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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Bottle By Any Other Name ...

I have been collecting bottles for a long, long time, and I've seen and read about many types of collections: based on a certain manufacturer, time period, location, etc.; most bottle collectors collect for color. For example, a collector may want to have every possible shade of brown that a certain bitters bottle comes in: brown, sand, wheat, amber, honey-amber, chocolate-brown, chocolate chip, etc. (okay, I made up the last one). Now I admit that it's a pretty sight to see one size and shape bottle displayed in a window in a progressive rainbow of hues, but here's what I don't get: a bottle label is often considered a deterrence to collectability. Huh?

That rationale is basically that you can't appreciate the pretty colors and age of the glass if there's this old label pasted over a part of the bottle. I understand what such collectors are saying, but I just don't feel that way at all, myself.

The label is HISTORY! It gives the bottle it's identity and often its character! MOST bottles did not have unusual shapes, colors, or embossing; all the proprietor could afford was the label. But those labels told the story! Whether it was a liquor bottle, a medicine, a cleaning solution, a flavoring extract, shoe gloss, or whatever, it gave the bottle its reason to exist! Labels tell who made the product, what it was, what it was for, where it was made, often clues to when, and much more. When it came to medicine bottles (obviously my favorite kind), it also listed what the medicine would cure. It was identification, instructions, and advertisement all in one!

Take this image for Dr. Abbott's Blood Purifying Sarsaparilla, made during the 1880s in Lynn, Massachusetts. The bottle is a common shape and the common aqua color (the brown you see is the dried residue of its contents). There is no embossing to tell any story. If the label wasn't on there, it would be considered a "junk" bottle by virtually every collector out there. Heck, even I wouldn't care about it. But the a-m-a-z-i-n-g label tells a story - WOW, what a story!



After years spent in the treatment of diseases, careful study and experiment, I am enabled to give to the world a medicine which I consider has no equal. Its composition is purely vegetable, and is designed to work chiefly upon the organs of digestion, assimilation, Liver, and Kidneys. It has also a specific action upon the heart. It increases the activity, and power of the Digestive organs, thus assisting nature in the digestion, assimilation, or transformation of our nourishment into a pure and vital fluid (the blood), which carries Vitality, Strength, and Vigor to every tissue. It has a cleansing and tonic effect upon the liver, by which bile is removed from the circulation. It produces an active and healthy condition of the kidneys, thus assisting in the removal of all wastes, and poisonous elements from the system. It also gives tonicity, force, and regularity to the tissues of the heart. There are also combined those principals which tends to overcome Constipation, Nervous Prostration, and to the extermination of Scrofulous, and Cancerous Humors, and is an excellent remedy for the cure of Dyspepsia, Sickheadached, Bronchitis, Catarrh, Rheumatism, Neuralgia, Jaundice, Dropsy, etc., diseases tending to Consumption, and of the Urinary, and Reproductive Organs, Female Weakness, Skin Affections, and all diseases arising from an impure state of the blood. Many valuable testimonials might be added, but a trial of the remedy is the only convincing proof of its true merit.


For an Adult, one Dessert Spoonful after meals, or sufficient quantity to gently relax the bowels; for Children, from five drops upward, according to age.


C.S. ABBOTT, M.D., Lynn, Mass.

Can be procured of any Druggist, or direct from Manufacturer.

Price, $1.00 per Bottle, or six for $5.00

Now here's what some of you probably don't know: a small number of the extreme collect-for-color bottle collectors will remove the label so the light can show through the glass; I have been told this by one or two collectors who do so. That just stuns me. What a waste; what a tragedy. if they like colored glass so much, why don't they just collect colored lamp shades or learn to make stained-glass windows! Good grief. Thank goodness that such a collector would have no motivation to take the label off Dr. Abbott's Sarsaparilla - the bottle is boring glass - thank goodness. I've tried to imagine it in some bright, eye-popping color, but it just doesn't work for me. Dr. Abbott, your quack medicine bottle is plain and homely ... and one of the most treasured in my collection.

1 comment:

  1. Haha! I love your Warhol bottle art! C'est Magnifique! :oD

    I am totally with you, though. Who, in their right mind, would ever destroy the only true link to the past that a bottle can give??? It's outrageous! >:o(

    Love the blog!!!


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