american life bitters

Provenance: Sandor P. Fuss Collection

Here is a really great looking rectangular figural bitters cabin with a curved roof rather than angular like most cabin bitters. The American Life Bitters is pretty tough to obtain and there are two variants. Our museum example is extremely rare and possibly unique in color.

For the most part, this bottle story is about the inventor, Peter E. Iler, who was born in Wooster, Ohio in 1840. He eventually ended up in Omaha, Nebraska. His famous bitters have either the Tiffin, Ohio, or Omaha, Nebraska embossing.

As a youth, Peter and his brother, Joseph, moved to Tiffin, Ohio. At the age of sixteen, Peter left school to go to work. At that point, accounts differ. One version has him leaving Tiffin in the employ of an Indianapolis banker and soon being given management of several farms and a princely salary of $75 a month. After becoming ill, he quit and returned to Tiffin to recuperate. The other account has him never leaving Tiffin, employed at a bank, working with a cigar manufacturer and as a warehouse operator.

The stories converge about 1860 in Tiffin when Iler became a wagon peddler selling a bitters nostrum that he advertised.

Iler eventually became a multi-millionaire who built the nation’s third-largest pre-prohibition distillery as well as financing other major business enterprises. His building was described as follows:

“Mr. P. E. Iler, has erected a very handsome four-story brick block, sixty-six feet front and 182 feet, on the north side of Harney street, nearly opposite the Millard Block, between Eleventh and Twelfth streets. The front is of cut stone and pressed brick, the architectural appearance of which is very handsome. The building has water connections throughout and is supplied with hydraulic elevators. It was built especially for wholesale business, the west twenty-two feet being occupied as a wholesale liquor establishment, and the east forty-four feet being occupied by a wholesale hardware firm. Each is provided with commodious and elegant business offices. The cost of the building was $40,000. The firm of Iler & Co. is now composed of Peter E. Iler and Joseph D. Iler.”

The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:

A 48 AMERICAN LIFE ( au ) / BITTERS ( ad ) // P.E. ILER ( au ) / MANUFACTURER / OMAHA, NEB. // AMERICAN LIFE / BITTERS // f //
8 7/8 x 3 1/8 x 2 ½ (5 ¾)
Rectangular cabin, Amber, LTC, Applied mouth, Extremely rare
Example dug in Mineral Hill, Nevada, 1981

A 49 AMERICAN LIFE ( au ) / BITTERS ( ad ) // P.E. ILER ( au ) / MANUFACTURER / TIFFIN, OHIO // AMERICAN LIFE / BITTERS // f // 8 7/8 x 3 1/8 x 2 ½ (5 ¾)
Rectangular cabin, LTC, Applied mouth, Amber and Gold rare, Yellow olive, Extremely rare

Support Images: Lot 13″ “AMERICAN / LIFE BITTERS – P.E. ILER / MANUFACTURER / TIFFIN, OHIO – AMERICAN / LIFE BITTERS”, (Ring/Ham, A-49), Ohio, ca. 1865 – 1875, light to medium yellow with olive tone cabin, 9 1/8”h, smooth base, applied tapered mouth. About perfect (a tiny spot of roughness is on the tip of a lower log). A rarely offered bottle in amber, but one of only a very few known to exist in this coloration! For those lucky enough to own an amber example, imagine this one sitting on a shelf next to it! Mary Ballentine Collection. – Jim Hagenbuch, Glass Works Auctions | Auction #143

Read More: Peter Iler: “The Restless Mind of a Capitalist”

Read More: Log Cabin Series – American Life Bitters

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