Looking at some Dr. Langley’s Root & Herb Bitters from Boston
“Buy me and I will do you good.”
26 February 2014
The top picture pretty much sums up why I am a bitters collector. Look at this great masculine yet feminine, strong yet delicate, example of a Dr. Langley’s Root & Herb Bitters from Boston, Massachusetts. The color, typography, character, form, balance, various sizes and history make this a must for any bitters bottle collection. And the bottles are rather inexpensive! I actually picked up this particular example from the Bryan Grapentine III auction by American Bottle Auctions. You can always spot a Jeff Wichmann photograph.
The post is dedicated to my bottle friend Rick Ciralli from Bristol, Connecticut as he has been asking for some time to see some of my Langley examples. I’m going to run into him at the Baltimore Antique Bottle Show this weekend so time is of the essence!
Read More: Rick Ciralli – Comedic Genius Bottle Guy
John Osbourne Langley was born in 1804 in New Hampshire and was a bitters peddler as he noted on an 1860 United States Federal Census. Langley sold his product from house to house and farm to farm.
George Clinton Goodwin at an early age, removed to Lowell, Massachusetts, and when he was about thirty years old, arrived in Boston and engaged in the sale of drugs and medicines, establishing the wholesale house of George C. Goodwin & Company at 76 Union Street in 1839. Previously he had worked with his father in the manufacture of extracts and compounds.
Around 1852, both Goodwin and Langley became partners and started making and selling Langley’s formula called Dr. Langley’s Root & Herb Bitters. By 1857, the firm had taken in William B. Hibbard as a junior partner. Goodwin retired in 1859 and Langley’s son, Charles C. Langley, and Hibbard ran the business. Eventually the firm moved to larger quarters on Marshall Street and eventually to 38 Hanover Street. The company would become one of Boston’s largest wholesale drug firms with a national reputation. George C. Goodwin & Co. was incorporated as the Eastern Drug Company in 1900.
With 18.1% to 25% alcohol by volume, you can understand their marketing pitch saying, “Buy me and I will do you good.”
Select Timeline Events
1804: John Osbourne Langley was born on 07 January 1804 in Gilford, Belknap, New Hampshire. His father was Lowell Langley and his mother was Hannah Marten.
1807: George Clinton Goodwin, son of Anson Goodwin was born in Ashfield on 13 October 1807.
1824: Charles C. Langley (John’s son) was born. Charles takes over the business in 1859.
1849: Listing: John O. Langley, pedler – Cambridge City Directory
1850: John O. Langley, farmer, wife Harriett R. – United States Federal Census
1852: John O. Langley, medicine dealer – Cambridge City Directory
1854: Receipt: Bought of J. M. Henry, Waterbury, Vermont, 1 Dozen Langley Bitters, August 17, 1854. Henry was a General Agent for Langley’s Bitters (see below)
1857: John O. Langley, patent medicines, 11 Marshall – Boston City Directory
1860 – 1862: John O. Langley, patent medicines, 134 Cambridge – Cambridge City Directory (Also advertisement below)
1863: Advertisement for Dr. Langley’s Root and Herb Bitters sold by George C. Goodwin & Co. (see below) – The Caledonian (St. Johnsbury, Vermont), August 21, 1863
1866 – 1870: John O. Langley, drugs, 134 Cambridge – Cambridge City Directory
1867: J. H. Langley & Co., Bitters: Office, No. 30 Kilby Street, Boston, Mass., Feb. 1, 1857. Gentlemen,: Your Attention is Called to Our New Trade Mark and Title, which Will Hereafter Appear Upon Every Bottle of Bitters Sold, … Your Orders, If Forwarded at Once, Will be Promptly Filled, with a Supply of New Show Cards.
Here is a strange handbill below from my collection. I always wondered if it was related? The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:
L 19 LANGLEY’S ROCKY MOUNTAIN BITTERS
LANGLEY’S ROCKY MOUNTAIN BITTERS NEW YORK
Dr. J. H. Langley & Company, Proprietor New York
New York City Directory lists at 207 Fulton Street
The Courtland County Democrat (New York) October 15, 1869
1869: George C. Goodwin dies on 12 May 1869.
1872: John O. Langley died of pneumonia.
1899: Geo. C. Goodwin & Co., Wholesale Druggists, New England Patent Medicine Warehouse, 36 & 38 Hanover Street, Boston receipt (see below).
Dr. Langley’s Root & Herb Bitters Examples
According to Frank Wicker at BottlePickers.com, there are seven variants of these bottles. Both with pontils and smooth base.
1 with no address.
3 with 99 Union Street address.
2 with 76 Union Street address.
1 with backwards 99.
The first example we will look at is a L 21 which is pictured below. The Carlyn Ring and W. C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:
L 21 DR. LANGLEY’S ROOT & HERB BITTERS
DR. LANGLEY’S / ROOT & HERB / BITTERS // 99 UNION ST. / BOSTON // c //
John O. Langley Offices Nos. 36 and 38 Hanover Street
8 1/4 x 3 (6 1/2) 6 1/2 or 6 7/8 or 7 1/8 or 7 1/4 x 2 7/8 (4 3/4)
Round, NSC, Applied Mouth, Aqua – Common; Amber and Blue green – Rare;
some with Metallic pontil mark
The second example is the L 22 which is pictured below. The Carlyn Ring and W. C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:
L 22 DR. LANGLEY’S ROOT & HERB BITTERS
DR. LANGLEY’S / ROOT & HERB BITTERS / 99 UNION ST. / BOSTON // c //
John O. Langley Offices Nos. 36 and 38 Hanover Street
6 1/2 or 6 7/8 or 7 1/8 or 7 1/4 x 2 7/8 (4 3/4)
Round, NSC or CM, Applied Mouth, Aqua – Common; Amber and Green – Scarce; Aqua – Rough pontil mark – Scarce
Some variation in length of neck and thickness of the mouth.
Label: Buy me and I will do you good. Composed of Sarsaparilla, wild cherry, yellow dock, prickly ash, thoroughwort, rhubarb, mandrake, dandelion and others comprising the best of roots, herbs and barks in the world, all of which are so compounded as to act in concert and assist nature in eradicating disease.
Note: All of these Langley’s could have been made in the same mold as each of them has the same width and the same body measurement.