The Celebrated Magendie’s Bitters – New York





01 October 2013 (R•072019)

Apple-Touch-IconABitters trade card and ephemera authority Joe Gourd sent in this gorgeous Celebrated Magendie’s Bitters label from his collection made by Sarony, Major & Knapp, the superb New York lithographers. Folks, this is a great piece representing an unlisted bitters!


To give this piece a time period, I searched for Wadley & Wells, New York and came up with these representative listings from 1856 to 1875 for Moses S. Wadley and his partner Joseph A. Wells. These guys were importers dealing in gin, cognac, brandies and Havana cigars.

Wadley & Wells, Imps 121 Maiden la , 1856 Trow’s New York City Directory

Wadley & Wells, Importers of Gin, Cognac & Rochelle Brandies & Havana Segars, 121 Maiden la. & 5 Fletcher, 1868 Trow’s New York City Directory

Wadley & Wells, Imps 121 Maiden la. & 5 Fletcher, 1872 Trow’s New York City Directory

Moses S. Wadley, Imp., 121 Maiden la. h N.J., 1872 Trow’s New York City Directory

Joseph A. Wells, Imp., 121 Maiden la. h 324 E. 18th, 1872 Trow’s New York City Directory

Wadley & Wells, Mers 54 Maiden la. & 29 Liberty, 1875 New York City Directory

Next we try to find a ‘Magendie’ in New York City during the same time period. No corresponding listings jump out. So we are now back to the name ‘Magendie’ which seems to be French. The two gentlemen pictured in the illustration certainly have a slightly European or cultured look to me.

Maybe this is an imported bitters as ‘Magen’ means ‘stomach’ in German. A quick google of ‘Magendie’ yields the following:

François Magendie (6 October 1783 – 7 October 1855) was a French physiologist, considered a pioneer of experimental physiology. He is known for describing the foramen of Magendie. There is also a Magendie sign, a downward and inward rotation of the eye due to a lesion in the cerebellum. Magendie was a faculty at the College of France, holding the Chair of Medicine from 1830 to 1855 (he was succeeded by Claude Bernard, who worked previously as his assistant).

Jean-Jacques Magendie (Bordeaux, 21 May 1766 – Paris, 26 March 1835) was a French Navy officer. He famously captained the flagship Bucentaure at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Possibly, either of the above could be a reference for the name. Maybe this bitters product targeted the French population of New York and maybe New Orleans (as there are many Magendie listings). I sure wish I could find some more material such as a bottle or advertisement.

The new listing in Bitters Bottles Supplement 2:

M 7.5 L … Celebrated Magendie’s Bitters, Two gentlemen toasting with a glass of Magendie’s Bitters poured from a labeled lady’s leg bottle. Wadley & Wells, New York, Sole Agents. Entered According to Act of Congress A.D. 1859 By Wadley & Wells in the Clerks Office of the District of the South District of N.Y. The label is the work of Sarony, Major & Knapp, the New York lithographers. Probably a reference to François Magendie (6 October 1783 – 7 October 1855), a French physiologist, considered a pioneer of experimental physiology.
Wadley & Wells (Moses S. Wadley and Joseph A. Wells), Importers of Gin, Cognac & Rochelle Brandies & Havana Segars, 121 Maiden la. & 5 Fletcher, 1868 Trow’s New York City Directory

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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