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


The life& times of the little known Newcastle medicine man

By AlanBlakeman (guest columnist for this issue)

George Handyside produced the largest range of medicinebottles anywhere in the world – the multitude of shapes,sizes, and colors, combined with their subtle, less-showy thanthe more famous Victorian counterparts, have long appealed to themore discerning American collectors. In England they havereceived little attention, the name is well known, but thebottles themselves are not.

We offer here a look at the complete range sofar recorded.

George Handyside was born in 1818 atNewton-on-the-Moor, a small farming community in Northumberland.

At the age of 16 he left his parents humblelittle cottage to begin a boot repair business. By 1840, now 22,he had a thriving business and soon was able to expand his rangeof shops throughout the district, on of them being at DeanStreet, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

He continued to prosper until in 1858 helaunched himself into quackery medicine from No. 1 College Road,Newcastle, with his `Handyside Cure For Consumption' (an illnesswhich was at epidemic proportion in the poor N.E. miningcommunities). It gained enormous popularity even in its inauguralyear, and with his considerable business acumen he firmlybelieved in the power of advertising. One advertisement shows anold worn boot under which it states `Applicable to men as toleather, it's never to late to mend.' Another ad showed a crowdof ill, feeble looking people making their way over a bridge– on the other side lay happiness and cure – the`bridge' was the consumption cure.

He used his wealth wisely investing in propertyand land. He purchased Bentinck Terrace in Elswick Road,Newcastle and went on to build in Portland, Hull, Crispan, Tweedand Durham streets, and sixteen shops in New Bridge St.,Newcastle. One of his most important buildings was the CentralBuilding in Gateshead.

George passed away on May, 6th 1904,at the ripe old age of 84, and is buried in Elswick cemetery,just several hundred yards from his house in Bentinck St. Sadlyhe failed to see his 95 shop arcade, built from Percy St. throughto Leazes Lane, completed, though `Handysides Arcade' istestament to him today, even though under threat from the CityPlanners! His bottles will without doubt remain as a reminded ofthis greatest of all English Victorian medicine men. (Thisarticle original appeared in British Bottle Review magazine,which Alan Blakeman is publisher of).

Rarity guide: Remember that almost all of the Handysides bottles are considerably rarer than any Warners bottles, Prices Patent Candle wedge or the large amber Radms. They were manufactured and sold solely in the North East of England, though just a few have been dug in other areas. For reference purposes we have numbered the types, subdivided a, b, c, etc.

***** Only one example recorded

**** Two to five examples known

*** Between six & ten examples

** 11 to 20 examples known

* More than 20 known

1. HANDYSIDES OINTMENT - 1 1/2 ins. tall, 1 3/4 ins. diam. Typically unssuming and simple product from G. Handyside. ****

2. HANDYSIDES RHEUMATIC CURE - 5 1/4 ins. tall cylinder. Clear glass. also a smaller, fatter example recorded. ***

3. HANDYSIDES CONSUMPTION CURE - and on the oposite end panel NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE - 6 ins. tall, 2 1/4 ins. wide, 1 1/4 ins., deep aqua. The only 'normal' medicine bottle in this large range & only the 2nd type featuring the place name. *****

4. HANDYSIDES CONSUMPTION CURE - 7 ins. to 7 1/4 ins. tall, square bodied. Commonly reffered to as 'the sauce bottle'. (4a) aqua **, (4b) light amber ***, (4c) emerald green **, (4d) olive green **, (4e) mid/deep blue ***

5. HANDYSIDES CONSUMPTION CURE - As previous but 8 1/4 ins. tall. Only black (dark green or brown). *

6. HANDYSIDES BLOOD PURIFIER - 6 1/4 ins. tall by 2 1/4 ins. wide. Black (dark green/brown). Often extremely heavy and crudely mishapen. *

7. HANDYSIDES BLOOD PURIFIER - 6 1/4 ins. by 2 ins. Lettering in indented front panel. Black (green) glass. *

8. HANDYSIDES BLOOD PURIFIER - 6 1/4 ins. by 2 ins. Lettering as previous but this example has larger base panel. Black (green) ** (just)!

9 EAISLY DIGESTED SYRUP PREPARED BY G. HANDYSIDE - 7 ins. by 2 3/8 ins. Olive green. 'Easily' is misspelled. Bottle originally owned by ex-Tambourlaine man John Morrison, until he accidentally dropped it and cracked the neck. 2 mint examples discovered plus another in mid blue. *****

10. BLOOD FOOD PREPARED BY G. HANDYSIDE - 5 1/2 ins. by 2 1/4 ins. Oval cross section. Dense black (green & brown). Very, very heavy glass. * (commonest of 'em all.)

11. BLOOD FOOD PREPARED BY G. HANDYSIDE - 6 1/4 to 6 1/2 ins. tall, 2 1/4 wide. Oval cross section. (11a) black (green & brown) *, (11b) mid blue ****

12. BLOOD FOOD PREPARED BY G. HANDYSIDE - 6 3/4 to 7 1/4 ins. tall. approx. 2 1/2 ins. wide. Oval cross section. Note sharper lettering curves. Some slight word variations known too. (12a) aqua ***, (12b) deep golden amber ***, (12c) light emerald green ***, (12d) mid blue ****

13. BLOOD FOOD PREPARED BY G. HANDYSIDE - Approx. 10 ins. tall, 3 1/2 ins. wide. Oval cross section. Possibly the least desirable of Handysides bottles, the blue example often quite ugly! Rarer embossing variant says 'Health Food'-about 20. 1 rarer. (13a) black *, (13b) olive green **, (13c) light blue ***

14. DRINK PREPARATION PREPARED BY G. HANDYSIDE - 10 1/2 ins. tall, 2 3/4 ins. sq. base. Distinguished by big blobby lip. (14a) aqua **, (14b) olive green ***, (14c) blue ****, (14d) amber *****

15. HANDYSIDE'S BLOOD PURIFIER - 10 3/4 ins. tall, 3 ins. sq. base. Unusual and striking black glass bottle with square lower half and long thin neck, lower part usually crudely indented. 3 inset panels **

16. BLOOD MEDICINE PREPARED BY G. HANDYSIDE NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE - 10 3/4 ins. tall, 3 1/2 ins. diam. Elegant circular wine shape, glass often very 'swirly' string rim lip. Only this and type 3 incorporate the town name. black (brown) ***

17. HANDYSIDE'S CONSUMPTION CURE - 10 3/4 ins. tall, base 2 1/2 ins. sq. Stumpy octagonal neck, 3 panel inset. (17a) aqua ****, (17b) black *, (17c) dark green ** (17d) dark amber/brown **, (17e) mid blue ****

18. HANDYSIDE'S CONSUMPTION CURE - 11 1/2 ins. tall. the rare long neck variant. Neck still octagonal. (Only example recorded.) blackglass *****

19. CORN SALVE PREPARED BY G. HANDYSIDE - Clear glass, broken neck. Found last summer. Now being restored.

The largest grouping of Handysides is now in a new display cabinet at the National Bottle Museum, Elsecar, England

Advertising for Handysides Electric Nervine Snuff. More than likely this was a labeled bottle, of which no trace has yet been found. George always insisted on wearing a long black alpaca coat, black and white shepard trousers, a long gold chain round his neck, and a tall Quakers hat, irrespective of weather or occasion. Is this meant to be him? Front and rear cover of a Handysides almanac, dated 1889, note the innaccuracy of the mirrored reflection?

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