16 May 2014
The country around Sonora is largely whitewashed with a strange medley of medicinal recipes – all no doubt very good in their sway, but it cannot be said that the landscape is beautified by their repeated appearance. Our old friend “Bitters”, which had been with us ever since we first set foot in the New World, figured here in great prominence and in much variety. Some of the more frequent, yet withal useful announcements that we noticed, were the following:
“TRY FIG BITTERS;” “FIG BITTERS FOR INDIGESTION;” “WE TAKE WAHOO BITTERS;” “IF YOU HAVE AGUE AND FIND NO ENJOYMENT TRY HIERAPICRA BITTERS;” “TO PREVENT FEVER AND AGUE TRY HIERAPICRA BITTERS;” “USE MARSHALL’S COOKING EXTRACTS;” “TRY MARSHALLS HORSE LINIMENT;” “MARSHALLS HORSE LINIMENT GOOD FOR MAN AND BEAST.” And so on usque ad nauseam
There is a limit to everything, even to these hideous white paint advertisements. But on the road to the Yosemite Valley this limit is over-stepped, for one passes certain conspicuous white (and yellow) paint notices that are really not fir to meet the eye of the man or woman who has the least regard for any decency or propriety.
passage from Through America by Walter Gore Marshall in 1882
I like the passage above. Reminds me of all the reported Drakes Plantation Bitters signs that were painted on rocks, signs, fences and barns. Norman Heckler Auctions has a really nice example of a Hierapicra Bitters in their present Auction 110 which is now online. The photographs are quite nice, particularly the window example (pictured above). Also ex Gardner and MacKenzie collections which makes it even nicer.
Hierapicra means “Sacred Bitter” which is warming cathartic medicine, made of aloes and canella bark. Apparently, the bitters were sold out of Angels Camp, California. The embossed “Rs” have the curved leg indicative of San Francisco glasshouses of the time.
The Heckler write-up is as follows:
Lot: 14 “Hierapicra Bitters / Extract Of Figs / California / Botanical Society” Bitters Bottle, America, 1860-1880. Rectangular with beveled corners, medium blue aquamarine, applied sloping collared mouth – smooth base embossed “FIG”, ht. 9 5/8 inches. R/H #H-116 Listed as very rare. Fine condition. Ex Charles B. Gardner collection, ex Judge MacKenzie collection.
This is a pretty neat bottle that the western collectors like. Looks like Rick Simi picked one up at the FOHBC 2012 Reno Expo (see picture below).