Cataloging of Bitters Bottles – Bill Ham


A smiling Bill Ham at the recent FOHBC 2013 National Antique Bottle Show in Manchester, New Hampshire

Cataloging of Bitters Bottles – Bill Ham

09 August 2013 (R•040519)

Apple-Touch-IconACataloging of bitters by the various authors has been an ongoing and evolving process. Each new publication has added and increased the information. The additional information in each publication has provided new and additional information. Each new publication is also somewhat reflective of the changes in collector interest, and the interests of the author.


FOR BITTERS ONLY – Carlyn Ring – 1980 – Dedicated to Clifton Blake (Meyer Library)

When Carlyn Ring updated the material and published FOR BITTERS ONLY, in 1980, on page 9, she described the colors of bitters as:





milk glass,


or cobalt.

She further stated:

1. “amber was used to describe brown colors of: citron, citron brown, yellow amber, green amber, yellow green amber, olive amber, red amber, puce, light amber, dark amber, root beer, and claret’, and,

2. green includes apple green, blue green Lockport green, yellow green, clear green, pale green, dark olive green, deep blue green, kelly, light green, olive amber, olive yellow, smokey green, vivid green and yellow olive”.


When I updated the cataloging and published BITTERS BOTTLES, in 1998, on page 18, the color description was changed to: “Bitters are available in many colors, hues, and tones. For the purposes of this book, colors familiar to contemporary major bottle houses and collectors have been used”, and a list of colors are listed, with additional information. For example,”the first name of a color of multiple word description is presented in initial cap, others are in lower case: Yellow olive, Milk glass.”


Bitters Bottles – Carlyn Ring – W. C. Ham – 1998 (Meyer Library)

In the 1998 publishing of BITTERS BOTTLES the listing were also expanded to include “tooled lip” or “applied mouth” top finishing of the bottles.

Additional information was included where available to indicate where a bitters was from, and in cases of some of the more rare brands where examples were found.

The information that was available at the time was used. Since that time, more vast amounts of information has become available including through the contemporary research techniques, the Internet, and auction price guide summaries.

When publishing the BITTERS BOTTLES SUPPLEMENT in 2004, many previously unlisted bottles were added, as well as correcting data and adding additional information on previously recorded brands.


Bitters Bottles Supplement – Carlyn Ring – W. C. Ham – 2002 – Dedication to Carlyn Ring (Meyer Library)

The cataloging of bitters bottles, and brands and collecting information on bitters has continued since the 2004 publication. There are still examples of known brands and uncataloged brands out there which are unknown to collectors.

Bitters Bottles Supplement 2 – Carlyn Ring – Bill Ham – Planned 2019

More: Carlyn Ring – An Interview with Martha Stewart

Apple-Touch-IconABill continues the very tedious and exacting process of recording all new information on bitters bottles and brands in anticipation of another Bitters Bottle Supplement in coming years. I actually have a digital draft here on my laptop. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Bill who has been instrumental in my path and passion to collect bitters bottles and the stories behind them.



BITTERS BOTTLES – J.H. Thompson – 1947 – Dedicated To All Collectors of Old Bottles, Who by Their Aid and Encouragement Have Made This Otherwise Laborious Task a Pleasant Thing to Do (Meyer Library)


BITTERS BOTTLES by Richard Watson – 1965 – Dedicated to Charles B. Gardner (Meyer Library)


IT’S A BITTERS! by Art and Jewel Umberger – 1967 – Dedicated to Dr. Burton Spiller (Meyer Library)


Supplement to BITTERS BOTTLES by Richard Watson – 1968 – Dedicated to Elma (Watson) (Meyer Library)


IT’S A BITTERS – VOL. II – Art and Jewel Umberger – 1969 – Dedicated to Charles B. Gardner (Meyer Library)


WESTERN BITTERS by Bill & Betty Wilson – 1969 Dedicated to Cynthia Jane who helped (Meyer Library)


Antique Western Bitters Bottles – Jeff Wichmann – 1999 – (Meyer Library)

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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