ANOTHER "PATENT MEDICINE ARTICLE" FROM THE PAGES OF
ANTIQUE BOTTLE AND GLASS COLLECTOR MAGAZINE
THE MAGAZINE OF THE ANTIQUE BOTTLE COLLECTING HOBBY
When Southern artillery shelled Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861, a tragic brothers' war was ignited which in just under four years killed 304,369 from the North and approximately 200,000 from the South. More than seventy five percent of these died from diseases, mostly infectious, and the remainder were killed in battle or died from wounds received there. (4)
Hosp. Dept. quart and pint size
bottles. Both are embossed cylinders.
(#'s 1 and 9)
set of three oval U.S.A. Hosp. Dept. bottles in blue
(#'s 2,3, & 4)
sizes of shoulder embossed
U.S.A. Hosp. Dept. bottles.
(#'s 5 and 6)
The Union Army's Standard Supply Table had to be revised in 1862 to meet the greatly increased needs of the sick and wounded. The main supply depot in New York had been quickly exhausted, and the War Department lacked funds to buy more supplies at market prices. Even if the money had been available, the pharmaceutical manufacturers would have been unable to meet the government's needs without marked delay. To compensate, Surgeon General William A. Hammond in early 1863, directed that chemical laboratories be established at Astoria, Long Island, N.Y., and at Philadelphia for the repackaging of bulk drugs and supplies and for preparation of extracts and tinctures. The New York laboratory consisted of three buildings formerly occupied by John Hyer, Jr., a manufacturing chemist. In Philadelphia, a brick warehouse at Sixth and Oxford Streets, formerly used by John Wyeth and Brother, was leased for five years. (3)
Bottles and jars used by these U.S. Army Laboratories were blown from private molds in Pittsburgh, at prices much lower than those charged by the glassworks in Philadelphia. These proved to be colorful and crude with embossing. Most of the molds were cut to read U.S.A. Hosp. Dept., but variations have been found. (1,3) Bottle 10 of Table 2 may have been blown by the Baltimore Glass Works. (7)
Though the shelves of the frontier post hospitals manned by the Army of the West were later stocked with these same bottles and jars, I have not found evidence that they continued to be blown after the war. (1,2) They occur in cornflower blue, royal (cobalt) blue, aqua's, emerald and darker greens, lime green, yellow green, shades of amber and olive, amber with puce striations, yellow with apricot striations, clear, amethyst, and an unusual black glass that looks raspberry red in bright light. They vary in height from 9 1/4 inches, the quart size to 2 1//2 inches, the smallest blue size, but several of the blues are oval. The bottle lips are single or double collared, and the jar lips are the single rolled collar type. There is a 9-inch tall aqua jar with a bare iron pontil, but the other examples known to me have smooth bases. This is consistent with the fact that pontil scars rarely appear on the bases of American blown bottle after 1860, since the snap, a special clamp for holding hot glass while the lip was being developed by that time. With the possible exception of the olive and amber quarts, U.S.A. Hosp. Dept. bottles and jars are quite rare today. All are vary desirable and sought after by collectors. (1,2,3)
They contained a variety of chemicals and drugs. Military medicine of the time prescribed much whiskey and wine for use as regular therapeutics. One shipment received at the Philadelphia laboratory in August, 1863, consisted of 250 barrel of whiskey and 1,000 gallons of sherry. Certain pharmaceutical preparations were bottled or manufactured as well, such as ammonia water, chloroform, castor oil, olive oil, turpentine, potassium permanganate solution, chlorinated soda, ethyl nitrite (Sweet Spirit of Nitre), silver nitrate, ferrous tersulfate and various powders. Other preparations can be noted in Table1. (3,4)
The bottles and jars when filled were packed in wooden boxes labeled Glass with Care and shipping to the supply depots in New York, Washington, Boston, Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, Detroit, St. Louis and Springfield, Ill., to await passage to the hospitals and other units. (5,7)
size U.S.A. Hosp. Dept. bottles.Wide mouth
example on left can be found with an iron pontil.
(#'s 7 and 9)
U.S.A. Hosp. Dept bottle found near
the old hospital at Fort Mckavett, Texas.
U.S.A. Hosp. Dept. bottles and jars have been dug from the dumping areas of the Union Army Hospitals and medicine wagons, and from the frontier forts manned by the Army of the West. Four of the ten in my collection were dug on private property near the old hospital at Fort McKavett, Texas. This was a cavalry post housing as many as one thousand men and serving as a deterrent to hostile Comanche and Kiowa raids in that part of western Texas. Its active days were from 1852 through 1859, and again, from 1868 through 1883. The period in between was related to Texas' withdrawal from the Union. Table 2 is a listing of bottles and jars in my collection. (1,3,6)
Table 2 Bottles and Jars embossed U.S.A. above Hosp. Dept, Richard A. Cannon Collection.
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