Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb Bitters

Provenance: Ferdinand Meyer V Collection (Ex: Judge MacKenzie and Doy McCall)

Most antique bottle collectors are familiar with figural “Indian Queen” bottles. The ‘Queen’ is a much sought after bottle that has a great eye appeal and comes in colors that are simply gorgeous. Most collectors start off with an amber “Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb Bitters.” Once you are hooked, you may look at different brands, colors, and molds.

According to the write up in Bitters Bottles by Carlyn Ring and W. C. Ham, there are no discernible variations between the five different Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb Bitters bitters other than their datelines.

Collectors often seem not to notice which dateline their Brown’s Indian Queen has so ranking their relative rarity is impossible. Many of the ground mouth finish ‘Queens’ have been found with traces of paint in the crevasses of robe folds and between feathers of apron or necklace details. It could easily be mistaken for accumulated dust or soil but like so many of these paint traces we tend to believe that some, if not all, were painted originally. Today’s collectors seem to look for a sparkling mint specimen so the traces of paint are often removed.

Four other Indian Queen molds are known that are not related to Neal Brown in Philadelphia. One is quite varied with the right arm well below the waist with a sword in hand. The left arm is bent and holding a shield to the body. Lettering on the shield reads Mohawk Whiskey Pure Rye. At the shawl fringe, you see an embossed “Patented Feb. 11, 1868.” Another brand, using the same mold, has an unlettered shield. The area where you would normally have the patent date reads: H. Pharazyn Philadelphia Right Secured. Both of these Queens have sheared mouths. The remaining queen molds are altogether different. See: E. Long’s Indian Herb Bittersand Indian Herb Bitters Dickerson & Stark.

Not much is known about the proprietor, Neal N. Brown (also spelled Neall and Neill in historical documents) other than he lived and operated in Philadelphia and took out a couple of patents for his famous figural bottle in 1867 and 1868. I suspect he was an Irishman. We first see him as an innkeeper and tavern owner in 1863 and 1864. In 1866 he has some legal problems as he is charged by the United States government for transporting unsealed whiskey. Next Brown is into Patent Medicines and puts out his Indian Queen bitters. In the mid-1870s, he is listed as a liquor dealer. He must have been a good customer with Whitney Glass Works in South Jersey as he ordered a lot of bottles. It really is surprising that we do not see more period advertising for Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb Bitters.

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

B 225 BROWN’S / CELEBRATED / INDIAN HERB BITTERS // PATENTED 1868
12 1/4 x 3 1/4
Indian Queen, Amber Common; Yellow-green tone, Shear or Ground lip – Rare

Read More: Looking closer at the Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb Bitters

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