials/Bottles
  -Other Shapes

Poison & Chemical bottle styles

Other related styles/shapes
  
-Citrate of Magnesia
   -Ointment bottles/jars

Each of the pictured bottles has a relatively short description and explanation including estimated dates or date ranges for that type bottle and links to other view pictures of the bottle.  Additional links to images of similar bottles are also frequently included. 

The array of references used to support the conclusions and estimates found here - including the listed dating ranges - are noted.  Additional information and estimates are based on the empirical observations of the author over almost 40 years of experience; this is often but not always noted.

Various terminology is used in the descriptions that may be unfamiliar if you have not studied other pages on this site.  If a term is unfamiliar, first check the Bottle Glossary page for an explanation or definition.  As an alternative, one can do a search of this website.  To do a word/phrase search one must use the "Search SHA" boxes found on many of the main SHA web pages, including the Research Resources page (upper right side of that page) which links to this site.  The Historic Bottle Website (HBW) has no internal search mechanism so be aware that when running a search one will also get non-HBW response links to other portions of the SHA site.

 


 

Early Medicinal bottle styles (Civil War & before)

1840s medicinal bottle from New York; click to enlarge.The first use of product or other proprietary embossing on any bottle bodies was on medicine bottles and likely began in England about 1750 with the small Turlington Balsam of Life bottles (Griffenhagen & Young 1959; Richardson 2003).  The first recorded use of molded proprietary embossing on an American made bottle body was around 1809 on a Dr. Robertson's Family Medicine bottle (McKearin 1970).  As with all the medicine bottle categories, this one is also quite diverse and not really separate from the large category covered next - Patent/Proprietary Medicinal bottles. This category is primarily based on age as reflected by the bottles exhibiting the manufacturing related features typical of bottles made in the U.S. up to and through the American Civil War.  The few shapes and styles briefly discussed here are just a small sampling of the shapes produced and are not usually exclusive to this period; bottles of very similar shapes were also made after the Civil War when the diversity of shapes was many times richer. 

This early medicinal bottles section is essentially an overview of the diagnostic features that typify bottles made during the first half of the 19th century; see the Mouth-blown Bottle Dating page for more information.  Specifically, medicine bottles made during the period from about 1810 to the Civil War typically share most of the following diagnostic characteristics:

Pontil scared bases are the norm for these early bottles.  All pontil types are possible on early medicinal bottles, though blowpipe and iron pontil scars are the most frequently observed.
Applied, rolled, flared, or sometimes sheared finishes; tooled finishes (as defined on this website) are unusual.  See the Bottle Finishes page for more information on bottle finishing techniques.
Very commonly produced in true two-piece molds (key & hinge molds) with post-bottom molds also frequently used; cup-bottom molds are virtually unknown.
Shapes are variable but not nearly as diverse as in the post-Civil War period; rectangular, round, and square shapes dominate (though that is likely true of the post-Civil War period also).
The glass is often very crude in the earliest bottles exhibiting one or all of the following glassmaking imperfections: whittle marks, numerous to sometimes copious bubbles in the glass, straw marks, stretch marks, stones (aka "potstones"), and other glass imperfections like sagging, bulging or uneven glass, uneven or even multi-toned glass colors, orange peel surface effect, and others.  Of course, many of these imperfections can be observed on later mouth-blown bottles and even some machine-made bottles in the 20th century.  However, the earliest bottles will have a higher number of these traits present on the same bottle and usually the trait is more distinct, i.e., heavier whittle marks, more stones in the glass, etc.

Townsends Sarsaparilla ca. 1840s; click to enlarge.The early, dark olive green (almost black glass) medicine bottle pictured above left is embossed on four sides with C. BRINCKERHOFFS - HEALTH RESTORATIVE - PRICE $1.00 - NEW YORK.  This product was advertised between 1845 and 1849 as a cure for consumption (tuberculosis), liver complaint, asthma, colds, coughs, and pains in the side and chest (Odell 2000).  This bottle has a crudely applied short oil finish, was blown in a two-piece "hinge" mold (as indicated by the mold seam crossing diagonally across the entire base), has a sand pontil scar, and of course, no evidence of mold air venting as this bottle pre-dates the widespread use of that technology by many decades.  The dark olive green color as well as the overall crudeness of manufacturing is very indicative of an early manufacturing date.   Click on the following links for more images of this bottle: base view showing the fairly distinct sand pontil scar; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.  The last two pictures show some of the body crudeness typical of earlier mouth-blown bottles of all types.

Lindsey's Blood Searcher bottle from 1855-1865; click to enlarge.The large, dark olive green (black glass) square medicinal bottle pictured to the right most likely dates from the 1840s or early 1850s and is covered in the "Sarsaparilla" section later on this page.  It is a bottle shape that was relatively commonly used for medicinal as well as other products (particularly liquor) during this early era.  Medium to dark olive green or olive amber glass was a common color for the earliest types of bottles, including medicine bottles as this and the prior bottle (Brinkerhoff's) indicate.

The large, light blue-green medicine to the left is embossed with LINDSEY'S - BLOOD + / SEARCHER - HOLLIDAYSBURG, PA. and dates from the 1850s or early 1860s.  This bottle is rectangular with arched and indented panels on the three sides with embossing and a flat, non-indented panel on the reverse for the label which is often called the "label panel" on paneled bottles.  The body is also several times taller than the neck height.  These features (rectangular with beveled corners and one or more indented panels) are a very commonly repeated pattern of conformation for medicine bottles made between the 1850s and the 1920s, the latter period which would include machine-made bottles.   Click the following links to view more images of this bottle: base view showing the very distinct and large red iron pontil scar which is scored into the glass; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.  What was "searched" for in the blood is lost to history but does reflect the boundless creativity that patent medicine producers found in describing their products.  It was advertised in the Hollidaysburg Register in 1864 as good for cancer, scrofula, scald head, liver complaint, low spirits, paralysis, syphilitic diseases, and other maladies (Odell 2000).  Sounds like it was high in alcohol which was very common.

Generic medicine bottle from 1850s; click to enlarge.The yellowish green rectangular medicine bottle pictured to the right is not body embossed but is typical of a generic, "label only" medicine bottle of the 1845-1865 era.  It has a crudely applied patent or extract finish, blowpipe pontil scar, was blown in a hinge mold (as indicated by the mold seam crossing diagonally across the entire base), and has no evidence of mold air venting.  Click on the following links to see more images of this bottle:  base view showing the blowpipe pontil scar; shoulder, neck, and finish showing the crudely applied patent or extract finish.

Grouping of 1850s era generic medicine bottes; click to enlarge.The grouping of small (3" [8 cm] to 5" [13 cm]) aqua bottles pictured to the left are an assortment of very typical pontil scarred "utility" type bottles that date from the 1850s to mid 1860s (all were excavated in the West), have no embossing, and were most commonly used for medicinal products.  These type of bottles are very commonly found on historic sites from the noted era and were the standard ware used by druggists (and patent medicine producers) throughout the country to bottle their own preparations prior to the origin of the druggist/prescription bottles covered later.  All of these small bottles exhibit the characteristics noted earlier: pontil scarred bases (all blowpipe style), "true" two-piece molded ("hinge" molds, though one bottle is not molded), and various early style finishes (rolled, thinly flared, early applied).  The first (from left to right), third (laying down), and sixth bottles are 12-sided which was a common configuration for utility medicinal bottles of the era.  An example of one of these generic paneled bottles with the original label is described below.  Five of the six bottles are molded, with one (5th) being free-blown or possibly dip-molded.   All have relatively thin glass which is a typical characteristic of these early type medicinal bottles.  In fact, these bottles are most often only found as fragments.

A few other images of early medicinal bottles bottles, many of which are used and discussed elsewhere within this website, are available by clicking on the following links.  This helps show a bit of the diversity of shape found in these bottles:

  • DR. TOWNSEND'S SARSAPARILLA - (Left image.)  Sarsaparilla's are covered specifically below though this particular bottle is a classic example of an early medicinal dating from about, i.e., 1845-1855.
  • OLD DR. TOWNSEND'S SARSAPARILLA - (Middle image.)  An example of the "knock-off" competitor to the Dr. Townsend's Sarsaparilla.  It dates from the same era as the bottle noted above (1845-1855), but was made in a deep emerald green color and has very heavy "whittle marks."
  • DR. E. G. GOULD'S PIN WORM SYRUP - (Right image.) The embossing is all on one side and as follows:  DR. E. G. GOULD'S / PIN WORM / SYRUP.  It has a crudely rolled finish, crudely "whittled" aqua colored glass, and was made in a two-piece "hinge" mold as evidenced by a diagonal mold seam across the base.  It is not pontil scarred though many are.  Given these physical features which are very typical of medicinal bottles made during the mid-19th century (and the context of where it was found) this particular bottle likely dates from about 1865 to possibly the early 1870s which would be the later end of the "early" era discussed here.  This medicine was a product of the Graefenberg Family Medicine Company (New York, N.Y.) who also produced a wide array of other medicinal products beginning in 1847 up until well into mid-20th century (Fike 1987; Odell 2000).
  • Merchant's Chemist bottle; click to enlarge.G. W. MERCHANT - (Left image.) This relatively common bottle is embossed on 3 sides with - FROM THE / LABORATORY - OF / G. W. MERCHANT / CHEMIST - LOCKPORT / N.Y.  This bottle is also discussed in the "Poison & Chemical" bottles section below and most likely held the company's "Gargling Oil."  Gargling Oil was a liniment that was also used internally as it contained 44% alcohol and one grain of opium per fluid ounce (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  The company did, however, produce several other medicines for clearly internal use including a couple types of sarsaparilla, "Itch Ointment", "Kreosote Toothache Drops", and "Balm of X Thousand Flowers" - some of which could have been contained in this generic type bottle (Odell 2000).  The bottle dates from the Civil War period (1860s),  was produced in a two-piece "key" mold, is very crude with no evidence of air venting, has a crudely applied oil finish, and though the bottle base is not pontil scarred, many of these bottles are (Wilson & Wilson 1971).
  • G. W. MERCHANT - (Right image.)  This is another relatively common bottle from the same company as the bottle above but produced in a larger cylindrical shape.  It also dates from the 1860s and is embossed vertically with G. W. MERCHANT / CHEMIST / LOCKPORT / N.Y.  It was produced in a post-bottom mold and exhibits the same general manufacturing characteristics as the example above including a lack of a pontil scar though many of these bottles are pontiled.  The cylindrical Merchant's bottle likely date from the 1840s through the 1860s, but seem to have not been produced after that time, though other styles were (Odell 2000; empirical observations).  It also could have held any of the products of this company.  Click the following links for additional images of this bottle: base view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.
  • LINDSEY'S COUGH BALSAM - (Left image.)  This aqua and commonly shaped medicinal bottle is embossed on two sides with LINDSEY'S / COUGH / BALSAM - HOLLIDAYSBURGH (sic) / PA.  Although this particular bottle is very uncommon, the oval (in cross-section) flattened shape is common to medicinal bottles made during the mid 19th century as well as later.  This example has a blowpipe pontil scar, was blown in a key base mold, has an applied double ring finish, and the overall crudeness of an earlier mouth-blown bottle.  It likely dates from the 1850s to possibly as late as the mid 1860s (Odell 2000).  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle:  base view showing the blowpipe pontil scar and oval shape in cross-section; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.
  • SWAIM'S PANACEA - (Right image.)  These big early cylinder medicinal bottles are relatively commonly found on mid-19th century historic sites on the Eastern Seaboard and occasionally elsewhere.  The linked Civil War era example is embossed in separate vertical panels with SWAIM'S - PANACEA - PHILADA which is the typical embossing these bottles had from origination in 1828 through the early 1870s, though the product was made at least until the 1940s (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Fike 1987; Odell 2000).  Earlier bottles are typically various shades of medium to dark green like the pictured example (which is from the late 1850s or 1860s) with later similar shaped ones (later 1800s and early 1900s) being shades of aqua.  The pictured example is not pontil scarred but many are with both sand and iron pontil marks.  Swaim's Celebrated Panacea claimed to cure many diseases, including those induced by the ingestion of too much mercury.  However, the product was later found to actually contain sublimate - a mercury containing compound!  Click on the following links to view more images of this early medicinal bottle: base view; reverse view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.
  • 12-sided pontiled medicine bottle from the 1850s; click to enlarge.12-sided pontiled scarred "tonic" bottle - This is a late 1840s to early 1860s 12-sided/paneled medicine bottle that has the original label indicating use as a medicinal bottle. More specifically, the label is for a "Martin & Whiteley's National Tonic for Fever & Ague - A Certain Cure..." from Baltimore, MD.  It is just over 6" tall, has a blowpipe pontil scar (click side and base view), an early style thin flared (aka wide prescription) finish, and was blown in a non-air vented mold.  These type aqua paneled bottles in various sizes are commonly encountered on historic sites from the noted period, though rarely encountered as pontiled bottles on post-Civil War sites.  Martin & Whiteley were wholesale druggists in business from at least as early as the mid-1840s as this product was advertised in 1846 (Odell 2000).  This bottle likely dates from a bit later than that time though could possibly date as early as 1846.  (Photos courtesy of www.bottleauction.com)
  •  More to come in the future...

Dating summary/notes: The bottles noted above are just a sampling of the thousands of different medicine bottles produced during the "early" era from about 1810 through the Civil War.  Some of same shaped bottles carried over from the "early" period well into the decades after the Civil War; the Swaim's Panacea noted above is a good example of a bottle that straddles both eras.  During this transition many or most of the manufacturing based diagnostic features apparent on the bottles would change with the times.  Overall, the dating of these type bottles follows quite well the guidelines presented throughout this website and summarized on the Bottle Dating page; see that page for more information.

One of the best books on early medicinal bottles is John Odell's "Digger Odell's Pontil Medicine Encyclopedia: A Look at America's Pre-Civil War Medicine Bottles" which includes hundreds of different medicine bottles with photographs and extensive company histories (Odell 2000).  At the time of writing, this book was still available from the author; see the References page for Odell's website address.  In addition, Hume's (1991) book "A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America" has some good early history and illustrations (with dates) of early pharmaceutical and patent medicine bottles.

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Patent/Proprietary medicinal bottle styles

The general group of patent and proprietary medicine bottles certainly includes the largest number of different shapes within the massive group of bottles covered by this webpage.  Very few 19th and early 20th century medicines were actually formally patented; thus, the use of the term "proprietary" as most of these products were simply the proprietary product of a particular individual or company (AMA 1912).  Although technically incorrect, the generic term "patent medicine" was and continues to be the most commonly used name applied to remedial agents sold without prescription and the term is still associated with this group of bottles (Munsey 1970; Fike 1987).  Incidentally, the first patent issued for a medicinal product in the U.S. was in 1796 to Samuel Lee, Jr. of Windham, CN. for his "bilious pills" (Young 1962; Fike 1987).

Patent & proprietary medicines can be divided into an assortment of functional groups, i.e., divided into categories based on what class of medicinal product the bottle was likely used for.  Dozens of "categories" that could be covered separately are not simply because there are too many.  Fike (1987) used over 40 categories in his classic medicinal book!  This webpage will only cover a few common categories and a few variations within those categories to show a sampling of the bottle shapes and designs that were used for patent/proprietary medicines.  Other references, like those noted above and on the References page, must be consulted to get a more complete picture of the scope of this group of bottles and the history behind them.

Bitters & Tonics

Drakes Plantation Bitters from the 1870s; click to enlarge.During the period from the 1840s through the first several decades of the 20th century, "bitters" and "tonics" were very common medicinal products that usually contained alcohol, very often in a high proportion.  For example, Hostetter's Bitters was 39% alcohol (78 proof) in the early 20th century and at one point ranged as high as 47% (Fike 1987).  Click Hostetter's label to view an original label noting the alcohol content of that product and the "reasons" why it was that high.  Bitters and the related "tonics" were presumably originated during the 18th century in England as way to avoid the heavy taxes on liquor by adding various harsh tasting herbs to gin, claiming medicinal qualities, and calling it "bitters."  Even though these taxes were eventually reduced or eliminated, the bitters industry found a niche in England and continued to expand in popularity, including in the U.S. during the 19th century.  The popularity of these products in the U.S. was also boosted by taxation, including the Revenue Act of 1862 which taxed the alcohol in liquor more onerously than medicines (Heetderks 2002).  As that author noted - "The celebrated claims of a specific remedy and cure were always more enjoyed when one experienced a reassuring warm glow.  Also, for many years women as well as men regarded whiskey as essential for health."  

Bitters and tonics as a group, like many patent/proprietary medicines, claimed to cure or treat virtually every disease known at the time with some individual products claiming to cure/treat just about every malady in one bottle!  The use of the word "tonic" in the name of these products was likely an enhanced attempt to imply medicinal qualities to basically the same product.  Many used both terms in their name (e.g., "tonic bitters") during the heyday of these products (Ring & Ham 1998).  One example was the mid-19th century product named Old Sachem Bitters and Wigwam Tonic which came in an attractive ringed "barrel" shaped bottle.  By the 1910s and beyond, driven by the increasing regulations prompted by the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, bitters as a medicinal product diminished and the product became more of a flavoring for mixed drinks which is the primary use today (e.g., Angostura Bitters).  A few tonics continue as medicines to this day, though they are not common (empirical observations).

Since the variety of shapes used for bitters and tonic bottles was almost unlimited (Ring & Ham 1998), these bottles typically must be dated using manufacturing based diagnostic features and/or through research of the historical record.  Some distinctive shapes (like the cabin shape bitters pictured above) had a fairly well established period of popularity; others, like the relatively typical shaped (for a bitters/tonic) square Hostetter's Bitters (black glass example pictured below right) was bottled in virtually the same shape bottle from the late 1850s until the machine-made bottle era of the 1920s (Wilson & Wilson 1969; Schulz 1980).

Cabin shaped bitters from the 1870s and 1880s; click to enlarge.The cabin shaped bottles pictured above and to the right were also a very popular product during the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s.  It was made in an attractive log cabin shape (early marketing savvy) and is embossed on the different levels of the roof with S. T. / DRAKES / 1860 / PLANTATION / X / BITTERS.  Click on close-up view for an image of the upper half of the above bottle and the embossing.  These bottles were always mouth-blown in post-bottom molds, have applied finishes (tooled finishes are possible but never observed by the author), and have no evidence of mold air venting - all consistent with the era of popularity.  Probably several hundred different molds were used to produce very subtly different versions of these bottles in an array of colors, though by far the most common glass colors are various shades of amber.  The product was produced until at least 1910 (Fike 1987), though the cabin shaped bottles appear to not have been used after the 1880s. 

Tintype of a man and his Drake's Plantation Bitters - ca. 1865-1875.The image to the right shows the two primary mold variations of the Plantation Bitters: the "6-log" (left) which is the earlier and more common type (1860s and 1870s) and the "4-log" (right) which is the later, slightly narrower body style which dates from the late 1870s into the mid-1880s (empirical observations).  The number of logs is the number above the label panel on the front of the bottle.  There were probably upwards (or over) of a hundred different molds used to produce the "6-log" variety and at least some dozens of molds for the "4-log" variation.  (Note: There is also an "5-log" mold version that is rarely encountered.)

Plantation Bitters reportedly contained 33% alcohol which likely accounts - along with the uniquely shaped bottle - for its high popularity during the era noted.  The gentleman pictured in the ca. 1870 tintype to to the left was fond enough of the product to have his picture taken with it!  Dozens of cases were found on the Bertrand and the Republic, which were both steamships that sank in 1865 in widely separate areas of the country (Switzer 1974; Gerth 2006).  However, the company avowed its medicinal qualities in its advertising by stating: "Let it be therefore be distinctly understood that PLANTATION BITTERS is an ALCOHOLIC RESTORATIVE.  But mark this, it is strictly a MEDICINE not a BEVERAGE.  It is to be taken in LIMITED QUANTITIES at its STATED TIMES, like other remedies and antidotes, and therefore its use is in accordance with temperance law, as well as with that 'higher law' which renders it incumbent upon every being gifted with reason to resort to the best possible means of accomplishing a salutary end" (from an 1870 Plantation Bitters Almanac section interestingly entitled "Stimulation Sanctioned").  Bottle labels from that same period noted the following: "Composed of pure St. Croix Rum, Calisaya Bark and other Roots and Herbs.  A Most effectual Tonic, beneficial Appetizer and wholesome Stimulant; imparting tone to the stomach and strength to the system..." (empirical observations).  Click the following links to see images for images of a labeled example from the 1870s: full bottle view; close-up of the label (photos from eBay®).  Plantation Bitters are a very commonly found bottle on historic sites active during the era noted and also very commonly seen today in perfect condition since many of these bottles (like most figural bitters) were not discarded, but instead kept as decorative items for a window or china cabinet.

Bitters bottle from the 1850s or early 1860s; click to enlarge.The small aqua bitters bottle pictured to the left is embossed on four sides with PHOENIX / BITTERS - JOHN / MOFFAT - NEW YORK - PRICE $1,00.  It is relatively representative of the earlier style bitters bottles though there was a fair amount of variety even then to the shapes.  This bottle has an applied rounded "bead" finish, was blown in a two-piece hinge mold, has a blowpipe pontil scar on the base, and lacks evidence of mold air venting.  (Note the large air bubble in the picture.) This product was first produced at least as early as 1836 and continued as late as 1906, though most embossed bottles appear to date from the late 1830s into the early to mid-1860s (shades of olive green, amber, and aqua; virtually always pontiled) through at least the 1870s to early 1880s.  The later bottles from after the Civil War are aqua in color with a smooth base (Odell 2000; Ring & Ham 1998; Ham 2006).  As a side note, having embossing on four sides is relatively unusual (the label was most likely applied right over some of the embossing) but is somewhat more commonly seen on "earlier" medicinal bottles, i.e., 1870 and before (empirical observations).  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle: base view showing the blowpipe style pontil scar; reverse large side; one narrow side; the other narrow side; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Early 20th century tonic bottle; click to enlarge.The bottle pictured to the right  is embossed on two sides with WEB'S / A No 1 CATHARTIC (herb sprig) TONIC - THE BEST / LIVER, KIDNEY (herb sprig) & BLOOD / PURIFIER.  It has a general shape and color that was very commonly used for packaging bitters and tonics - square with a long body and relatively short neck and amber in color.  The base is also embossed with P. C. G. W. for Pacific Coast Glass Works (San Francisco, CA.) which operated from 1902 to 1924 (Toulouse 1971).  These particular bottles date from the first decade or so of that date range, i.e., 1902 to 1912-1914 though the product was made until at least 1923 (Fike 1987).  These bottles are mouth-blown in a cup-bottom mold with a tooled finish with air venting marks on each shoulder.  It was a product of T. M. Lash (Sacramento, CA.) who used an ornate label claiming multiple times around the edge that "Health is Better Than Gold."   Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  view of the embossing on the reverse side; base view showing the glass manufacturers mark; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and oil finish.

Hostetter's Stomach Bitters in black glass color; click to enlarge.The "typical" square bitters bottle in black glass (very dark forest green) pictured to the left is embossed vertically with DR. J. HOSTETTER'S / STOMACH BITTERS whose home office was in Pittsburgh, PA.  The product was first produced in 1852 (Odell 2000) with embossed bottles used by at least 1856 as embossed black glass examples were found on the S. S. Arabia which sank in the Missouri River that year (Wilson & Wilson 1969; Hawley 1998).  This particular bottle is a very crude earlier (1860-1870) example having been blown in a key base mold (true two piece mold) without a pontil scar, a very crudely applied oil finish, and lacks any evidence of air venting which in hand with the color indicate the noted date range (Switzer 1974).  However, a very large majority of embossed Hostetter's Bitters were made in shades of amber glass from the 1870s into the 1920s (and beyond in apparently other types of bottles).  Click Hostetter's Bitters to see a typical amber example made about 1907-1912 (tooled finish, multiple air venting, cup-bottom mold produced) which has the original labels noting "The Food and Drugs Act of June 30th, 1906" which gives an earliest possible date (terminus post quem or TPQ) for this bottle.  Click Hostetter's label to see one labeled side; click second Hostetter's label to see the other label.  The high alcohol content of this product undoubtedly contributed to it being one of the most popular bitters in the U.S. during the last half of the 19th and early 20th century, though the product was actually produced until 1958, although in its last years it was called a "tonic" not a "bitters" (Fike 1987).  (Note: this bottle is also used as a dating example on the Examples page.)

Ladies leg bitters bottle from the 1850s; click to enlarge.The long neck, olive green bottle (almost "black glass") pictured to the right is what was called by bottle makers a "boker bitters" style or just "bitters" bottle and appears to be uniquely American in origin (Hagerty Bros. 1898; Illinois Glass Co. 1899,1911; Ring & Ham 1998,2004).  These distinctively shaped, cylindrical (rarely with multi-paneled bodies) bottles feature a long, bulging neck which is typically close to the length of - and sometimes longer - the body and shoulder in combination; the bottle pictured here is typical of the style.  The style is most commonly called a "ladies leg" by collectors due to a perceived resemblance of the neck with that human anatomical feature; the author has found no evidence that glass makers ever used that name (Ring & Ham 1998).  The pictured example was blown in a three-piece mold with no evidence of air venting, has a crudely applied "champagne" style finish, and a sand pontil scar on the base indicating likely manufacture in the 1850s as sand pontils were quite unusual after that time.  Sand pontils are very commonly encountered on bottles made from the early to mid 18th through mid-19th centuries.  These pontils are particularly ubiquitous on English-made bottles from that era, though also are seen on American-made bottles - like (Jones 1986).  Click on base view to see such showing (vaguely) the sand pontil.

The name "boker bitters" for this style of bottle almost certainly originated from the popular "Boker's Stomach Bitters" which was bottled in this bottle type by J. F. & J. Boker of New York in the mid-19th century.  It appears to become a generic product made and sold by scores of producers until at least the early 20th century (Ring & Ham 1998).  According to a period recipe for "Boker's Bitters," besides water the basic ingredient for the product was - not surprisingly - whiskey along with "...rasped quassia, powdered catechu, calamus, and cardamom..." along with "...tincture of cochineal...and burnt sugar for coloring" (Lacour 1868).  These ladies leg style bottles in all kinds of colors - though typically amber or olive green - are very commonly encountered (often broken at the junction of the neck and shoulder - a weak spot) on historic sites throughout the U. S. dating from the last half of the 19th century.  The style seemed most popular from the 1850s until 1880s though were made as mouth-blown bottles until at least 1911 (Illinois Glass Co. 1911; Ring & Ham 1998,2004; empirical observations).  This style is strongly identified with "bitters" although may have been used for other alcoholic products at times (Wilson 1981).


A few other images of bitters and tonic bottles, many of which are used elsewhere within this website, are available by clicking on the following links.  This helps show a bit of the diversity of shapes found in this broad class of bottles:

  • LACOUR'S BITTERS - (Left image.) The embossing, which is vertical on two sides, is LACOUR'S BITTERS - SARSAPARIPHERE.  Bottle is cylindrical, 9.1"/23 cm tall and was an stylized imitation of a lighthouse.  Ca. 1868 to early 1870s (Wilson & Wilson 1969).  This bottle style was a design patented on February 4th, 1868 by Louis Lacour of San Francisco, CA. where this bottle was produced for Lacour's use.  Click Lacour's Patent to see this 1868 bottle patent.
  • HUTCHINGS DYSPEPSIA BITTERS - (Middle image.)  The embossing on three sides is HUTCHINGS - DYSPEPSIA / BITTERS - NEW YORK.  Bottle is rectangular, 8.3"/21 cm tall, and has a square iron pontil scar on the base.  Ca. 1850-1857 (Odell 2000; Ring & Ham 2004).
  • OLD SACHEM BITTERS - (Right image.) The embossing on this ornate "barrel" shaped bottle is OLD SACHEM BITTERS / AND / WIGWAM TONIC.  It was a very popular - and undoubtedly high alcohol - product during the 1860s and 1870s.
  • Two Peruvian Bitters blown in the same mold with different finishes types; click to enlarge.PERUVIAN BITTERS - (Left image.)  These two bottles, which were blown in the same mold, are embossed with PERUVIAN / BITTERS with a monogram on the back.  They date from the early to mid-1880s and were likely made (and used) in San Francisco, CA.  The are covered in more depth as examples on the Bottle Finishes page.
  • THE IMPERIAL BLOOD & LIVER TONIC - (Right image.)  The embossing is on the two narrower sides as follows: THE IMPERIAL / BLOOD & LIVER TONIC / THE KING / OF ALL TONICS - DR. DRAKE / SOLE PROPRIETOR / LA GRANGE, IND.  The bottle is rectangular with the narrower sides rounded, 8.75"/22 cm tall, was blown in a post-bottom mold, lacks any evidence of mold air venting, and was made with both applied and tooled oil finishes indicating production during the changeover period for those finishing methods during the first half of the 1880s.
  • Johnson's Chill Tonic bottle in deep amethyst color; click to enlarge.Ross's Tonic with straw marks; click to enlarge.ROSS'S AROMATIC TONIC - (Left image.)  The embossing on this typical square amber glass tonic is ROSS'S AROMATIC TONIC vertically on one side with J. R. R. & CO. on the reverse.  This product was made by the Jas. R. Ross Company of Indianapolis, IN. - a wholesale liquor and cigar dealer - and dates from the early to mid 1880s as it has a crudely applied finish, was blown in a post-bottom mold, but does appear to have one of the early "blob" type mold venting marks on one side panel.  It claimed on its trade cards that it "Will Cure any Case of Indigestion or Malaria."
  • JOHNSON'S CHILL TONIC - (Right image.)  The embossing on this small tonic bottle is JOHNSON'S CHILL / AND FEVER TONIC and was produced in Savannah, GA.  This bottle dates from the 1890s or more likely the early 20th century as it has a tooled double ring finish, blown in a cup-bottom mold, and has numerous air venting marks.  It has also turned a dark amethyst indicating the glass was decolorized with manganese which was common with mouth-blown colorless glass bottles made in the 1885-1915 era.
  • BARK-ROOT TONIC - (Left image.)  This is a label only tonic bottle from Portland, OR. that is machine-made by the Illinois Pacific Glass Company (San Francisco, CA.) and dates from the late 1910s or early 1920s.  The label claims the product to be a "Liver, Bowel and Stomach Stimulant" averaging 25% alcohol.
  • CLA-WOOD MALT TONIC - (Right image.)  This bottle is embossed horizontally with "CLA-WOOD" / MALT TONIC / CLARKE-WOODWARD / DRUG CO. / PORTLAND, OREGON.  It is a malt (i.e., beer) based medicinal tonic bottle that was blown in a cup-bottom mold, has a tooled crown finish, and mold air venting marks; it dates from about 1906 to 1916 (White 1974).
  • THORN'S HOP TONIC -  (Left image.)  This bottle is vertically embossed with THORN'S / HOP & BURDOCK / TONIC / BRATTLEBORO, VT.  and dates from the 1880s most likely as it has a tooled prescription finish, was blown in a cup-bottom mold, but has no evidence of mold air venting.
  • DR. GREEN'S BLOOD PURIFIER & NERVE TONIC - (Right image.)  The embossing is DR. G. S. GREEN / CO. (the following inside a shield) DR. GREEN'S / BLOOD / PURIFIER / & NERVE / TONIC (then below shield the following) ENOSBURGH FALLS / VT.  Bottle is rectangular and 8.3"/21 cm tall., was blown in a cup-bottom mold, has a tooled patent finish, but appears to lack evidence of mold air venting though there are some suspicious, though non-uniform, "bumps" along both body mold seam lines that may indicate purposeful air venting.  It likely dates from the 1885 to 1895 era based on these diagnostics features.
  • ...more in the future...

Dating summary/notes: The dating of bitters and tonic bottles can not be done based on shape alone, but instead, must be done based on manufacturing based diagnostic features or through research of the historical record.  Dating of these type bottles follows quite well the guidelines presented throughout this website and summarized on the Bottle Dating page; see that page for more information.

The best books on the subject of bitters is the two volume set "Bitters Bottles" and the "Bitters Bottles Supplement" by Ring & Ham (1998 & 2004, respectively).  Tonic bottles are not covered specifically in any one book, though the author of this website has a personal website that has a listing of known, embossed tonic bottles available at this link: http://ww.historicbottles.com/toniclist.htm  (A book or more comprehensive website with additional information and history on this class of bottles is likely in the future.)

 

Sarsaparillas

Hoods Sarsaparilla; click to enlarge.Sarsaparilla was a very common category or "type" of medicine sold in the 19th century and continuing well into the 20th.  The main ingredients for making sarsaparilla were the roots from an assortment of plant species of the genus Smilax which are found throughout the world.  The specific species primarily used for making the medicinal product were native to the Western Hemisphere, including the U.S., though it appears that the plants from Mexico and Central and South America were most valued.  Mexican, Honduras, and Jamaican sarsaparilla roots were very commonly used and sold under those names as were East Indian products (Frederick Stearns 1886).  Sarsaparilla root extracts (the "active" ingredients were extracted with alcohol), which were often mixed with the extracts from other plants of reputed medicinal value, were recognized as of value for blood related diseases and for blood "purification" - as well as a host of other ailments including syphilis - during the 19th century. 

Sarsaparilla medicines were so popular during the mid-19th century that a period treatise on pharmacy noted that druggists called the era of the 1840s (when the dark olive green Dr. Townsend's Sarsaparilla pictured below right was at its zenith of popularity) the "sarsaparilla era."  The medicinal slant of the product seemed to wane somewhat during the last third of the 19th century while its use as a beverage increased, though it is likely that the beverage was also popular because of the medicinal inference.  By the early 20th century sarsaparilla was more well known as a soda water flavor than medicine, though many or most sarsaparilla beverages did not actually contain any sarsaparilla root extract.  Instead, the flavoring was provided by a mixture of oil of sassafras, methyl salicylate or oil of wintergreen or sweet birch (Shimko 1969).

Like with most of the types of patent medicines covered on this page, sarsaparilla bottle shapes were very diverse and few shapes are strongly identified with this product.  One that is identified fairly strongly with sarsaparilla is represented by the first two bottles pictured here though this shape was also used occasionally for other medicinal products including tonics, bitters, and various other cures and remedies.  Glassmakers catalogs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries did often call this type rectangular bottle with indented panels and variably sloping shoulders a "sarsaparilla" bottle (Illinois Glass Co. 1903 & 1920; Cumberland Glass Co. 1911; Obear-Nester 1922).  Since bottle shape has limited diagnostic utility for dating within this category, these bottles typically must be dated using manufacturing based diagnostic features and/or through research of the historical record.   A few examples are discussed below.

The sarsaparilla bottle pictured to the left above contained one of the most popular sarsaparilla brands produced during the last quarter of the 19th through the first half of the 20th century.  It is embossed HOOD'S / COMPOUND / EXTRACT / SARSA / PARILLA - C. I. HOOD & CO - LOWELL MASS.  This bottle most likely dates between late 1890s to early 1900s as it has a tooled double ring finish and multiple mold air venting marks on the beveled edges opposite the mold seams, though it was produced in a post-bottom mold - an attribute that is somewhat commonly seen on larger medicinal bottles up until the very early 1900s.  Earlier (1880s and 1890s) examples of the Hood's are almost identical except that they do not have the COMPOUND EXTRACT embossing on the front and are embossed vertically with APOTHECARIES on the back.  Later examples (mid to late 1910s into the 1930s) are identical to the pictured example but machine-made, with a cork accepting double ring and later external screw thread finishes (Shimko 1969; DeGrafft 1980).  This product was first produced in the mid-1870s and continued until at least 1948 (Fike 1987).  The distinctive look to the bottle with the separate horizontal and curved indented panels was imitated by other patent medicine producers including the much less popular Brown's Sarsaparilla.   Click on the following links to view more images of the Hood's Sarsaparilla: base view which is embossed with "30" (a mold number of no meaning now); view of the "C. I. Hood & Co." side; view of the" Lowell, Mass." side; view of the back showing the indented panel for the label.

Ayer's Sarsaparilla trade card from the 1880s; click to enlarge.Hood's Sarsaparilla competed fiercely with the older cross-town rival Ayer's Sarsaparilla  (originated in 1848) produced by the J. C. Ayer & Co.; both companies were located in Lowell, Mass. (Holcombe 1977).  Ayer's Sarsaparilla - which was bottled in a similar shape and size bottle - was also a very popular product from the mid-19th century (some Ayer's bottles come with pontil scars) to at least the mid-20th century (Fike 1987).   Both companies were pioneering - and prolific - advertisers which may help explain their popularity (DeGrafft 1980).  The Ayers company boasted that their advertising almanac was second only to the bible in circulation (Heetderks 2002).  They also imply in the 1880s trade card pictured to the right that the discovery of their product was on a par with Columbus discovering the New World.  (Or maybe Columbus discovered the New World and a billboard for Ayer's Sarsaparilla at the same time!)

Dalton's Sarsaparilla and Nerve Tonic; click to enlarge.The sarsaparilla bottle pictured to the left is similarly shaped to the Hood's and a relatively popular brand during the same era.  It has the original label and contents, which look unappetizing to say the least.  It is embossed DALTON'S SARSAPARILLA / AND / NERVE TONIC - BELFAST - MAINE U.S.A.   It was blown in a cup-bottom mold, has a tooled double ring finish, and single mold air venting marks on each of the shoulders opposite the mold seams.  These features in combination indicate an approximate production range from the 1890s to possibly the early 1910s.  The label does note that "when cured" to communicate with the company (no doubt for testimonial advertising purposes) and notes nothing about the 1906 Pure Food & Drugs Act, indicating production no later than 1906.  Research indicates that the company was founded in 1893 with the product produced at least as late as 1910 (Shimko 1969; Fike 1987).  Given the above, we can reasonably conclude that this bottle dates between 1893 and 1906.  Click on the following links to view more images of the Dalton's: base view; view of the "BELFAST" side; view of the "MAINE U.S.A." side; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish; view of the label side.  (This bottle also illustrates some of the problems with categorization of the different medicinal bottles as it is both a sarsaparilla and a tonic bottle.  In a wide open, "anything goes" age with no required standards for much of anything, one would not expect standardization of medicine naming.  It is common for medicines to have a mixture of naming classes for the same product, e.g., Old Sachem Bitters and Wigwam Tonic and endless other examples.)

Townsends Sarsaparilla ca. 1840s; click to enlarge.The dark olive green ("black glass") bottle to the right is embossed with DR. TOWNSEND'S - SARSAPARILLA - ALBANY, N.Y. NO. 1.  It was blown in a two-piece hinge mold, has a crudely applied variation of an oil finish, is very crude in the body lacking any evidence of mold air venting, and has a sand pontil scar on the base.  Samuel Townsend first introduced his product in 1839 and it appears to have been among the most popular sarsaparillas of the pre-Civil War era.  At least several dozen different molds were used to produce these common early bottles up until embossed bottles were discontinued in the 1870s; the product was apparently paper labeled after that time and produced until at least 1910 (Fike 1987).  This bottle is another example of the "early medicinal bottles" covered earlier on this page and is at least 50 years older than the two sarsaparilla bottles discussed above.  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle: base view showing the "hinge mold" base and a faint sand pontil scar (most sand pontil scars are faint); close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish; view of the "SARSAPARILLA" side; view of the "ALBANY, N.Y." side.

More images of sarsaparilla bottles, many of which are used elsewhere within this website, are available by clicking on the following links:

  • DR. TOWNSEND'S SARSAPARILLA - (Left image.)  Another olive green example of a Dr. TOWNSEND'S bottle with the same basic embossing as the bottle noted above and dating from the same era, i.e., 1845-1860.
  • OLD DR. TOWNSEND'S SARSAPARILLA - (Middle image.) An example of the knock-off competitor to the Dr. Townsend's Sarsaparilla with the "OLD" added to differentiate and presumably make it sound like the originator (Shimko 1969).  It dates from the same era as the bottles noted above (1845-1860), but was made in a deep emerald green color and has very heavy whittle marks.
  • E. CARROLL'S SODA & SARSAPARILLA - (Right image.) This is an example of a classic "blob" style soda water bottle that was used for the type of sarsaparilla that was more beverage than medicine.  It is embossed with E. CARROLL'S / SODA & SARSAPARILLA DEPOT / 272 WASHINGTON / 7 / 133 & 35 MIEL ST. / NEWBURGH NY.  It is 7 3/8" tall, was blown in a post-bottom mold (most likely), has an applied blob finish, no evidence of a pontil scar or mold air venting, and likely dates from the 1860s to mid-1870s.  (Picture courtesy of Glass Works Auctions).

Dating summary/notes: The dating of sarsaparilla bottles can not be done based on shape alone but instead must be done based on manufacturing based diagnostic features or through research of the historical record.  Dating of these type bottles follows quite well the guidelines presented throughout this website and summarized on the Bottle Dating page; see that page for more information.

The best source of information on this class of medicinal bottles is in Phyllis Shimko's 1969 book entitled "Sarsaparilla Bottle Encyclopedia"  which includes extensive histories on hundreds of different sarsaparilla bottles produced throughout the U.S. (and Canada to some extent).

 

Cures, Remedies & related products

Ayer's Cherry Pectoral; click to enlarge.There were literally tens of thousands of different remedies, cures, and related products marketed in different product identified embossed bottles during the era covered by this website, i.e., the 19th through mid-20th centuries.  Add in the larger number of these products that were identified by label only and the number of proprietary cures, remedies and related medicinal compounds produced during the noted era was staggering.  Like all of the portions of this Patent/Proprietary Medicinal Bottles section, the differences between this huge general medicinal category and the others discussed above (e.g., bitters/tonics, sarsaparilla) are hard to differentiate.  This section is primarily directed at the other patent/proprietary medicinal products that were specifically intended to treat various aliments, or in the case of the Radam's Microbe Killer discussed below, claimed to absolutely cure ALL diseases!

As noted in the introduction to this page, the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act was the beginning of the end for the worst excesses of the quackery that was rampant throughout the 19th century.  That Act required that products containing any of a list of potentially dangerous or addicting substances be labeled as to the substance and its quantity  Use of the word "cure" for most medicines was nominally prohibited (unless it could be scientifically proved) though there were little teeth in the law and enforcement was rare (AMA 1912).  However, the word "cure" began to be replaced by "remedy" and other more vague terms about this time, though "cure" was still used to some degree at least up to the passage of the Sherley Amendment in 1912 (Fike 1987).  Practically speaking, medicine bottles using the word "cure" in the embossing or on the label date prior to 1913 (empirical observations).

As with many types of patent/proprietary medicines covered in this section, cure and remedy bottle shapes were very diverse and no one shape is absolutely identified with the product.  Since bottle shape has little diagnostic utility, these bottles typically must be dated using manufacturing based diagnostic features and/or through research of the historical record.   A few examples are discussed below though users must be aware that this discussion is not even the "tip of the iceberg" relative to the variety that exists in the patent/proprietary bottle world.

Ayer's Cherry Pectoral trade card from the 1880s; click to enlarge.The aqua (and aqua was by far the most common glass color for mouth-blown medicinals during the 19th and early 20th centuries) patent medicine pictured above contained a medicinal product very popular during the mid to late 19th century continuing well into the 20th century.  It is embossed on all four sides in indented panels with AYER'S - CHERRY - PECTORAL - LOWELL MASS; the label was pasted below the "AYER'S" on the front.  The product was first introduced in 1841 as the initial offering from the J. C. Ayer Company of Lowell, Mass. and was produced at least as late as 1948 (Holcombe 1977; Fike 1987).  The 1880s era trade card for the product pictured to the right notes on the reverse side that it "rapidly cures Colds, Coughs, Sore Throat...Whooping Cough and Consumption..."  Other advertisements note that the Cherry Pectoral treats "...various disorders of the breathing apparatus" (Fike 1987).  The pictured bottle dates from approximately 1870 to 1880 and has an applied double ring finish, blown in a post-bottom mold, and shows no evidence of mold air venting.  Identical examples are found with pontil scars dating back to at least the 1850s and tooled finish examples that date as late as the 1910s; similar machine-made examples have not been noted.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  base view showing the post-bottom mold conformation; view of the CHERRY side; view of the PECTORAL side; view of the reverse side of the bottle; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Mid-19th century paneled medicinal bottle; click to enlarge.The unembossed bottle pictured to the left is an example of a bottle style that was referred to by glassmakers as "panels", "short neck panels", "straight neck panel", and similar terms (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1880; Illinois Glass Co. 1903 & 1920; Reed Glass Co. 1910; Obear-Nester 1922).  The basic features of this general style are that it is narrowly rectangular in cross-section with indented panels on two to all four sides; thus the "panel" type names.  One or both of the two larger paneled sides were used to contain a label identifying the contents and makers.  These bottles also have body heights that are distinctly taller than the shoulder, neck, and finish in combination (though there are inevitably exceptions) and necks and finishes that are narrow in diameter.

This conformation of bottle is fairly strongly identified with a wide array of medicinal products as well as castor oil (a medicinal product), flavoring extracts (though those often had a ring molded on the neck), and any liquid product that was sold in relatively small quantities; the pictured bottle only holds a couple ounces.  This basic shape was produced in subtle variations and many sizes for upwards of a century (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1880; Illinois Glass Co. 1899; Reed Glass Co. 1910; Lucas County Bottle Co. 1940s; empirical observations).  Dating of various examples would follow the guidelines found elsewhere on this website; see the Bottle Dating pages.  Bottles of this shape are commonly found with embossing identifying them as medicinal products (see next bottle), though a majority are unembossed like the pictured example.  This bottle is very early for the style as it exhibits more "primitive" manufacturing based diagnostic features including a blowpipe pontil scar on the base, crudely applied oil finish, blown in the two-piece hinge mold, and lacks any evidence of any mold air venting.  It almost certainly dates from the mid-1850s to mid-1860s era based on these features as well as the context of where it was excavated (with a large number of almost totally pontil scarred bottles).  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle: base view showing the round blowpipe pontil scar which is close to the diameter of the neck; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck and finish.

Sanford's Radical Cure side view; click to enlarge.1880 era Sanfords Cure; click to enlarge.The deep cobalt blue bottle pictured to the right is another example of a "straight neck panel" bottle similar to the one described above in shape, though with a patent instead of an oil finish, three indented panels instead of four, and of course in a more brilliant color.  It is embossed on the two narrow sides (both indented) with SANFORD'S - RADICAL CURE.  The wider sides of the bottle, of which one is indented (shown in picture) and one not, are not embossed.  It was for the treatment of "acute, uhronic, and ulcerative catarrh" according to the label; click original Sanford's label to see such.  The medicine was probably introduced about 1871 by Weeks & Potter (Boston, Mass.) which was later (1883) called Potter Drug & Chemical Co. (Wilson & Wilson 1971; Holcombe 1977).  This particular bottle most likely pre-dates that renaming since bottles that are obviously later produced (i.e., have tooled finishes and mold air venting) are base embossed with POTTER DRUG & CHEMICAL COMPANY, BOSTON USA (Fike 1987).  The pictured bottle has no base embossing (besides the mold number "1") though some other earlier examples do have WEEKS & POTTER / BOSTON USA embossed on the base.  (Click Weeks & Potter base view to see an example with this base embossing [photo courtesy of Joel Williams].)  Considering these facts together with the primary manufacturing related diagnostic features (applied finish, no evidence of mold air venting, post-bottom mold conformation), this bottle can quite reliably be estimated to have been made between 1871 and 1883.  Click on the following links to see more images of this bottle: base view showing the post-bottom mold conformation; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish; view of one narrow side with the embossing SANFORD'S; view of the other narrow side with RADICAL CURE.

Radams Microbe Killer; click to enlarge.The medium amber bottle pictured to the right is one of the most notorious quack medicines of the early 20th century in that it was one of the medicines singled out by Samuel Hopkins Adams in his Collier's Weekly articles entitled the "Great American Fraud" which help lead to the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act in 1906.  This bottle is profusely embossed on one side with the following:  GERM, BACTERIA, OR / FUNGUS DESTROYER at the top of the side; (the following is in an embossed shield) Wm RADAM'S / MICROBE KILLER / (man beating a skeleton with a spiked club)Late 19th to early 20th century pottery Microbe Killer jugs. REGISTERED TRADE MARK DEC. 13, 1887; then below the shield - CURES / ALL / DISEASES.  Click Radam's Trade Mark illustration to view an image of the trade mark as illustrated on the company's billheads. 

According to company information, the product was "composed of pure water charged with the Gases Generated" from a handful of chemicals including sandalwood and "flowers of sulphur" using a "secret process" that Mr. Radam perfected in his greenhouse in the 1880s (Radam 1912).  These ingredients were intended to kill the relatively recently discovered "microbes" that Radam (and others) thought responsible for all diseases.  Chemical analysis published by the American Medical Association in 1910 noted that "Radam's Microbe Killer' is a mixture of sulphuric acid and sulphurous acid dissolved in ordinary hydrant water" (99.4% water to be precise) and that the nostrum was a "hoary fake"  (AMA 1912).  Regardless of the lack of efficacy, the product was popular judging from the number of bottles and gallon sized ceramic jugs (which it was commonly packaged in; image to the right above) in evidence today.  The pictured bottle was blown in a cup-bottom mold with ample mold air venting - including on the base - and has a tooled straight finish that appears similar to the sheared or cracked-off finishes of bottles that are typically half a century older.  These bottles appear to date primarily from the late 1890s into the 1910s.  Click here for a close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Full view of a pair of Hall's Balsam for the Lungs bottles.Another "subclass" of patent/proprietary medicine bottles were the "balsams."  Balsams were just another of the plethora of recognized medicine types or genres that were common in the 19th century and gradually disappeared during the first quarter of the 20th century due to increasing regulation and enforcement.  What differentiated "balsams" from other classes of patent/proprietary medicines was that the formulas for balsams were based presumably on the "healing" resins collected from the balsam trees of Central and South America (Blasi 1974).  The bottles pictured to the right are both embossed in an indented panel on the front with HALL'S BALSAM / FOR THE LUNGS.  The lighter aqua example on the right is also embossed on the two narrow side panels (both indented also) with A. L. SCOVILL & CO. - CIN'TI & N.Y.  These particular (and common) bottles are discussed in more depth as "Example #3" on the "Examples of Dating Historic Bottles" page  which is a sub-page to the Bottle Dating page  and available by clicking the following link:  Hall's Balsam - Example #3.  These two bottles date between about 1865 and 1885.  Balsams were singled out for comprehensive treatment in Betty Blasi's excellent 1974 book "A Bit About Balsams - A Chapter in the History of 19th Century Medicine" which includes an extensive section on the wide variety and history of the Hall's Balsam bottles.

Folger Essence of Jamaica Ginger; click to enlarge.Another small but interesting subclass of patent/proprietary medicines that actually were strongly identified with a specific bottle shape were the Jamaica Ginger bottles, an example of which is pictured to the left.  This was another "cure-all" type medicinal product that was distinctive in that it was exceptionally high in alcohol (75-90%!) but typically came in bottles that only held a few ounces.  Scores of different embossed examples are known, though it was likely that most producers bottled them in unembossed labeled bottles (empirical observations).  Abusers of this medicine type, which was particularly popular during National Prohibition and in "dry" areas of the nation,  were prone to physical problems known as "Jake leg" which was a type of paralysis induced by the excessive use of Jamaica Ginger (Moss 1967; Munsey 2006).  The pictured example is a typical size and shape for the majority of Jamaica Gingers produced during the period from the mid-19th century (some Eastern brands had bottles with pontil scars) into the first few decades of the 20th century (a few machine-made bottles of this shape have been observed by the author).  It is embossed within a plate with J. A. FOLGER & CO. / ESSENCE OF / JAMAICA GINGER / SAN FRANCISCO.  This company began a "coffee, tea, and spice" business under this name in 1866 or 1867 and went on to become one of the most familiar names in the coffee business which continues to the present (Wilson & Wilson 1971; Zumwalt 1980). This particular bottle likely dates from the early to mid 1880s having a tooled oil type finish and was blown in a cup-bottom mold, though has no evidence of mold air venting which contributes to the crudeness of the glass.   Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle: base view; side view showing the compressed cross-section of these bottles; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish showing the relatively crude tooled finish.

Mrs. Winslows Soothing Syrup from about 1870; click to enlarge.1887 Winslow's Soothing Syrup trade card; click to enlarge.Another of the most notorious patent/proprietary medicines of the 19th and early 20th centuries was the product packaged in the bottle pictured to the right.  It is embossed around the bottle vertically with  MRS. WINSLOW'S / SOOTHING SYRUP / CURTIS & PERKINS / PROPRIETORS.  This product was intended for soothing the discomfort of teething babies though it was also used to sooth adults as it contained sulphate of morphia (an opium derivative) from its initial marketing in 1849 until the public and regulatory pressures during the early 20th century (Wilson & Wilson 1971).  The famous 1887 trade card to the right shows mother coyly dangling the product just beyond the frantic reach (so one can imagine) of the baby opium addict.  Similar to many of the most popular patent medicines of the early 20th century, the Soothing Syrup continued to be sold well into the 20th century (at least 1948) though with more subdued medical claims (Fike 1987).  The pictured example dates - based on manufacturing based diagnostic characteristics and the context of where it was found - from the between 1865 to 1875 as it has a crudely rolled in finish (see close-up at link below), is very crude in the body with no evidence of mold air venting, and was produced in a post-bottom mold.  Later bottles (late 19th and early 20th century) are embossed with JEREMIAH CURTIS & SON / SUCCESSORS TO / CURTIS & PERKINS (Fike 1987).  Click on the following links to see more images of this bottle:  base view; view of the embossing on the reverse side; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Early 20th century Bromo-Seltzer; click to enlarge.The small cobalt blue bottle pictured to the left contained one of the most popular medicines sold in the 20th century - Bromo-Seltzer - which continues to be popular today as a headache and stomach medicine.  This is a typical early 20th century Bromo bottle and is embossed horizontally with BROMO-SELTZER / EMERSON / DRUG CO. / BALTIMORE, MD.   The product came in many different sizes of similar shaped bottles which were mouth-blown in the earlier years (1890s to about 1911), machine-made in identically shaped cork stoppered bottles beginning about 1911, and most likely completely machine-made by about 1915.  Between 1911 and 1915 it appears that the bottles were both mouth-blown and machine-made.  The cork as a closure began to disappear by 1920 with total disappearance by 1928  when the bottles were sealed by a metal seal or cap; the finish for the metal seal looked about the same as the cork bead finish.  The bottles switched to external screw thread finishes in 1954 and went to plastic bottles in 1986 (Easton 1965; Fike 1987).  Click mid-20th century Bromo to see a later (1950s) example with a lug type external screw thread finish that is embossed with the brand name on the heel.

Bromo-Seltzer was first trademarked in 1889 by Isaac E. Emerson.  The distinctive blue bottles were first mouth-blown beginning in the 1890s up until 1907 by the Cumberland Glass Company (Bridgeton, NJ; the likely producer of the pictured bottle), though one author notes that they were also made by Hazel-Atlas (Toulouse 1971; Fike 1987).  From 1907 on the bottles were produced by the Maryland Glass Corporation (Baltimore, MD), which was essentially created to produce these bottles for (and owned by) the Emerson Drug Company.  Mouth-blown and likely machine-made examples with the makers mark "M" on the base date from 1907 to about 1915 which was also when Owens Automatic Bottle Machines were installed to work alongside the semi-automatic machines first installed in about 1911.  Bottles with an "M" in a circle on the base date from 1916 and after.  In 1956, the Emerson Drug Company was absorbed by Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Co. which is now part of Pfizer, Inc. (Toulouse 1971; Fike 1987). The pictured example was mouth-blown in a cup-bottom mold and has mold air venting marks; it likely dates from about 1895 to 1907 since it there is no "M" marking on the base.  Click on Bromo-Seltzer base to view the base of this bottle which only has a numerical mold number.
 

NEW! "Castoria" Bottles Article

Although not pictured here, two VERY commonly encountered medicine bottle types on historic sites are the Fletcher's Castoria and the related - and competing - Pitcher's Castoria bottles.  This product was so popular that a high percentage of historic sites - with bottle/glass middens present - from the last couple decades of the 19th century until at least the first three or possibly four decades of the 20th century have at least fragments of these bottles present.  (The most ubiquitous competing product during the same era would be Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce which with Fletcher's Castoria is still being produced today!)

The product was also so popular that it was also imitated by many other firms.  A comprehensive and entertaining-to-read history of the array of different and overlapping Castoria bottles and imitators is now available on this website at the link below!

Lockhart, Bill, Beau Schriever, Carol Serr, and Bill Lindsey with contributions by Joe Widman.  2014bb.  Pitcher's and Fletcher's Castoria Bottles - An Uncommon Study of Common Bottles.  Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website, E-published October 2014.  This article is available at this link:  http://www.sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/CastoriaHistory.pdf
 

More images of medicinal bottles, many of which are used elsewhere within this website, are available by clicking on the following links.  This helps show a bit of the incredible diversity of shape found in this huge category of historic bottles (more to be added in the future):

  • LACTOPEPTINE - This bottle is embossed with LACTOPEPTINE / FOR (Maltese cross with the initials N. Y. P. A. on the four arms of the cross) ALL / DIGESTIVE ALIMENTS.  The bottle is a deep emerald green, mouth-blown, and just under 2" tall with an externally threaded finish with a ground lip or rim (i.e., mouth-blown screw threads).  This product was produced by the New York Pharmaceutical Association and dates from the early 20th century.
  • WARNER'S SAFE KIDNEY & LIVER CURE - (Left image.)  This bottle is embossed WARNER'S / SAFE / KIDNEY & LIVER / CURE (large embossed safe) / ROCHESTER, N.Y.  This large distinctive bottle is oval in cross-section and 9.4"/24 cm tall.  This is another bottle style that is strongly associated with the genre of medicine bottles.  It is also closely (but not totally - there were imitators) associated with the products of the H. H. Warner Co. who was a prolific advertiser and producer of different patent medicines, most of which are shaped like the pictured bottle (Ojea & Stecher 1998).  NOTE:  These bottles were accurately reproduced by the Crownford China Co. during the 1970s (possibly a bit earlier and/or later) and sold with reproductions of the original label.  However, they exhibit machine-made characteristics and distinctive base embossing.  Click on the following images to view pictures of one of these reproductions which are quite well done:  view of the embossing; view of the label; side view; view of the base showing the telltale embossing CROWNFORD / (C in a circle) / CHINA CO. INC.
  • TIPPECANOE - (Right image.)  This bottle is embossed with TIPPECANOE on one side and H. H. WARNER & CO. on the other.  It is extremely ornate with an embossed canoe and overall imitating a section of a log.  This bottle contained a tonic or bitters (it went under both monikers at different times) and was produced by the same company as the Warner's Safe Cure noted above and was an early example of the packaging selling the product.  Like most of the products of this company, Tippecanoe was very popular and is commonly found on late 19th century historical sites.
  • OREGON BLOOD PURIFIER - (Left image.)  This bottle is embossed horizontally in an arched plate with OREGON / (babies face with wreath trade mark with OMNES WP PROSINT / COPYRIGHT SECURED below the face) /  BLOOD / PURIFIER / WM. PFUNDER & CO. / PORTLAND, OR.  This bottle dates from between about 1885 and 1895 (tooled finish, air venting, cup-bottom mold) and was made by the Whitall, Tatum & Co. (Millville, NJ) as it is embossed with W. T. & CO. on the base.
  • WM. PFUNDER & CO. - (Right image.)  This bottle is embossed vertically with (baby's face image) / W. PFUNDER / DRUGGIST / PORTLAND, OR. in an indented panel.  It was used by the same druggist noted above (and includes the same trade mark baby's face) but is more of generic type bottle likely used for an assortment of Pfunder products.  It also dates in the 1885-1895 era with the same manufacturing features noted for the Oregon Blood Purifier above.  It is almost identical in shape to the cobalt blue Sanford's Radical Cure discussed above, which was a very common shape strongly identified with liquid medicines.  Similar shaped bottles with a raised ring on the lower half of the neck were strongly identified with various flavoring extracts.
  • DR. E. G. GOULD'S / PIN WORM / SYRUP - (Left image.)  This is embossed vertically on one side of the bottle which was produced in a two-piece hinge mold and has a crudely rolled (inwards) finish dating it from around 1865 to 1870. Examples which were most likely produced in the same mold have been observed by the author with blowpipe pontil scars also.  This is an typical example of an earlier mid-19th century proprietary medicine and is typical in shape and color (aqua).
  • SSS "Blood Medicine" - (Right image.)  This is an unembossed, label only , machine-made proprietary medicine from the 1920s.  It contained the blood medicine produced by the Swift Specific Company (Atlanta, GA.).  This company earlier produced Swift's Syphilitic Specific - which was bottled in a large cobalt blue bottle (image courtesy of Glass Works Auctions) - in the 1870s and 1880s which was the origin of the later (more genteel) product name of simply SSS.  Amazingly, SSS is still being produced and marketed by Wal-Mart today!
  • THORN'S HOP TONIC -  (Left image.)  This bottle is vertically embossed with THORN'S / HOP & BURDOCK / TONIC / BRATTLEBORO, VT.  and dates from the early 1880s most likely as it has a tooled prescription finish, was blown in a cup-bottom mold, but has no evidence of mold air venting.  The company was sold in late 1884 to C. M. Colburn & Co. (location?) which may mark the ending date for bottles with the Brattleboro, VT. embossing as later bottles were reportedly labeled only (Shimko 1969; empirical observations).  This bottle could have been listed in the Bitters/Tonic section above but was a proprietary medicine that claimed to cure an assortment of different ailments.  Though categorized separately (with bitters) above, tonics were generally just another loose category within the large universe of proprietary/patent medicines.
  • DR. GREEN'S BLOOD PURIFIER & NERVE TONIC - (Right image.)  The embossing is DR. G. S. GREEN / CO. (the following inside a shield) DR. GREEN'S / BLOOD / PURIFIER / & NERVE / TONIC (then below shield the following) ENOSBURGH FALLS / VT.  Bottle is rectangular and 8.3"/21 cm tall.  Ca. 1885-1895 (estimate based on diagnostics features).  Another medicinal tonic product.
  • THE OWL DRUG CO. - (Left image.)  That embossing is found in script lettering on one shoulder of this bottle.  This generic, moderately wide mouth, machine-made bottle was likely used for various liquid or granular medicinal products made by the Owl Drug Company which was in business between 1892 and 1937 (Levine 2010).  This type of bottle also came several sizes and in cobalt blue and colorless glass (Jensen 1967).  This shape is generally typical of various early screw threaded utility type (multiple-use) medicinal bottles made from the 1920s to 1940s with an almost "art nouveau" look to the overall design.  This particular bottle has a makers mark on the heel indicating manufacture by the Pacific Coast Glass Company (San Francisco, CA.) which was in business under than name from 1925 to 1930 (Toulouse 1971).  It also has a "7" to the right of the mark which may (or may not) be a date code for 1927; click markers mark to see a close-up of the mark.  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle:  base view which shows the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine induced suction scar; narrow side view.
  • CHAMBERLAIN'S - (Right image.)  This ca. 1920s panel type medicine bottle is embossed vertically on one side with CHAMBERLAIN'S.  It is machine-made with a distinct Owens type suction scar on the base which extends up onto the heel and lower sides of the bottle - a common feature on smaller and earlier Owens Automatic Bottle Machine produced bottles.  It has the original label, contents, and box, the latter item exhibiting the toned down medicinal claims that denote a production date that is almost certainly post-1912 (post-Sherley Amendment).  Click the following links for more images:  base view showing the base embossing (BOTTLE / MADE IN U.S.A.) and the suction scar (cutting through the "M" on the left); reverse view of the bottle and box showing the embossing in an indented panel.  Medicine bottles in this general rectangular paneled shape were extremely common for at least a century, i.e., 1850s to mid 20th century, though the manufacturing methods changed dramatically throughout that period.
  • Lydia Pinkham's medicine from 1933; click to enlarge.LISTERINE -  These two bottles (immediate right) are embossed with LISTERINE / LAMBERT / PHARMACAL COMPANY.  This still familiar brand was first produced in 1879 and was only available by prescription until 1914 (Fike 1987).  The pictured bottles (two sizes - 6.75" and 5.5") are machine-made and date from the late 1910s or 1920s as they both have the "diamond I" makers mark for the Illinois Glass Co. (Alton, IL.) which the company used from 1915 to 1929 (Lockhart et al. 2005a).  Click on base view to see such which shows both the Illinois Glass Co. makers marks and distinct suction scars indicating production on an Owens Automatic Bottle Machine.
  • LYDIA E. PINKHAM'S - Lydia Estes Pinkham's extremely popular medicines (as indicated by how common the company's bottles are) were specifically intended for women.  This particular bottle (aqua bottle to far right) is embossed with 14 1/2 OZ. on the shoulder, LYDIA E. PINKHAM'S / MEDICINE on the front panel, and MADE IN THE U.S.A. on the base (along with an Owens-Illinois Glass Co. makers mark).  It almost certainly contained her renowned "Vegetable Compound," (15% alcohol!) although the company did make some other products (Stage 1979; Fike 1988).  The Vegetable Compound was first bottled in 1873 (Fike 1987) although the illustrated example is a later bottle made in 1933 according the makers mark on the base.  It sports a cork finish during the era when external screw threads were becoming the dominant finish/closure; Pinkham's bottles made just after this bottle had external screw threads.  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle: base view showing the Owens-Illinois Glass Co. makers mark (also indicating manufacture at their Fairmont, WV. plant) and a distinct Owen Automatic Bottle Machine induced suction scar; close-up of the shoulder neck and two-part finish.  Earlier mouth-blown examples typically had a one part patent style finish.  A great book on Lydia Pinkham and her business was written by Sarah Stage and entitled "Female Complaints - Lydia Pinkham and the Business of Women's Medicine" (Stage 1979).
  • ...more in the future...

Dating summary/notes: Due to the immense diversity of shapes, the dating of patent/proprietary medicine bottles can not be done based on shape alone since just about any shape is possible over long time spans.  Instead dating must be approached based on manufacturing based diagnostic features or through research of the historical record.  Dating of these type bottles follows quite well the guidelines presented throughout this website and summarized on the Bottle Dating page; see that page for more information.

 

Other Types of Patent & Proprietary Medicine Bottles

As implied many times already, there are almost endless other categories - and examples within each category - for patent/proprietary medicines.  As noted previously, the breadth of variety within the medicinal bottle category was indicated by Fike (1987) dividing his classic medicine bottle book (The Bottle Book: A Comprehensive Guide to Historic, Embossed Medicine Bottles) into over 40 different "product" chapters!  Other possible "types" include (from Fike 1987) - Compounds, Creams, Elixirs, Expectorants, Invigorators, Jamaica Gingers, Liniments, Lotions, Ointments, Restorers, Syrups, and many more.   (Note: This book is now in print again; check the References page for more information.)

This section on patent/proprietary medicine bottles will likely be expanded on in future years to include more categories and more information and examples within the categories.

 

Return to the top of this page.

Druggist/Prescription bottle styles

1888-1889 Blake style druggist bottle; click to enlarge.Druggist, drugstore, apothecary, pharmacy, pharmaceutical, and prescription bottles - all different names used for essentially the same identifiable group of bottles - are variable but do contain some strongly identifiable general shapes, though size will vary greatly (Munsey 1970).  The bottles covered in this section are those that were purchased and used by local druggists and drugstores with typically only city-wide or otherwise limited geographical distribution.  For example, the 1880s era Portland, OR. druggist bottle to the left was certainly purchased and used almost exclusively by customers within a few miles of the druggist's store near the Willamette River on the west side of that city.  (The bottle was actually excavated a few blocks from the embossed address.)  It would be very unusual for this bottle to be found in Nebraska, though could conceivably make it there due to the ever increasing reach of the U. S. railroad network, i.e., the bottle could have been carried by a traveler.  (This particular bottle is covered in more depth later, including the fact that this pharmacist moved to Phoenix, Arizona Territory within a year or two after this bottle was made and used almost identical bottles for his druggist business there.)

One note on terminology is that the term "pharmaceutical bottle" is sometimes used in reference to the bottles used by the big wholesale druggist and pharmaceutical firms from big cities like New York and Chicago whose primary customers were the thousands of local druggists, though these companies also frequently sold straight to consumers.  (Many of these pharmaceutical companies established in the 19th century were the precursors to the large multi-national corporations still in business today.  The section on "Poison and Chemical" bottles found later on this page briefly touches on the types of generally larger bottles commonly used by these wholesalers.)  For those interested, an nice and concise overview of the early days of druggists is found in Preble's (2002) book "The Rise & Demise of Colorado Drugstores 1859-1915."

Munsey (1970) divided the universe of medicine bottles into two categories - proprietary or ethical - which may reflect the distinction made in the early 20th century by the American Medical Association (AMA 1912).  Proprietary (aka "patent") medicines were (and are) remedial agents available without prescription (aka "across the counter medications") and "...generally protected by secrecy, copyright, or patent against free competition by name, product, composition, or manufacturing process" (Fike 1987).  Drugs of an ethical nature are those dispensed via a doctor's prescription (Munsey 1970; Fike 1987).  Patent/proprietary bottles were covered earlier on this page.  Druggist or prescription bottles (the two terms used on this website) are the bottles that contained these "ethical" products, though of course, the ethical nature of such things has changed over time with increasing public concern and government regulation, primarily beginning in the early 20th century. 

This section covers some of the types of bottles commonly used by local druggists/pharmacists from about the Civil War era (1860s) to well into the 20th century.  Druggist bottles, of course, go back much farther in time - as far back as the ancient Egyptian era.  The first identifiable pharmacy bottles were Venetian bottles in the 16th century with applied enamel labeling identifying them as such (Munsey 1970).  (Note:  For some information on early American pharmaceutical bottles, see Hume's (1991) book "A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America" which has some good history and illustrations (with dates) of early pharmaceutical bottles.

This section is divided into four main sections based on general cross-section shape of the bottles: round, square, rectangular, and oval.  Within these four groups there was a wide array of proprietary and patented shape variations available from different glass companies.  Some of these different shapes - which usually had proprietary names attached - are covered in the sections below.  A fifth section is also included at the end that covers what were known as "shop furniture," i.e.,, larger (up to several gallons), generally glass stoppered, bottles and jars that were used by druggists to store bulk substances (Whitall Tatum 1880; Illinois Glass Co. 1903). 

A fair amount of detail has and will be added to this section since druggist bottles are some of the most commonly found bottles on historic sites dating from the mid 19th through mid 20th centuries.  The Druggist Bottle Dating Summary/Notes for the first four categories below is located just after the "Oval" druggist bottle discussion section. 

Cylindrical/round

Round druggist bottle from the 1870s; click to enlarge.Cylindrical (round in cross-section) bottles were used frequently by druggists to dispense their products, although the other flat paneled shapes also covered in this section appear to have been more popular and more commonly used.  Round prescription bottles with embossing identifying them as being used by druggists - like the bottle pictured to the left - seem to have been somewhat more popular during the earlier portion of the era covered here, i.e., 1860s into the 1880s.  However, the shape was still being offered without proprietary embossing (used with labels) and external screw threads (1930s on) well into the 20th century (Obear-Nester 1923; Whitall Tatum 1937; Owens-Illinois Co. 1952).  The 1880 Whitall Tatum & Company catalog gives some hints about the early popularity by noting in their "Round Prescriptions" section that these type bottles were used "...by some of the first pharmacists..." (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1880). Their 1880 catalog also offered a much larger variety of square, rectangular, and oval "prescriptions" than it did round varieties.  Whitall Tatum & Co. specialized in and was a major producer of prescription/druggist bottles in a variety of shapes from the late 1870s into the 1930s. 

Round prescription illustration from 1903.The bottles specifically discussed and illustrated here are of the type commonly used by druggists.  They all share some similar characteristics in that they have relatively moderate width bodies (the body diameter is about half the body height from heel to the beginning of the shoulder), relatively short necks (20 to 25% of the body height), though with variable finish styles.  The illustration to the right is from the Illinois Glass Company (Alton, IL.) 1903 bottle catalog.  This bottle also shares the same general shape and proportions as the bottles pictured here and was available in 19 different sizes ranging from 1/2 to 40 ounces.  Click IGCo. 1903 catalog - page 26 to view the entire page from this catalog showing all of the round prescription bottles offered by the company in 1903.

1880s druggist packing bottle; click to enlarge.The moderately sized aqua round druggist bottle pictured above left is embossed with SMITH & DAVIS / DRUGGISTS / PORTLAND / OREGON.  It was produced in a post-bottom base mold, has a crudely applied double ring finish, a body which has extensive "whittle" marks, and lacks any evidence of mold air venting.  Based on business directory research (including some done by the author of this website) Smith & Davis is known to have opened the first drugstore in the rapidly growing Oregon Territory about 1850 and continued in business under that name until about 1874 (Anonymous no date).  Given the company related information and the noted manufacturing features, this bottle almost certainly dates from the late 1860s or early 1870s.  It is quite possible that this bottle was used for citrate of magnesia as a comparison of this bottle with that style (discussed later on this page) shows some very close similarities.  Most likely this bottle style was used for a variety of of medicinal products produced by Smith & Davis for marketing in western Oregon.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle: base view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.  The company also used square bottles (covered below) and a slightly different round bottle with vertical embossing. Click Smith & Davis to see an example of a smaller, though contemporary to the bottle above, used by the company.

The large (about one-quart) amber bottle pictured to the left is what the Illinois Glass Company called a "Druggist's Packing Bottle" in their early 20th century catalogs (IGCo 1903).  They offered it in 15 sizes ranging from 1/4 pint to 2 gallons.  Click Illinois Glass Co. 1906 catalog pages 94-95 to view the same bottle type being offered by the company in that year.   (These pages also show the "round prescription" discussed above.)  The pictured bottle above has a crudely applied "patent" or possibly "packer" finish, was blown in a post-bottom mold, has ample body crudity (whittle markings), and no evidence of air venting all of which indicate a likely 1875-1885 manufacturing date, though the maker is unknown (i.e., no makers markings).  This unembossed generic type bottle could, however, have been used for many other liquid products outside the general realm of those produced by druggists, e.g., ammonia or other cleaning products, various liquors, maple syrup, etc.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  base view showing the post-bottom mold conformation (side seam coming around the heel onto the base is visible in the upper part of the picture); close-up of the shoulder, neck, and applied finish.

Dating summary/notes:  See the Druggist Bottle Dating Summary/Notes section just after the "Oval" druggist bottles discussion below.
 

 

Square

Early 1855-1865 square druggist bottle; click to enlarge.Square druggist bottles (in cross section; see picture to the right), with and without proprietary embossing, were a relatively commonly used shape ordered and used by many local druggists and drug stores during the mid 19th century until well into the 20th century.  Like with the round druggist bottles discussed above, the square types seemed to have been less popular than the other general shapes covered next (rectangular and oval).   If the authors experience with Oregon druggist bottles and Preble's comprehensive book on Colorado drug bottles are any indication, square bottles were used no more than maybe 5% of the time during the heyday of the mouth-blown prescription bottle which began in earnest in the 1870s and lasted until well into the 1920s (Preble 2002; empirical observations).

Typical base profile of a square druggist bottle; click to enlarge.The most common type of square prescription bottle was widely known as the "French square" (Whitall Tatum 1880, 1924; Illinois Glass Co. 1903; Obear-Nester 1922).  The first two bottles pictured here are of that style and of typical proportions associated with the style which are a more or less perfectly square cross-section with distinct - though variable width - beveled corners.  The body height is about 3-4 times the height of the neck, varying somewhat with the size of the bottle.  (Note: The term "French square" was also used for other typically larger bottles used for other medicinal products including tonics and bitters as well as liquors.  As an example click on IGCo. 1906 catalog - pages 166-167 for an example of a French square liquor bottle produced by the Illinois Glass Company in 1906; upper left corner.  The shape is very similar to the French square druggist bottles.)

All of the mouth-blown French square prescription bottles - and virtually all other types of druggist bottles - that have been observed by the author were blown in cup-bottom molds and have tooled finishes, including bottles that likely date back to the 1850s (example discussed below).  The common use of cup-bottom molds generally began in the 1880s to even 1890s for most other types of bottles although druggist bottle makers began using them at least as early as the early 1860s.  Similarly, druggist bottles were some of the earliest to be finished with what appear to be the later mouth-blown era method of finishing which results in a "tooled finish" (not applied) as described on this website which was a more technologically advanced method that utilized a finishing tool.  (This is discussed more in the tooled finishes section on the "Bottle Finishes & Closures" main page.)  Why these technological advances first appear commonly on druggist bottles is a mystery though could be that druggist bottles were a high volume production item and production efficiencies were most useful there.  It is also possible that these techniques were easier to adapt to smaller, lighter bottles - which most druggist bottles are - than with larger heavier items like beer and soda bottles.  However, this is just speculation to explain a consistent observation and the real reasons could be far different.

Square 1880s druggist bottle; click to enlarge.The French square style of prescription bottles with embossing identifying use by druggists, like the first two bottles pictured in this section, appear to have been most popular during the earlier portions of the era covered here, i.e., 1860s up to about 1890 (Stau 1987; Pollard 1993; Miller 1999; Preble 2002; empirical observations of Portland, OR. bottle by the author).  Later embossed, square mouth-blown druggist bottles (about 1900 into the 1920s) tended to have rounded instead of the beveled corners typical of the French square.  This style variation was referred to by bottle makers as the "rounded square" (Illinois Glass Co. 1903; Cumberland Glass 1911; Whitall Tatum 1924).  A rounded square druggist bottle is pictured to the left below.  The general square shape continued to be offered by glass makers without proprietary embossing (used with labels) and with external screw threads (1930s on) well into the 20th century and possibly even today (Obear-Nester 1923; Whitall Tatum 1937; Owens-Illinois Co. 1952).

The early aqua French square druggist bottle pictured in the upper left corner (base picture in the upper right corner) is embossed vertically (not in a plate it appears) with SMITH & DAVIS / PORTLAND OREGON and was used by the same company as the round druggist bottle pictured first in the previous section.  (See that section for a brief history of the company.) These particular bottles have the thin early style flared finish (tooled with a simple hand tool not the more advanced finishing tool) and much crudeness to the body commensurate with the absence of mold air venting evidence and early manufacture.  These bottles were also blown in a cup-bottom mold and do not have pontil scars.  This thin, crude style of flared finish almost certainly dates these bottles to no later than about 1870.  The context of where these bottles have been unearthed (often with all pontil scarred bottles) strongly supports their manufacture from the late 1850s to early 1860s, even though they have not been found pontiled.  These are almost certainly the first proprietary embossed bottles of any type used by an Oregon firm and are good examples of the earliest druggist bottles found in the West at least; there are likely similar items in other parts of the country too, with and without pontil scars.  Click early flared finish to view the section of the Finishes page that discusses this type of early finish.  Click on the following link to view a close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.  Click colorless square Smith & Davis to see another slightly larger example that is very similar except for being blown in colorless glass (very slight pink tint).  Be aware, however, that most square prescription bottles date from the mid to late 1870s and later.

Early 20th century rounded square druggist bottle; click to enlarge.The square colorless glass (by far the most common glass color for druggist bottles) druggist bottle pictured above right is embossed in a plate with WELCH BROS. / PHARMACISTS / COR. 4TH & I. STS. / EAST PORTLAND, OREGON.  The bottle has the usual diagnostic characteristics of a druggist bottle: tooled prescription finish and was blown in a cup-bottom mold.  It also lacks evidence of any mold air venting and some commensurate body crudeness (wavy glass) pointing towards a mid 1880s or earlier manufacturing date.  Some other date refining evidence exists in the fact that East Portland was a separate city between 1870 and 1891 when it was annexed into Portland proper.  The date cinching information is the business directory information researched by the author which indicates that the Welch Brothers (Thomas & W. B.) were in business together at the location embossed on the bottle from 1882 to 1885 (in 1886 W. B. was listed by himself) which is consistent with the lack of air venting (Anonymous no date).  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle: base view which has an embossed "B" (a possible, but unknown, makers marking); close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Rounded square base view; click to enlarge.The "rounded square" style druggist bottle pictured to the left and right (base) is embossed (in a plate) with FN / FRANK NAU / THE PORTLAND / HOTEL PHARMACY /6TH & MORRISON ST.   It exhibits a subtle variation of the prescription finish which is a bit funnel or trumpet shaped.  This finish type is commonly seen on early 20th century mouth-blown druggist bottles and is sometimes referred to as a flared finish; click on flare or trumpet finish to view the discussion of such on the one of the "Finish Style/Types" pages.  The bottle also has a cup-bottom mold base orientation (though it is on the lower part of the heel making it appears somewhat like a post-bottom mold product) and has mold air venting marks.  The image to the right shows a base view of this bottle and the rounded corners of the style.  Frank Nau was the listed as a druggist from 1890 to at least 1915, although the pharmacy in the famous Portland Hotel was in business only from about 1912 to at least 1915; the likely manufacturing date range of this bottle though this style was also used most likely until at least 1920 (Anonymous no date; business directory research by the author).  This style of square druggist bottle with rounded corners and a flared finish type seem to date mostly from the 1910 to 1920.  Click on the link to view a close-up image of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Additional images/information on square druggist bottles:

  • S. G. Skidmore Druggist - The two bottles pictured are embossed horizontally with PORTLAND / S. G. SKIDMORE (arched in a oval "belt") DRUGGIST (arched inside the belt) / OREGON.  The largest of the bottles is 4 5/8" tall.  Both were produced in cup-bottom molds, have somewhat crudely tooled prescription finishes, are of colorless glass with a slight straw colored tint, and lack any evidence of mold air venting.  These are the earliest of numerous Skidmore druggist bottles and likely date from the 1870s.  Stephen G. Skidmore died in 1873, though the drugstore continued to operate (possibly by a son of the same name?) into the 20th century under the name S. G. Skidmore & Co. and later the Skidmore Drug Company (Oregon Historical Society website www.ohs.com 2006; empirical observations).  This style of druggist bottle with this type embossing orientation (generally horizontal and with the "belt") represent one of the earliest types of plate mold druggist bottles.  Similar items from other areas indicate an 1870s to early 1880s production period for druggist bottles with these features (Schulz & Schulz 1990; Preble 2002).  For an image of the bases of these bottles click base view.

Dating summary/notes:  See the Druggist Bottle Dating Summary/Notes section just after the "Oval" druggist bottles discussion below.
 

 

Rectangular

Rectangular druggist bottle from about 1900; click to enlarge.Rectangular in cross-section (see base picture below right) mouth-blown druggist/prescription bottles were another common shape used by druggists between the late 1870s and 1920s, with and without proprietary embossing although embossed lettering was common.  Machine-made rectangular druggist bottles were also commonly used from the mid to late 1910s and later though machine-made examples virtually never have proprietary embossing, i.e., they are labeled only.  It also appears that as the 20th century progressed, bottles with at least one rounded side seem to have become more popular than these flat sided styles (see next section on "oval" bottles). 

PARIS embossed base on a Blake style druggist bottle; click to enlarge.As with all the different general prescription bottle shapes discussed here, there were various different proprietary variations made by many bottle companies - often with proprietary names - that were basically rectangular in cross-section.  There are also generally rectangular in cross-section druggist bottles that subtly grade into oval druggist bottle category as they have one or more rounded sides.  As discussed here, rectangular bottles are those with four flat paneled sides and typically flattened beveled corners.  Oval bottles have one or more variably rounded sides, though sometimes the rounding is subtle.  Bottles with rounded corners which are otherwise flat paneled and rectangular are variably referred to in glass catalogs as ovals or "round corner Blake's," a style which is discussed next (Whitall Tatum 1924).

It appears that by far the most popular style of rectangular druggist bottle was the "Blake" style and its variations.  The Blake was a standard offered by most glassmakers that produced druggist bottles from the 1880s well into the 1920s and beyond.  It was often offered in short and tall versions with wide or "tablet" mouths and normal (narrower) mouths (Whitall Tatum 1880,1902,1924; Illinois Glass 1903,1920; Obear-Nester 1922).  The Blake style is rectangular in cross-section with variably wide and flat beveled corners and four flattened sides.  Similar to other druggist bottle styles, the neck on the Blake style is relatively short, usually being only 25 to 30% the height of the body depending on bottle size.  Also, all Blake druggist bottles observed by the author over the years were blown in cup-bottom molds and have tooled finishes.  Air venting varies as discussed in the Druggist Bottle Dating Summary/Notes section below.

The rectangular druggist bottle pictured to the above left is embossed (in a plate) with SUMPTER DRUG CO. / L. C. EDWARDS, PROP. / SUMPTER, ORE.  No history of this company is known except that Sumpter, OR. was a mining camp in northeast Oregon that went by this name after 1883 (McArthur 1952).  It is mouth-blown with a tooled prescription finish, blown in a cup-bottom mold (like virtually all druggist bottles), and has several air venting marks in evidence.  In combination, these diagnostic features are typical of a bottle made during the first two decades of the 20th century.  The base of the bottle is also embossed with PARIS which may indicate that this bottle was procured from the Dean, Foster & Company of Boston, MA. who were "Glass Merchants" though it is unclear whether they actually made bottles or not (Toulouse 1971; Bethman 1991).  However, identically shaped "Paris Square" and "Paris Blake" styles were listed in at least two early 20th century glass maker catalogs (Fairmount Glass Works and Obear-Nester Glass Company); these bottles may also have been produced by one of these companies for Dean, Foster & Co. (Fairmount Glass Works 1910; Obear-Nester 1922).  (Note: It is the above kinds of speculation and detective work that one often has to do to tease out a given bottles history; it is also what makes the endeavor interesting.)  Click Paris Blake illustration to see the 1922 Obear-Nester version of this bottle which is essentially identical in shape to the pictured bottle.  Click on the following link to see a side view.

1888-1889 Blake style druggist bottle; click to enlarge.Base view of the Prowell drugstore botte; click to enlarge.The bottle pictured to the left is a "tall" Blake style with relatively wide beveled corners which was made by the Whitall Tatum Company (Millville, NJ) who offered several different types and many sizes of Blake type prescription bottles (Whitall Tatum 1880, 1892, 1909).  The picture to the right shows the base profile and relatively wide beveled corners.  The bottle is embossed vertically (in a plate) with E. E. PROWELL / DRUGGIST / COR. FIRST & MARKET STS. / PORTLAND, OR.  In addition there is an embossed druggist mortar & pestle on the upper part of the plate and W. T.  & CO. / G on the base.  It was mouth-blown with a tooled prescription finish, blown in a cup-bottom mold, and has four air venting marks on the edges of the base only, none on the body (unusual orientation).  According to the early Portland business directories, E. E. Prowell was in business at this address in only 1888 and 1889 (pers. research).  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  base view; side view.  According to Mike Miller's excellent book on Arizona bottles, E. E. Prowell left Portland in early 1890 and moved to Phoenix, AZ. (driven out by the wet winters?) where he operated the Opera House Drug Store (it was located in the Patten Opera House Building) from 1890 to 1891 before selling out in October 1891.  He also had a very similar embossed bottle made for his Phoenix drugstore by Whitall Tatum which included the mortar & pestle in the same location (Miller 1999).  Apparently, Prowell could only stand the druggist business for a couple years at a time!

Additional images/information on rectangular druggist bottles:

  • S. G. SKIDMORE & CO. - This standard Blake style druggist bottle has flattened beveled corners of a more typical width than the Prowell bottle above.  It is embossed vertically in a plate with S. G. SKIDMORE & CO. / DRUGGISTS / 151 FIRST ST. / PORTLAND, OREGON.  A check of the diagnostic features indicates an 1880s production as the bottle lacks obvious evidence of mold air venting though it does have a typical tooled prescription finish and was blown in a cup-bottom mold.  Business directory research indicate that this druggist did business under this name from 1878 to 1905; this bottle would be from the early end of that range based on the diagnostic features (Anonymous no date).  It is possible that the air venting marks are hidden in the embossing pattern, though that was not commonly done until the early 20th century.  Click on the following links to view a couple more images of this bottle: base view showing the W. T. & CO. makers marking (Whitall, Tatum & Co.); side view.  A bit of the history of this company was noted in the previous section on square druggist bottles which indicates a lengthy business period necessitating manufacturing related diagnostic features to narrow the production date range.
  • SKIDMORE DRUG CO. - Yet another bottle from this popular Portland (OR) drugstore.  It is embossed vertically in a plate with PRESCRIPTION (in semi-circle above) / SKIDMORE DRUG CO. (in a banner) / DRUGGISTS (in a semi-circle below) / PORTLAND, ORE.  It is also embossed on the base faintly with C. L. G. CO. which indicates a manufacture by the Carr-Lowrey Glass Co. (Baltimore, MD.) which was in business from 1889 to at least the 1970s, though the mark is listed as being used from "before 1900 to 1920" (Toulouse 1971).  Besides the usual druggist bottle diagnostic features this one also has at least one mold air venting mark on the shoulder.  This bottle likely dates from about 1900 to 1912 and has the original label indicating it was used for "Oil of Eucalyptus."  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle: base view (though the makers mark is not really visible); view of the original label.  (Note:  Later research indicates that this drugstore did business under this particular name from 1906 to at least 1915, fitting the date range above well.)

Dating summary/notes:  See the Druggist Bottle Dating Summary/Notes section just after the "Oval" druggist bottles discussion below.
 

 

Oval

Philadelphia Oval prescription bottle; click to enlarge.Probably the most popular "type" of druggist/prescription bottle styles were the "oval" type bottles.  These bottles vary in actual cross-section shape but are always rounded on one or more sides and/or the corners.  Beyond that, the shapes vary widely with some being rounded or flattened on both the front and back or even all sides, but with rounded corners as the binding feature if the cross-section shape is somewhat rectangular.  (The rectangular shape discussed above has both flattened sides and corners.)  The most common oval style druggist bottles with a flattened front panel (for a plate) with the sides and back being rounded together with no obvious break between them (base pictured below) were known by most bottle makers as the "Philadelphia Oval"; a style which is discussed more below (pictured to the left).

Oval druggist bottle looking straight on at the base; click to enlarge.The group of oval druggist bottles is particularly rich with subtle variations some of which grade into the other discussed style shapes.  Late 19th and early 20th century glass catalogs offered scores of differently named proprietary variations on the "oval" theme which seem to only have in common the fact that some side(s) or edge(s) were rounded.  A sampling of the proprietary named examples include the "Phenix", "Knickerbocker", "Manhattan", "Seal", "Millville Rounds", and others in the 1902 Whitall Tatum & Co. catalog (scan below); "Premier", "Golden Gate", "Ideal", "Sun", "Favorite", and others in the 1903 Illinois Glass Glass Company catalog; "Lyric", "Signet", "Wizard", "Crown", "Polish", and others in the 1920 Illinois Glass Company catalog; and "Aseptic", "Rex", "Dixie", "Panama", "St. Louis", and others in the 1922 Obear-Nester Glass Company catalog.  Click on the small page illustration below for a scan from the Whitall Tatum & Co. 1902 catalog that shows 6 different "oval" druggist bottles several of which are essentially rectangular in cross-section, though with rounded corners; others have a distinctly rounded side(s) or backs.

Oval druggist bottles from the 1902 W.T.Co. catalog; click to enlarge.Most all companies that produced druggist bottles also offered what was possibly the most common style of druggist bottle made from at least 1876 through the 1910s - the already noted "Philadelphia Oval."  If any one shape is the "standard" oval bottle it is this style which had a gently rounded back merging smoothly into the more abruptly rounded sides with a flat front panel which most often contained a plate slot for proprietary embossing plates (see pictures above).  This style seems to have originated in the mid 1870s right around the time of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia which may be responsible for the name, though that has not been confirmed.  The style is listed in the 1876 Whitall Tatum & Co. catalog as the "New Philadelphia Oval" possibly indicating a recent introduction, though the "new" in the name could just be part of their style name to presumably differentiate it from other makers versions (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1876).  Their 1879 catalog also noted that this shape could be "carried conveniently in the pocket" and had no "sharp corners which are apt to break and collect deposits" (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1879).

The Philadelphia Oval type druggist bottle pictured above was produced by the Whitall Tatum & Co. (Millville, NJ) who was one of the biggest producers of druggist bottles during the era between the late 1870s and the 1920s.  It is embossed vertically in a plate with HENRY KESSLER / DRUGGIST / LINKVILLE, OREGON.  Linkville was the pre-1893 name for Klamath Falls, OR. giving an almost certain ending date for this bottle (McArthur 1952).  It was likely produced during the late 1880s as evidenced by air venting marks on the shoulder (two on each side) which is typical of a mid to late 1880s to early 20th century mouth-blown druggist bottle.  Business directory information also indicates that Kessler was not likely in business in 1886 nor 1894 (the two directories available to the author listing this very small town at the time) further supporting a late 1880s manufacturing date.  Click on the following links to view more pictures of this bottle: base view showing the W. T. & CO. makers mark embossing for the Whitall, Tatum & Co., the oval back and flattened front (for the plate); side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish with the shoulder air venting marks pointed out.

Late 1870's druggist bottle from Portland, Oregon; click to enlarge.The Philadelphia Oval "pharmacist" bottle pictured to the right has is identical in shape and size to the Linkville bottle above but is bit earlier and most likely produced by a competing company to Whitall Tatum.  It is embossed within a plate: BLUMAUER & HEUBNER / PHARMACISTS / PORTLAND OREGON.  There is no base embossing outside of a meaningless mold number ("6").  The embossed proprietors' names provides the opportunity to date the bottle via the Portland business directories, a check of which found that these two individuals were in partnership in 1878 and 1879 and were not listed together prior to or after that time.  This bottle has no air venting in evidence - consistent with its established manufacturing date range - but otherwise exhibits the same features as the Linkville bottle above, i.e., plate mold Philadelphia Oval shape, tooled prescription finish, essentially colorless glass, and production in a cup-bottom mold.

Gogings Tonic union oval shape; click to enlarge.Gogings Tonic union oval side view; click to enlarge.The oval druggist/prescription bottle to the left is of the style known as the "union oval prescription" by some glassmakers including the Whitall Tatum Company that made this specific bottle (Whitall Tatum 1880; Illinois Glass 1906).  Other makers offered similar bottles called the "Baltimore Oval" with the flattened band (aka "strap side") on the narrow sides (Illinois Glass 1903; Obear-Nester 1922).  The pictured bottle is embossed within a plate with GOGINGS / (monogram) / IRON / TONIC / 904 J. ST / SACRAMENTO.  The base is embossed with W. T. & CO. / PAT. NOV 17 80 giving an earliest production date of essentially 1881, though the style could well have been produced prior to patent.  This bottle has a tooled prescription finish, lacks any evidence of mold air venting, and was blown in a cup-mold base.  Click on the following links to see more images of this bottle: base view showing the W. T. & Co. and patent date embossing; side view showing the "strap side"; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and prescription finish.

Gogings Drug Company was in business at this address from 1880 until well into the 20th century.  According to an 1888 listing of their products, the "Gogings Iron Tonic" was trade marked in 1890 but was marketed at least as early as 1882 and possibly before that (Schulz & Schulz 1990).  Given the history and the diagnostic characteristics, this bottle likely dates around 1882-1886.  It is also an example of a proprietary or "patent" medicine being produced and bottled by a local pharmacist using a typical plate mold druggist type bottle, though in a somewhat unusual color (aqua) as most bottles of this style are colorless.  Use of a druggist type bottle for a locally distributed patent/proprietary medicine was a relatively frequent occurrence during the heyday of these type bottles, i.e., 1880s to 1910s.  Aqua or "green" glass was likely ordered since it denotes "patent medicine" whereas colorless glass implies "prescription product."  This iron tonic undoubtedly had a very limited geographical distribution as these bottles are uncommon even in Northern California.  (Incidentally, there was also a "union oval" type liquor flask that has some similarities to this style druggist bottle.  The main differences are that the liquor bottle almost always has a different style finish (double ring is most common) and the body sides taper in towards the base, not parallel like the druggist style union oval.  See the Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes: Liquor/Spirits Bottles for more information.)

Machine-made druggist bottles; click to enlarge.Machine-made "oval" druggist bottles were also very commonly made and used from the beginning of the machine era for narrow necked bottles (early to mid 1910s) until most likely very recent times, although most prescriptions now come in plastic containers.  The bottles pictured to the left are cork finish "oval" type (according to the glass catalogs) prescription bottles that were made in the 1920s (right) to 1940s (left) era.  Both have capacity graduation markings as well as the volume marking at the base of the neck, i.e., a stylized "3iii" on the larger bottle for three fluid ounces and a "1" in a circle on the smaller bottle for one ounce.  Both also have rounded backs typical of oval type prescriptions.  20th century machine-made "oval" druggist bottles; click to enlarge.The larger bottle is embossed with OWENS on the base along the typical Owens-Illinois Glass Company makers markings indicating a manufacture in 1941 at the Evansville, IN. plant #11, which closed about the time this bottle was made (Toulouse 1971).  As the base picture to the right shows, the bottle also has an obvious suction scar indicating manufacture on the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine.  It also has the other usual machine-made characteristics as covered on the "Machine-made bottles dating" page.  The smaller bottle is embossed with LYRIC on the base which was a proprietary name for the Illinois Glass Company's patented "graduated oval."  The base also has the "I in a flattened diamond" marking for that company and a distinct suction scar.  The Lyric style was made primarily during the 1920s, is illustrated as the first bottle in their 1920 catalog, and available (at that time) with only a cork finish.  Click 1920 Illinois Glass Catalog page 15 to view this illustration.  Click side view to see a side view image of these bottles.  These styles of of oval druggist  bottles were produced with external continuous screw thread finishes beginning no later than 1927 (Owens Bottle Company 1927,1928).

Additional images/information on oval type druggist bottles:

  • J. A. LOGAN - This druggist bottle is embossed (vertically in a plate like most druggist bottles) with J. A. LOGAN / PRESCRIPTION DRUGGIST / EAST PORTLAND, OR.  It also has a figure of a mortar and pestle which was a very common addition to the embossing of druggist bottles for obvious reasons.  The base is embossed with W. T. CO. and a meaningless mold letter ("B").  This bottle is a style called the "Baltimore Oval" by the Whitall, Tatum & Co. and available at least as early as 1892 catalog (but not as early as 1880) and as late as at least 1909 (but not as late as 1924) based on the company catalogs that the author has to consult (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1880,1892,1909,1924).  The bottle has the usual druggist bottle manufacturing characteristics of the era - cup-bottom mold configuration, tooled prescription finish, with two air venting marks on the front and back shoulders.  Some other possible date refining evidence exists in the fact that East Portland was a separate city between 1870 and 1891 when it was annexed into Portland proper.  The clincher is that a search of the Portland Business Directories indicates that J. A. Logan was listed from 1885 to 1897 with no listings after that date giving a pretty firm date range for this bottle of 1885 to 1891.  This business date range is consistent with the presence of air venting and the East Portland location and gives us a firm manufacturing date range.  If additional 1880s Whitall, Tatum & Co. catalogs were available some additional dating refinement could be possible based on the introduction of this style.  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle:  base view showing the makers mark (faintly) and the slightly banded sides; side view.
  • Base view of the Blackman & Good druggist bottle; click to enlarge.BLACKMAN & GOOD - A somewhat frequently seen oval shape primarily from the late 1880s through most or all of the 1890s had three flattened sides (none of which are parallel to each other) and a long rounded back.  This unusual four-sided cross-section shape is easier to visualize than explain; see the base view to the right.  This particular bottle is embossed (vertically within a plate) with BLACKMAN & GOOD / DRUGGISTS / COR. 4TH & MORRISON STS. / PORTLAND, OR. with the base embossed M / PAT'D. MAY 15,88 / D. F. & CO.   It has the usual diagnostic features including air venting marks on the shoulders - one on the front above the plate and three on the back.  A check of the Portland Business Directories indicates that these two individuals (George L. Blackman and F. Louis Good) were in business together from 1892 to 1894, with Blackman continuing on alone after that time (Anonymous no date; pers. research).  This allows for a very tight dating range.  Most of these shaped bottles have the noted embossing on the base which was for Dean, Foster & Co., a "glass merchant" and possible bottle maker though this is unclear.  In any event, the D. F. & CO. base marking marking is not uncommon on druggist bottles and this shape in particular (Toulouse 1971; Bethman 1991; Preble 2002; empirical observations).  Click side view to see such of this bottle.
  • GRACE & BODINSON - This early 20th century druggist bottle has the original label indicating that the prescription was filled in May of 1915 allowing for a fairly certain production date of 1913-1915 given that a druggist could have had bottle on hand for a year or two prior to use.  It is embossed vertically in a plate with GRACE & BODINSON / DRUG CO. / BAKER, OREGON and also has the volume and graduation markings typical of an early 20th century mouth-blown druggist bottle.  It has a tooled "double collared ring" finish, was blown in a cup-bottom mold, and has numerous air venting marks.  It is also embossed on the base with BLUE RIBBON indicating a likely manufacture by the Standard Glass Company of Marion, IN.  which was in business from 1906 to 1932 (Toulouse 1971; Bethman 1991).  Druggist bottles with BLUE RIBBON on the base may be either mouth-blown with a tooled finish (like the pictured example) or machine-made, with the latter examples never having proprietary embossing.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle: base view showing the BLUE RIBBON embossing; reverse view showing the original label and prescription date.  Incidentally, the three part "double collared ring" finish is most often observed on druggist bottles with the BLUE RIBBON base embossing and apparently a design more or less unique to the Standard Glass Co. (Preble 2002; empirical observations).

Dating summary/notes:  See the Druggist Bottle Dating Summary/Notes section below.

 


 

Druggist Bottle Dating Summary/Notes

Early 1855-1865 square druggist bottle; click to enlarge.The relatively precise dating of mouth-blown druggist/prescription bottles* must be done, like with other bottle types, using a mixture of manufacturing based diagnostic features (see the Bottle Dating pages for more dating information) in hand with information from the historical record, when company/product related embossing (aka proprietary embossing) or labeling allows such.  Fortunately, proprietary embossing is quite common within this class of bottles (like most of the druggist bottles illustrated above) since it was inexpensive to have a mold plate engraved.  For example, the Whitall Tatum & Co. 1880 catalog noted a price of "one dollar and fifty cents to six dollars each for engravings."  As noted elsewhere on this website, it is the embossed or labeled bottles which provide the possibility of utilizing available historical information to establish reliable dating ranges.  If abundant enough information is available for a specific style of bottle (i.e., reliable manufacturing dates for numerous examples of a style) the establishment of a reasonable dating range for that style can often be derived.  These date ranges are also applicable to the majority of bottles of the same style that do not have proprietary embossing.

Since a variety of different round, square, rectangular, and oval druggist bottles were used for such a long period of time, there are generally limited dating opportunities available based on just the specific shape itself.  There are some trends however.  One example noted above were the square druggist bottles with beveled corners.  It appears this style of mouth-blown druggist bottle was a relatively popular shape with druggists primarily during the 1860s through the 1880s and early 1890s.  (This same date range also seems to be somewhat true for round druggist bottles also.)  From the late 1870s on, the other three shapes (square, rectangular, and oval) were much more popular with druggist.  After about 1900, square prescription bottle are somewhat unusual and often had rounded corners instead of beveled (empirical observations).  Like with all aspects of bottle dating and typology, there are always exceptions to be found though that does not eliminate the utility of most dating and typology trends which should be used in conjunction with the manufacturing related diagnostic features and historical information as available.

The following are some general dating trends for typical druggist bottles. (Note: The mouth-blown portions of these guidelines also pertain to the older style citrate of magnesia bottles discussed later) :

  • Typical base profile of a square druggist bottle; click to enlarge.Virtually all mouth-blown paneled druggist/prescription bottles (the square, rectangular, oval bottles discussed above) and most cylindrical ones were produced with cup-bottom molds.  This is indicated by the absence of any mold seams within the confines of the bottle base.  This observation includes druggist bottles produced as early as the late 1850s (primarily square [image to the right] and round bottles) up until the almost total disappearance of mouth-blown druggist bottles by the mid-1920s.  The common use of cup-bottom molds for most other types of bottles generally began in the mid-1880s to even 1890s; druggist bottle makers began using them much earlier.  Early druggist/pharmacy bottles like the pictured example with a very flat base may have been produced in a mold without a base plate (i.e., the upper mold halves sat on the floor of the glass works) or with a flat, non-cupped base plate as they have no evidence of a heel mold seam and a relatively sharp, almost non-existent heel (Kendrick 1968; empirical observations).  See the Bottle Type & Base Related Dating Notes section of the Bottle Bases page.
  • Almost all prescription bottles have "standard" tooled finishes.  Druggist bottles were some of the earliest to be finished with the typically later mouth-blown era method of finishing which results in the "tooled finishes" as described on this website which was a more technologically advanced method (for the time) that utilized a finishing tool.  (This is discussed more in the tooled finishes section of the "Bottle Finishes & Closures" main page.)  Why these technological advances first appear commonly on druggist type (and similarly shaped and sized proprietary medicinal) bottles is a mystery though it may relate to the finish type ("prescription" finish) commonly used on these bottles.  It may also be that this finishing technique worked better or easier on smaller and lighter bottles - which most druggist bottles are - than with larger heavier items like beer bottles which commonly had true applied finishes into the early 1890s (Lockhart pers. comm. 2006).  (Note: There is a general trend towards any smaller bottles - like druggist and small patent medicine bottles - being tooled earlier than larger bottles.  This observation is discussed on the Bottle Finishes & Closures main webpage.)
  • Graduation and capacity markings on an early 20th century druggist bottle; click to enlarge.Given the above two points, neither the diagnostic dating features pertaining to the base conformation or type (hinge mold vs. post-bottom mold vs. cup-bottom mold production) nor the applied vs. tooled finishing methods assist much with the dating of druggist bottles.
  • Mouth-blown (and often proprietary embossed) druggist bottles were made until at least the mid-1920's and likely some continued to be produced even into the 1930s (Whitall Tatum 1924; Toulouse 1971).
  • Graduation markings (incremental content amounts embossed on at least one side or edge) and the druggist capacity mark (i.e., the stylized "3" shoulder embossing with Roman numerals for ounces to the right of it) on a druggist type bottle denotes an almost certain production after 1900.  (Click on the picture to the right to view a larger image that has these features pointed out on a 1910-1920 era Oregon druggist bottle.)  No bottle makers catalogs reviewed by the author have listed bottles with this type of embossing prior to 1900.  Some druggist bottles from the 1890s will have the capacity in "CC's" embossed on them, but do not have the stylized prescription capacity and/or graduation marks (Whitall Tatum 1880,1892,1896; Illinois Glass 1899,1903).  Graduation and capacity markings were used until at least the mid-20th century on glass druggist/prescription bottles (Knox Glass Co. ca. 1950; Owens-Illinois Glass Co. 1952).
  • Mouth-blown druggist bottles with the collared ring finish style appear to be a product of the early 20th century only, i.e., this finish type was only used on druggist type bottles from maybe as early as 1900 to Early 20th century double collared ring; click to enlarge.1905 to as late as 1925 (Whitall Tatum Co. 1892, 1902, 1924; Pollard 1993; Fletcher 1994; Preble 2002).  The picture to the right is of a three-part "double" collared ring finish and is on a druggist bottle which almost certainly dates from 1913 to no later than 1915.  Most (all?) of these finishes with three parts are found on bottles made by the Standard Glass Company and usually have BLUE RIBBON on the base (Preble 2002; empirical observations).
  • Later examples of all shapes of druggist bottles made by machines can have cork accepting prescription (or similar) finishes and by the mid-1920s, external continuous screw threads.  External screw threads seem to have first appeared on machine-made druggist bottles during the early to mid-1920s though cork finishes lingered until at least the early 1940s (Illinois Glass Co. 1920, 1926; Obear-Nester 1922; Whitall Tatum Co. 1924, 1937; Owens Bottle Co. 1927,1928; Owens Illinois Glass Co. 1940's,1952; empirical observations).  The following link - Lyric Oval - shows one type of prescription bottle made by the Illinois Glass Company by at least 1926 that was available with both a threaded and cork finish (Illinois Glass Co. 1926).  External screw threads are not found on typical styles of mouth-blown druggist bottles with small necks.
  • Air venting marks on mouth-blown druggist bottles follow the guidelines noted in that section of the Bottle Body Characteristics & Mold Seams page.  In general, druggist bottles produced up to the mid to possibly late 1880s do not have air venting marks and those after that time do have them in increasing quantity as the mouth-blown era came to a close.  Druggist bottles with the air venting marks incorporated into the plate related embossing almost surely date after 1900 and probably date Photo of an original plate for a plate mold dating from the early 20th century.after 1905.  The image here is of an original engraved plate, most likely from the Whitall, Tatum & Co., for an embossed druggist bottle that has the mold air venting holes evident upon close inspection within the embossing grooves.  The druggist that had the pictured plate made was in business between about 1915 and 1918 (Mark Hawkins pers. comm. 2006).

There are, of course, exceptions to the above guidelines like there is with every type or class of bottles.  However, the above points are thought to be quite reliable and useful for dating druggist bottles that are either not embossed with druggist specific information (e.g., name, address, city) or for which no historical information is available if embossed with such.

(*Virtually all proprietary embossed druggist/drugstore bottles are mouth-blown; proprietary machine-made items are unusual though seen on rare occasions.  For example the bottle at the following links - full view, base view - is a machine-made "wide-mouth Blake" style druggist bottle with fairly typical proprietary embossing, i.e. druggist name, mortar & pestle, city/state (Portland, ME.).  The base view shows the "diamond I" makers mark for the Illinois Glass Company which dates the bottle definitively between 1915 and 1929, with the most likely manufacturing  time being the 1920s [Toulouse 1971; Lockhart et al. 2005a].)

 


 

"Shop Furniture" (aka "Shelf Ware)

Early 20th century shop furniture; click to enlarge."Shop furniture" was the unusual (to the author at least) name for a relatively homogenous group of larger bottles which were produced by many glassmakers for use by druggists and drugstores as bulk containers to dispense bulk herbs, powders, liquids, and many other chemical and medicinal products (pictured to the left).  Shop furniture bottles in glass appear to have been used by U. S. apothecaries as early as the late 18th century (Griffenhagen & Bogard 1999).  These large, indefinite use bottles and jars were also called "shelf ware," "shelfware," "counter ware," "recess ware" (bottles with the indented labels), and probably other names (Illinois Glass Co. 1903,1911,1920; Bellaire Bottle Co. ca. 1905-1910; T. C. Wheaton Co. early 1920s; Whitall, Tatum & Co. 1880,1909,1924; Griffenhagen & Bogard 1999).  The "Tincture" illustration below is from the 1903 Illinois Glass Company (Alton, IL.) bottle catalog and shows a typical example of a narrow necked shop furniture bottle.  Click on the illustration to view the entire page this illustration was taken from showing other cylindrical examples. 

The following is quoted from Munsey (1970) and is a nice overview of these bottles:

Early 20th century example of shop furniture bottles; click to view the entire glass catalog page.Many of the more permanent glass containers used by apothecaries...were ornately labeled by painting, enameling, and so forth. An interesting and unusual method of labeling pharmaceutical, barber, and bar bottles during the last half of the nineteenth century was that of sealing labels on bottles under glass...On bottles featuring recessed panels the labels are often covered with a glass curved to fit the shape of the bottle.

The labels for bottles used in a drugstore are attractively made in gold foil and related materials and are very durable.  Because of their durability, and because they were reused (and even passed on from father to son), many have survived and are readily available...Almost without exception these reusable drug bottles were made with matching glass stoppers that were ground to insure a near perfect closure.  The inside of the bottle neck was often ground, as well, for the same reason.

Examples of the colorful labels used on these type bottles during the early 20th century, as noted by Munsey, are found at the first two of the following links which are pages from the 1906 Illinois Glass Company's bottle catalog.  These type labels are often Latin (or Latinized) abbreviations making them hard to understand, like the labels pictured above and at the following links.  Also included in these catalog page links are illustrations of the spectrum of druggist shop furniture bottles and jars offered by that company in 1906: IGCo. 1906 pages 78-79; IGCo. 1906 pages 80-81; IGCo. 1906 pages 82-83; IGCo. 1906 pages 84-85.  As noted by Munsey, many of these type bottles and jars had the labels placed in a recessed (indented) area of the bottle with a thin covering of glass placed over the label.  This type of labeling first began in about 1862 when it was patented by William Walton of Newark, N.J. (Griffenhagen & Bogard 1999).  Click William Walton September 23, 1862 to see the original patent.  The indentation and the glass label covering greatly enhanced the longevity of the label and is referred to as a "label-under-glass."  Click on label-under-glass jar for an image of a "salt-mouth" example with such a label.

Shop furniture in a 1903 catalog; click to enlarge.The three dark amber bottles or jars pictured above left have the makers markings (T. C. W. CO. / U. S. A. on the base) indicating manufacture by T. C. Wheaton & Co. (Millville, NJ).  These bottles likely date from the first couple decades of the 20th century and were still being offered by the company in their 1920s era catalog as "Round Shoulder Prescriptions" and specifically as "Saltmouths, Hollow Head Mushroom Stoppered" in sizes from 1/2 oz to 32 oz.; the pictured bottles are about 24 oz. in size ( (T. C. Wheaton & Co. 1920s).  These jars are typical of the style which were usually closured with ground glass shank stoppers that matched perfectly with the ground bore; click bore view to see such.  Most shop furniture bottles were made of colorless glass although amber was also popular, most likely for its perceived light protective qualities.  Other glass colors are rare, but occasionally seen.  "Salt-mouth" was a term used by glassmakers for the wide bore (mouth) shop furniture - which were usually used for the more solid materials, with the narrow bore versions for liquids called "tincture" bottles.  Both terms - salt-mouth and tincture - in reference to shop furniture date back to the 18th century England (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1924; Griffenhagen & Bogard 1999).

The last two images are from two different early 20th century glassmakers catalogs and show the typical wares of the day (click each to view a higher quality version).  As shown, the shape of these bottles tend towards the same relatively uniform round and square shapes, regardless of the manufacturer.  The page to the left is from the 1903 Illinois Glass Co. catalog and shows some of the the square shop furniture items they offered.  This company offered shop furniture in their 1920 catalog also and have them listed outside of the "machine-made bottles" section implying that they were still being mouth-blown at least into the early 1920s (Illinois Glass Co. 1920).

Shop furniture in a 1924 catalog; click to enlarge.The illustration to the right is from the 1924 Whitall, Tatum & Co. catalog and shows the wares they offered in the mid-1920s, which were almost certainly still being mouth-blown at that time as were many of their smaller plate mold druggist bottles.  Similar large stoppered items like these (e.g., "Tinctures" and "Saltmouths") were still being offered by the company as late as 1937 though it is unknown whether they were still being mouth-blown or were machine-made; there is some indications that they were mouth-blown at least in part (empirical observations).

Dating summary/notes:  Shop furniture bottles/jars were produced in a similar fashion for a very extended period in the U. S.; probably from at least the 1840s into at least the 1940s.  There is evidence that shop furniture bottles were being used as early as 1770s in the U. S. though these bottles would have been imported from Europe; such bottles commonly imported into at least the 1850s (Griffenhagen & Bogard 1999). 

Shop furniture bottles made from the 1870s to at least the mid-1920s usually share the similarity of having been mouth-blown in a cup-bottom mold with tooled finishes (these are rarely seen with applied finishes).  Earlier examples (pre-1870) tend to have pontil scars, though reflecting their "specialty" nature, they were apparently produced with pontil scars up until at least the late 19th century.  Mouth-blown examples were made in both typical two-piece molds (where the side seams are visible) and in paste or turn-molds (round bottles only) where the side seams were wiped out by the rotation of the bottle in the mold (Bellaire Bottle Company ca. 1905-1910).  Click on the following links to view a turn-mold example from the last half of the 19th century that is pontil scarred (photos courtesy of Jeff Browning): base view showing the glass tipped pontil scar; view of the entire bottle; close-up showing the distinct concentric rings on the lower body indicative of turn-mold manufacture. Due to their specialized nature and relatively low volume production (they were used for years and not discarded unless broken) shop furniture was apparently made by mouth-blown methods much later than most other bottle styles (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1924, 1937).  As noted above, shop furniture bottles with indented panels and under glass labels first appeared about 1862.

Machine-made examples probably first became somewhat available with the advent of fully automatic bottle machines in the 1910s, but the style appears not to have been dominated by machines until at least the late 1920s (Illinois Glass Co. 1920, 1926; Whitall Tatum 1924).  This is consistent with the fact that machines were expensive to set up and were cost effective only for large runs of bottles, not short runs of specialty items like shop furniture (Miller & McNichol 2002).  Shop furniture was produced to some degree until at least the mid-20th century (Lucas County Bottle Co. 1940s).  By that time the rise of the large national pharmaceutical firms and chain drugstores (e.g., Rexall) producing and selling standardized, pre-formulated and packaged medicines drove the local druggist - who had for many decades produced their own medicinal preparations - to virtual extinction (Preble 2002).  With them went the remaining need and demand for shop furniture. 

Since these bottles were used until broken they are uncommonly found on most historic sites though are quite commonly seen in antique stores, on eBay®, and similar places as they were rarely thrown away even after their use ceased with the disappearance of the traditional "corner drugstore."   Shop furniture bottles and jars are still occasionally seen as purely decorative items behind the druggist counters in chain drugstores large and small.  (Note:  Without a doubt, the best discussion on shop furniture - with copious illustrations - is found in Griffenhagen & Bogard (1999), pages 51-70.  The discussion on this page only scratches the surface of the subject.)

 
Homeopathic Vials/Bottles

Homeopathic bottles, primarily the vials the final product was dispensed in for patient or consumer use, were a simple but distinctively shaped class of bottles.  Based on the number of questions the author of this site has received on these small bottles a brief overview of the subject needs discussed on this page.  These vials are very commonly found on historic sites throughout the U. S. and Canada - and probably other places around the world.  But what is homeopathic medicine?  One source to quickly explain this alternative form of medicine is the National Center for Homeopathy.  The following was taken from their website at this link - http://nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org/:

Homeopathy is a system of medical therapy that uses very small doses of medicines, or remedies. These remedies are prepared from substances found in nature. Nevertheless, homeopathy should not be confused with herbal medicine. These two systems of medicine are very different. Herbal medicine uses tinctures of botanical substances, whereas homeopaths use ultra-dilute "micro" doses made from not only plants, but minerals or any other substance found in nature.  The homeopathic doctor chooses the proper remedy by following a special rule of nature called the Law of Similars. This law states "like cures like," or that a medicine can cure a sick person if it can cause similar sickness in a healthy person. For instance, if you peel an onion, your eyes burn, itch and water. You might also have a runny nose and begin to sneeze. If you had similar symptoms during a cold or allergy attack, such as a runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing, a homeopathic micro-dose of the remedy Allium cepa (red onion) would help your body heal itself.  The word "homeopathic" is derived from the Greek words homeos meaning "similar" and pathos meaning "disease" or "suffering." Thus, homeopathy means "to treat with a remedy that produces an effect similar to the disease or suffering."

The vial pictured above (two views of the original label) is typical of this bottle type almost exclusively used for homeopathic preparations.  This particular example is about 2.5" tall, 0.75" in diameter, and made of colorless glass which has since turned slightly amethyst due to manganese dioxide being used as a decolorizer and some exposure to sunlight.  It was certainly mouth-blown (given the label date) but has no evidence of mold seams on the base, body or finish (more on this below).  This particular bottle came from an old drugstore in Baker, Oregon (Levinger Drugstore) and has the original label noting that it was produced or dispensed on February 27, 1911.  The label notes that it contained "3X. Gnaphalium".  Gnaphalium polycephalum is an Aster family herb which is used for a variety of homeopathic treatments, though in particular, "intractable sciatica" - a spinal problem.  The "3X" is the dilution level, i.e., "triturated" by a factor of 10 (the X=10) three times or, I believe, 1 part the active ingredient to 1000 parts inert ingredients (Karen Allen C.C.H., pers. comm. 2012). 

The homeopathic vial style typically came in many sizes of "long" and "short" versions, the example above being a "short" version.  Although both styles came in the same array of internal capacities, the "short" version (three on right in the image below) were shorter with wider bodies and bores and the "long" styles (one on left in image below) were taller but narrower with narrower bores.  The 1906 Illinois Glass Company catalog scanned and posted on this website has a couple pages devoted to these vials in both varieties which may be viewed at the following link: 1906 homeopathy vials

The finish on these bottles - and the pictured examples (with one exception below) - was referred to as patent finish by glassmakers (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1879, 1880; Illinois Glass Co. 1906, 1920, 1926).  The style dates back to at least to the 1870s and at least as late as the 1930s.  The vast majority of these vials, in the authors experience, have no evidence of mold seams indicating probable turn-molding (or possible later production in a press-and-blow machine with a one piece blow mold?) from the 1870s into the 1920s at least (Whitall, Tatum & Co. 1879; Owens-Illinois Glass Co. 1930; empirical observations).  Later machine-made ones have been noted with regular vertical side seams probably dating from the 1920s to 1940s (empirical observations). 

Click to view a larger version of these early 20th century vials.A group of 4 smaller (~2.5" to ~3.5") homeopathy vials are also shown to the right.  The narrower example to the left in the image is a "long" version of these vials; the other three are "short" examples as discussed above.  The glass used to produce these bottles was also decolorized with manganese dioxide and exposed to UV light as indicated by the lavender colors.  Of interest in this discussion is that the shortest vial (second from right) is a mouth-blown example that was not turn-molded with a tooled "bead" finish.  It is a bit different in shape (longer neck) and could have been used as a pill vial not homeopathic preparations.  Without the original labeling one will never know for sure, though the shape is similar to both the homeopathy and pill vials of the era (1900 to 1920).  The other three examples are typical homeopathic vials with the "patent finish" and no mold seams in evidence.

The 1906 Illinois Glass Company catalog scanned and posted on this website has a couple pages devoted to these vials with "patent finishes"; both pages may be viewed at the following link - 1906 homeopathy vials.  By their 1920 catalog (also completely scanned and posted on this site) the variety had increased a bit in regards to the finishes available, i.e., they were available with the standard "patent" type collar, ones with no distinctive finish (the straight finish "shell vials"), and now with an external screw thread finish and a metal screw cap closure.  Click on the following links to see the three pages devoted in this 1920 catalog to these vials: 1920 standard finish homeopathy vials - page 228; 1920 homeopathy "shell" vials - page 229; 1920 screw threaded homeopathy vials - page 230.   The 1926 Illinois Glass Company catalog also listed the same styles and finishes for these vials with the notation that they were "machine made homeopathy vials."  Click on the following links to see the three pages devoted in the 1926 catalog to these vials: 1926 standard finish homeopathy vials - page 304; 1926 screw threaded homeopathy vials - page 305; 1926 homeopathy "shell" vials - page 306.  Finally, although not scanned and posted on this website, two early Whitall, Tatum & Co. (NJ) catalogs offered identical homeopathic vials to the above early 20th century examples, featuring "heavy...patent tool finishes" and the straight finish "case vials" (Whitall, Tatum & Co. 1879, 1880).  All the noted catalogs (except 1926) listed the vials as available in amber and blue glass, although production in true colored glass (not colorless which later turned a mild amethyst tint) was unusual.

One other type of homeopathy bottle much less encountered than the vials are the bulk bottles which held the concentrated ingredient used to produce the homeopathic preparation dispensed in the vials.  The image to the left is of two bulk homeopathic bottles that are more or less like the "French square" style discussed in the druggist bottle section above.  These bottles are embossed vertically on one side with BOERICKE & TAFEL'S / TRITURATIONSIn homeopathic medicine, "trituration" is "The process of diluting a non-soluble substance for homeopathic use by grinding it to a fine powder and mixing it with lactose powder" (Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine 2008). 

Both bottles are about 7.5" tall, 2.8" per side wide, and were blown in the same post-bottom mold that shows no evidence of mold air venting.  The amber bottle has an applied "patent" finish though the aqua example has a tooled finish.  Given the difference in finishing methods, different colors, and the noted mold based diagnostic features it is clear that these bottles were blown during separate production runs (possibly years apart) during the transition time from applied to tooled finishes, i.e., late 1870s to mid-1880s.  Click the following links to view more images of these bottles: base view showing the distinct post-bottom mold configuration having a moderately domed "post" portion indenting the base; close-up of the shoulder, neck and finishes with the side mold seam termination point marked; and a view of just the amber, applied finish example showing the embossing pattern more clearly.

According to provider of these bottles:

Originally, these bottles were used in the manufacturing facilities of Boericke & Tafel homeopathic pharmacy in Santa Rosa, CA.  This company was founded 1853 and had offices initially in Philadelphia, then expanded across the country. Homeopathy was widely used in the western U.S. in the  1800s to  early 1900s - many covered wagons carried their homeopathic remedy kits with them as they came west.  Boericke & Tafel was the primary provider of homeopathic medicines for the west coast, and supplied homeopathic hospitals in San Francisco. These bottles were not made for the purpose of sales to the public.  These are trituration bottles, in aqua, yellow amber or dark amber glass, to hold the intermediate substances as they go through the step by step process to create the final medicine which was then bottled into small dispensing vials. 

They were a thriving company until the 1930s-40s when the advent of antibiotics and other more powerful drugs overshadowed and replaced much of homeopathy and other naturopathic forms of medicine.  When the company closed it's facilities in Santa Rosa in the late 1940s, the bottles were given to a small private local museum that featured historical items about medicine.  Eventually, that museum also closed and the bottles were donated to another museum...which eventually de-accessioned these properties .  These bottles were held in storage for more than a decade, then divested as part of a large lot of items.

Interesting, eh?!  Click on this link - Boericke & Tafel's bottle group - to view an image of several cases of these bulk bottles with the original labels and still containing the white powdery bulk product used in the "triturations" producing the final product. These bottles all contain the concentrated homeopathic powder that is white due to the lactose matrix.  All the bottles have the same closure - a lathed wood cap with a cork sheath which attached and glued to a "peg" protruding from the base of the wooden cap.  NOTE:  Bottles and history provided courtesy of Karen Allen, C.C.H. - www.karenallenhomeopathy.com  Much thanks!

Dating summary/notes:  Homeopathy vials - a very  homogenous category which really only vary in size and finish type - do not following the dating rules laid out within this website very well due to the bottles being made in a way that erased the mold seams even though the later ones were likely machine-made.  The dating of the vials was covered in the body of the discussion above.  Conversely, the triturations bottles discussed above follow quite well the guidelines presented throughout this website and summarized on the Bottle Dating page; see that page for more information. 

 

Other Shapes

There were other shapes used for the packaging of the various products produced by druggists.  These may be expanded in the future as the opportunity allows; we are open to ideas for additional druggist bottle types...

 

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Poison & Chemical bottle styles

Early 20th century mouth-blown poison bottle; click to enlarge.Early 20th century poison fron view; click to enlarge.This grouping of bottles is bound together only by the fact that they were primarily intended for products not intended for internal human consumption but still types that could be used for medicines or pharmaceuticals.  Content possibilities for some of the more generic bottles were virtually limitless and included denatured or wood alcohol, ammonia or other cleaning compounds, formaldehyde, insecticide or other pest chemicals, iodine, liniments, acids, embalming fluids, various antiseptic compounds, vaporizer substances, writing ink, and many other substances which were known to be toxic to humans if ingested. 

The major difference between the two parts of this category ("chemical" and "poison" bottles) are not the contents but the fact that a majority of poison bottles had design features that physically indicated the contents were poisonous.  This usually entailed the embossing of multiple bumps and ridges, bright glass colors, and/or unusual shapes (Griffenhagen 1969; Durflinger 1975).  Chemical bottles are a vague category and covered next briefly.  As with most of the groupings and categories on this page, there is a high diversity of shapes and sizes used, of which only a few are covered here. 

(Authors note: Although some of the bottles covered here were certainly used for medicinal products, many were just as typically used for insecticides, ammonia, and other cleaning products which would not be considered medicinal.  These noted categories of products are covered additionally on the Household Bottles [non-food related] page.)

Chemical bottles are a hard to define category as they varied in shape immensely - from small rectangular bottles (like the deep green bottle pictured below left) to large capacity containers that were referred to as "shop furniture" (covered above).  The 1906 Illinois Glass Company bottle catalog did not list any bottles specifically for "chemicals", though did offer glass stoppered "acid bottles" which were similar to the "tincture" (narrow bore/neck) type shop furniture bottles.  Click IGCo. 1906 pages 92-93 (right page) to view their offering for acid bottles which were specifically intended for liquid chemicals and ranged in size from 4 oz. to 2 gallons.  Click acid bottle to view a large (about a quart) mouth-blown chemical bottle with a ground glass stopper from eBay® that is typical of the bulk chemical bottles made during the last half of the 19th century to the mid-20th century.  Click label close-up to see such on the same bottle indicating a manufacture between about 1907 (label notes the Pure Food & Drugs Act) and the mid-1920s (likely ending date for most mouth-blown bottles of that type).  Due to the vagueness of this category it is only covered by a couple additional examples which follow.

1880s druggist packing bottle; click to enlarge.The large (about a quart in capacity) amber bottle pictured to the right is what the Illinois Glass Company called a "Druggist's Packing Bottle" in their early 20th century catalogs (Illinois Glass Co. 1903).  They offered it in 15 sizes ranging from 1/4 pint to 2 gallons and may have been the same bottles as discussed in the above paragraph ("acid bottles") except that acid bottles were fitted with a ground glass stopper instead of simply sealed with a cork.  Click IGCo. 1906 pages 94-95 to view their 1906 offerings of these "packing" bottles.  The pictured bottle (right) has a crudely applied "patent" or possibly "packer" finish (a fine line separates these two finishes based largely on height), was blown in a post-bottom mold, has ample body crudity (whittle markings), and no evidence of air venting all of which indicate a likely 1875-1885 manufacturing date, though the maker is unknown (i.e., no makers markings).  These type of unembossed generic type bottles could have - and likely were - used for many types of liquid products, e.g., ammonia or other cleaning products, acids and chemicals of all types as well as liquor, maple syrup, or anything that could be poured into it.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  base view showing the post-bottom mold conformation (side seam coming around the heel onto the base is visible in the upper part of the picture); close-up of the shoulder, neck, and applied finish.

Merchant's Chemist bottle; click to enlarge.The deep emerald green bottle pictured to the right could have been listed under the "Early Medicinal Bottles" section earlier on this page but is listed here because of the "Chemist" notation in the embossing and the fact that it possibly held a product designed for external use.  Specifically, it is embossed with the following: FROM THE / LABORATORY - OF / G. W. MERCHANT / CHEMISTS - LOCKPORT / N.Y.  It dates from the Civil War period (early 1860s) and was produced in a two-piece "key" mold, is very crude with no evidence of air venting, has a crudely applied oil finish, and though the bottle base is not pontil scarred, many of these type bottles are pontiled (Wilson & Wilson 1971).  The bottle is also quite distinctive in shape being rectangular with indented beveled corners instead of the typical flat beveled corners (see the "base view" picture linked below).  The medicinal contents were likely Merchant's very popular "Celebrated Gargling Oil" which was actually a liniment touted for "Man or Beast" though was largely directed towards use on horses.  It was originally solely for external use though appears to have been later used internally as it contained 44% alcohol and one grain of opium per fluid ounce (Holcombe 1977; McKearin & Wilson 1978).  The company did produce several other medicines intended clearly for internal use including a couple types of sarsaparilla, "Itch Ointment", "Kreosote Toothache Drops", and "Balm of X Thousand Flowers" - some of which could also have been packaged in this generic type bottle (Odell 2000).  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  base view showing the rectangular indentation that essentially obscures the offset "key" portion of the two-piece base mold seam (not uncommon during that era); close-up of the shoulder, neck, and applied finish; view of one embossed narrow side (FROM THE / LABORATORY); view of the other embossed narrow side (LOCKPORT / N.Y.).  Click labeled MERCHANT bottle to see an example of this bottle type that was reused or "pirated" by another New York druggist and relabeled for their own product - Madder Compound.  (Note: The madder plant - Rubia tinctorum - was an old world herb that "...promotes menstrual and urinary discharges." [Frederick Stearns 1886].)

The small amber rectangular poison bottle pictured in two views in the top left corner of this box is embossed with POISON on both narrow sides.  This example is also embossed on the base with P. D. & CO. and the (now meaningless) mold number 405.  This was a generic poison bottle used by Parke, Davis & Co., a large pharmaceutical & chemical firm based in Detroit, MI. but with many offices around the world.  They did business under that name from 1875 to 1970 when it was acquired by Warner-Lambert (Durflinger 1975; Fike 1987).  These particular type bottles were made in sizes up to at least 8" tall (Munsey 1970).  Note the small embossed "warning" bumps on the four edges of the bottle.  This was commonly done on bottles intended for poisonous substances that might be placed among other medicines for human consumption.  Variations of these type rectangular poison bottles were made in many sizes by both mouth-blown and machine manufacturing methods by many companies (Durflinger 1975).   Mouth-blown examples similar to that shown date from the 1910s and before; machine-made versions from the later 1910s and after.   Click on the base view which vaguely shows the embossing on the base.

Lattice embossed poison bottle; click to enlarge.One very popular and long produced style of poison bottles is as pictured to the right.  The Whitall Tatum & Co. listed this type in their 1880 catalog with the following description:

These bottles are especially useful, not for prescriptions, but for Liniments, and the various poisonous articles, as Laudanum, Corrosive Sublimate, Oxalic Acid, Oil of Vitriol, etc., which are likely to be kept in the family medicine closet.

The frequent accidents in the use of POISONS have made a demand from well-appointed apothecary stores for a bottle which shall protect patients from danger of mistake both night and day - by the touch, as well as by sight - in the use of poisonous preparations.

We have met this demand by a new line of bottles, of a deep cobalt blue color.  The surface is also covered with sharp diamond-shaped points, tastefully arranged.  It would not be easy to make any mistake with these bottles in use.

This verbiage would seem to indicate that this style of poison bottle was originated by Whitall, Tatum & Co. (likely) and a recent introduction in 1880, though they were reportedly introduced by the company in 1872 (Griffenhagen 1969).  (Note from 9/08: These bottles were also listed in the 1876 W. T. & Co. catalog.)  The style was occasionally produced in colorless ("flint glass" according to Whitall, Tatum) and olive green glass though any color but cobalt blue is very unusual.  A matching shell-cork type glass stopper with "sharp diamond-shaped points" on it was available at least as early as 1892 (Whitall Tatum 1892).  Whitall Tatum made this style in sizes ranged from 1/2 ounce to 16 ounces (the pictured bottle is about a 4 oz. size) and are always seen with manufacturing characteristics similar to prescription bottles, i.e. cup-bottom mold produced and a tooled prescription finish.  Earlier examples would likely have no air venting marks, though later ones do.  Click on the following links for more images of this particular bottle: base view showing the W. T. CO. embossing; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish (images from eBay®).  This style was produced by Whitall Tatum until at least the early 1910s, but had disappeared from their catalogs by the 1920s (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1909,1924).

The style was also copied by other glass manufacturers in later years (early 20th century) as examples up to one gallon size and with other glassmakers marks have been noted (Durflinger 1975; empirical observations).  One common base marking on these bottles - including later machine-made versions - is H. B. CO.  Click H. B. CO. poison base to see an image of this base marking on a machine-made diamond lattice poison bottle like the example pictured to the right above; the suction scar or base parison mold line is faintly visible (see the Glassmaking & Glassmakers page for more information on these subjects).  The maker of these bottles - the H. B. CO. - is still as yet unknown (Toulouse 1971; Lockhart pers. comm. 2006).

Owl Poison bottle from the early 20th century; click to enlarge.The cobalt blue poison bottle pictured to the left is a common early 20th century bottle from one of the first more or less national chain drugstores with a distinctive shape (triangular) and color (cobalt blue) that was used for various poisonous compounds.  It is embossed on all three sides with the following: THE OWL DRUG COMPANY (horizontally in script) - POISON - (Owl on a mortar & pestle trade mark).  These bottles were made between the late 1890s and at least the early 1920s by both mouth-blown (1890s to the possibly as late as 1920) and machine-made methods (late-1910s through the 1920s) (Munsey 1970; Mark Lutsko pers. comm. 2004; empirical observations).  The pictured example is a mouth-blown example which has the typical diagnostic features of an early 20th century mouth-blown bottle - tooled finish, cup-bottom mold produced, and multiple air venting marks.  It is the next to largest size which ranged from less than 3" to 9 1/2" (quart size).  The Owl Drug Company poison bottles are frequently seen with the labels indicating they were used for a myriad of different non-consumptive products including denatured alcohol, formaldehyde, ammonium, and likely many other poisonous compounds (Jensen 1967; Durflinger 1975; empirical observations).  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  base view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Early 20th century mouth-blown poision; click to enlarge.Early 20th century poison mouth-blown poison bottle; click to enlarge.The small semi-triangular poison bottle pictured to the right is a variation of the style theme represented by the bottle at the very top of this section.  It is not embossed with the words poison but does have the tell-tale bumps on the corners warning a person that a poisonous substance was contained within.  These type bottles were also made in many sizes (up to over 10" tall) and by mouth-blown and machine methods (Munsey 1970; Durflinger 1975).  This particular bottle is mouth-blown (tooled finish, cup-bottom mold produced, air venting) and dates from the first couple decades of the 20th century.  Click on base view to see an image showing the semi-triangular shape and a meaningless (today) mold number.

Additional images/information of poison or chemical bottles:

  • TRILOIDS - This bottle merges the characteristics of the last two poison bottles covered above in that it is cobalt blue and triangular (like the Owl Drug Co. bottles) but has the corner or edge warning bumps like the amber bottle above.  Although some of these bottles are actually embossed with TRILOIDS on the side, the pictured one is just embossed with POISON vertically on two sides.  The TRILOIDS bottles came in at least two sizes - 1.75" and 3.25", like the pictured bottle (Durflinger 1975).  The third side was left plain for the label, which on the linked example, does identify the product as Triloids which were bichloride tablets used to make an antiseptic solution.  The pictured bottle is machine-made and embossed with an "M" in a circle on the base.  This indicates manufacture by the Maryland Glass Company (Baltimore, MD.) who used the "M" in a circle mark from 1916 until at least 1971 though this bottle most likely dates from the 1920s or early 1930s.  Maryland Glass Company was owned by the Emerson Drug Co. from 1907 to 1956 and the maker of the cobalt blue Bromo Seltzer bottles (Toulouse 1971).  Click on the followings links for more images of this bottle: base view showing the makers mark for the Maryland Glass Company and a fairly distinct Owens suction scar (the company first installed Owens Automatic Bottle Machines in 1915); side view with POISON embossed; the third side view with POISON.
  • Coffin shaped poison - Another of the many distinctive shapes used for poison bottles were those that were coffin shaped.  The pictured (linked) bottle is from the same era as the Triloids above and, in fact, was produced by the same glass company in cobalt blue (see the base view link below).  It also is machine-made, is embossed vertically with POISON on the two wide sides, and is covered with a plethora of warning bumps on all sides.  Bottles in the shape of coffins, skulls, bones, or embossed with skull and crossbones and other dire warning messages were designs used for poisons as the images or shapes were meant to conjure up images of death (Griffenhagen 1969).   Click on the following links for more images of this bottle:  base view showing the makers mark for the Maryland Glass Company and a fairly distinct Owens suction scar; side view showing the warning bumps.  Various coffin shaped bottles were made via mouth-blown and machine-made processes in an assortment of sizes (Durflinger 1975).
  • Vapo-Cresoline - This is one of the more common bottles found on historic sites dating from the 1880s to the middle of the 20th century.  It is unknown exactly when these bottles quit being made and used although the product itself was marketed until 1983 (Fike 1987).  The bottle contained a powerful germicide that was intended to be burned in specially designed lamps which the company also sold (image link below) and inhaled by the user.  Although the product was reported introduced in 1879 the lamps to burn the product were first produced (patented) in about 1885 and the bottles seem to exhibit characteristics that date from that time and later (Fike 1987; Munsey 2010).  The bottles all have square bodies which are covered with hundreds of small square bumps to warn the user that the contents were poisonous if taken orally.  The bottles are also typically embossed vertically within the bump pattern on one side with VAPO-CRESOLINE CO. and on the reverse with PATD US JUL 17 94 ENG JUL 23 94; the other two sides just have the standard "poison warning" bumps.  The aqua bottle to the left above is a mouth-blown item with a tooled prescription finish and cup-bottom mold conformation; mouth-blown examples appear to date from the 1890s into the mid-1910s.  The colorless (though with some of the contents remaining) bottle pictured to the right above is a machine-made example that dates from the 1920s or early 1930s (empirical observations).  Click on the following links for more related images pertinent to this bottle:  1904 advertisement for Vapo-Cresoline showing the lamp smoking and noting that it "cures while you sleep" a host of ailments including whooping cough, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and much more; image of a Vapo-Cresoline lamp and its original box.  Apparently the bottles were produced by several different glass companies as machine-made examples have been noted with the markers markings for the Owens Bottle Co. (1911 to 1929) and the Owens-Illinois Glass Co. (1929 to 1950s) (Fike 1987).  It is unknown where the mouth-blown examples were made, although the Illinois Glass Co. (1873 to 1929) would be a good guess given the connection with subsequent companies that produced the bottles.  Click Vapo-Cresoline bases to view a mouth-blown (cup-bottom molded) example to the left and a machine-made example to the right which has the marking for the Owens-Illinois Glass Co. as well as an suction scar indicating manufacture on an Owens Automatic Bottle Machine.  For more information on the subject, please click on Vapo-Cresoline 1881-1950 by Dr. Cecil Munsey to view a fully illustrated article on the subject, available here courtesy of Dr. Munsey.
  • Large generic chemical/pharmaceutical bottles - The large amber bottles pictured here are between approximately 11.5" tall, produced in turn-molds (so lack any mold seams or embossing), and have crudely applied patent and/or prescription finishes.  Given the characteristics, they likely date from the last two decades of the 19th century, although these almost fall into the specialty bottle category where some of the dating guidelines variably break down.  These are large "utility" type bottles - utility meaning of a style that was used for a multitude of products - could have been used for many types of liquid products, e.g., pharmaceuticals, ammonia or other cleaning products, acids and chemicals of all types as well as liquor, maple syrup, or anything that could be poured into (and out of) it.  As discussed earlier in this section, these are also examples of the type that the Illinois Glass Company called a "Druggist's Packing Bottle" in their early 20th century catalogs (Illinois Glass Co. 1903).  They offered it in 15 sizes ranging from 1/4 pint to 2 gallons - with these being approximately one gallon in size.  Click IGCo. 1906 pages 94-95 to view their 1906 offerings of these "packing" bottles.
  • Ca. 1900 English poison bottle; click to enlarge.Paregoric Elixir "poison" bottle - This is a very typical English-made poison bottle which is frequently seen in the North America also.  It has six equal sides, blown in a cup-bottom mold, tooled finish, and is about 5" tall though it is style produced in many sizes and colors (with blue and emerald green being common).  The bottle also has vertical ribs on two sides the side to remind one that the contents are dangerous along with the embossed warning NOT TO BE TAKEN between the vertically ribbed sides.  Click side view to see the six-sided base.  The label notes that the product was Paregoric Elixir made by E. E. Hall & Co. of Wolverhampton (central England) with the internal dose suggestions - contrary to the embossing on the bottle.  Paregoric is an "opioid analgesic" used for several medical reason, though in the day when this bottle was used it used to "calm fretful children" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paregoric).
  •  

Dating summary/notes: Due to the diversity of shapes the dating of poison and chemical bottles can not be reliably done based on shape alone since many of the shapes were made over relatively long time spans.  Instead dating must be approached based on manufacturing based diagnostic features or through research of the historical record for that bottle, if possible.  Dating of these type bottles follows quite well the guidelines presented throughout this website and summarized on the Bottle Dating page; see that page for more information.  Some of the shapes covered above did, however, have prime periods of use which were noted in the discussion above. This type information can assist in making reliable dating estimations.

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Other related shapes/styles

This section is a catch-all section for various distinctly shaped medicinal bottles that do not fit in with the above categories.  As with the rest of the medicinal bottles covered on this page, an intuitively satisfying systematic organization system is impossible for medicines since the variety is staggering.  However, the following bottle types are strongly identified with certain products.

Citrate of Magnesia

Citrate of Magnesia ca. 1920; click to enlarge.1922 Citrate of Magnesia bottle illustration; click to enlarge.Citrate of magnesia (also called "citrate" here) was a medicine very commonly used for the treatment of constipation and upset stomach.  The product is still available and to quote clinically from the website WholeHealthMD.com, it is still used to "To treat short-term constipation and for rapid emptying of the colon for rectal and bowel examinations."  Unlike many of the medicinal products discussed on this page, citrate of magnesia probably actually worked as claimed.  They are also a type bottle very frequently encountered on historic sites.  Citrate was typically sold as a carbonated liquid product but was also available as a non-carbonated liquid and in granular form for mixing with another liquid.  Click granulated citrate of magnesia to see the typical type bottle that contained the granulated form of citrate.   (Note:  It appears that granulated citrate was commonly - though not exclusively - imported from England with many of the bottles made there also.)

Citrate bottles can vary somewhat in shape though most made during the first third of the 20th century closely resemble the example pictured to the left and illustrated to the right.  This style of citrate bottles had a moderate width and height body, moderately tall sloped shoulders, and a short to moderate length neck.  Bottles of this style often (but not always) have a ring or two at the base of the neck and were almost always made with a heavy (thick) colorless glass to properly contain the typically carbonated contents.  Citrate of magnesia is strongly identified with this bottle style though it was not the only type bottle used for the product as the teal blue bottle shown below indicates.

The finishes and closures associated with this style bottle vary widely.  During the mouth-blown era the finishes were dominated by various subtle versions of the blob and double ring finishes - including the distinctive double ring known as the "citrate of magnesia finish" by bottle makers (discussed more below) - and later the crown cap finish (including on the "PRIOF" finish; discussed later).  Both the blob and double ring finishes were sealed with corks or various lightning-type closures.  During the early machine-made era, all of the above noted finishes/closures were still used as well various other snap cap accepting types (Goldy, Kork-N-Seal, Pride) and eventually external screw threads.  Click on IGCo. catalog 1906 pages 52-53 to see several different citrate bottle types made by that large company in the early 20th century.  The illustration to the right is from the Obear-Nester Glass Co.  (St. Louis, MO.) 1922-1923 catalog and shows their version of a generic citrate bottle that is almost identical in conformation to the bottle to the above left, including the ring (or rings in this case) on the neck (Illinois Glass Co. 1906; Bellaire Bottle Co. ca. 1905; Obear-Nestor 1922).

Citrate of Magnesia from around 1880; click to enlarge.The earliest (1870s) identified style used for citrate is pictured to the right and illustrated in the bottom right corner of this section.  It has a much shorter and steeply angled shoulder than the other types noted here, a short neck, double ring finish (rarely a bead, prescription, or wide prescription finish), and was often embossed with proprietary druggist/drug store information in a round plate on one side.  The pictured example is embossed in a round plate with C. L. WILHELM / SAN FRANCISCO.  The history behind this particular proprietor is unknown though the bottle was blown in a cup-bottom mold, has a tooled double ring finish, and lacks any evidence of mold air venting leading to a likely manufacturing date range of 1870s to the early 1880s.  This particular bottle shows the double ring finish variation known as the "citrate of magnesia" finish in which the upper finish part has a fairly sharp outer edge.  This particular finish was pictured and named as such in early glass catalogs and is almost exclusively observed on these earlier citrate bottles (Whitall Tatum 1892).  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle: close-up of the shoulder, neck, and distinctive finish; base view.  This earliest citrate style appears to always be a mouth-blown bottle typically in aqua colored glass, though colorless as well as very bright colors (emerald green, cobalt blue) are occasionally seen.  Like with the druggist bottles discussed earlier, these earlier citrate bottles were usually blown in cup-bottom molds as early as the 1870s, predating most bottle styles manufacture in that type of mold.  (See the Druggist Bottle Dating Summary/Notes section found earlier on this page, as it is pertinent to this style also.) The style was made concurrently to some extent with the more modern style described above after about 1900, but seems to have faded from popularity when machine-made manufacture dominated bottle production in the 1910s (Whitall Tatum 1880, 1909; IGCo. 1899, 1903, 1911, 1920; Obear-Nestor 1922).

Citrate from 1925-1930; click to enlarge.The very typical citrate of magnesia bottle pictured to the top left is a machine-made example that was made by the Owens Bottle Company (Toledo, OH.) which operated under that name from 1911 to 1929 and likely used the "Box O" mark (see base picture link below) from about 1919 to 1929 (Toulouse 1971; Lockhart et al. 2004d).  It is embossed with  CITRATE / OF / MAGNESIA in a banner type format surrounded by a circle.  This type of embossing in a banner with other decorative elements was very common of the citrate bottles made by most bottle makers.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  base view showing the makers mark for the Owens Bottle Co.; close-up of the neck, shoulder, finish, and closure; close-up of the label.

A similar citrate bottle with a bit different conformation - and produced by a different glass company - is pictured immediately to the left.  It has embossed "flutes" on the shoulder, a more pronounced ring at the neck/shoulder junction, and a distinct pedestal heel/base but is otherwise very similar (i.e., machine-made, colorless glass, 12 oz. capacity, and lightning style closure).  This one was produced by the Knox Glass Bottle Co. (Knox, PA.) as indicated by the "keystone" symbol on the base with a "K" inside; a mark that was used from 1924 to 1968 (Lockhart 2004b).  This particular bottle dates from the earlier part of the this period, i.e., 1924 to possibly the early 1930s.  Click the following links to view more images of this bottle: base view showing the makers mark and a distinctive Owens machine suction scar; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish showing the mold induced decorative features.  There were many individual styles of citrate bottles made during the first half of the 20th century though most share the general shape shown by the examples pictured above.

Early 20th century proprietary citrate bottle; click to enlarge.The distinctly different bottle pictured to the right is a proprietary shaped and embossed citrate bottle that was produced by The Owl Drug Company (San Francisco, CA. with offices across the country).  It is embossed with THE OWL DRUG COMPANY / (owl on a druggist mortar & pestle trade mark) / SAN FRANCISCO.  This is one of about a half dozen different citrate bottles, including one similar to the "standard" examples shown above, that this company used during its heyday between formation in 1892 and being absorbed into the Rexall Drug Company in the mid-1930s (Jensen 1967; Fike 1987; Levine 2010).  This bottle was mouth-blown in a cup-bottom mold, has a tooled "blob" or "ring" type finish, and multiple air venting marks on the shoulder and base - all diagnostic characteristics which in combination are indicative of early 20th century mouth-blown production.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle: base view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.  Click emerald green Owl citrate to see another color and mold variant of the Owl citrate bottles.  These bottles are relatively commonly found on early 20th century historical sites in the West (and elsewhere less commonly) as the product was quite popular.  The unique shape - which is very much like an apollinaris mineral water discussed on the Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes: Soda & Mineral Water Bottles page - and color was likely good for sales.  Whether this product was carbonated or not is unknown though the glass is moderately heavy.

Additional images/information on Citrate of Magnesia bottles:

  • "PRIOF" Citrate of Magnesia -  The pictured bottle is body embossed with SOLUTION / CITRATE / MAGNESIA inside a fancy scrollwork shield.  It has the makers mark (on the heel) for the Illinois Pacific Glass Corporation (San Francisco, CA.) which was very closely affiliated with (owned by) the Illinois Glass Company.  This bottle dates between 1926 and 1930 as that was the period in which the "IPG in a triangle" makers mark was used (Lockhart et al., 2005d).  The "PRIOF" closure is actually a finish variation for the crown cap intended to make it easier to remove the cap in that it could be "pried off" with a non-standard opener without breaking the bottle.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  entire bottle showing the embossing and body rings (typical of many Citrate bottles); close-up of the shoulder, neck and finish.  The "PRIOF" closure was most commonly used on Citrate of Magnesia bottles produced during the 1920s and 1930s (and possibly a bit after that).
  • Pontiled citrate of magnesia - This is the earliest marked citrate of magnesia known to the author dating from the 1855 to early 1860s era.  It has a crudely applied double ring finish, was blown in a key base type Civil War era citrate of magnesia; click to enlarge.mold without air venting, and has a blowpipe type pontil scar on the base.  It should be noted that this is a bottle where the key base conformation can be discerned with very close inspection as it is partially hidden by the indented conformation of the base which makes it appear as though it were post-bottom mold produced.  The embossing - CITRATE OF MAGNESIA - is also in an early style rectangular plate similar to the soda and mineral water bottles of the 1850s and 1860s.  The bottle is of colorless glass which was a relative rarity during this early era, but typical of most later citrates, i.e., the late 19th century well into the 20th.  This colorless glass was not decolorized with manganese dioxide and will not solarize to an amethyst tint.  This early citrate is almost identical in size and form to to the cylindrical Smith & Davis bottle discussed in the druggist section above; that latter bottle was most likely used for citrate of magnesia also.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  base view showing the blowpipe type pontil scar; close-up of the shoulder, neck and crude double ring finish.

1903 IGCo. catalog illustration of citrate bottle; click to enlarge.Dating summary/notes: The two most common styles of citrate bottles discussed above did seem to have date specific eras of popularity.  The "earlier" type (illustrated to the right and pictured above left) appears to have originates during the mid 1870s and continued in popularity until at least the early 1900s to possible early 1910s; this style appears to have been almost exclusively mouth-blown, disappearing as bottle machines became the rule. 

The later citrate style - as shown by the first picture and illustration in this section - appears to have originated by the late 1890s and lasted to at least the 1930s; mouth-blown and machine-made versions of this style are both common.  By the mid-20th century, citrate came in various types of bottles some of which resembled colorless non-returnable beer bottles (IGCo. 1903, 1911; Owens-Illinois Co. 1952; Pollard 1993; Fletcher 1994; Preble 2002).  Outside of the noted stylistic dating trend for the two main styles, the general dating of citrate bottles must be done using manufacturing based diagnostic features (see the Bottle Dating pages for more dating information) or by searching the historical record when the company or product related embossing and/or labeling allows for such an opportunity.

 

Ointment bottles/jars

Vasoline bottle from the 1910s or 1920s.Medicinal ointment (salve, cream, unguent) bottles were usually short to moderate in height bottles with wide bodies and mouths - aka jars.  The wide mouths allowed for easier access to the solid or semi-solid contents which were commonly applied with the finger or sometimes an applicator.  There were untold numbers of different "ointments" and "salves" produced and bottled during the era covered by this website, i.e., the early 1800s to mid-20th century.  The common Vaseline bottle pictured to the left is typical of 20th century type ointment bottles.  There was a wide array of variations of ointment bottles of which only a few are covered here.

Not all ointment came in glass jars by any means.  In fact, small pottery, ceramic, and metal containers were probably as common in the 19th century (and prior) as glass jars for that purpose.  The small (1.4" [3.3 cm] tall), ceramic, English ointment pot/jar pictured to the right contained an ointment which claimed to be good for the "...cure of gout and rheumatism, inveterate ulcers, sore breasts, sore heads, bad legs..." - a listing of treated ailments typical of medicinal ointments produced prior to the 1910s (and some even after).  The product in this small jar was named Holloway's Ointment and was imported into the U. S. during the mid-19th century; this example was excavated from a Civil War era context in the Midwest.  Click on the following links to view an 1870s or 1880s New England ceramic ointment jar with a metal "embossed" lid for Dr. Henry's Ointment view of the lid and jar; close-up of the lid which lists numerous diseases that the ointment would cure (photos compliments of Joel Williams).   

The small (2.5" [7.5 cm] tall by 1.9" [4.8 cm] wide) external threaded bottle/jar pictured to the upper left is a very commonly encountered item, although usually in colorless glass.  It is embossed with TRADE MARK / VASELINE / CHESEBROUGH / NEW-YORK on one side.  Vaseline was (and is) a petroleum based ointment that was (and is) used for the treatment of minor wounds and bruises, though the medicinal claims have been toned down in the 20th century.  It was first marketed in the late 1860s as "good for man or beast.  The name Vaseline was registered as a trademark in 1877 (source: http://www.unilever.ie/ourbrands/personalcare/vaseline.asp).  Bottles made prior to 1908 had wide mouth "bead" or "patent" type finishes (these were both mouth-blown and machine-made) which were sealed with a cork.  Click early machine-made cork closure finish Vaseline bottle to see such.  This linked example is embossed with CHESEBROUGH / VASELINE / MANUFACT'G CO., has a wide mouth patent type finish, and dates from the late 1890s to very early 1900s and is the non-threaded finish precursor to the bottles pictured in this section. 

Beginning in 1908, Vaseline jars had external screw thread finishes - a close-up of which is available at this link: close-up of the screw thread finish (Fike 1987).  The golden amber Vaseline jar to the upper left is a relatively early (1908 to mid-1910s most likely) and crude, machine-made example that does exhibit a very sloppy valve or ejection mark on the base that resembles a suction scar on first glance; click base view to see such.  A valve/ejection mark indicates production on a press-and-blow machine.  These type machines were the first semi-automatic machines developed and adopted in the mid-1890s for canning jars and other wide mouth wares (Miller & Morin 2004).  In fact, the first production bottles known to have been made on press-and-blow, semi-automatic machines were Vaseline bottles made by the C. L. Flaccus Glass Co. (Beaver Falls, PA.) in 1894 (Miller & Morin 2004; Lockhart et al. 2007d).   The two different colored Vaseline bottles to the immediate left (same embossing as the previous amber example except without the TRADE MARK above VASELINE) above date from 1908 to 1920s era with the amethyst example a solarized, previously colorless example.  Vaseline bottles/jars are very common items on 20th century historic sites in the U. S.

Ointment jar with a ground rim - ca. 1880s.The short (2" [5 cm] tall) yellowish amber jar pictured to the right is an earlier ointment jar that most likely dates from the 1880s (empirical observations).  It was blown in a cup-bottom mold, has a straight finish with a ground rim (indicating a burst-off type blowpipe removal - click ointment jar rim to view a close-up image of the finish), and lacks any evidence of mold air venting.  It is fairly crude having a distinctly uneven thickness to the base glass and extensive "whittle" to the body - all indicative of the mouth-blown manufacturing method.  This type jar was typically sealed with a metal or porcelain lid.  Jars identical to this one - in "Flint (colorless glass), Dark Green, Amber and Blue Glass" were sold as "Ointment Pots" by Whitall, Tatum & Co. (New Jersey) from at least as early as 1879 to at least as late as 1902.  The straight finish jars were replaced by similar jars having external screw thread finishes by 1909 (Whitall, Tatum & Co. 1879, 1892, 1902, 1909).  This particular jar may well have been made by Whitall, Tatum - a large period glass company - although there are no makers markings to confirm this; it only base embossed with an "M" which is of unknown meaning.  It should be noted that unmarked (and now unlabeled) jars such as these could have held other substances like cold cream, pomades (perfumed hair ointment), and other products that may not have claimed medicinal virtues.

The brilliant green machine-made jar pictured to the left was a commonly used style during at least the first half of the 20th century.  It has a proportionally wide body and mouth with an externally threaded finish; click ointment jar threaded finish to see the finish.  This particular jar was produced by the Owens-Illinois Glass Company in 1950 (possibly 1940) based on the mold markings on the base.  These specific jars - in this color - were produced at least as early as 1932 and continued to be manufactured until the early 1950s - at least in colorless glass (Lucas Co. Bottle Co. 1940s; Owens-Illinois Glass Co. 1932, 1952).  Click ointment jar base to see the markings on the base.  Like with the unmarked jar above, what this "ointment jar" (Owens-Illinois catalog name for these) contained is unknown and was undoubtedly variable depending on the user of these jar.

Dating summary/notes: Dating of these type bottles must be addressed based on manufacturing related diagnostic features or through research of the historical record when possible (i.e., if a label or embossing is present).  Dating of these type bottles, however, follows quite well the guidelines presented throughout this website and summarized on the Bottle Dating page; see that page for more information.

The following are a couple of links that expand on the history of Vaseline for those interested in the subject:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_jelly
http://www.vaseline.com/Carousel.aspx?Path=Consumer/AboutUs/History

 

 - More to be added in the future as time allows...

 

 

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For additional images of various labeled medicinal/chemical/druggist bottles click the following link to view the pertinent section of the Labeled Bottles page.

 


Again it must be stated that the category of bottles covered on this webpage (Medicinal/Chemical/Druggist) is enormous.  Like all of the bottle "typing" (typology) pages connected to the main Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes page, this page just scratched the surface as to the total diversity of these bottle types.  It does, however, cover the primary styles that were most commonly used and encountered within an archaeological context.  This page has also somewhat emphasized mouth-blown bottles since that subject is of more familiarity to the author of this website than later 20th century, machine-made items.  However, though the automated bottle production era also had incredible variety, it was not as diverse as the mouth-blown era since shape standardization and simplification was typical of machine manufacturing.  Also, bottle body embossing became much less frequent on machine-made bottles and a significant amount of the diversity of the mouth-blown production era was the different proprietary embossing on essentially the same shapes of bottles.


10/7/2014

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This website created and managed by:
Bill Lindsey
Bureau of Land Management (retired) -
Klamath Falls, Oregon
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