antiquebottles THEMEDICINE CHEST --- BY DR. RICHARD CANNON Bitters Bottle


European settlers often had to learn the skills forsurvival in the harsh North American wilderness from the nativeAmericans. This included a knowledge of which local plants were good for medicine to threat their various ailments.Hordes of “secret” Indian remedies were bottled and sold as patent of proprietary medicine by the 1800's.There was a certain magic about Indian medicine in the eyes ofthe public. I want to present a couple of these that have a nice“ring” to their names.

Old Sachem Bitters andWigwam Tonic.

OldSachem Bitters and Wigwam Tonic Broadside.

Old Sachem / Bitters / And / Wigwam Tonic is anamber barrel shaped bottle, 9 1/2 inches tall with a smooth base.It's also known with a blowpipe pontil in 9 1/2 and 9 3/4-inchheights, as well as a 10 1/4-inch aqua variant with a blowpipepontil. Several shades of amber and green with smooth bases alsoexist. Mine is the “garden variety”, but is specialbecause I purchased it from the late Charles Gardner, our mostfamous bottle collector, and was able to chat with him over thephone at that time.

There is a broadside of Old Sachem Bitters andWigwam Tonic, which has been reproduced. It pictures a sternIndian Chief who appears to be very strong and armed for battle.There's an Indian village in the background with warring Indiansand settlers on the outskirts. Above, it gives Geo. Hunnewell,Agent, New York, and below, Wm. Goodrich, New York. Just underthe picture in small print is Lith. of Sarony, Major & Knapp,449 Broadway, N. York. Also in cursive writing in the lowermargin is Deposited in Clerk's Office, Southern Dist., New York,Aug. 5, 1859 and then stamped 25 Nov. 1859.

Apparently George Hunnewell was not the sameperson as John L. or Joseph W. Hunnewell of Boston who began toput out Hunnewell's Tolu Anodyne and Universal Cough Remedy inthe 1840s. We know that William Goodrich was the proprietor andwas located at 145 Water Street. Old Sachem Bitters & WigwamTonic was advertised in April, 1859. I do not know how early theproduct appeared, but probably earlier that 1859. Merrick andMoore Company was in control of the brand when they appeared inthe New Haven, Conn. City Directories, 1864-1867. Mr. Merrickresided in several of the local hotels during this period.

A label gives this information:

“From an old Indian recipe inpossession of the family of the proprietor for upwards of acentury in now offered to the public as one of the most healthyand wholesome beverages extant and as a tonic is unsurpassed.Sold by principal grocers, druggists and hotelsthroughout the Union.”

There is a labeled only Old Sachem TonicBitters from E.L. Stanwood & Co., wholesale druggists, MarketSt., Portland, Maine, in an amber, square bottle, which isprobably a later or different product.

The Great ShosoneesRemedy of Dr. Josephua.

The Great // Shoshonees / Remedy Of // Dr.Josephus is embossed on an aqua, rectangular 9 1/4 inches tallolder bottle with a smooth base. There is a testimonial for thismedicine dated August, 1866, and an October, 1868, newspaper adwhich reads: Look, read and learn, that the Great ShoshonesRemedy of the celebrated Indian Dr. Lewis Josephus of thedistinguished Tribe of Shoshonees, Columbia Territory, is now forsale in the Union. This all possessing Indian Remedy iswarranted, and in broad and emphatic language we can safely say,may be relied upon to make a permanent cure of all diseases ofthe Throat, Lungs, Kidneys, Digestive Organs & etc., as wellas Scrofula, the various skin diseases, Humors, and all diseasesarising from Impurity of the blood, excepting the third stage ofConsumption---“.

Daniel and Robert P. Young of Canada had beeninvolved in the patent medicine business and came to Syracuse,N.Y., about 1865. Directories list Young and Brother asmanufacturers of the Remedy from 1869 to 1871. Their address was130 South Salina St. Wm. Kidder & Co. of New York Citypurchased the brand in 1872. It was still being sold in Canada in1897.

I like this ad: “We are doing a great dealof good and raking in some shekels with our Indian Sanative. Theysay it cures almost anything.” It's really nice to rake inthe cash and do some good at the same time.


  1. Holst, J: Pontiled Medicine Price Guide, 1995
  2. Odell, J: Indian Bottles and Brands, 1977
  3. Ring, C: For Bitters Only, 1980

Wilson, B and B: Nineteenth Century Medicinein Glass,1971

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