Herkules Bitters – Now in Three Sizes

Herkules Bitters – Now in Three Sizes

26 October 2017 (R•102717)

As most of us know, Hercules is a Roman hero and god. He was the equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles, who was the son of Zeus (Roman equivalent Jupiter) and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures. The art at the top of this post is Hercules fighting the Nemean lion by Peter Paul Rubens.

In bitters collecting, we have the Herkules Bitter. Note the use of a “k” in Herkules and the absence of an “s” in Bitter. With the “k”, that is simply the German spelling. Most bitters collectors consider this a bitters even with this “s” anomaly. Additionally, an advertising clip below uses the word “Bitters”.

I added a quart example from the Stuart Elman collection to my collection back in 2002. I had not thought about this bottle in years until I saw three different sizes show up in a recent American Bottle Auctions Auction #64. The middle size is unlisted. Each is represented in this post. Pretty amazing that the concoction was 40% alcohol!

The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listings in Bitters Bottles and Bitters Bottles Supplement is as follows:

H 98  HERKULES BITTER
HERKULES ( cu ) BITTER  (ad) / monogram  / 1 QUART
L…1 Quart, Herkules Bitter, 40% Alcohol
7 1/2″ x 5
Ball, Green, ARM, Tooled lip, Rare
Lettering on flattened area of body
Note: Trade mark No. 2034 dated October, 1874 by J.C. Street and Edw. Caverly, New York. Most known examples have been found in northeastern, Pennsylvania.
H 99  HERKULES BITTER
HERKULES ( cu ) BITTER ( cd ) 4 FL. OZ. ( ad ) / motif – monogram AC // c //
4 1/8″ x 1 1/4 (2 3/8)
Ball, Green, ARM, Rare
Lettering on flattened area of body.
Note: There is a Polish language version of this bottle.

The new listing in Bitters Bottle Supplement 2 is:

H 98.5  HERKULES BITTER
HERKULES (cu) BITTER (cd) 1 PINT / motif-monogram AC // c //
6″
Ball shaped, Green, ARM, tooled lip, Very rare
Lettering on flattened area of body

Lot 190: HERKULES BITTER. 4” H-99. Tooled top. It is unusual that we have never sold a Hercules Bitters let alone, the entire set. In fact, the one pint size is not listed in Ring/Ham. These are an interesting bottle with their round shape and flattened embossed sides. They even embossed the volume. There is a monogram in the center but we are unaware of what it stands for. This smallest variant is in about perfect condition and we will grade it a 9. – American Bottle Auctions – Auction #64

Lot 191 Front: HERKULES BITTER ONE PINT. With original labels. 6” with tooled top. This example has the original contents and original front and neck labels. As we mentioned, this is unlisted in this size. We can’t imagine a better condition example, this one grades a 10 with the labels being about perfect. – American Bottle Auctions – Auction #64

Lot 191 Back: HERKULES BITTER ONE PINT. With original labels. 6” with tooled top. This example has the original contents and original front and neck labels. As we mentioned, this is unlisted in this size. We can’t imagine a better condition example, this one grades a 10 with the labels being about perfect. – American Bottle Auctions – Auction #64

Lot 191 Detail: HERKULES BITTER ONE PINT. With original labels. 6” with tooled top. This example has the original contents and original front and neck labels. As we mentioned, this is unlisted in this size. We can’t imagine a better condition example, this one grades a 10 with the labels being about perfect. – American Bottle Auctions – Auction #64

Lot 192 Back: HERKULES BITTER ONE QUART. 7 ½” Another vibrant 7UP green, these all differ slightly in color. Just sitting on our shelves we notice how much the presence of this bottle really stands out. Sticker on base says, “Ex-Gardner Collection.” Grades a 9. – American Bottle Auctions – Auction #64

Lot 192 Front: HERKULES BITTER ONE QUART. 7 ½” Another vibrant 7UP green, these all differ slightly in color. Just sitting on our shelves we notice how much the presence of this bottle really stands out. Sticker on base says, “Ex-Gardner Collection.” Grades a 9. – American Bottle Auctions – Auction #64

Lot 192 Base: HERKULES BITTER ONE QUART. 7 ½” Another vibrant 7UP green, these all differ slightly in color. Just sitting on our shelves we notice how much the presence of this bottle really stands out. Sticker on base says, “Ex-Gardner Collection.” Grades a 9. – American Bottle Auctions – Auction #64

The brand was put out by a fellow named Joseph C. Street. His partner was Edward Caverly. Looks like they set up shop at 33 Murray Street in Brooklyn, NY. They filed for a trade mark in 1874. You can find both gentlemen listed in city directories that in 1873 and 1874.

Joseph C. Street listing – Brooklyn, New York, City Directory, 1874

Edward Caverly listing – Brooklyn, New York, City Directory, 1873

The product was probably marketed to European immigrants by looking at the lable. Ring & Ham notes that there is a Polish language version of this bottle. Here is a picture below of a version from Hungary. Gyomorkeseru means bitters. There is also a German and French targeted advertising. Interesting enough, Ring & Ham note that most known examples have been found in northeastern, Pennsylvania. Part of me wondered if this bottle was imported though advertising says it was manufactured in Brooklyn.

Herkules Bitter (label side) – picture: Sörös Üveg-Gyökeres Gábor

Herkules Bitter (embossed side) – picture: Sörös Üveg-Gyökeres Gábor

The mystery here is the embossed monogram. Looks to be a “GA” or “AC” etc. Any ideas?  This question was solved by Corey Stock who submitted the following newspaper advertisement for Tonic De Hercules. “GA” is most likely “German Apothecary”.

Tonic De Hercules (Bitters) advertisement: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 18 April 1874.

Here is a another advertisement. It seems like all references for this brand only occur in 1874.

French Tonic De Hercules (Hercules Bitters) advertisement: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tuesday, May 12 1874

Here are two advertising trade cards for Hercules Cordial, Hercules Tonic Bitters and Hercules Bitters from ephemera specialist Joe Gourd. I don’t believe this is the same brand but who knows, it could be. More research is needed. There is reference to this brand in 1902 in a druggist catalog.

About Ferdinand Meyer V

Ferdinand Meyer V, President, Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors, is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and has a BFA in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design. Ferdinand is the founding Principal of FMG Design, a nationally recognized design consultation firm. Ferdinand is a passionate collector of American historical glass specializing in bitters bottles, color runs and related classic figural bottles. Ferdinand is married to Elizabeth Jane Meyer and lives in Houston, Texas with their daughter and three wonderful grandchildren. The Meyers are also very involved in Quarter Horses, antiques and early United States postage stamps.

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