One of the most successful frauds ever carried out on the people of the United States was the selling of a patent medicine called Bitters. Bitters was a was a concoction of evil tasting medical herbs, roots or barks laced with enough alcohol to numb the symptoms of any ailment but were usually just a liquid given to improve health. Bitters originated from Germany in the 1700's. The United States started to make Bitters in the early 1800's. In most cases the bitters did make a person feel better as many had a laxative effect. In fact, they were nothing more than alcohol, water and a laxative agent in solution.
Many bitters were formerly manufactured as patent medicines, often serving as an aid for digestion. Like tonics they were supposed to be good for you. The wide sale of the alcoholic beverages called bitters and tonics reflect the primitive state of medicine in the 1800s. Dependence on professional doctors for medication was totally impractical for a large portion of the population.
Often a local person would act as a herb doctor or midwife and dispensed various bitters and tonics. These formulas were passed down for generations. Eventually many of these formulas were then made by local pharmacist and apothecaries, often under their own name, and dispensed to the general public. Most never achieved any measure of fame beyond the local area. However, some did making rich men of their proprietors especially during the temperance movement. The Pure Food and Drug Law of 1906, prosecution of manufacturers and the second act of 1926 brought the end of an era.
Bitters were promoted via medicine shows, advertising, wide distribution and in appealing containers. Aside from the sheer beauty of the old glass, one thing is certain, bitters bottles are a most interesting memento or collectible of days gone by. Bitter bottle production began with small bottles and later the size of the bottle increased as the proportions of alcohol increased. Bitter collectors look for certain things when collecting Bitter Bottles. The most popular bitter bottles are bottles with the word Bitters embossed on the bottle. Shapes and figural bottles that held bitters are in high demand. Shapes such as cabins, pigs, corn, barrels are popular along with the color. The most common bitter bottles were square in shape and amber in color.
Carmeliter Bitters Advertising
Phoenix Bitters Bottle
Indian Queen bitters came in a bottle shaped like a human body, Plantation bitters in a glass log cabin, Dr. Fish's bitters in a bottle shaped like a fish, McKeever's Army bitters in a drum shaped bottle and Suffolk bitters in bottles resembling pigs. Halls bitters came in a barrel shaped bottleembossed with the words "Hall's Bitters". Search for Swedish bitters, Angostura bitters and bitters bottles.