Dr. DeGurley’s Celebrated Herb Bitters Cures Indigestion And Liver Complaint
Dr DeGurley’s Celebrated Herb Bitters
Cures Indigestion And Liver Complaint
Caldwell & Parker, Baltimore, Maryland
Amber Square Medicine Bottle
Provenance: Bob Jochums Collection
There are two bitters molds for the Baltimore “Dr. DeGurley” bottles, cataloged as D 37 and D 39. One of those molds uses “Bitters” and “Cures” in the name. One bottle has a major misspelling.
During a very short time period in 1866 and 1867, the Baltimore Sun newspaper and the Woods Baltimore City Directory referred to our bitters alternately as Dr. Gurley’s Bitters, Dr. De Gurley’s Herb Bitters, DeGurley’s Bitters, Dr. De Gurley’s Celebrated Herb Bitters (D 37 spelling error square), and Dr. DeGurley’s Herb Bitters (D 39 fancy square, embossed building).
Our rare museum bottle is named after a mysterious Dr. De Gurley. It is a medium amber square bottle with an attractive tall neck and a nicely applied tapered collar and ring. The BIM bottle has embossing on opposite indented sides while the two remaining opposite sides are flat where a label or labels were applied. Both sets of embossing are of a consistent and medium boldness and read from top to bottom in a sans serif typestyle, ‘DR DR CURLEY’S (sic) CELEBRATED HERB BITTERS’ (1st side) and ‘CURES INDIGESTION AND LIVER COMPLAINT’ (2nd side). The error in Dr. DeGurley’s name is due to the mold-maker inserting the “G” upside down so that it appears to be a “C.” Our bottle measures 9 ¾ by 2 ¾ inches, has an indented but unembossed base, and is out of the J. Carl Sturm collection. Junior Carl Sturm was a 2008 inductee into the FOHBC Hall of Fame. Being embossed with the words “Bitters” and “Cures” makes this bottle desirable to both bitters collectors and embossed cure collectors. The updated listing in the working draft of Bitters Bottles Supplement 3 (BBs3) is as follows:
D 37 DR DE CURLEY’S / CELEBRATED / HERB BITTERS // f // CURES INDIGESTION / AND / LIVER COMPLAINT // f //
L … De Gurley’s Herb Bitters
Error in Dr. DeGurley’s name due to the mold-maker inserting the “G” upside down so that it appears to be a “C.”
9 ¾ x 2 ¾ (6 ¾) 3/8
Square, Amber, LTCR, 2 sp, Rare
Caldwell & Parker manufacturers, Baltimore, MD.
A labeled specimen of our museum example documents that the product was for sale by three druggists: Geo. W. Johnson & Co., W. H. Brown & Bro., and A. Vogeler & Company, with copy beneath the three saying, “Wholesale Druggist, Baltimore, MD.” There is no indication of the proprietor or who Dr. De Gurley is.
A second Dr. DeGurley’s bitters bottle is one of the more desirable bitters bottles as it has an embossed 5-story druggist building on one of the bottle faces. This extremely rare bottle, with only three examples known in collections, is embossed ‘DR DEGURLEY’S HERB BITTERS MANUFACTURED BALTIMORE MD.’ This bottle can be considered a “fancy square” or “semi-cabin” with a beaded design along all four corners. We have plans to image a near perfect example of this extremely rare bottle for the museum. The updated listing in the working draft of Bitters Bottles Supplement 3 (BBs3) is as follows:
D 39 DR DEGURLEY’S / HERB BITTERS // sp // MANUFACTURED / BALTIMORE MD. // motif 5-story druggist house //
10 ¼ x 2 ¾ (6 ¾) (with 16 vertical corner beads)
The “R” of “Dr” is smaller, raised and underscored, The first “E” in DeGurley is smaller.
Fancy square, Yellow olive, Amber, LTC, Applied mouth, Extremely rare
Caldwell & Parker manufacturers, Baltimore, MD.
Resembles an Edward Wilder bottle.
Caldwell & Parker
At the close of the Civil War, bitters popularity and consumption were at their zenith. Riding on the spectacular success of Hostetter’s Celebrated Stomach Bitters was Mishler’s Celebrated Herb Bitters put out by Benjamin Mishler in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is about 80 miles north of Baltimore. Mishler advertised his bitters broadly and in the Baltimore Sun in mid-1866 selling them for $1.25 per bottle. Mishler warned in his advertising of fake concoctions riding on the coattails of his bitters success.
In the Mishler bitters newspaper advertisements, Caldwell & Co. were noted as Mishlers “Agents for the State of Maryland” located at No. 139½ North Gay Street in Baltimore. Caldwell noted, “Druggists, Merchants, and Hotel keepers will be applied on liberal terms.” The same advertisement said that “The ingredients used in compounding Mishler’s Herb Bitters are not kept secret by the Proprietor. Send for a circular.” Though it is purely conjecture, there is speculation that Caldwell may have copied the formula and made plans to develop DeGurley’s Bitters.
On December 8, 1866, a new brand was advertised in the Baltimore Sun for “Dr. Gurley’s Herb Bitters.” An obvious knockoff of Mishler’s brand, this new bitters was reportedly made from German and Scotch herbs that would cure Dyspepsy (sic) and all impurities of the Blood and was unrivaled as an invigorating Tonic. It was being sold for 75 cents and $1 per bottle which undercut Mishler’s Herb Bitters at $1.25 per bottle.
The Dr. Gurley name was somewhat a mystery until another advertisement appeared on January 17, 1867, for “Dr. De Gurley’s Herb Bitters.” The ad said, “These Bitters, which have acquired much celebrity in England and Scotland in the cure of dyspepsia, have been recently introduced into this country, and an agency has been established by H. Caldwell & Co., at No. 30 North Paca Street. “They are said to be very efficacious in the treatment of the above distressing complaint, and also a delightful beverage, as well as an invigorating tonic.”
As Caldwell was a commission agent delivering products to taverns, hotels, bars, and restaurants, he may have partnered with John Parker who ran a tavern at 4 North Liberty, in downtown Baltimore. Parker may have known how to blend the new bitters as he had experience in wine, spirits, and alcohol. This would shortcut the manufacturing process.
Caldwell and Parker took Dr. DeGurleys to market in early 1867. It is not known why there were two bottle molds or two separate costs or if Parker ordered the first bottle and Caldwell & Parker the second bottle. Maybe one was the common DeGurley’s product and the fancy square the premium version.
A look at the Woods Baltimore City Directory in 1866-67 reveals a CALDWELL & PARKER, in capital letters, (H. W. Caldwell and John Parker) listed as manufacturers of DeGurley’s Bitters at 30 n Paca.
On that same page in the last-name Caldwell group listing in the Baltimore City directory is H. W Caldwell (Caldwell & Parker) Bull’s Head Hotel. Thomas Armacost was listed elsewhere as the proprietor, n Front near Gay, Baltimore. This listing suggests a strong relationship between Caldwell and Parker.
On May 18, 1867, in the Baltimore Sun, Benjamin Mishler placed the following, “Notice. As there are parties selling a Mixture for my Bitters, I hereby warn the public and the trade generally against such. Messrs. A. Aitken and Co., No. 139½ North Gay Street, my authorized State Agents, will supply the trade, wholesale, or retail, with genuine Mishler’s Bitters. BENJAMIN MISHLER, Proprietor Mishler’s Medicinal Herb Bitters.” Note that Aitken replaced Caldwell as his agent at the same 139½ North Gay Street address.
At any event, Caldwell or Caldwell & Parker were in Baltimore selling the bitters and they abruptly stopped. A “Dissolution of Caldwell and Parker” quickly followed and was posted in the Baltimore Sun. Maybe Mishler’s men ran them out of town foregoing the legal process. By 1868, all reference to Caldwell and Parker is gone including any reference to their Dr. DeGurley’s Bitters.
Primary Image: “Dr. DeGurley’s Celebrated Herb Bitters” bottle imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio.
Support Image: Labeled Dr. DeGurley’s Celebrated Herb Bitters – Jim Hagenbuch, Glass Works Auctions, Auction #153
Support Image: Auction Lot 133: “DR DEGURLEY’S / HERB BITTERS – MANUFACTURED / BALTIMORE. MD” – (Pictorial image of 5-story building), America, possibly Baltimore Glass Works, 1865 – 1870. Medium amber, square, semi-cabin with a beaded design along all (4) corners, applied sloping collar – smooth base, ht. 9 7/8″; (a ¼” x ½” hole in one of the bottom corners on the reverse with a 1 ¼” crack extending up the panel edge, a tiny pinhead flake at edge of lip, and some washable interior residue). R/H #D39. Extremely rare (one of only three examples known, with one of the other two being dug and badly cracked). As noted, the damage is on the back corner, the bottle displays as very near mint and would be a good candidate for a professional repair, if desired. A great rarity and a great looking pictorial bitters, strongly embossed. The bottle was found in the cupboard of an old one-room farmhouse/shack, in northeastern West Virginia. – John Pastor, American Glass Gallery, Auction #14
Support: Reference to the working draft of Bitters Bottles Supplement 3 (BBs3) by Ring, Ham & Meyer. Use of both Dr. DeGurley’s Celebrated Herb Bitters illustrations, from Bitters Bottles (BB), courtesy of Bill Ham. Use of yellow-olive Dr. DeGurleys Herb Bitters (motif 5-story house) image from Bitters Bottles Supplement (BBs).
Support: Reference to Dr. DeGurley’s Herb Bitters in the news again… Ferdinand Meyer V, PeachridgeGlass.com, April 06, 2015
Support: Reference to John Panella and his special Dr. Degurley’s Herb Bitters, Ferdinand Meyer V, PeachridgeGlass.com, January 13, 2014
Support: Reference to A. Vogeler & Company, Baltimore, MD, March 1881, Ferdinand Meyer V, PeachridgeGlass.com, January 25, 2012
Support: Reference to American Industries. No. 68. Proprietary Specialties, Scientific American, March 26, 1881, pages 194-5
Support: Reference to On Beyond Holcombe, Malcolm A. Goldstein, 2020
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