Chickahominy Bitters

Provenance: Sandor P. Fuss Collection

Only one example of Chickahominy Bitters is known to collectors. It resided for many years in the John Feldmann collection in New York. After the collection was dispersed in 2013, the bottle was sold to a collector in Colorado.

The bottle was blown from one of the more extraordinary mold designs with its six-sided form, indented chamfered panels, and three stepped rings on the shoulder that transition to the neck of the bottle. The embossed bottle name occurs on four of the six panels reading ‘CHICKAHOMINY’ (panel 1), ‘BITTERS’ (panel 2), ‘FOR CHILLS & FEVER’ (panel 4), and ‘PATENTED (panel 5). The third and sixth indented panels are blank and would have been where vertical paper labels would have gone. The base is smooth. There is an applied long collar mouth with a ring. The color is dark puce and not amber as stated in Bitters Bottles.

We have scant information on the Chickahominy Bitters but do know by looking at Chickahominy Bitters advertising in 1866, that it was ‘manufactured exclusively in Richmond, Virginia’ by A. H. Newton. He is also listed for one year only in an 1866 City of Richmond Virginia Directory with ‘Bitters’ next to his name. His address is 20 Broad Street, both for business and residence. He called his Chickahominy Bitters “The Great Virginia Remedy For Chills and Fevers.” Janney & Co., 145 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia were the wholesale agents. Nothing can be found outside of the 1866 date. Though “PATENTED’ is embossed on the bottle, no patent can be found.

There are two other period bottles that come to mind with a similar stepped ring treatment on the neck. One is the London Medicated Health Restorer put out by S. A. Foutz in Baltimore, Maryland and the other is Dr. Atherton’s Dew Drop Bitters which is represented in the Virtual Museum Bitters Gallery.

We believe that A. H. Newton named his Chickahominy Bitters after the region and related Civil War action that occurred in the woods and swamps of the Peninsula region outside Richmond, Virginia. Certainly a breeding ground for fever and chills. Chickahominy means the following:

Chickahominy Indian Tribe

The Chickahominy is a Federally recognized tribe of Virginian Indians who primarily live in Charles City County, located along the James River midway between Richmond and Williamsburg in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This area of the Tidewater is not far from where they lived in 1600, prior to English colonization. They were officially recognized by the state in 1983 and the federal government in January 2018.

Chickahominy River

The Chickahominy is an 87-mile-long river in the eastern portion of Virginia. The river, which serves as the eastern border of Charles City County, rises about 15 miles northwest of Richmond and flows southeast and south to the James River. The river was named after the Chickahominy Indian tribe who lived near the river when it was claimed by English colonists in 1607.

Chickahominy and the Civil War

During the American Civil War (1861–65), the upper reaches of the Chickahominy River became a major obstacle to Union General George B. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign, a failed attempt in 1862 to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. Docile, narrow, and relatively easily crossed during dry weather, after periods of rain, the river expands across a flood plain with swamps as much as a mile across. The Chickahominy was in flood stage and divided the Union Army during crucial periods, despite continuous efforts by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to build and maintain bridges. Other battles were fought nearby in 1864.

A. H. Newton

Though we really have no information on A. H. Newton we do see the name represented in the following passage. – Isaac Hill. A Sketch of the 29th Regiment of Connecticut Colored Troops Giving a Full Account of Its Formation, of All the Battles Through Which It Passed, and Its Final Disbandment. New York, NY. Baker & Godwin Printers, 1881.

On the morning of April 3, 1865, the 29th (Colored) Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry awoke from their positions on the outskirts of the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia, to find that the enemy had abandoned their positions. The men of the regiment, therefore, were ordered forward by their commander Colonel William B. Wooster of Derby, and arrived in the city at 7 a.m. According to the unit historian the Reverend Henry G. Marshall, companies C and G of the 29th became the first Union infantry soldiers to enter the city. When President Abraham Lincoln arrived later that day to make his “triumphant entry into the city” A. H. Newton recounted how he turned to a nearby black woman and said, “Madam, there is the man that made you free.” Gazing at the President, the women, in turn, replied; “Glory to God. Give him praise for his goodness,” and she shouted, Newton wrote until her voice gave out.

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

C 55 CHICKAHOMINY // BITTERS // sp // FOR CHILLS & FEVER // PATENTED // sp //
9 ¼ x 2 7/8 (6 ¼)
6-sided, Amber, 3 rings at shoulder, Extremely rare
Possibly related to Chickahominy River between Richmond and Williamsburg, Virginia.

Support: Reference to Bitters Bottles by Carlyn Ring and W. C. Ham. Use of Chichahominy Bitters illustration courtesy Bill Ham

Support Image: John Feldmann, three bottles on a shelf. Carey’s Grecian Bend Bitters (left), Chickahominy Bitters (center), and Bartlet’s Excelsior Bitters (right). Photo and graphics by Ferdinand Meyer V.

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