Barrel Series – Ben Franklin Bitters


22 July 2012 (R•021718)

“Prove all things.”

Ben Franklin bitters figural bottle, America, 1840 to 1860. Tapered barrel form, medium blue green, applied square collared mouth and pontil scar. This is a label only bitters, an extremely rare example with 90% or more of its original labels, which although difficult, are readable. An extremely rare bottle with extremely rare color. R/H F80L. – previous Norman C. Heckler Auction (I believe this bottle resides in the Bob Ferraro collection)

Here is a really great figural barrel in a conical form with tapered horizontal ribbing. There in NO embossing but at least two labeled examples exist (see pictures below) calling this a BEN FRANKLIN BITTERS POOR RICHARD’S TONIC. I love this bottle!. It is very architectural and reminds me of the New England annular inks. I’ve seen Heckler, Ring & Ham and the New York Historical Society publish different date ranges for this brand which is puzzling. FYI, I do posses two pontiled examples (see below).

Annular Pitkin or Coventry G-2a Inkwell. – Rick Ciralli

Pay special attention to the New York Historical Society example. I was not aware of this bottle until today. WOW. Look at that gorgeous label!

Carlyn Ring | W.C Ham Listing in Bitters Bottles

F 80  BEN FRANKLIN BITTERS, Circa 1855 – 1865
L…Ben Franklin Bitters Poor Richards Tonic
G. Mansfield Rowland Proprietor New Haven, Connecticut
10 x 3 1/2
Barrel, 10-10, Amber, Green, Cobalt, NSC, Applied mouth, Rough pontil mark
Body tapers shoulder to base
Label: These pleasant and healthy bitters are compounded of pure vegetable materials, and as a tonic cannot be surpassed. A simple trial will convince the most skeptical that these bitters are of the highest merit. Prove all things!

New York Historical Society Museum & Library Description

Description: 10 x 3 5/8 inches, Light green glass bitters bottle blown in a three-part mold with patent lip and rounded string rim, ball neck, conical body with horizontal ribbing and paper labels, and base with concave profile.
Label: paper label: on obverse: “Prove all things.” paper label: on reverse: “BEN FRANKLIN BITTERS / POOR RICHARD’S TONIC / . . . PURELY / Vegetable / MATERIALS / And as a Tonic cannot be / surpassed / G. Mansfield Rowland / PROPRIETOR / A Single Trial / Will convince the most / skeptical . . . / Highest Merit. / DIRECTIONS. / . . . / NEW HAVEN / Conn.”

This object was once part of the folk art collection of Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), the avant-garde sculptor.

Prove all things Ben Franklin Bitters – New York Historical Society Museum & Library – This object was once part of the folk art collection of Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), the avant-garde sculptor. From 1924 to 1934, Nadelman’s collection was displayed in his Museum of Folk Arts, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Historical Society purchased Nadelman’s entire collection in 1937.

Ben Franklin Bitters in a mint green coloration – Meyer Collection

Ben Franklin Bitters in a copper puce coloration. Sand pontil – Meyer Collection

Ben Franklin Bitters in a moss green coloration – Meyer Collection

Top detail Ben Franklin Bitters in a moss green coloration – Meyer Collection

Ben Franklin Bitters in a two-tone honey apricot coloration. – Meyer Collection

Color run of Ben Franklin Bitters – Meyer Collection – Meyer Collection

BEN FRANKLIN-TYPE BITTERS BOTTLE, (Ring# F80L), bright moss green, conical with barrel staves and indented label panel, sand chip pontil scar, 10″H x 3 1/2″D, applied mouth, about mint (a bean-sized base edge bubble is open at the surface). American, C. 1850, rare. This rare, New Haven, CT barrel-shaped bitters bottle is blown in an unusual shade of moss green bottle glass that is filled with bubbles and impurities. – previously sold by Jeff and Holly Noordsy (This looks familiar)

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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 Barrel Series – Ben Franklin Bitters

  1. Froggy says:

    One of the greatest and most classic forms in a Bitters barrel I think. I find the tapered “Christmas tree” shape pleasing to the eye.
    I believe the labeled teal example was sold by Bob Ferraro to Ted Christ at the last Expo (York, Pa.).

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