Could the Doctor John Russ Wormwood Stomach Bitters be from Iowa?


Could the Doctor John Russ Wormwood Stomach Bitters be from Iowa?

05 June 2014

Apple-Touch-IconAThe semi-cabin form, Doctor John Russ Wormwood Stomach Bitters is back in the news again today as the Outhouse Patrol has found shards in Belle Plaine, Iowa while they were on a dig yesterday. You may remember that an example of this unheard-of bitters showed up on ebay early last month (see ebay listing). That bottle was also found in Iowa and sold from Muscatine, Iowa. The bottle was won by Dave Lambert. See ebay pictures of bottle below.


Doctor John Russ Wormwood Stomach Bitters (example on ebay)

Bill Ham contacted the seller and buyer and was able to put together the following catalog number for the next Bitters Bottles Supplement:

10 ¼ x 2 3/4
Square semi-cabin, Amber, LTC, Applied mouth, Extremely rare
Found in Iowa

Here are the latest Outhouse Patrol pictures:


Doctor John Russ Wormwood Stomach Bitters in fragments on right – Outhouse Patrol


Doctor John Russ Wormwood Stomach Bitters fragments – Outhouse Patrol


Doctor John Russ Wormwood Stomach Bitters – Outhouse Patrol

So we only have one example to go by with the name “John Russ” on it. The bottle looks eastern to me. Could this be the same John A. Russ as related to the elusive Russ’ Stomach Bitters lady’s leg from New York and the Russ’ St. Domingo Bitters? Read: Russ’ Stomach Bitters – A New York Lady’s Leg and Russ’ St. Domingo Bitters – New York. That is a strong possibility. John A. Russ Jr. was listed as a liquor merchant in New York City as early as 1857 at 42 Water Street and 94 Pearl Street in 1859. Russ & Co. shows up as importers as early as 1861. John A. Russ is also listed as a clerk as early as 1853. He was never listed as a Doctor. His bottles did not show up in Iowa as far as I know.

Could it have been Dr. John Frederick Russ who was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1866 and lived and worked in various locations in Iowa such as Etna, Grant City, Buffalo Center, Iowa Falls, Mason City? He could have been chucking Wormwood Stomach Bottles in privies all along the way. He died in 1930. I doubt it unless he invented the bitters when he was in pre-school.

Could it have been Ferdinand John Russwurm from Germany? He lived and worked in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. He shortened his name to John Russ on some records. Russwurm … Wormwood….too slippery here to be our answer.

I guess we will have to wait for more information. This is a great bottle and one of the great highlights and bitters mysteries this year. I have put a request in to Outhouse Patrol for a complete example. We’ll see.

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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