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antique bottlesTHE MEDICINECHEST --- BY DR. RICHARD CANNON

SPECIFIC:BAKER'S AND LAKE'S

Medicineshaving a special curative power against a single disease werereferred to as specifics. The number of 19th centuryproducts that included the word specific is not large. Baldwinlists 46, not all embossed in the glass3, Fike, 214,Neilson, 55, Odell, 56, Agee, 11&2,and wolf, 18. However, I have become interested inthese as a category, and now find 13 embossed examples on myshelves. I want to tell what I've been able to find out about theBaker's, a great picture bottle, and the Lake's, a reallybeautiful early glass container.

Baker's Great AmericanSpecific.

The Baker's bottle I find listed4, 9,7 is4 1/4 inches tall, clear, rectangular, and embossed with UncleSam holding a glass in his right hand and with his right foot ona box, Baker's on the box, Specific below the box, and R. Hurd,Prop. / No. Berwick, Me, U.S.A., as the lower two lines. Mybottle is 5 5/8 inches tall, clear, rectangular, and embossedwith Uncle Sam holding a glass in his right hand and with hisright foot on a box, Baker's / Great American / Specific all onthe side of the box, and R.H. Hurd, Prop. / N. Berwick / Maine,U.S.A. as the lower three lines. Hence, mine is an unlistedlarger variant!

Charles Baker, Jr., of New York City isbelieved to have started his medicine in the late 1840's7.In 1850, Ezra Easterly became the sole agent, and in 1860, waslocated in St. Louis, Mo., at Third and Chestnut Streets. An 1860ad gives this information:

“Dr. Baker's Specific will cureGonorrhea, glett stricture, seminal weakness, chordee, diseasesof the Kidneys, Bladder, and all diseases of the genital organs.Reader, have you a private disease? Delay is dangerous. Dr.Baker's Specific is a safe, speedy and radical cure. With Baker'sSpecific you can cure yourself, and prevent exposure as plaindirections for use accompany the medicine. Price $1.50 perbottle”.

Therefore this, like Swift's SyphiliticSpecific, was for a “private” group of diseases.

When Easterly died in the mid 1880's, his widowsold the brand, which had been a poor seller, to Richard HenryHurd, a druggist in North Berwick, Maine. He built the salesgradually by securing agents in Spanish speaking countries, andby 1893, was forced to move to more spacious facilities toprepare and bottle it. Other medicines distributed with somesuccess were Hurd's Cough Syrup and Hurd's Sarsaparilla.

H. Lake'sIndian Specific.

I know of a 7-inch tall aqua bottle embossedonly Perhaps this contained Baker's “Prepared By Dr. E.Easterly, St. Louis”. specific.

My H. Lake's / Indian / Specific is deep aqua,has a blow pipe pontil, is rectangular with a bulbous neck, andis 8 1/8 inches tall, a really striking old piece. There is asimilar pontiled bottle with a bulbous neck 6 inches tall whichis embossed Sears / Pulmonary / Specific, so this category has atleast two great pontiled examples.

H. Lake's Indian Specific was anything but “specific”according to this 1850 ad: “For preservation of life andhealth this is the most extraordinary medicine in use, and shouldbe kept in every family. It is the only sure, safe and speedycure known on the Upper Mississippi for Intermittent, Bilious andChill Fever, Fever and Ague, Black Vomit, Consumption,Bronchitis, Liver Complaints, Cold Stomach, and was Never Knownto Fail in Cholera, Cholera Morbus, and will relieve the mostsevere Dysentery or Bowel Complaint in a very short time”.

The recipe was obtained, at great expense, froma Celebrated Indian Doctor, and is highly valuable as a FamilyMedicine, by all who have tested its good qualities.

“Prepared and Sold, Wholesale andRetail, by H. Lake, Geddes, N.Y.”6.

Henry Lake was living in Geddes, now part ofSyracuse, N.Y., in 1849, and was in partnership with hisson-in-law, Dr. Daniel D. Smith, a dentist. The relationship wasdissolved in 1850, and Lake retained control over the medicineuntil his death, which may have been suicide, in 1851. Dr. Smithsold the brand to Thomas R. Allen of Syracuse in 1854. I have nofurther information.

Specifics may not be as numerous as cures, butthey're just as much fun to look for!

References:

  1. Agee, Bill: Collecting The Cures, 1969.
  2. Agee, Bill: Collecting All Cures, 1973.
  3. Baldwin, Joseph: Patent And Proprietary Medicine Bottles Of The Nineteenth Century, 1973.
  4. Fike, Richard: The Bottle Book, 1987.
  5. Nielsen, Frederick: Great American Pontiled Medicines, 1978.
  6. Odell, John: Indian Bottles And Brands, 1977.
  7. Wilson, Bill and Betty: Nineteenth Century Medicine In Glass, 1971.
  8. Wolf, John: Collecting More Cures, 1975.
  9. Umberger, Art and Jewel: Top Bottles, U.S.A., 1971.

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