Dr. J.R. Flanders Specific

Provenance: Terry McMurray Collection

Here is a rare pontiled medicine bottle with only two complete examples reported in collections. There is a Greer Collection 596 – Harmer Rooke, N.Y.C. auction house sticker on the bottle.

For many years we did not know who Dr. J. R. Flanders was? We knew what was embossed on the bottle which includes his name, the word ‘Specific’, and ‘For Cure of Diseases of the Kidney & Stone in Bladder.’ One side of the bottle also has ‘New York’ embossed prominently. That is certainly a start.

There is also an applied paper label that does not match up with the embossed copy. There are several theories why the Mrs. Woods’s Medicina label is on this bottle and further research could probably find an answer. The bottom line is that the label is period and has probably been on that bottle since the beginning. The Flanders medicine was obviously a poor seller based on only two examples known, so instead of throwing out remaining bottles, the distributor used them for Mrs. Woods’s Medicina and just slapped on a label. I know that was a common practice back then. [Terry McMurray]

When we search for a Dr. J. R. Flanders in New York in the early second half of the 1800s, we get no hits except for a prominent lawyer named Joseph R. Flanders. When we broaden our search, we do see a J. R. Flanders that was a mason in New Hampshire in 1876. We also see Dr. J. R. Flanders in Cameron, Missouri who was a veterinarian. He retired in Kansas in 1921. Too late. This brings us back to New York.


Around 1866, a Dr. A. H. Flanders began producing a line of medical products which cleverly included the name Rush, insinuating that the formulae were those of Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813). The products included Rush’s Pain Cure, Rush’s Sarsaparilla and Iron, Rush’s Buchu & Iron, Rush’s Pills, Rush’s Lung Balm, Rush’s Fever and Ague Compound, Rush’s Bitters and others, but all with the name Rush.

Benjamin Rush was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and a civic leader in Philadelphia, where he was a physician, politician, social reformer, humanitarian, and educator as well as the founder of Dickinson College.

Abraham Hilliard Flanders (1827 – 1897) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 27, 1827, to Thomas Flanders and Ann Hilliard. Abraham married Georgianna B. Tappan and studied at Harvard Medical College and graduated from Union College. He practiced in the 1850s and 1860s in Boston and Cambridge and by 1869 would move his operation to 727 Broadway in New York City and then to No. 3 Rutherford Place, Stuyvesant Square. He would build a house on Fort Nonsense, Morristown, New Jersey, where he eventually died.

Dr. A. H. Flanders bottles look somewhat like our subject Dr. J. H. Flanders bottle though his bottles were made a bit later. One similarity is the embossed NEW YORK. Could the bottles have been a manufacturing mistake and embossed incorrect initials when Abraham first stated bottling his medicines? Maybe in 1855 or so?


New detective work in May 2020, reveals that it is probably a bottle embossing mistake that should be for James Francis Flanders or J. F. Flanders embossed on the bottles.


Mrs. Wood most likely took possession of the error bottles and used them for her Mrs. Woods’s Medicina which was advertised in 1863. Mrs. Sophia H. Woods and her husband, Henry M. Woods first sold patent medicines in Lower Manhattan. The Woods first operated in Brooklyn then moved across the East River to Brooklyn.

It’s interesting to note that Mrs. Woods’s Medicina was advertised as an excellent Hotel and Saloon Bitters. It was put up in 16 oz. bottles with full directions and sold for 26 cents a bottle. You could obtain it from a Mrs. Taylor at 112 Fulton Street in Brooklyn. You had to go up some stairs to get it. Not a very big operation. The advertising only occurred in 1863.

Read: The Bad News and The Good News by Dr. Dewey Heetderks, Bottles and Extras, Winter 2005

Read: Rush’s Bitters – Benjamin Rush and Abraham Hilliard Flanders

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