W. Thorn Pitts Pa Tea Berry Tooth Wash
W. Thorn Pitts Pa
Tea Berry Tooth Wash
William Thorn, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Rectangular Aquamarine Medicine Bottle
Provenance: Chip Cable Collection
William Thorn was born on December 26, 1814, in New Jersey. Not much is known about his early life though he did move to Philadelphia as a young man and work as a druggist.
Our crystal clear aquamarine Thorns Tea Berry Tooth Wash bottle is in a somewhat rectilinear tombstone form with concave chamfered corners. The face panel is embossed vertically shoulder to base in a serif typestyle ‘W. THORN’ (1st line), ‘PITTSH’ (2nd line, the “H” is smaller, faint, and raised ), and ‘PA’ in the third line, flush right at the bottom corner. The thinner side panel reads, ‘TOOTH WASH’ in a single line in a similar manner. The back panel is blank and is where a paper label may have been placed. The second side panel reads ‘TEA BERRY’ again in a straight line similar to the opposite side panel. The bottle is pontiled and has a short neck with a slightly rolled month. The bottle size is 5 inches tall by 2 1/2 inches by 1 3/4 inches. The consignor reports that he had dug a piece of a Thorn’s Tea Berry thirty years ago and that a friend dug this example five or six years ago. There is only one known example.
In December 1836, the following notice was posted in Pittsburgh newspapers: “New Drug, Chemical and Family Medicine Store. Doctor H. Stevenson, of this city and William Thorn, late of the city of Philadelphia having entered into partnership as Druggists and Apothecaries, under the firm of Stevenson & Thorn at No. 53 Market Street, two doors from the corner of Fourth Street, an extensive assortment of Drugs, Medicines, English, French and German Chemicals, Family Medicines, Surgeon Instruments and a large assortment of Perfumery and Cosmetics, &c., &c., the stock was purchased in New York and Philadelphia by Mr. Thorn as he served as a pharmacist in one of the most respected retail houses in Philadelphia.”
In 1841, a tall 1-column William Thorn, Druggist and Pharmaceutist advertisement said he was carrying several hundred varieties of “Fancy Soaps, Essences, Extracts, and Perfumed Waters” and may products “For the Hair” and “For the Teeth.” This included “Glenn’s Aromatic Tooth Paste, Rose Tooth Powder, Carbonic Dentifrice, Chlorine Tooth Wash, Kreosote Tooth Wash, Oriss’ Tooth Wash, Parry’s Dentifrice, and Teeth Bushes (sic).” He was located at No. 53, Market Street indicating that he was on his own.
In 1842, William Thorn started advertising and selling his “Dr. Thorn’s Tea Berry Tooth Wash” or “Thorn’s Compound Tea Berry Tooth Wash,” which is embossed on our subject bottle. He was not a doctor, but it gave his product authenticity. Advertising said it was “an extremely pleasant dentifice (sic), exercising the most salutary influence of the Teeth and Gums; preserving the accumulation of Tartar, and purifying the Breath. – William Thorn, Apothecary and Chemist, No. 53 Market Street, Pittsburgh and by all principal Druggists, and at Tuttle’s Medical Agency, Fourth Street.” Another advertisement in 1845 said he was selling by the stick, Thorn’s Pulmonary Candy for Colds, Coughs, and Consumption.
His Thorn’s Tea Berry Tooth Wash advertising from 1842 to 1845 pictured a rather bizarre cartoon of a hairy man with his eyes popping out and teeth shining, offering a toothbrush and bottle of Thorn’s Tooth Wash to a diminutive looking woman, possible Amish, with an apron. The image certainly caught your attention when positioned on a full page of a newspaper with many other competing advertisements for medical wonders of the day. The image was accompanied by testimonials, product accolades, and the following poem:
La! What makes your teeth so unusually whith?
Quoth Josh’s dulcinea to him t’other night,
To make yourn look so, with a grin, replied Josh,
I’ve brought you a bottle of Thorn’s Tooth Wash,
‘Tis the best now in use, so the gentlefolk say,
And since they have tried this, cast all others away,
But to prove it the best to make the teeth shine,
Look again, my dear Sal, at the lustre of mine,
Then try this great tooth wash,
The Teaberry tooth wash,
And see if this tooth wash of Thorn’s is not fine.
Thorn’s Tea Berry Tooth Wash advertising stopped at the end of the year and was replaced by a very similar product, “Wheeler’s Tea Berry Tooth Wash,” which claimed to be the original Tea Berry product.
William Thorn would continue as a Druggist at the same 63 Market Street location selling popular medicines of the times like Schenck’s Celebrated Syrup for Consumption, Hoofland’s German Bitters, Hough’s Panacea, Wilson’s Pills, and many more where was the Agent. He still had his name on a few like Thorn’s Cholera Mixture, Thorn’s Ague Mixture, Thorn’s Family Pills, Thorn’s Compound Syrup of Cod Liver Oil, Thorn’s Pulmonica (sic), Thorn’s Hair Nostrum, Thorn’s Cough Candy, and Thorn’s Neutral Powder. He moved to a new location in 1854 on the corner of Hand and Penn Streets and advertised his many products. He died suddenly on July 26, 1855, at the young age of 40.
Primary Image: W. Thorn Pitts Pa Tea Berry Tooth Wash bottle imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio
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