East India Root Bitters – George P. Clapp
18 August 2014
I picked up a good-looking and pretty rare East India Root Bitters, in a tapered, case gin form from Boston, Massachusetts at the recent Lexington National Glass Works “Thoroughbred Auction“. A few people saw me eyeing the bottle and seemed surprised that I did not possess an example. I commented that this bottle was a different brand than the Kennedy’s East India Bitters from Omaha, Nebraska and the Dr. James India Bitters from East Brady, Pennsylvania, both of which I have examples in my collection. This bottle is also exciting in that it has great provenance with applied stickers from the Charles Gardner collection, Judge MacKenzie collection and Paul Hadley collection. The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:
E 13 EAST INDIA ROOT BITTERS
EAST INDIA ROOT / BITTERS / GEO. P. CLAPP / SOLE PROPRIETOR // BOSTON MASS // ESTABLISHED ( au ) 1858 // 9 5/8 x 2 1/2 (7 1/8) 3/8 Square – tapered, Amber, LTC, Applied mouth, Very rare Lettering reads base to shoulder
Note: Boston Directory: 1849-70 Geo. P. Clapp listed as liquor agent, wine merchant and proprietor of the Celebrated East India Root Bitters. 1880-85 Geo W. Clapp & Co, Bitters Manufacturers.
George Pickering Clapp was born on December 02, 1808. His father was Zebulon P. and mother Nancy. George married Mary A. Hawks on June 03, 1833 in Boston, Massachusetts who was the daughter of Joseph Hawks and Hannah Liswell. Clapp was initially a tailor but spent most of his life in the retail liquor business selling wines. He marketed and sold his Celebrated East India Root Bitters from about 1868 to 1871 though he states that the brand was available as early as 1858. “Establish 1858” is embossed on one shoulder of the bottle and also appears on a later patent application. Mr. Clapp was also a prominent member of the Massachusetts legislature, Masons, and Second Methodist Episcopal Church of Boston. Their children were Mary Motley Clapp, George Monroe Clapp, Abba Louise Clapp, and James Liswell Hawks Clapp. George P. Clapp died on August 04, 1872.
There was a Seth E. Clapp who filed for patent for “Root and Herb Bitters” (see below) on 21 April 1874. This is odd as I do not see reference to this product after his George Clapp’s death. There is also a tendency to want to find a relationship to Boston based, Billings, Clapp & Company who were manufacturing chemist and druggists in the 1870s. The partners were C. E. Billings, Albion R. Clapp and C.S. Davis and they have quite a few bottles embossed with Billings, Clapp & Co. As of this moment, I can find no direct link between Geoge P. Clapp and Albion R. Clapp or Seth E. Clapp. There were quite a few ‘Clapp’s” running around the Boston area at that time, many probably related.
Select Timeline Events
1808: George Pickering Clapp was born on December 02, 1808.
1833: Clapp marries Mary A. Hawks on June 03, 1833 in Boston, MA, daughter of Joseph Hawks and Hannah Liswell.
1839-1842: George P. Clapp, tailor – City of Boston Directory
1859-1869: George P. Clapp, age 62, liquors, wines, 3 Cambridge – City of Boston Directory *Note same advertisement as below except 3 Cambridge address.
1870: Advertisement (see above) George P. Clapp, Dealer in Wines, Proprietor of the Celebrated East India Root Bitters, Nos. 9 and 11 Cambridge Street – City of Boston Directory – also George P. Clapp, Liquor Agent, 1870 United States Federal Census
1872: George P. Clapp died on August 04, 1872
1874: Seth E. Clapp files for Patent for “Root and Herb Bitters” (see above) on 21 April 1874 – The Commissioners of Patents’ Journal