Dr. Wonser’s U.S.A. Indian Root Bitters – Looking at Some Information and Colors
10 February 2012 (R•052914) (R•101714)
One of my favorite Bitters bottles and certainly one of the very top western Bitters bottles is the Dr. Wonser’s U.S.A. Indian Root Bitters. You virtually never see these heavily embossed bottles outside of the western shows or western auction houses such as American Bottle Auctions. Just about every great example resides in western collections though I am aware of a few in eastern collections and I possess one here in Texas which is pictured below. Most of the information has been posted on Western Bitters News by Warren Friedrich, Rick Simi and Dale Mlasko. There are two (2) great bottles posted on Western Bitters News now (red amber and blue aqua) by Millers Extra.
I will use this opportunity to post pictures of this wonderful bottle and relay information from western collectors and researchers, Warren Friedrich, Rick Simi and Michael Dolcini. This will also give us the opportunity to look at a number of bottle colors in one post and the great curved ‘R’s. Also look at the applied mouth differences in the aqua examples.
“This great remedy strikes at the root of every disease”
W 146 DR. WONSER’S INDIAN ROOT BITTERS,
DR. WONSER’S ( au ) / U.S.A. / INDIAN ROOT / BITTERS // c //
L…Dr. I.H. Wonser’s U.S.A. Indian Root Bitters, Distributor and Manufacturers, San Francisco
11 1/2 x 3 (5 1/2) LTC, Applied mouth, Amber (Yellow to Olive amber), Rare; Green,
Extremely rare. 10 1/2 x 3 (5 1/2) CM, Deep kick-up, Aqua, Applied mouth, Rare
Sixteen flutes on shoulder, two rings on neck.
Note 1: The green colored example is considered one of the top Western Bitters.
Green examples have been dug in Auburn and Petaluma, California.
Broken green examples have been dug on the California-Nevada border
and in Carson City, Nevada. A number of undamaged and many broken
examples were dug in Virginia City, Nevada in 1998.
Note 2: Variation in height could be misleading. Other measurements
indicate both bottles could have been blown in the same mold.
San Francisco Chronicle August 8, 1871.
[From Warren Friedrich at Western Bitters News] In researching this bitters product, I came across two interesting advertisements. The bottom ad is the earliest I’ve found for this product. The ad was placed in The Gilroy Advocate paper and ran from June 25th, 1870 for 3 mos. Notice that the manufactory and depot for this bitters was at 645 Third Street, S.F. He was not at this address very long, as the upper ad indicates by December 17th, 1870 he had relocated to 418 Sacramento St. The upper ad was placed in the San Francisco Daily Examiner on December 17th, 1870 and ran for 1 month.
The time frame that his product is being marketed is interesting as San Francisco Glass Works had not begun operations at their rebuilt facility until September 12th, 1870. The lettering style is the same as the earlier large lettered Renz’s bitters bottle, both bottles probably made by the same pattern maker.
The bottle itself is interesting in that it has been made in two variations. Both are the amber colored examples. One variant has a configured base with sharp edge and a stepped ledge going into a concave circle with small center dot. The more often seen variant has a rounded edge base with a semi-shallow kick up with center dot, the aqua examples also share this mould feature. I do not consider the different style tops to be a variant, this is just a difference of lipping tools used for the completion of the mouth.
[From Rick Simi at Western Bitters News] Dr. Wonser’s U. S. A. Indian Root Bitters was first advertised in The Gilroy Advocate newspaper on June 25th, 1870, the advertisement ran for 3 mos in this paper. The manufactory and depot for this product was located at 645 Third St., San Francisco.
Wm. Hawkins displays seven dozen of his U. S. A. Indian Root Bitters at the San Francisco Fair on September 1st, 1870.
Hawkins placed a second advertisement (in a different style format) in the San Francisco Daily Examiner newspaper on December 17th, 1870, this ad ran for 1 month. The location of his manufactory and depot was now located at 418 Sacramento St., San Francisco.
W. M. Hawkins applied for the trademark name of his bitters on June 3rd, 1871, this was reported in the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper on June 5th. [see post of June 21, 2009 by Old Cutters for photocopies of the trademarked application].
Again Hawkins entered his Wonser’s U. S. A. Indian Root Bitters in the 1871 State Fair and on September 25th, 1871 received a diploma award. Another advertisement appeared in the Wine Dealers Gazette, a monthly publication in the December 1871 issue. The advertisement stated
“This great remedy strikes at the root of every disease, which lies in the liver and the blood. They are not like the many poisonous compounds with which the country is flooded, under the name of Bitters, which are made of refined poison and gall, and seasoned up to suit the taste. They contain no alcohol, and their effects do not die out, but on the contrary are lasting and beneficial. For Piles, Constitpation, Chronic Coughs, Dyspepsia, Fever and Ague, Kidney, all Billious and Most Chronic Diseases”.
[From Michael Dolcini] Here is the claim of California Trade Mark for the USA Indian Root Bitters. Notice that Hawkins’ claim is for “Liquid Bitters” and “Dr J. Wonser’s” on the same day 03 June 1871. He was completely covering the bases (see below).