Sarracenia Life Bitters and the Triskelions

Sarracenia Life Bitters Trio

Sarracenia Life Bitters (Variants and Sample) – Meyer Collection

Sarracenia Life Bitters and the Triskelions

04 April 2011 (R•060517) (R•040420 – Vining Update)


A triskelion or triskele is a motif consisting of three interlocked spirals, or three bent human legs. Both words are from Greek “τρισκέλιον” (triskelion) or “τρισκελής” (triskeles), “three-legged”, from prefix “τρι-” (tri-), “three times”[2] + “σκέλος” (skelos), “leg”. Although it appears in many places and periods, it is especially characteristic of the Celtic art of the La Tène culture of the European Iron Age. [Wikipedia] Triskelion on Flag of Sicily above.

Apple-Touch-IconAThe Sarracenia Life Bitters is an interesting square coming from Mobile, Alabama. The bottles is embossed with SARRACENIA LIFE BITTERS, TUCKER and MOBILE, ALA. There is also an embossed outline of a circle on one of the bottle sides with a Triskelion, which is a motif of three legs joined in the center.

The S 34 variant is Rare and the legs run clockwise. The S 35 variant is older and the legs run counter clockwise. There are also two dots under the ‘A’ of Alabama. I have displayed a picture of both from my collection including my extremely rare sample bitters which does not have the Triskelion.

I wonder, where are these legs running, why this motif and why were the legs reversed in the later variant?

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

S 34 – SARRACENIA LIFE BITTERS Circa 1875 – 1879,
SARRACENIA / LIFE BITTERS // f // motif 3 legs joined in center enclosed in a circle // TUCKER / MOBILE ALA // f //   9 1/4 x 2 5/8 (7) 3/8   Square, LTCR, Shades of Amber, LTC and LTCR, Applied mouth, Rare. Legs go clockwise.
S 35 – SARRACENIA LIFE BITTERS Circa 1873 – 1875
SARRACENIA / LIFE BITTERS // f // motif 3 legs joined in center enclosed in a circle // TUCKER / MOBILE ALA // f //   9 1/4 x 2 5/8 (7) 3/8   Square, Amber, Yellow green, Lime green, Yellow and Apricot, LTC and LTCR, Applied mouth, Rare. There are two dots under the A of ALA. Legs go counterclockwise. Older variant.

Note: Joseph Tucker was listed as a Doctor and manufacturer of Sarracenia Life Bitters from 1873 – 1879. The Mobile Daily Register. July 2, 1871. Drug Catalog: 1883 Schieffelin.

Sarracenia Life Bitters_Ad1

Sarracenia Life Bitters advertisement – The Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, May 04, 1873 – New Orleans

Color run of Sarracenia Life Bitters from Mobile, Alabama. From the Rod Vining collection.

According to Rod Vining, Instead of “clockwise and counter clockwise variety”, you only need to look at the tops. The “Tuckers” that have the long tapered collar with NO ring underneath are the ones that come in a wide range of colors. This is the OLDER, original mold, and you can find nicely whittled examples. The NEWER mold seems to always have a long tapered collar with a ring underneath, or a “whiskey” type top. They only come in two shades: standard amber, and a little lighter standard amber, and are mostly just “slick” with no whittle at all. In comparison, they are just not as photogenic!

[04 April 2020] Here are the new Sarracenia Life Bitters photos with double the number of bottles than the previous image. Generous lighting with no flash. Photo numbers 1871 (top) and 1874 (middle) are all the older variants, while photo 1876 (bottom) has two older on the ends with four newer variants in the center. These were all produced between 1872 and 1879. The newer variety with the whiskey top are almost always just shades of amber to yellow amber. The legs run the opposite direction, and they are not as crude as the others. While some of the color differences are minor, others are eye-popping. I am still trying to get them all tumbled up as I have the time. – Rod Vining

About Ferdinand Meyer V

Ferdinand Meyer V 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. He 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. Ferdinand is the past 6-year President of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and is one of the founding members of the FOHBC Virtual Museum.
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One Response to Sarracenia Life Bitters and the Triskelions

  1. Post updated with Sarracenia Life Bitters advertisement from The Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, May 04, 1873 – New Orleans. Definition of Triskelion aded.

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