Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters

Provenance: Richard T. Siri Collection

The Celebrated Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters is a true western bitters cherished by collectors. It is reported that most specimens have been found in Nevada mining towns. The bottle is considered very rare to extremely rare depending on the color and condition. Only eleven or so complete examples reside in collections.

Western-made bitters put out in the 1860s number thirteen embossed-on-glass bottles. Out of almost 100 brands manufactured for the western market, this is a pretty exclusive group. Of those thirteen embossed bitters bottles, approximately four are known in a square-shaped form. Within our museum, Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters is in the same company with Rosenbaums Bitters, Alex Von Humboldts Stomach Bitters, and G. A. Simon’s Medicated Aromatic Bitters as the only square-shaped bitters made during the 1860s. There are Dr. Renz’s Herb Bitters and the E. G. Lyon’s bottle but those brands continued into the 1870s.

The trademark for The Celebrated Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters is a standing gowned goddess holding a shield on a pillar that reads ‘Excelsior.’ Her other hand holds a Caduceus staff. The words ‘A Blessing for the Afflicted’ surrounds the illustration.

Advertising stated that a ‘Professor Hildebrand, A Distinguished Physician of Vienna, who has used them for thirty years says,’ “They invigorate purify and cleanse the blood, correct and regulate all the secretions, and by purgation strengthen the body and mind.”

The square bottle has a short neck and an applied long tapered collar mouth. The bottle corners are chamfered up to an arched shoulder. The embossed product name panel reads ‘DR. BOERHAAVE’S STOMACH BITTERS’ in two embossed lines. There is a period after ‘BITTERS.’ The opposite side has two peculiar debossed beveled rectangles. The top one is square while the bottom one is in a horizontal format. The two side panels are blank. The bottom is smooth with a large debossed circle.

Wertheimber & Waterman (Siegfried Wertheimber and Louis Waterman) were the manufacturers and wholesale dealers for the Celebrated Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters. They also marketed a cordial called ‘The Splendid,’ another bitters called Boonekamp Maagen-Bitter and Jamaica Ginger. These three products continued to be advertised without Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters throughout 1869 in a Sacramento newspaper.

Wertheimber & Waterman exhibited their products at the 1868 San Francisco Mechanics Institute Fair. The San Francisco Daily Alta reported this in their September 9th column on the fair’s exhibitors, “Wertheimer & Waterman have two casks, lettered in gold leaf, containing respectively the Boonekamp and Maag Bitters. They also have a large collection of bottles containing Boerhaave’s stomach bitters, and the new drink known as the ‘Splendid’.”

Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters was first advertised on March 7th, 1868 with the principal depot being at 311 Commercial Street, San Francisco, California. Only S. Wertheimber was listed. By June 1868, the firm now named Wertheimber & Waterman had relocated to 219 Commercial Street. Dr. Boerhaave’s Bitters was also being advertised in the Portland Morning Oregonian newspaper from May 15, 1868, thru January 28, 1869. Millard & Van Schuyver were the Agents for Oregon. The Los Angeles Star newspaper ran an advertisement for Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters placed by a local druggist for several months in 1868 as well.

Of the eleven or so examples in western collections, four are in a dark green glass coloration, four are various shades of amber, one is a light green color, one is a yellow-olive and there is a rather exciting medium ginger ale example.

In a notice placed in the San Francisco Daily Examiner newspaper, the firm of Wertheimber & Waterman dissolved their partnership on September 25th, 1869. Siegfried Wertheimber having sold his entire interest in the business to Phillip Wertheimber and the firm continued as before under the name of Wertheimber & Waterman.

An updated listing for a future Bitters Bottles Supplement 3 would read:

B 133 DR. BOERHAAVE’S / STOMACH BITTERS. // f // f // f
Wertheimber & Waterman, San Francisco, California
8 7/8 x 2 1/8 (6 ¾) ¼
Square, Amber, Yellow-olive, Ginger ale and Green, LTC, Applied mouth, Smooth base. Extremely rare
Most specimens are found in Nevada mining towns.
Advertised in 1868 and 1869
Drug Catalogs: 1871 Schieffelin, 1872 F & F, Melliers

Primary Image: Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters bottle imaged by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio by Alan DeMaison.

Support: Reference to Bitters Bottles by Carlyn Ring and W. C. Ham. Use of Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters illustration courtesy of Bill Ham.

Support: Reference to Western Bottle News – Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters, September 21, 2009, and February 20, 2010.

Support Image: Auction Lot 65: DR. BOERHAAVE’S STOMACH BITTERS with two inset windows on reverse. 1868-68. B 133. The Boerhaave’s Bitters is a most unusual bottle in that although it’s a square that looks much like a Dr. Hostetter’s, it has a couple inset squares on the reverse of the bottle not seen on any other western bottle we are aware of. Whether a label covered the entire back except for the windows or vice versa we might never know. What is known is that it is a very early bitters put out by the partnership of Werthheimber Bros. and Louis Waterman. Their bottles were made beginning in 1868 and it is thought they lasted only a couple years or so. Mostly likely made at San Francisco Glass Works on Townsend or Pacific Glass Works at Mariposa Street in S.F. These are seen in some very pretty colors mostly varying shades of green or amber. These bottles have gained a lot of notoriety lately as we’ve handled a couple from the Ken Fee auction and a couple have surfaced for sale. However, there is no doubt that these bottles are very rare and one of the earlier San Francisco Bitters sought after by collectors today. This example is a medium amber and has a radiating potstone on the left panel. The neck has a large chunk of glass running down the inside of the lip. A fine overall Boerhaave’s with uneven surfaces and aside from the stone would grade a solid 8.5. – Jeff Wichmann, American Bottle Auctions, Auction 70, Part 1 of the Don Dwyer Collection

Support Images: Two views of a green Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters – Jeff Wichmann, American Bottle Auctions. Ginger ale example photograph by Dale Mlasko.

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