What the Doctor Ordered

My father was a man of many talents, as well as many interests. Recently, his antique bottle collection has found its way to me. What you are looking at here is a very small sampling of the bottles I now have at my house.

When I was little, my dad and my uncles used to enjoy “bottle hunting” in the hills around Bakersfield, Taft, and Maricopa, California. They would go to the dump, or to sites where buildings had been torn down, and who knows where else. Even as a child I was never really sure where they went. But they would return with some amazing treasures, at least to them.

Growing up, we did have some antique bottles on display in the house, but unbeknownst to us (well, to me, anyway), there were way more than that.

My dad never did anything half-way. Two more (large) boxes containing the rest of the collection were in the garage. Each bottle had been carefully wrapped in a paper napkin, numbered, and labeled. He also had a notebook that made it possible to tell at a glance what bottles he had, along with other pertinent information such as size and identifying features of each one.

Gradually, my trusty assistant and I have been unwrapping and admiring them, and I’ve been trying to learn about what had been in them and how old they might be. It should be no surprise that the majority of them have turned out to be medicine and cosmetic bottles. Thanks to Newspapers.com, I’ve been able to find quite a few early ads for many of these products.

Foster has been trying to figure out how to get the most out of the crumpled up napkins and trying out the containers for size.

The average antique bottle doesn’t sell for much, at least from what I’ve seen online. But there are lots of décor ideas (thanks, Pinterest!) for how you can use them around the house.

These are all Listerine bottles. First, I didn’t realize Listerine was such an old brand. And who knew you could use it as shaving lotion? If you were to believe this 1915 ad, you might even try to use it as first aid for cuts and wounds. And if we do the math, if it had been recommended for “over 30 years”, that means it goes back to at least 1885.

In high school I did a report about patent medicines, and I remember not being able to find a lot of information on the topic even back then. So far I haven’t been able to find much about Dr. Drake’s Croup Remedy. Apparently the active ingredient in Dr. Drakes German Croup Remedy was opium. This one doesn’t say “German” on the bottle, but just the same, I wouldn’t trust it.

I found an ad for Dr. Drake’s, from 1911, and one for Chamberlain’s from 1907. You’ll notice that this one assures us that it contains no opium. According to the notebook, there should be a Chamberlain’s bottle somewhere, but I have yet to find it. It’s supposed to be light green, 5 and 5/8 inches tall, and melted.

In January of 1915, Emil received a letter from his younger brother Axel, who reported that both he and little brother Kermit had colds. Of course he was careful to point out that he had the worst one. I wonder if my great grandmother Anna Caroline gave them any of the aforementioned cough remedies.

Dr. Bell’s pine tar honey compound doesn’t sound too soothing or pleasant to take, but I guess in 1922 it was.

The Phenolax Wafers bottle, according to Daddy’s notebook, measures one inch around and is 2 and 7/8 inches tall. The wafers were made by the Upjohn company, and I was alarmed to read in this 1922 ad that “children eat it like candy”. Not the best idea for a laxative, I don’t think, but that could just be me.

I really like the ones that are different colors. The blue one is a two and a half inch high Bromo Seltzer bottle by Emerson Drug Co., out of Baltimore. The brown one is, well, poison.

Nice to know that for 10 cents you could not only cure all headaches, but have a clear head as well.

It looks as if the National Remedy Company had medicines for just about everything.

I really like this one. And wouldn’t you know, Kerkoff’s Paris perfume was the perfect “dainty” Christmas gift!

Stay tuned for Part 2. It will be just what the doctor ordered!

15 thoughts on “What the Doctor Ordered

  1. What a wonderful collection, especially knowing they were dug up as treasure! I used to buy bottles like that in collectible stores. They make great vases for tiny bouquets of flowers and herbs. I never have enough cut flowers to fill full sized vases but little bouquets are so charming. 🌱⚘

  2. When my husband was little, he and his friend used to go digging for old bottles. He had some lovely dark blue and green ones. Most had raised ridges down the sides and I believe they’d contained poisons (goodness knows what for). They may even still be in a box somewhere.

    Foster still loves a box, I see! 📦 🐈

    1. I’m amazed that there were as many bottles out there to be dug up in the first place! I’ve seen on Pinterest how you can clean them so they are clear, but I like the cloudy look myself, because it makes them more interesting. I can send Foster over to look for your box, he’s pretty good at finding them. 😂😂

      1. What a neat collection! I love that he took the time to write each one down plus the description. The ads are so fun to see after all these years.

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