Dating antique medicine bottles

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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 on medicine bottles - "Literally hundreds of thousands of brands and variations of vessels were manufactured 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"Medicine is as old as man, no doubt born of necessity and wrought by trial and error. Thus, the allure of patent or proprietary medicines Young The picture at the top of the 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 midth century medicine with a general shape rectangular with indented panels that was used for tens of thousands of different medicinal products from the midth 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 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. 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. There were likely ten's of thousands of different embossed druggist bottles made between the s and s - the heyday of the proprietary druggist bottle. 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. Medicinal bottles were similar to liquor bottles another very diverse category in that bottle de was not inherently constrained by some quality of the contained product, i.

One exception was citrate of magnesia which was usually carbonated and bottled in heavier almost soda-like 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.

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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 s or s. If interested, users are directed to consult some of the various publications noted below or check some of the references mentioned throughout this.

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 Pure Food and Drugs Act of effective January 1, : The Pure Food and Drugs Act of imposed regulations on the labeling of products containing alcohol, morphine, opium, cocaine, heroin, alpha or beta eucaine, chloroform, Cannabis indicachloral 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 - the Sherley Amendment Fike NOTE : From implementation of the above Act until the early to mid s, 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, 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" although many producers continued to make wild claims about their product with "cure" changed to "remedy" for example next paragraph.

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However, enforcement was still not complete and some use of the term most likely did occur afteralthough not likely embossed on bottles after this point. One of the first patent medicine producers to be prosecuted in was William Radam's Microbe Killer pictured and discussed later on this whose bottles claimed boldly to "Cure All Diseases. The bottle pictured to the left is an example of some of the bottle related adaptations patent medicine producers had to make after passage of the above act in order to continue selling their product without breaking the law.

This bottle is embossed as follows: DR. Upon close inspection one can see that word CURE was removed a more common version of this bottle has CURE from the embossing pattern via a small inserted plate which was instead engraved with REMED on the plate itself with the letter Y just after it engraved on the surface of the mold which was ly blank at the point. As an interesting side note, William J.

Parker was prosecuted under the regulations promulgated by the above act s and his claim for the product curing "diabetes, Bright's disease, malaria and diseases of the liver, blood and kidneys" was "declared recklessly and wantonly false and fraudulent.

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To further quote that reference "Government chemists reported that the preparation, which contained over 11 per cent alcohol, was essentially an alcohol-water solution bearing a cathartic drug together with Epsom salt, nitrates and iodids. The taste suggested senna. This all indicates manufacture during the early s, i. National Prohibition largely implemented in ; fully by January 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.

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 of medicinal bottles have been established primarily because someone wrote a definitive book on that grouping.

A user must be cognizant of the fact that the 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 web 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.

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:. Fike Excellent book that provides some historical information and codified descriptions for several thousand medicinal bottles during the era covered by this website. Note: This book is now in print again; check the References for more information.

This is a fantastic overview on the history of druggist or pharmaceutical containers including poison bottles, shop furniture, and much more. Also includes a large listing of the makers markings found on druggist bottles.

An in depth overview of the "age of quackery" prior and up to the passage of the first Federal Food and Drug law in Follow-up to the above book, but dealing with the post, increasingly regulated world of patent medicines. Walker Bingham This is a "coffee table" type book showing the diversity of claims and products - as represented by the advertising - of the patent medicine era.

Lots of full color pictures of the advertising. Holbrook Classic work on the subject of patent medicines, medicine shows, and the state of medicine in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Fascinating insider of the patent medicine and medicine show industry from an admitted medicine show con-woman herself. Heetderks, MD. Another "coffee table" type book that covers the subject of its title with lo of full color pictures. A series of articles by the muckraking Adams, originally published in Collier's Weekly in and combined into a book inviciously but intelligently attacked the gross malfeasance of the patent medicine industry.

The outcry and government action taken after the furor catalyzed by the Adams articles led to the passage of the "Pure Food and Drugs Act of " and ever increasing government regulation and enforcement in the decades following passage. Interesting and well done book on the subject noted in the title - Lydia Pinkham and her patent medicine empire - as well as just the general subject of patent medicines in the 19 th and early 20 th centuries from the female perspective.

Click IGCo. Catalog to access the that links to all the scans of this very useful catalog. Medicinal bottles are listed primarily on s, This is divided somewhat arbitrarily into the and sub- listed below. A user must be cognizant of the fact that the amount of shape and style crossover between and the of exceptions to this - or any medicinal bottle classification - is large enough to defy any systematic organization. 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 50 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 s on this site. If a term is unfamiliar, first check the Bottle Glossary for an explanation or definition. As an alternative, one can do a search of this website.

The first recorded use of molded proprietary embossing on an American made bottle body was around on a Dr. Robertson's Family Medicine bottle McKearin This category is primarily based on age as reflected by the bottles exhibiting the manufacturing related features typical of bottles made in the U.

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 for more information.

All pontil types are possible on early medicinal bottles, though blowpipe and iron pontil scars are the most frequently observed. See the Bottle Finishes for more information on bottle finishing techniques. 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 of these traits present on the same bottle and usually the trait is more distinct, i.

The early, dark olive green almost black glass medicine bottle pictured above left is embossed on four sides with C. This product was advertised between and as a cure for consumption tuberculosisliver complaint, asthma, colds, coughs, and pains in the side and chest Odell 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 basehas a sand pontil scarand 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. The large, dark olive green black glass square medicinal bottle pictured to the right most likely dates from the s or early s and is covered in the "Sarsaparilla" section later on this.

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. 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.

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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 s and the s, 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 as good for cancer, scrofula, scald head, liver complaint, low spirits, paralysis, syphilitic diseases, and other maladies Odell Sounds like it was high in alcohol which was very common. 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 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 baseand has no evidence of mold air venting. 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 s to mid s all were excavated in the Westhave no embossing, and were most commonly used for medicinal products.

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 moldedand various early style finishes rolled, thinly flared, early applied.

The first from left to rightthird laying downand sixth bottles are 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. Sarsaparilla's are covered specifically below though this particular bottle is a classic example of an early medicinal dating from about, i. OLD D R. An example of the "knock-off" competitor to the Dr.

Townsend's Sarsaparilla. It dates from the same era as the bottle noted abovebut was made in a deep emerald green color and has very heavy "whittle marks. The embossing is all on one side and as follows: DR. 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.

Dating antique medicine bottles

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Dating Antique Bottles