Dr. Swayne’s Bitter Catholicon – A Very Valuable Bitters


Dr. Swayne’s Bitter Catholicon – A Very Valuable Bitters

26 September 2014

Apple-Touch-IconAJeff Noordsy, up in Cornwall, Vermont, posted three pictures of an early, pontiled, aqua bitters saying “Yup, it’s cracked but how many of you have seen a “Swayne’s – Valuable Bitters – Bitter, / Catholicon – Philada”? Not me I say. How cool. By the way, this brand is not to be confused with Swain’s Bourbon Bitters.


“Swayne’s – Valuable Bitters – Bitter, / Catholicon – Philada” – Jeff Noordsy

Carlyn Ring and W. C. Ham list in Bitters Bottles Supplement:

6?x 2 ½? X 1 ¼?
Rectangular, Aqua, DC, Applied mouth, Rough pontil mark, Extremely rare
Dr. Swayne & Son, Philadelphia, Norristown Directory (Pennsylvania), 1860-61

Dr. Huson Swayne

Huson Swayne was born in Chester, Pennsylvania on 07 December 1793. He would marry Susanna Phillips on 16 April 1818 in Hockessin, Chester, Pennsylvania and have three children, one being William P. Swayne (1825-1906) who would later work with his father.

Dr. Swayne started is business around 1838. Listings in the mid to late 1840s show a Dr. Swayne’s Family Medicines on the northwest corner of Eighth and Race streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over the years they represented and sold many patent medicines including their best seller, Dr. Swayne’s Compound Syrup of Wild Cherry (see below), London Hair Color Restorer, Dr. Swayne’s Ointment, Dr. Swayne’s Panacea, Dr. Swayne’s Celebrated Vermifuge, Dr. Swains Pills, Swayne’s Bowel Cordial and The Dr. Swayne’s Bitter Catholicon.


By 1861, the business was being listed as Dr. H. Swayne & Son (Huson & William P. Swayne) at 8 North 7th street. They continued in business together until around 1863, when Huson died. William P. Swayne then started to list himself as a “Physician” in 1867 and kept the name Swayne & Son. This made for a smooth transition around 1887, when he brought his own son, William A. Swayne into the business. They continued together for a few years, then, sometime around 1904, the business was taken over by Walter Micram and Howard Sowden. It is not known whether they bought it out, or just started managing it. William P. Huson would die in 1906.


Dr. Swayne’s Pills – American Museum of American History

The earliest advertisement I could find was from a Reading, Pennsylvania, German newspaper below from 1847.

Doctor SwaynesGerman

Very early Dr. Swayne’s advertisement in German – Der Liberale Beobachter und Berks, Montgomery und Schuylkill Caunties allgemeine Anzeiger. (Reading, Pa.), August 10, 1847

SwaynesWildCherry Logo Art

Marketing graphics for Dr. Swayne’s Celebrated Family Medicines and Dr. Swayne’s Compound of Syrup of Wild Cherry – The Columbia Democrat, March 31, 1849


Dr. Swayne’s Celebrated Family Medicines advertisement – The Star of the North (Bloomsburg, PA), October 7, 1850


Swayne’s Vereinigter Staaten Kalender, 1857 für Stadt und Land, und zum Gebrauch für alle Familien Published 1856 by Herausgegeben von Dr. H. Swayne & Son in Philadelphia – Written in German


Early advertisement for Dr. Swayne’s Bitter Catholicon – Reading Times, 15 April 1859

Select Timeline:

1793: Birth, Huson Swayne, December 7, 1793 in Chester, Pennsylvania. Father was Caleb Swayne (1749-1825) and Mary B. Wood (1753-1825)

1818: Marriage to Susanna Phillips on 16 April 1818 in Hockessin, Chester, Pennsylvania. Children Philena P., Albanus Rest and William P. Swayne (1825-1906).

1838: Marriage to Sarah Ann Tryon in Philidelphia on 11 October 1838. Children George, Franklin  and Dorothy C. Swayne

1850: Dr. Swayne’s Family Medicines, Dr. Swayne, N.W. Corner Eighth & Race streets, Philadelphia – Pennsylvania State Business Directory 1850-51

1861: Dr. H. Swayne & Son (Huson Swayne & William P. Swayne), family medicines, 8N 7th – Philadelphia City Directory

1863: Death, Dr. Huson Swayne, April 18, 1863 in Pennsylvania

1890: Swayne, William A. (Dr. Swayne & Son), h 330 N 6th – Philidelphia City Directory

1904: Dr. Swayne & Son – Philidelphia City Directory

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, History, Medicines & Cures and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply