Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters – Cylinder
Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters
L. Gross & Company, San Francisco
Olive Green Cylinder
Provenance: Richard T. Siri Collection
Dr. William Henley’s name is associated with a wide variety of products ranging from bitters to various types of patent medicines like Dr. Henley’s Regulator, Dr. Henley’s Royal Balsam, and Dr. Henley’s Indian Queen Hair Restorative to name a few.
The Henley’s IXL bitters were sold as a medicine. “Physicians Recommend and Over 500,000 People Indorse (sic) Dr. Henley’s.” Advertising used a seal representing a Certificate of the State Assayer of California giving credibility to the product.
Some of Dr. Henley’s better-known bitters include Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters, Dr. Henley’s California IXL Bitters, Dr. Henley’s Eye Opener, and OK Bitters. He also put out Dr. Henley’s Royal Palm Gin and Dr. Henley’s Celery, Beef, and Iron.
At least fifty cases of Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters were displayed at the 1868 California State Fair where they won first prize. Dr. Henley’s IXL Bitters were also displayed at the San Francisco Fourteenth Industrial Exhibition, Mechanics Institute in 1879. The display used a giant bottle of IXL Bitters to anchor the display and grab your attention.
Dr. Henley bottles are typically round cylinders looking like a cross between a whiskey and a wine bottle that can be found in a wide range of striking glass colors that were used in making the bottles. The Henley brand is prized by western collectors because of the many molds, history, colors, and the crude applied square ring placed on the mouth of the bottle.
In 1868, William Henley was listed as a physician practicing and residing at the corner of Fifth and Jefferson in Portland, Oregon. This is when we start seeing some of his advertising for bottles of medicines and his IXL Grape Root Bitters which were based on the roots of the Oregon Wild Grape.
In 1869, William Henley and Louis Gross, an established Portland druggist, associated themselves with Henry Epstein who was a commission merchant in San Francisco with an office at 312 Sacramento. The trio started selling Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters under the flag of L. Gross & Company at 518 Front Street in San Francisco. Louis Gross was now the manufacturer and sole proprietor of the IXL Bitters. Ads said it was “An Indispensable Article!” and “The Best Tonic in the World!” The brand was so successful that it encouraged “unscrupulous parties” to put out competing products using the IXL name. Advertising asked you to look for Dr. Henley’s signature on the label of each bottle to assure you that you were not buying a counterfeit.
The first Dr. Henley’s IXL Wild Grape Root Bitters bottles were square in form and are easily identified by the embossed trade mark ‘IXL’ in a horizontal circle on the face of the bottle. See our museum example of a Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root Bitters square.
The square container was followed by tall, round Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters in a cylindrical form bottle. The IXL was typically embossed within a horizontal oval just like the square bottle. The first and oldest embossed cylindrical bottles do not have the oval embossed around the IXL. Note that our museum example of an olive green Dr. Henley IXL does not have the embossed oval which makes it extremely rare.
These early IXL examples without the horizontal oval come in various colors with amber and olive being extremely rare and they are one of the most sought after. In green, they are rare and aqua they are scarce although any colored Henley’s is extremely desirable and collectible. The H 84 listing is for the IXL without a horizontal oval and the H 85 listing is when IXL is contained within the horizontal oval.
The bottles were a product of the Pacific Glass Works.
The Carlyn Ring and Bill Ham listings in Bitters Bottles is as follows:
H 84 DR. HENLEY’S / WILD GRAPE ROOT ( au ) / IXL / BITTERS // c //
L. Gross & Company, Manufacturer and Proprietor, San Francisco, California
12 x 3 3/8 (6 ½)
Round, ARM, Applied mouth. Aqua – Scarce; Green – Rare; Olive and Amber – Extremely rare
Read: Use Dr. Henley’s Celebrated California IXL Bitters at Peachridge Glass
Support: Reference to Bitters Bottles by Carlyn Ring and W. C. Ham. Use of Dr. Henley’s IXL Wild Grape Root Bitters illustration courtesy Bill Ham
Support Image: Grouping of five colored Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters – Dale Mlasko collection.
Support Image: Grouping of three colored Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters – American Bottle Auctions