J. W. Hutchinson’s Tonic Bitters – Mobile, Alabama
19 October 2014 (R•110314 – Info and examples from Rod Vining) (R•053017) (R•061917) (R•040220 – Rod Vining Color Run)
I suspect many bitters collectors have noticed that spectacular example of a Hutchinson’s Tonic Bitters from Mobile, Alabama in the current American Glass Gallery Auction #13. No sense hiding it. The right people know. I used the nice full-page Civil War illustration above from March 26, 1864 in Harper’s Weekly to set the tone for this piece. The map below is Mobile in 1815. You can actually see Dauphin Street running up the middle of town. John W. Hutchinson was a druggist at Dauphin and Warren Street (see this location now) as early as 1840.
The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:
H 220 HUTCHINSON’S TONIC BITTERS
J. W. HUTCHINSON’S // TONIC BITTERS // MOBILE, ALA. // sp //
9 x 2 3/4 (7) 3/8
Square, Olive green, Olive amber and Amber. LTCR and LTC, Applied Mouth
4 sp – Rare; Aqua, Metallic pontil mark – Extremely rare
Mobile Directory: 1859-1881 John W. Hutchinson was a druggist at the southwest corner of Dauphin and Warren Streets.
What fascinates me is the long shelf-life of this bitters. From the best that I can tell, John W. Hutchinson was selling J. W. Hutchinson’s Tonic Bitters from 1840 to 1879. That is 39 years. Hutchinson was a druggist located at the corner of Dauphin and Warren Streets in Mobile, Alabama all of those years. I suspect that there may be earlier examples of the bottle than the one pictured in the American Glass Gallery auction. Ring & Ham note aqua and pontiled examples out there too. Look at some of the really cool advertisements below that I found in Mobile City Directories. Notice that he also sells garden seeds.
It is my belief that most of the colored Hutchinson’s have had the original iron pontils fire polished off during manufacture. This is especially evident on my olive green example. (See picture below) You can see that it was pontiled, and removed. I also have large shards that I dug of a radically different EMERALD green Hutchinson’s, with a huge iron pontil on it. “The colored ones ain’t supposed to come that way” but at least one did, and I wish it had been whole. I also believe that the Hutchinson bitters were only sold for a very short time in embossed bottles. There was always advertising hype of “tried and true”, “Indian”, or even “ancient” recipes applied to even new concoctions in order to increase sales. I have found listings from the old city directories that list J.W. Hutchinson in business in Mobile from 1855 to 1872, so I don’t know why one of his ads has “1840” at the top. I also have pontiled and smooth base, embossed drug store bottles form J. W. Hutchinson, in five different sizes. Some of these may have been sold with a label only version of his bitters, before, during, and after he put it up in embossed bottles, but no one knows. – Rod Vining
1811: John W. Hutchinson born in New York – 1870 United States Federal Census
1840: Year indicated that J. W. Hutchinsons Tonic Bitters was created (see 1877 advertisement below)
1854: Advertisement (see below), J. W. HUTCHINSON, DRUGGIST, Corner of Dauphin and Warren Streets. Manufacturer of J. W. Hutchinson’s Tonic Bitters. – The Southern Business Directory (Alabama)
1856: Advertisement (see below) J. W. Hutchinson’s Tonic Bitters for Yellow Fever – Cholera – The Times Picayune (New Orleans) Monday, April 7, 1856
1861: John W. Hutchinson, druggist (see advertisement below), 263 and 265 Dauphin – Mobile, Alabama City Directory
1866-72: John W. Hutchinson, druggist and apothecary, se corn Warren and Dauphin and Warren, res same (see 1872 directory advertisement below) – Mobile, Alabama City Directory
1870: John W. Hutchinson, Retail Druggist, Mobile, Ward 6, Alabama (lives with William H. Crippen family) – United States Federal Census
1873-79: Listing and 1877 advertisement (see below) John W. Hutchinson, manuf’r Hutchinson’s Tonic Bitters, 263 Dauphin, res same – Mobile, Alabama City Directory
Not that a Dr. Ferguson’s Aromatic Bitters is noted above. This appears to be unlisted. The Celebrated Cocktail Bitters is in reference to the extremely rare Davidson & Company “Cocktail Bitters”. This iOS C 183 in Ring and Ham.
1879: John W. Hutchinson, stationer, se corn Warren and Dauphin and Warren, res same – Mobile, Alabama City Directory