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Friday, April 12, 2013

Antique Medicine Bottles - Just What the Doctor Ordered

The earliest antique medical bottles contained dried herbs steeped in liquid. Later, cobalt blue bottles filled with Ayer's Hair Vigor and the green-tinted Ayer's Cherry Pectoral medicine would come along. From beautiful emerald green bottles of gargling oil to light blue cough syrup to the not-so-appealing amber bottle of malt and cod liver compound, the apothecary had a rainbow on display in his shop window.

Tall, slender glass bottles of opium stood alongside squat stoneware jugs of microbe killers and short, wide-mouthed jars of Prentice Tooth Powder. Paper labels touted Celery Bitters and Syrup of Wild Cherry, Artic Lung Syrup and Downings Worm Destroyer along with Badger Toothache Drops. Antique medical bottles of embossed glass with pharmacy and druggist names held concoctions of Humphrey's Marvel of Healing, Turlington's Balsam of Life and True Daffy's Elixir.

Cork and glass stoppers and metal lids sealed in remedies like sodium bicarbonate tablets, camphorated oil, and mustard compound. There were liniments, catarrhs, tonics and elixirs, salves and salts and Sarsaparilla.  
If the snake oils in the bottles, things like Strychnine and Arsenous Acid, did not kill the patient, they may actually end up getting better. Of course, there were special medicines for women. Velvetina skin beautifier, Begg's Alabaster Balm, Mornidine, and Lydia Pinkham's vegetable compound were available to treat the delicate conditions of women. 

Today antique medicine bottles are highly collectible and vary in price depending on their condition, uniqueness and details. Bitters bottles and apothecary bottles command high prices and are wonderful additions for the serious collector. Many people prize the labels with their descriptions of miracle cures. Still others use the antique medical bottles to display flower arrangements on windowsills.

These bottles are also important pieces of history, often telling the dreadful results of the medical 'practice', like the results of death from Cyanide and Arsenic and overdoses of Carbolic Acid. They show the way people looked at women as the delicate fairer sex, and how liniment was 'good for man and beast'.

These little bits of history and nostalgia have been captured on a beautiful silk tie. Antique medicine bottles with a maroon background on a quality 100% silk tie are the perfect conversation starters. They are appropriate for doctors and pharmacists today, a welcome reminder of how far the medical field has progressed. They are also wonderful for museum curators and collectors, images of those pieces they have already acquired or still hope to acquire. It is safe to say that the medical bottles of old will be highly collectible even to future generations.


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