Boerhave’s Holland Bitters Pittsburgh
Boerhave’s Holland Bitters
B. Page & Co.
Benjamin Page Jr. Co., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Labeled Rectangular Aquamarine Medicine
Provenance: Chip Cable Collection
This outstanding example of a labeled Boerhave’s Holland Bitters followed the Boerhaves Electro Chemical Aroma bottle represented in the Medicines Gallery. The proprietor surely thought using Holland Bitters as the medicine name would be more successful, and he was right.
The paper label prominently presents two flanking, crowned standing lions facing inward, holding a crowned shield depicting a standing lion holding a mace. Above these graphics is bold arched copy that reads “Boerhave’s Holland Bitters.” Beneath, in a banner, is “Je Maintiendral.” Beneath again is the wording “Electro-Chemische Aroma of Echt Hollandsch Kruiden Bitters” and “The Celebrated Holland Remedy for Fever & Ague, Disease of the Kidney, Dyspepsia, Indigestion, Head-Ache, Loss of Appetite, Debility, Costiveness, Piles in Both Forms and all diseases consequent upon a disordered Stomach or Liver. As a Tonic never has been equaled for the relief it affords”…At the bottom of the label is “Dose for an Adult” instructions. The neck label has the signature of Benjamin Page Jr. There is also very small cursive copy beneath the brand name stating that the product was registered in the State of Pennsylvania by Benjamin Page Jr. in 1855.
See the museum example of Boerhaves Electro Chemical Aroma in the Medicines Gallery.
The 7 5/8 inch tall, rare Boerhave’s Holland Bitters bottle was probably blown at a Pittsburgh district glasshouse. It is blue-aquamarine, rectangular with beveled corners, and has embossed, bold, serifed copy set within three recessed chamfered panels. This copy on the panel opposite the label panel reads from shoulder to base ‘BOERHAVES’ (top line) and ‘HOLLAND BITTERS’ (bottom line). The first side panel reads ‘B. PAGE JR & CO.’ The “R” of “Jr” is smaller and raised. The “O” of “Co” is lowercase. The opposite side panel is embossed ‘PITTSBURGH PA’ in one line. The “A” in “Pa” is smaller. The neck is very tall with an applied double collar mouth. There is a smooth base with an old sticker. The bottle has 98% of the original label, including a neck label, and is perfect. It is possibly the only known example to have the original label.
The Bitters Bottles listing is:
B 134 BOERHAVES / HOLLAND BITTERS // B. PAGE JR & CO // f // PITTSBURGH PA. //
8 x 2 3/4 x 1 3/4 (5 1/2) 1/4
Rectangular, Aqua, CO, Applied mouth, 3 sp, Scarce; Pontil mark – Extremely rare
Some dug on the south side of Mobile, Alabama
Holland Bitters or Boerhave’s Electro-Chemical Aroma or Genuine Holland Bitters was sold by the Drug and Chemical House of Benjamin Page Jr. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the early to mid 1850s. Advertising said the product was first from “Louis D’Israels, Chemist and Pharmaceutist of Amsterdam, the only Manufacturer. A purely Vegetable Compound, prepared on strictly scientific principles, after the manner of the celebrated Holland professor Boerhave.”
Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) was a Dutch physician, botanist, professor, and Rector Magnificus (Chancellor) at Leiden University. He is regarded as the founder of clinical teaching and the modern academic hospital and is sometimes referred to as “the father of physiology.” In the 18th century, Boerhaave was renowned even in China for how he practiced and taught medicine. Not only did Herman Boerhaave discover many new things, but he was also an inspiring teacher. He advocated for “teaching at the bed” and autopsy and took his students on a journey through the world of medicine. Even Tsar Peter the Great attended one of his lectures. After his death, historians and advertisers dropped one “a” from his last name, so Boerhaave became Boerhave in many instances. Various Boerhave medicines were sold in London in the late 1700s and the early 1800s, like Boerhave’s Extract (1793), Boerhave’s Digestive and Biliqus (sic) Tincture (1803), and Dr. Boerhave’s Red Pill (1823).
In the 1850s, Pittsburgh newspaper and city directory advertising stated that the product had great success in the European States and that the introduction to the United States was intended for those of the fatherland that were “scattered here and there over the face of this mighty country.” Holland Bitters was a remedy for dyspepsia, kidney disease, liver complaint, weakness of any kind, fever and ague, plus a whole group of other ailments. This broad claim is typical of most bitters from this period. The medicine sold for $1.00 or six bottles for $5.00. Agents like T. W. Dyott & Sons (Philadelphia), Barnes & Park (New York), and Laughlin & Bushfield (Wheeling, Virginia) were selling Holland Bitters in those cities and regions.
Benjamin Page Jr. was born in Missouri in about 1830 and found himself in Pittsburgh at the young age of 21, practicing as a druggist in 1850. During the decade’s first half, he would develop Boerhaves Electro Chemical Aroma or Holland Bitters. When Page entered the United States Navy in 1862, he sold his interest in the business, leaving no record of subsequent owners. He died very young in Philadelphia in 1874. Boerhaves Holland Bitters would continue to be sold by various proprietors like R. E. Sellers & Co., who prepared, sold, and advertised Boerhave’s Holland Bitters on trade cards in the early 1870s. The remedy continued to enjoy some appeal even after the turn of the century, as it can be found on a laundry list of pharmaceutical products in 1904.
See the museum example of a western Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters.
Primary Image: Boerhave’s Holland Bitters, B. Page & Co., Pittsburgh, Pa bottle imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio.
Support Image: Auction Lot 268: “BOERHAVES ELECTRO / CHEMICAL AROMA – LOUIS A. DISRAEL’S / AMSTERDAM – B. PAGE JR. PITTBURGH”, probably a Pittsburgh district glasshouse, 1850 – 1860. Aquamarine, rectangular with beveled corners, applied ring collar with bevel – blowpipe pontil scar, ht. 7 ¾”; (lightly cleaned to original luster and near mint condition with just a touch of minor haze remaining). Odell, p.36. Extremely rare, unique, or possibly one of two known. Gary Enters collection. Note; although it is from the same company that produced the “BOERHAVE’S HOLLAND BITTERS”, we could find no listing for this product. – John Pastor, American Glass Gallery, Auction #21
Support Image: BOERHAVES HOLLAND BITTERS B. PAGE Jr. & CO. PITTSBURGH Pa. – (B 134). 7 ¾” with applied top and smooth base. An early bottle, the Boerhave name is not unknown in bottle circles. This is a neat one with the huge top, long neck and loads of whittle and crudity in a bluish aqua. A lot going on in 7 ¾”. The base looks very early. A tiny bit of exterior stain but generally, a grade 9.4 bottle. Check out the funky embossing. – Jeff Wichmann, American Bottle Auctions, For Sale Page, February 2015
Support Image: BOERHAVES HOLLAND BITTERS B. PAGE Jr. & CO. PITTSBURGH Pa. – (B 134). Blueish aquamarine, 7 7/8”, smooth base, applied double collar mouth. A scarce bottle with nicely whittled glass. GWA Auction #76, Lot 234. – Ferdinand Meyer V collection.
Support: Reference to Bitters Bottles by Carlyn Ring and W. C. Ham.
Support: Reference to Looking at Boerhave’s Holland Bitters – Pittsburgh, Peachridge Glass, February 2015
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