antiquebottles THEMEDICINE CHEST --- BY DR. RICHARD CANNON old bottles


No matter what we basically collect, most of us won'tturn down a good jug when it comes along.

Earl y American stoneware was hard, nonporous,glazed with salt, and often decorated with cobalt blue. Thisimperviousness to water and durability made it very useful as abasic household item from the 17th century to theearly 20th century. The technique of salt-glazingstoneware originated in the Rhineland during the 15thcentury. Rhenish stoneware was made for exportation intocontinental Europe and England during the 16 and 1700s. FromEngland, it was shipped to the American colonies until theRevolutionary War, when Native American potteries began to takeover the market.

Ovoid Jug Less ovoid jug, brushed with cobalt

The industry was dependent ona fine white clay not readily available in all parts of theUnited States. Stoneware potteries had to import the clay fromvast deposits in New Jersey and Long Island. The earliestpotteries were located in New York, New Jersey, and coastal NewEngland. Gradually the industry spread, following the waterwaysinto the interior of New York, Pennsylvania, New England, Ohio,and the West. There was never a great many stoneware companies inthe Southeastern United States.

Spurlock Neal Co., wirehandle; Strong, Cobb & Co., embossed shoulder jug.

American jugs are round, have a small mouth,and a single handle; some larger ones have two handles which madethem easier to lift. A later variation was made with two circularprojections to accommodate the ends of a wire handle. These jugshave two basic shapes, ovoid and cylindrical shape has eitherrounded shoulders that taper into the neck or a ridge at theshoulder with either a cone or a funnel forming the top. Theselatter are called shoulder jugs, and were the prevalent shape inthe late 1800s and early 1900s.

Jugs were made with capacities from 1/8 gallonto 6 gallons. However the majority of those known today are from1/2 to 5 gallons. Frequently the capacity was either brushed onin cobalt on the upper portion along with some design, leaf,flower, etc., or impressed on. Maker's marks and wholesaler's orpurchaser's marks were impressed on many. Stenciling becamepopular after the Civil War, and some were embossed.

I would like to illustrate this article witheight jugs from my collection. They are all various colors oftan.

The first is an ovoid jug, 15 1/2 inches talland impressed only with a 3 on the shoulder, indicating a3-gallon capacity.

Next is a less ovoid one, 13 inches tall, andbrushed on in cobalt 3 with fancy lines below, again indicatingthe capacity of 3 gallons.

"TrueFruit" Fountain Syrup. Slightly ovoid; Moffitt-West DrugCo., cylinder.

My slightly ovoid jug, 11 inches tall, isimpressed “True Fruit” / Fountain Syrup / J. HungerfordSmith Co. / Rochester, N.Y. The company was incorporated in 1890,with Smith receiving 55% of the stock, so we know that the ovoidshape persisted into the 1890s.

Moffitt-West Drug Co. / Wholesale Druggists /St. Louis, U.S.A., is stenciled on the side of my 8 1/2 inchestall cylindrical jug. The upper portion has been coated with adark brown glaze before firing. The company was incorporated in1889.

The 10 1/4 inches tall cylindrical jug withSpurlock Neal Co. / Wholesale Druggists / Nashville, Tenn.Stenciled has the variation of a wire handle. This company beganin the 1860s, but was called Spurlock Neal only between 1887 and1892.

Conner's Blood Remedy, funnel shaped neck. Southern Drug Co. shoulder jug.

My cylindrical jug, 11 inches tall, is ashoulder jug with a conical neck. Strong, Cobb & Company /Wholesale Druggists / Cleveland, is embossed above the shoulder.This company was established by Samuel M. Strong in 1833, but itwas called Strong, Cobb and Co. in 1887.

Southern Drug Co. / Wholesale Druggists /Quality and Service / Houston, Tex. Is stenciled under a large 3(for gallons) on my 14 3/4 inches tall cylindrical shoulder jug.It has a brown, cone shaped neck. The Southern Drug Co. waslocated at the corner of Franklin and Caroline in Houston, andfirst appeared in the city directory in 1907. About 1930, itbecame a part of McKesson and Robbins, but continued to operatethrough World War II.

The final jug is a cylindrical shoulder typewith a funnel shaped neck, is 6 3/4 inches tall, and has Conner'sBlood Remedy stenciled above the shoulder. This was a product ofthe Conner Medicine Company of Chattanooga, Tenn., which waslisted in the city directories there from 1902 through 1915.

Happy jugs to you!!!!


  1. Stewart, R. and Cosentio, G.: Stoneware, Golden Press, N.Y. and Western Pub. Co., Racine, Wisconsin.
  2. Johnson, C.: Personal correspondence, Houston Public Library, August, 1993.
  3. Cannon, R.: Wholesale Drug Stoneware, Antique Bottle and Glass Collector, Nov., 1993.
  4. Ibid.: Pharmacy Go-withs, A.B.G.C., May, 1992.
  5. Ibid.: Stoneware Medicine, A.B.G.C., July, 1989.
  6. Ibid.: Researching The Medicines, A.B.G.C., Feb., 1987.

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