The kings of the bottle world, bitters are a highly popular area to collect in.
As a result the value of these bottles can be extremely high. To the best of my
knowledge the highest price ever paid for a bottle was for a bitters. The bottle
was a Bryan's Bitters and the price was in excess of $68,000. (this bottle can be seen
at Pacific Glassworks site, check the links page.) But don't despair, there are
bitters within the price range of most collectors.
Basically, bitters was a high content alcohol beverage, sold as an aid to health. The placing of tax on alcoholic beverages in the U.S. in 1862 greatly increased the popularity of bitters, which was classed as a medicine. Why pay tax on alcohol when you could buy bitters cheaper and, in some cases, stronger then the higher priced alcohol. The efforts of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in 1874 to outlaw consumption of alcohol further fueled the manufacture of bitters. (not to mention some pretty srong medicines)
Remarkable claims were made by the manufacturers of bitters. They could cure anything that people suffered, from sleeplessness to life threatening diseases. It is quite probable that many people believed the claims made by the manufacturers of bitters. It is also likely that more then a few people discovered a cheap replacement for alcohol. At the time there was no consumer protection acts in the U.S.(or elsewhere for that matter) and as a result any mixture could be used in bitters. As a result many very strong mixtures appeared on the market. A good example was Dr. J Hostetter's Celebrated Stomach Bitter's. The U.S. government bought this bitters for the union troops during the civil war. It was 94 proof. Imagine the effects on troops going to battle after consuming half a bottle of Hostetter's.
As with flasks, the most prolific producers of bitters were the American's. It is the American bitters that are the most collectable, and command the highest prices. These products came in a wide variety of shapes and colours, and some found a world wide market. Even now, some of the names of these bitters are instantly recognizable world wide. National Bitters(pictured on left), The Fish Bitters(pictured at top of page), Drakes(pictured above right) and Brown's Celebrated Indian Herb Bitters are a few of the well known names. As well there are various shapes that are well known for bitters, one of my favourite being the barrels.
As time goes by, I'll add pics of various bitters as they become available. I have had several people give me permission to use their bitters pics(such as Jeff and Holly, National and Fish pics above) I'll add them as I get time.
3D BOTTLES: A different view
LINKS: A variety of bottle related sites.
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