The unlisted Yaupon Bitters – Norfolk, Virginia


The unlisted Yaupon Bitters – Norfolk, Virginia

or Vegetable Elixir of Life

11 March 2014 (R•031615) (R•092019)

Apple-Touch-IconABitters trade card authority Joe Gourd (Chicago, Illinois) sent me the pictured advertising trade cards below for Yaupon Bitters put out by John R. Ludlow in Norfolk, Virginia. We have spent the last week or so looking at extremely rare bitters from Chester and Petersburg, Virginia. Let’s move a little more southeast, to the mouth of the Chesapeake, and look at Norfolk and this unlisted bitters.

The new listing by Bill Ham for the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2:

Trade card
Y 1.5 YAUPON BITTERS, Humorous illustration “Her bright smile haunts me still. Reverse: Yaupon Bitters or Elixir of Life. The Great Remedy of the Age. No Family Should Be Without It. Sold and Prepared by John R. Ludlow, Norfolk, Va.
Malaria! “Yaupon Bitters,” The Daily Journal (New Bern, North Carolina), October 28, 1882.
John R. Ludlow was a druggist and was twice elected Mayor of Norfolk.



Captain John R. Ludlow

Captain John R. Ludlow (1827 – 1896) had a long and very interesting life in Norfolk, Virginia. The earliest records I could find list him as a druggist from about 1850 to 1883. He had various partners, worked at various locations and must have gathered a following as he was twice elected Mayor of Norfolk. He served briefly when first elected in 1866, but was “removed by military authorities”, presumably occupying Federal troops. He was elected again in 1872 and served his full term to 1874. He was also elected City Collector and was active in Confederate Veteran and Masonic groups.

Ludlow entered Confederate service at the start of the Civil War as Captain of the Norfolk Light Infantry, which became Company D of the 6th Virginia regiment. In the Antietam Campaign, Ludlow was in command of the depleted Regiment as senior officer present at Crampton’s Gap and Sharpsburg. He is listed as Major in his newspaper obituary, but it is not clear when or if he attained that rank during the war.

In 1872, Ludlow expanded his business reach and services and is listed solely, and with various partners, in the auctioneer and real estate fields. These listings occur up to 1892 or so. Ludlow died on February 9, 1896 in Norfolk, Virginia and is buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery.


Yaupon Bitters advertisement – The Daily Journal (New Bern, North Carolina), Saturday, October 28, 1882

The Yaupon bitters must have been a relatively short run as I can only find listings in 1882 and 1883. The bitters is unlisted in Ring and Ham. I am unaware of any bottles in collections.

Read about another Mayor who produced a bitters: The Honorable Stephen Buhrer and his Gentian Bitters

Yaupon front

Yaupon back


Ilex vomitoria, commonly known as yaupon or yaupon holly, is a species of holly that is native to southeastern North America. The word yaupon was derived from its Catawban name, yopún, which is a diminutive form of the word yop, meaning “tree”. Native Americans used the leaves and stems to brew a tea, commonly thought to be called asi or black drink for male-only purification and unity rituals. The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was Ilex vomitoria that caused it (hence the Latin name).


Yaupon, “The Black Drink of the Carolinas” – Reading Times, Thursday, August 19, 1886


Select John R. Ludlow Timeline Events

1827: John R. Ludlow born in Virginia, 27 Jul 1827. Father Richard Ludlow (1788 – 1827), mother Elizabeth Brooke)
1849: Marriage to Marie M. Jamison
1850: John R. Ludlow, druggistUnited States Federal Census
1852: Ludlow & Wing, dispensary, 4 W. Main, next to Farmers’ Bank.
Ludlow J. R. druggist, boards at Mrs. Emerson’s. – The Norfolk Directory
1855: Dr. Richard Tunstall, of the firm of Ludlow & Tunstall, Druggists (various medical reports) – Doctors, Nurses & Volunteers, Ministers, African Americans, Prisoners: Yellow Fever Epidemic, 1855, Norfolk/Portsmouth area, VA
1861: John R. Ludlow, druggist, enlists Captain, Commissioned an officer in Company D, Virginia 6th Infantry Regiment on 06 May 1861. Height: 5 ft. 9 in., light complexion, hazel eyes, dark hair.
1866: John R. Ludlow, Mayor of Norfolk, 24 June 1866, removed by military authorities. (see 1872 – 1874)
1866: Ludlow & Wilson (John R. Ludlow and W. M. Dr.), druggists, 69 E. Main, h 66 W Freemason – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1867: VIRGINIA.; Destructive Fire at Norfolk-Burning of the Atlantic Hotel, – A terrible fire broke out a 1 o’clock this morning at the Atlantic Hotel…stores consumed, Ludlow & Wilson, druggists – January 9, 1867, New York Times
1869: John R. Ludlow, bds (boarding) at Mrs. Henserson’s, 12 West Freemason – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1870: John R. Ludlow, h Dunmore – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1872 – 1874: John R. Ludlow, Mayor, Norfolk Office, City Hall, h 42 Dunmore – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1872: Griffith & Ludlow (E. J. Griffith and J. R. Ludlow) auctioneers, 12 Commercial row – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1875: Ludlow & Byrd (John R. Ludlow and R. W. Byrd), auctioneers and real estate agents, 49 and 51 Commerce – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1877: John R. Ludlow & Co. (John R. Ludlow), auctioneers, 184 Main – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1880 – 1883: John R. Ludlow & Co. (John R. Ludlow), real estate brokers and auctioneers, 207 Main – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1882: Yaupon Bitters advertisement (see below) – The Daily Journal (New Bern, North Carolina), 27 August 1882

Yaupon Bitters advertisement – The Daily Journal (New Bern, North Carolina), 27 August 1882

1883: Yaupon Bitters testimonial (see below) to Captain John R. Ludlow – The Daily Journal (New Bern, North Carolina), 7 October 1883


Yaupon Bitters testimonial to Captain John R. Ludlow – The Daily Journal (New Bern, North Carolina), 7 October 1883

1885: John R. Ludlow & Co., auctioneer and real estate, 207 and 209 Main – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1886: John R. Ludlow and John H. Hogwood, (Hogwood & Co.), oyster pkrs, Ludlow’s Wharf 42 Dunmore – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1888 – 1890: Ludlow, Townsend & Joynes (John R. Ludlow, Thomas Townsend and Ernest R. Joynes), real estate agents and auctioneers, 95 Main (up stairs) – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1892: John R. Ludlow, real estate, h 42 Dunmore – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1894 – 1895: John R. Ludlow, h 42 Dunmore – Norfolk, Virginia City Directory
1896: John R. Ludlow, death, 9 February 1896

More Virginia Bitters

Read: Two bitters that W. E. French was selling in Petersburg, Virginia

Read: Burwell’s Virginia Bitters – Richmond

Read: Hartman’s Old Virginia Bitters – Tonic, Appetizer and Man Restorer

Read: Milburn’s Kola Bitters – Winchester Virginia

Read: E. Baker’s Premium Bitters – Richmond (Virginia Bitters Series)

Read: Is the Magic Bitters related to the Penn’s Pony Bitters?

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.
This entry was posted in Advertising, Bitters, Civil War, Druggist & Drugstore, Ephemera, History, Medicines & Cures, Tea, Trade Cards and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply