Ferro Quina Kidney and Liver Bitters

Provenance: Richard T. Siri Collection

Our extremely rare museum example is embossed ‘FERRO QUINA KIDNEY AND LIVER BITTERS.’ Typically you see these bottles embossed ‘Ferro Quina Bitters’ or ‘Ferro Quina Stomach Bitters’. These are late bottles trade-marked in 1895 and produced and sold from 1912 to 1917.

The Rossi extended family included a number of wealthy Italian immigrants who came from Piemonte and Cuneo, Italy to San Francisco in the 1870s. They actually accumulated their wealth after moving to California.

Domenico P. Rossi was born in Italy in 1853. He came to San Francisco with his brother, Pietro C. Rossi, where they were initially in the drug business. Pietro eventually moved to Asti, Sonoma County, California, where he became president of the Italian-Swiss Agricultural Association, producing grape-related products under the name of Italian-Swiss Colony, one of the largest wineries in California. Pietro became quite wealthy and maintained estates in both Asti, California, and San Francisco. Domenico stayed in San Francisco where he established his drug store at 1400 Dupont Street in 1880.

Ferro-Quina Bitters was trademarked in California on July 12, 1895, as California Trade Mark No. 2610 by D. P. Rossi. There is a reference that the bitters were first used in China.

Perhaps most confusing is this product’s relationship with another, Ferro China Bisleri Bitters, which was begun in Italy about 1881. Their United States office was in New York City, N.Y. In fact, they were so close in the name (Ferro China vs. Ferro Quina) that Felice Bisleri sued D. P. Rossi for $1,000 for label infringement in 1895. The labels actually say both Quina and China in some cases.

Actually, D. P. Rossi was using advertising in 1912 calling his bitters ‘Ferro China Bitters.’ Look closely at the two advertisements below, both from the L’Italia newspaper in San Francisco. In the left one in 1912, the Rossi Drug Co. says FERRO-CHINA BITTERS at the top of the advertisement, though their bottle label in the illustration says ‘Ferro-Quina Stomach Bitters, Blood Maker.’ The 1916 advertisement on the right says FERRO QUINA BITTERS at the top of the advertisement, and their bottle label in the illustration says ‘Ferro-Quina Stomach Bitters, Blood Maker’ just like the 1912 advertisement.

The Ferro Quina Stomach Bitters, Blood Maker variant of Rossi’s bottle may have been a reaction to the lawsuit. This variant is also embossed, ‘DOGLIANI ITALIA’ as Dogliani, at the base of the Southern Alps, is the town where Pietro and D. P. Rossi lived in Italy, and where they were born.

Domenico P. Rossi never married. He died in San Francisco on March 27, 1907. His brother Pietro would take over the business up until 1917.

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

F38 FERRO QUINA / KIDNEY / and / LIVER ( au ) / BITTERS / D. P. ROSSI / SAN FRANCISCO, / CAL. //
9 ¼ x 4
Square lady’s leg, Amber, LTCR, 1 sp, Rare

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

Support: Ferro-Quina Bitters labels, California Secretary of State’s Office, “Old Series Trademark No. 2610,” California State Archives Exhibits, accessed November 6, 2020

Support Images: Ferro Quina Bitters and Ferro Quina Stomach Bitters bottles courtesy Jeff Wichmann, American Borrle Auctions.

Support Image: Ferro Quina Bitters salesman sample courtesy Jim Hagenbuch, Glass Works Auctions.

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