J. M. Laroque’s Liquid Anti Bilious Bitters – Baltimore
29 January 2014 (R•092818)
John M. Laroque, a Frenchmen, was the proprietor of Laroque’s Drug Store at 20 Baltimore Street from 1817 until his death in 1864 making the drug store one of the oldest, if not oldest pharmacies in the city. The store could have been founded by his father, Dr. L. M. Laroque who mysteriously is mentioned in a few places but vanishes from records. J.M. Laroque however, was the proprietor who ran this store for many decades. This is his story.
John Laroque was born on the island of San Domingo in 1788. His father was a wealthy planter at the time of the insurrection of the slaves but in consequence of the Civil War, which raged upon the islands for several years, lost all of his property. Around 1804, he was compelled, with his family, to take refuge in the United States.
The Laroque family (father, mother, two sons and a daughter) selected Baltimore, Maryland as their place of residence and business. John, who was 16 years old at the time, engaged as an assistant in an apothecary store. After his apprenticeship, he commenced business on his own account. His first business name probably was the House of Laroque and Milhau.
Dr. Laroque was a citizen of good standing, was highly esteemed and was a solider in the War of 1812. He fought at the battle of Bladensburg and was enrolled for the defense of Baltimore in 1814, but from the knowledge obtained in his business he was withdrawn from the field and placed in hospital service. John M. Laroque and Laroque’s Pharmacy was an anchor of Baltimore City business for decades producing products such as fresh drugs, chemicals, perfumery, Laroque’s Sarsaparilla, Aspasia Lotion, Laroque’s Rose Dentrifice, Cough Syrup, Elixir of Bark, Florida Water and J.M. Laroque’s Liquid Anti-Bilious Bitters. After Dr. Laroque’s death, the pharmacy business was conducted by his son, Dr. Emile Laroque until his death in 1873.
The decedents of Dr. John M. Laroque (Regis B. and Emile J. Laroque) remained in business and were known as Laroque’s Pharmacy at the northwest corner of Pratt and Chester Streets.
J.M. Laroques Anti Bilious Bitters – Image from Bob Ford
The pharmacy was then purchased by Dr. William E. Thornton whose name occurs on Laroque’s Anti-Bilious Bitters advertisements and trade cards. Thornton obtained Patent #607 for the bitters on March 21, 1876. He was succeeded after 16 years by Dr. John T. Wooters who remained at the drug store for three years and was followed by Dr. Thomas Sudler. Then came the great Baltimore fire in 1904 and the neighborhoods to the south, where most of the pharmacy trade came from, vanished. The market dried up and the pharmacy ceased to exist. We do see that Read’s Drug Store was selling Laroque’s Bitters in 1920 which is interesting.
J.M. Laroque’s Anti-Bilious Bitters trade cards (see top of post). The cards are marked Russia, England and France – Joe Gourd Collection
Great Baltimore Fire Aftermath
John M. Laroque | Baltimore vial bottle – BDBottle – antique-bottles.net.
According to Baltimore bottle authority, Chris Rowell, the Laroque bottles are quite rare as he has only seen two pontiled examples and both were different. One was a large Florida Water (see image below) and the other was a small round vial type bottle (see above). Laroque also produced his anti-bilious bitters which is considered extremely rare with probably less than five known examples. The Florida Water is currently the only known example and is open pontiled. There are probably less than five of the smooth based examples known as well.
“At Laroque’s, corner of Baltimore and Harrison streets, the clerk said that they never sold morphine or opium preparations in usual quantities without a prescription from a physician. He knew of a variety actress who took a half pint per day, and of several women who took several ounces a day.”
From: BALTIMORE OPIUM-EATERS – People Who Drink a Pint of Laudanum a Day Others who Consume a Drachm of Morphinen-Confession of a Female Victim. – Daily Alta California (San Francisco), 16 October 1875
The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:
L 29 J. M. LAROQUES ANTI-BILIOUS BITTERS
J. M. LAROQUES / motif of stomach including appendix / ANTI-BILIOUS BITTERS // W. E. THORTON / PROPRIETOR // f // BALTIMORE. MD. //
10 x 2 5/8 (6 ½*) 3/8
Square, Amber, LTCR, Applied mouth, 3 sp, Extremely rare
John M. Laroque was a druggist in Baltimore.
Drug Catalogs: 1883 and 1891 Schieffelin
Copyright March, 1876 by William E. Thorton
Trade cards available
*Also, I think that the 6 1/2 inch shoulder hieght is too short on the L 29 listing. The bottle does have a relatively long neck, but I don’t think it is as long as this suggests – Bill Ham
Select Timeline Events:
1788: John M. Laroque born on the island of San Domingo on 3 October 1788.
About 1804: Laroque family, comprised of the father, mother, two sons and a daughter leave San Domingo for the United States. Baltimore was selected as the place of residence and business.
About 1806: John M. Laroque, engaged as an assistant in an apothecary store.
1817: Formation of Laroque’s drug business on Baltimore Street.
1822: Listing: House of Laroque & Milhau, chymists and druggists, 8 Baltimore – C. Keenan’s Baltimore Directory for 1822-23 (see below)
1833: Listing: Chemists, Druggists and Apothecaries – John M. Laroque, pharmaceutist and chemist, corner of Baltimore and Harrison Streets – A Complete View of Baltimore, 1833
1845: John M. Laroque at his Chemical Pharmacy advertisement (see below) – Baltimore Wholesale Business Directory and Business Circular for the Year 1845
1849-1860: John M. Laroque, chemist and druggist, 20 Baltimore, Matchett’s Baltimore Directory
1850: Dr. Laroque used as a reference (see below) – The Sun (Baltimore), 9 March 1850
1864: Death, John M. Laroque, announced in the Baltimore Daily Gazette, March 28, 1864.
DEATH OF AN ESTEEMED CITIZEN
The obituary column this morning announces the death of Dr. John M. Laroque, in the 77th year of his age. The deceased was born in the island of San Domingo on the 3d of October, 1788. His father was a wealthy planter at the time of the insurrection of the slaves, in June, 1793, but in consequence of the civil war, which raged upon the islands for several years, all his property was lost, and about the year 1804 he was compelled, with his family, to take refuge, together with numbers of others, in the United States. The family comprised the father, mother, two sons and a daughter. Upon reaching the United States, Baltimore was selected as the place of residence. John M. Laroque, the subject of this notice, was in his sixteenth year upon arriving here, and shortly after engaged as an assistant in an apothecary store. Several years after he commenced business on his own account at the corner of Baltimore and Harrison streets, which he prosecuted up to within a few months of his death.
Dr. Laroque was highly esteemed by a very large circle of friends. He was a solider in the war of 1812, and fought at the battle of Bladensburg. He was enrolled for the defense of Baltimore in 1814, but from the knowledge obtained in his business he was withdrawn from the field and placed upon hospital service. Yesterday the French Society held a meeting, when the death of Dr. Laroque, who was one of the oldest members, was announced by the President, who spoke in the highest terms of the many virtues of the deceased. The Society resolved to attend the funeral in a body and appointed six of their number to act as pall-bearers upon the occasion. The remains will be deposited in the Cathedral burial ground.
187o: First advertising in Baltimore for Laroque’s Anti-Bilous (sp) Bitters, From the proprietor Emile Laroque (successor to J.M. Laroque) N.E. corner of Baltimore and Harrison Streets – The Baltimore Sun, Monday, March 21, 1870
1871: Advertisement below for Laroque’s Anti-Bilious Bitters at Laroque’s Pharmacy – The Baltimore Sun, Thursday, August 24, 1871
1872: Advertisement below for Laroque’s Anti-Bilious Bitters at Laroque’s Pharmacy – The Baltimore Sun, Friday, April 26, 1872
1874: William E. Thornton takes a position with J. M. Laroque’ s business. Thornton is from Fredricksburg, Maryland. Invested wisely and moved into Baltimore politics.
1874: Advertisement below for J.M. Laroque’s Anti-Bilious Bitters at Laroque’s Pharmacy – The Baltimore Sun, Saturday, August 8, 1874
1875: “At Laroque’s, corner of Baltimore and Harrison streets, the clerk said that they never sold morphine or opium preparations in usual quantities without a prescription from a physician. He knew of a variety actress who took a half pint per day, and of several women who took several ounces a day.” – BALTIMORE OPIUM-EATERS – People Who Drink a Pint of Laudanum a Day Others who Consume a Drachm of Morphinen-Confession of a Female Victim. – Daily Alta California (San Francisco), 16 October 1875
1876: Patent #607, J.M. Laroque’s Liquid Anti Bilious Bitters, William E. Thornton, Baltimore, Maryland, March 21, 1876 (application filed March 14) – 1877 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents
1876: J. M. Laroque’s Original Elixir of Calisaya Bark advertisement (see below) represented by W. E. Thornton, Sole Proprietor, Baltimore, Maryland. – Baltimore Physician and Surgeon
1878-79: William E. Thornton, Treasurer, Maryland College of Pharmacy, Session 1878-1879 (see below)
1877: “By the time they had passed the corner of Baltimore and Harrison streets, one man [was] dead with a ball through the breast and three others dangerously wounded, had been carried into Laroque’s drug store at that point. The two companies continued up Baltimore street toward the Camden Station.” – The great railroad strike of 1877 by by Graham Long (see below) – Harpers Weekly
1880: J.M. Laroque’s Anti Bilious Bitters advertisement (below) – Staunton Spectator, 23 March 1880
1881: J. M. Laroque’s Anti Bilious Bitters advertisement (below) – Der deutsche Correspondent, February 18, 1881
1881: Newspaper advertisement (below) J.M. Laroque’s Anti Bilious Bitters – Memphis Daily Appeal, July 22, 1881
1883: Testimonial (below) to William E. Thornton for Laroque’s Anti Bilious Bitters – Raleigh Christian Advocate, Wednesday, November 14, 1883
1884-1885: William E. Thornton, Baltimore City Council – Archives of Maryland Historical List Baltimore City Council, First Branch Ninth Ward, 1818-1923
1888: William E. Thornton, Baltimore City Council, Second Branch, Ninth & Tenth Wards – 1888 Ripley’s Business Guide
1888: Death, William E. Thornton, 40, druggist, Baltimore City, February 11, 1888 – Maryland Mortalities 1876-1915 from the (Baltimore) Sun Almanac *Dr. Thornton slipped on ice on a stoop and received a concussion of the brain and died.
1893: Listing for Laroque’s Pharmacy (Emile. J. Laroque and Regis B. Laroque) – Polks Baltimore (Maryland) City Business Directory (1893-1894) (see below)
1920: Laroques Bitters being sold for 31 cents at Read’s Drug Store – The Baltimore Sun, Sunday, June 20, 1920
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.