Dr. Guysott’s Compound Extract of Yellowdock Sarsaparilla

Provenance: Michael George Collection

Our embossed “Dr. Guysott’s Compound Extract of Yellow Dock & Sarsaparilla” is extraordinary in this rich emerald green glass color. This top-shelf specimen is full of character and has an applied ring mouth and a smooth base. The quart square has chamfered sides and is embossed in a delicate serifed type style ‘DR. GUYSOTT’S’ (panel 1, the “R” of “DR” is smaller, raised and has two dots beneath), ‘COMPOUND EXTRACT OF YELLOW DOCK’ (panel 2 in two lines), ‘& SARSAPARILLA’ (panel 3) and is blank on panel 4 where a paper label would have been placed. The bottle is the large letter variant and was probably made in a New York or New England glasshouse.

The S. F. Bennett small letter variant was made earlier and originated in Little Falls, New York. The bottle is typically found in yellow-olive amber, medium to deep green, and aquamarine glass and uses a sans-serif letter style on every word except “Dr. Guysott” which is serifed. Here the “R” of “DR” is smaller, raised, and has a rule beneath. The bottle is found with an applied tapered or round collar and an improved or iron pontil. The bottles were produced by a New York or New England glasshouse.

In the mid to late 1840s, prominent newspaper advertisements exclaimed that “Dr. Guysott’s Extract of Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla” was a “Great & Important Chemical Discovery” and was a “Chemical Combination from the Vegetable Kingdom to Repel Diseases.” The ads said that the medicine was made from Shaker prepared Yellow Dock and Red Honduras Sarsaparilla. Yellow dock is a herb where the root and fruits were used as medicine. Sarsaparilla is a tropical plant that is a climbing, woody vine that grows deep in the canopy of the rainforest. It is native to South America, Jamaica, the Caribbean, Mexico, Honduras, and the West Indies. For centuries, indigenous people around the world used the root of the sarsaparilla plant for treating joint problems like arthritis, and for healing skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis. The root was also thought to cure leprosy due to its “blood-purifying” properties. Sarsaparilla was later introduced into European medicine and eventually registered as an herb in the United States Pharmacopoeia to treat syphilis. Whether there was actually a Dr. Guysott is unknown.

The medicine left no stone unturned as it was advertised as the “Best Female Medicine Known” and when wed according to the directions, would cure without fail, Consumption, Diseases of the Lungs, Scrofula, or King’s Evil, Cancers, Tumors, Eruptions of the Skin, Erysipelas, Chronic Sore Eyes, Ringworm or Tetters, Scald Head, Rheumatism, Gout, Asthma, Piles, Scurvy, Pains in the Bones or Joints, Cold Sores, and Ulcers, Swelling of the Glands, Syphilis, Dyspepsia, Salt Rheum, Diseases of the Bladders and Kidneys, Corrupt Humours, Rush of Blood to the Head, Fever, and Ague, Liver Complaints, Loss of Appetite, Colds, Headache, Night Sweats, Colic, Diseases arising from the use of Mercury, Spinal Affections, Pains in the Side, Chest, Back, Limbs and Shoulders, General Debility, Dropsy, Lumbago, Jaundice, Organic Affections, Palpitation of the Heart, Bites, and Costiveness.

In the 1840s, Dr. Guysott’s Extract of Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla was prepared at S. F. Bennett’s Laboratory in Little Falls, Herkimer County, New York. Testimonials in full column newspaper advertising, that were directed to S. F. Bennett, indicate that the product was being sold as early as 1842 and probably earlier. There were agents throughout New York and New England, and the medicine was sold by principal druggists and merchants throughout the United States, West Indies, and Canada. Bennett said “None genuine unless put up in large square bottles containing a quart, with a name Syrup blown in the glass, with the written signature of S. F. Bennett on each outside wrapper. What is odd, is that “Syrup” is not part of the long product name embossed on three sides of the bottle.

Dr. Guysott’s Extract of Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla was eventually taken over by Demas S. Barnes who advertised that he was the proprietor. Barnes started his wholesale drug business in New York City in 1850 or so and was very successful in selling many products. Barnes was well situated financially and was a genius in product marketing and advertising. 

Sometime around 1853, Barnes would partner with John. D. Park in Cincinnati, Ohio who put his name on oval form bottles and was selling Dr. Guysott’s Improved Compound Extract of Yellow Dock & Sarsaparilla in Cincinnati, Ohio for $1 per bottle and six bottles for $5. His Dr. Guysott’s label even said he was the proprietor and that it was prepared by S. F. Bennett in Little Falls, New York. He also took out similar full-column ads in regional newspapers touting the many benefits of the medicine.

With Demas S. Barnes, the difference between medicines for which he was the proprietor or just the distributor was often unclear. As an example of a distributorship, he was a leading distributor of patent medicines compounded by Dr. Schenck of Philadelphia, including Pulmonic Syrup, Seaweed Tonic, and Mandrake Pills.

One of the most important successes achieved by Demas Barnes in 1860 was by his forming a partnership with Patrick Henry Drake and trading as P. H. Drake & Company. Most antique bottle collectors are familiar with the figural cabin, Drake’s Plantation Bitters. Barmes was also representing popular brands such as Hagan’s Magnolia Balm, Heimstreet’s Hair Restorative, Lyon’s Kathairon Plasters, Mexican Mustang Liniment, and Wynkoop’s Pectoral to name a few.

Demas Barnes was one of the first to request private die stamps after they were authorized, and the first three Barnes stamps were approved by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue in September 1862. These were the 1¢, 2¢, and 4¢ D. S. Barnes stamps in a vertical format printed in black and in vermillion. Each notes that he is the proprietor of Guysott’s Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla.

Primary Image: Dr. Guysott’s Compound Extract of Yellow Dock & Sarsaparilla bottle imaged on location by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio led by Alan DeMaison.

Support: Reference to American Sarsaparilla Bottles by John DeGrafft, 1980

Support Image: Auction Lot 2: “DR. GUYSOTT’S – COMPOUND EXTRACT / OF YELLOW DOCK – & SARSAPARILLA”, (Odell, pg. 156), American, ca. 1840–1860, yellowish olive amber, 9 1/2”h, pontil scarred base, applied tapered collar mouth. Bright pristine condition, crude pebbly glass, and in a rare color. This one has it all! – Jim Hagenbuch, Glass Works Auctions | “Festival of Color” Auction #102

Support Image: Auction Lot 266: “DR GUYSOTT’S – COMPOUND EXTRACT / OF YELLOW DOCK – & SARSAPARILLA”, (Odell, pg. 155), (DeG. #90), American, ca. 1855 – 1860, deep emerald green, 9 3/8”h, smooth base, applied tapered collar mouth. A rarely offered sparkling beauty, and with good glass whittle. At first glance, you would bet the ranch that it was pontiled, and probably just missed having one! Ex. Robert ‘Bob’ White Collection. – Jim Hagenbuch, Glass Works Auctions | “Christmas Comes Early” Auction #100

Support Image: Auction Lot 1: “Dr. Guysott’s / Compound Extract / Of Yellow Dock / & Sarsaparilla” Medicine Bottle, America, 1860-1880. Square with beveled corners, rich medium blue-green, applied round collared mouth – smooth base, ht. 9 1/8 inches. AAM pg. 205 Unusual round collared mouth, highly whittled panels, bold embossing, and stunning color. Fine condition. – Norman Heckler Jr. & Sr., Norman C. Heckler & Company | Auction #189

Support Image: Auction Lot 173: “Dr Guysott’s / Compound Extract / Of Yellow Dock / & Sarsaparilla” Medicine Bottle, America, 1860-1870. Square with beveled corners, bluish aquamarine, applied double collared mouth – smooth base, ht. 9 1/2 inches. AAM pg. 205 A wonderful example with highly whittled panels that shimmer in the sunlight. Fine condition. – Norman Heckler Jr. & Sr., Norman C. Heckler & Company | Auction #177

Support Image: Auction Lot 31: “Dr Guysott’s / Compound / Extract Of / Yellow Dock & / Sarsaparilla” Medicine Bottle, America, 1845-1860. Square with beveled corners, bright blue green, applied sloping collared mouth – iron pontil mark, ht. 9 1/4 inches; (minor loss to label). AAM pg. 205 A crude example with bold embossing. Rare with original label. Fine condition. – Norman Heckler Jr. & Sr., Norman C. Heckler & Company | Auction #146

Support Image: Auction Lot 156: “Dr Guysotts / Yellow Dock & / Sarsaparilla / John. D. Park / Cincinnati. O” Medicine Bottle, America, 1840-1860. Oval form, deep bluish aquamarine, applied sloping collared mouth – iron pontil mark, ht. 9 3/4 inches. PME pg. 155 A large early medicine bottle in fine condition. – Norman Heckler Jr. & Sr., Norman C. Heckler & Company | Auction #105

Support Image: Auction Lot 1:  “DR. GUYSOTT’S – COMPOUND EXTRACT / OF YELLOW DOCK – & SARSAPARILLA”, (Odell, pg. 102), (DeGrafft, #90), New York, ca. 1848 -1853, yellowish olive amber, 9 1/4”h, improved pontil scarred base, applied tapered collar mouth. A less than pinhead in size flake is off a corner panel edge. Some very faint almost invisible scratches on the Guysott’s panel near the base. Both of these extremely tiny flaws are mentioned only for accuracy. Crude textured glass and having numerous trapped air bubbles, and an extra ‘flow’ of glass is on the neck. Very hard to find in this color, check the auction records! This is the small letter variant that can also be found in medium to deep green. The larger letter variant exists in deep emerald green and olive green. It is a real challenge to collect all four, but here’s a start! This is one of the earlier of the Guysott’s bottles, sold by S.F. Bennett’s when the company was in Little Falls, Herkimer County, New York. – Jim Hagenbuch, Glass Works Auctions | December 2019

Support Image: Three Vertical U.S. Internal Revenue stamps for a variety of products including Drake’s Plantation Bitters, Lyon’s Magnetic Powder, Guysott’s Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla, Mexican Mustang Liniment, Helmstreet’s Hail Coloring, Drake’s Catawba Bitters

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