Dating glass bottles richard fike
To quote Fike (1987) on medicine bottles - "Literally hundreds of thousands of brands and variations of vessels were manufactured..." during the noted era.
This variety is not too surprising since one's health was (and still is) probably the most important personal issue of all time, made even more important during the era of primitive medical knowledge and practices and universal ignorance about hygiene and even the causes of disease.
Though intimidating in its immense diversity there are some useful trends in shapes that mark a bottle as very likely to have been used primarily or originally as a container for some type of medicinal product.
The breadth of variety within the medicinal bottle category is indicated by Fike (1987) dividing his classic book (The Bottle Book: A Comprehensive Guide to Historic, Embossed Medicine Bottles) into over 40 different "product" chapters, ranging from "bitters" to "cures" to "purifiers" and many more.
This section also includes druggist bottles (aka pharmacy, drugstore, or prescription bottles) due to their close connection to the other types of medicinal bottles.
Most of the many thousands of local druggists during the 19th and early 20th century typically concocted their own medicinal compounds to sell from their stores utilizing proprietary druggist or prescription bottles, i.e., bottles with the druggist or store name, address, city/state, and/or other information or a graphic feature (Feldhaus 1987).
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The added strength inherent in a round (cross section) body was rarely an issue with medicinals so the limitations on overall shape were much reduced and the possible variety multiplied many fold.
As noted in the opening line of Odell (2000), "Medicine is as old as man, no doubt born of necessity and wrought by trial and error." Self-medication was often all that could be had by most people and the ability of doctors to help a person - if they were even available - was very limited and their training and/or backgrounds often suspect.
Thus, the allure of patent or proprietary medicines (Young 1961).
Poisons could have been covered also under the "Household (non-food related)" or "Miscellaneous Bottle Types" sections below, but are covered here because since some "poisons" were used for external human use (e.g., witch hazel, denatured alcohol).
Medicinal bottles were similar to liquor bottles (another very diverse category) in that bottle design was not inherently constrained by some quality of the contained product, i.e., the contents were not typically carbonated which demanded heavier glass and typically a round body shape.
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