Log Cabin Series – American Life Bitters


Tiffin, Ohio & Omaha, Nebraska Variants

01 December 2012 (R•120112) (R•052914) (R•030715) (R•090516)

While operating as a wagon peddler, he discovered the magic of bitters, which he advertised “as a cure for dyspepsia and all diseases of the stomach and bowels” at a dollar a bottle.

Carlyn Ring example of American Life Bitters. Lot 6

Apple-Touch-IconAIn this figural log cabin series we have written about and discussed the Old Homestead Wild Cherry Bitters, Drake’s Plantation Bitters and Holtzermann’s Patent Stomach Bitters so far. These bottles essentially have pitched, angular roofs either in a  2-roof or 4-roof design. All great and essential bottles for the bitters and figural collector.

Today we will look at the much tougher to obtain American Life Bitters. The American Life is still a rectangular log cabin but has curved roofs instead of angular. For the most part this bottle story is about the inventor Peter E. Iler who was born in Wooster, Ohio, in 1840. He eventually ended up in Omaha, Nebraska. His famous bitters have either the Tiffin, Ohio or Omaha, Nebraska embossing.


Iler & Co. letterhead – Bitters Bottles Supplement

Read: Peter Iler: “The Restless Mind of a Capitalist”

Peter Iler (pictured) was born in Wooster, Ohio, in 1840. At a youth he and his brother, Joseph, moved to Tiffin, Ohio. At the age of sixteen he left school to go to work. A that point accounts differ. One version has him leaving Tiffin in the employ of an Indianapolis banker and soon being given management of several farms and a princely salary of $75 a month. After becoming ill, he quit and returned to Tiffin to recuperate. The other account has him never leaving Tiffin, employed in a bank, working with a cigar manufacturer and as a warehouse operator.

The stories converge about 1860 in Tiffin when Iler became a wagon peddler selling a bitters nostrum that he advertised..

“as a cure for dyspepsia and all diseases of the stomach and bowels.” It cost a pricey one dollar a bottle. With the success of his bitters, Iler was on his way to being a capitalist and entrepreneur. As one account says: “Peter met with success and soon drove a splendid four-in-hand team and a beautiful wagon. He also took orders for all the wholesale merchants in Tiffin, doing in this way a large commission business. Mr. Iler branched out and established a general supply store, engaged in the manufacture of cigars, and ran a distillery and a general liquor store, all of these enterprises proving successful.”

Jack SullivanPre-Pro.com

R/H A 48 – American Life Bitters – Omaha, Nebraska variant detail in amber

“Someday, they hope to come across an Omaha American Life Bitters bottle. Amber in color with “Omaha” embossed in the glass of the log-cabin shaped bottle, Clements said the collectible can be worth as much as $20,000.”

Neb. men dig outhouses in search of buried treasure

Product advertisement, American Life Bitters. – The Utah Advertiser – 1869

“Mr. P. E. Iler, has erected a very handsome four-story brick block, sixty-six feet front and 182 feet, on the north side of Harney street, nearly opposite the Millard Block, between Eleventh and Twelfth streets. The front is of cut stone and pressed brick, the architectural appearance of which is very handsome. The building has water connections throughout, and is supplied with hydraulic elevators. It was built especially for wholesale business, the west twenty-two feet being occupied as a wholesale liquor establishment, and the east forty-four feet being occupied by a wholesale hardware firm. Each is provided with commodious and elegant business offices. The cost of the building was $40,000. The firm of Iler & Co. is now composed of Peter E. Iler and Joseph D. Iler.”

Iler & Co. print, 233 Farnham Street, Omaha, Nebraska, circa 1873


“AMERICAN LIFE / BITTERS – P. EILER / MANUFACTURER / TIFFIN, OHIO”, (A-49), American, ca. 1865 – 1875 – Glass Works Auctions (Cabin Fever January 2013)


American Life Bitters | Omaha, Nebraska variant

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

AMERICAN LIFE ( au ) / BITTERS ( ad ) // P.E. ILER ( au ) / MANUFACTURER / OMAHA, NEB. // AMERICAN LIFE / BITTERS // f // 8 7/8 x 3 1/8 x 2 1/2 (5 3/4) Rectangular cabin, LTC, Applied mouth, Amber, Extremely rare
A 49  AMERICAN LIFE BITTERS, Circa 1865 – 1875
AMERICAN LIFE ( au ) / BITTERS ( ad ) // P.E. ILER ( au ) / MANUFACTURER / TIFFIN, OHIO // AMERICAN LIFE / BITTERS // f // 8 7/8 x 3 1/8 x 2 1/2 (5 3/4) Rectangular cabin, LTC, Applied mouth, Amber and Gold Rare, Yellow olive – Extremely rare

American Life Bitters | Tiffin, Ohio variant (See next picture) – Bitters Bottles Supplement

R/H A 49 – AMERICAN LIFE BITTERS – TIFFEN, OHIO in yellow olive. Extremely rare and possibly unique in color. Ex: Carlyn Ring (see picture above) – Fuss Collection

R/H A 49 – AMERICAN LIFE BITTERS – TIFFIN, OHIO in orange amber – Meyer Collection

R/H A 49 – AMERICAN LIFE BITTERS – TIFFIN, OHIO in orange amber – Meyer Collection


“AMERICAN LIFE BITTERS – P.E. ILER / MANUFACTURER / OMAHA, NEB – AMERICAN LIFE BITTERS”, (Ring/Ham, A-49), Nebraska, ca. 1865 – 1875, dark reddish amber cabin, 9 1/8”h, smooth base, applied tapered collar mouth. A tiny chip is off a log above the label panel. A rare and important cabin bitters bottle. Considerably harder to find than the Tiffin, Ohio embossed bottle. – Glass Works Auctions | Auction 106


“AMERICAN LIFE BITTERS – P. EILER / MANUFACTURER / OMAHA, NEB. – AMERICAN LIFE BITTERS”, (Ring/Ham, A-48), Nebraska, ca. 1865 – 1875, medium amber cabin, 9”h, smooth base, applied tapered collar mouth. A professional repair has been made to the tip of a log on the reverse side of the embossing. Forget about the minor repair it’s the rarity and desirability level that counts. Purchased in 2010 from Marty Hall, who also did the repair. – Glass Works Auctions #112 – Bob Ferraro Collection (Session 1)

Omaha, Nebraska – Iler & Co. Advertising Note. A neat currency lookalike advertising note from Iler & Co., the manufacturer of American Life Bitters in Omaha, Nebraska. – Heritage Auctions

1903 Iler & Co. Standard Distilling Co. Omaha, Nebraska Willow Springs letterhead – eBay

“I Hate When That Happens” by Kevin Wade in the November/December issue of the FOHBC Bottles and Extras

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 Log Cabin Series – American Life Bitters

  1. Froggy says:

    Nice Ferdinand! Wait ’til Sandor sees my light LEMON YELLOW Tiffin.

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