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 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. 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 page for more information.
Specifically, medicine bottles made during the period from about to the Civil War typically share most of the following diagnostic characteristics: All pontil types are possible on early medicinal bottles, though blowpipe and iron pontil scars are the most frequently observed.
See the Bottle Finishes page 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 number 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 tuberculosis , liver 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 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: 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 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.
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 s and the s, the latter period which would include machine-made bottles. Click the following links to view more images of this bottle: 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. 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: 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 West , have no embossing, and were most commonly used for medicinal products.
All of these small bottles exhibit the characteristics noted earlier: The first from left to right , third laying down , and 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: Sarsaparilla's are covered specifically below though this particular bottle is a classic example of an early medicinal dating from about, i. An example of the "knock-off" competitor to the Dr. It dates from the same era as the bottle noted above , but was made in a deep emerald green color and has very heavy "whittle marks.
The embossing is all on one side and as follows: 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 midth century and the context of where it was found this particular bottle likely dates from about to possibly the early s which would be the later end of the "early" era discussed here.
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 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 s and is embossed vertically with G. 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 s through the s, but seem to have not been produced after that time, though other styles were Odell ; empirical observations.
It also could have held any of the products of this company. Click the following links for additional images of this bottle: 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 s to possibly as late as the mid s Odell These big early cylinder medicinal bottles are relatively commonly found on midth century historic sites on the Eastern Seaboard and occasionally elsewhere.
Earlier bottles are typically various shades of medium to dark green like the pictured example which is from the late s or s with later similar shaped ones later s and early s 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: 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. This bottle likely dates from a bit later than that time though could possibly date as early as Photos courtesy of www. The bottles noted above are just a sampling of the thousands of different medicine bottles produced during the "early" era from about 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. 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 book "A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America" has some good early history and illustrations with dates of early pharmaceutical and patent medicine bottles. Return to the top of this page. 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 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 ; Fike Incidentally, the first patent issued for a medicinal product in the U.
Dozens of "categories" that could be covered separately are not simply because there are too many. Fike used over 40 categories in his classic medicinal book! 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.
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. The popularity of these products in the U. 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. 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. One example was the midth century product named Old Sachem Bitters and Wigwam Tonic which came in an attractive ringed "barrel" shaped bottle. By the s and beyond, driven by the increasing regulations prompted by the 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.
A few tonics continue as medicines to this day, though they are not common empirical observations. It was made in an attractive log cabin shape early marketing savvy and is embossed on the different levels of the roof with S. 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 Fike , though the cabin shaped bottles appear to not have been used after the s. The image to the right shows the two primary mold variations of the Plantation Bitters: