Dr. Truman Stillman’s Temperance Bitters – NOLA


Dr. Truman Stillman’s Temperance Bitters – NOLA

21 November 2014 (R•112314) (R•121014) (R•061415)



Dr. Truman Stillman’s Temperance Bitters (see advertisement below) is an unlisted bitters that was uncovered while I was trying to find out the original source of the Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters. Initially I thought that the Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters was made in Boston in the mid 1840s by F. Brown (Frederick) as his name is embossed on the bottle. Research shows that initially, he was only the New England agent for the bitters.

The new listing by Bill Ham for the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2:

Truman Stillman M.D., 96 Customhouse Street, N.O. La.
The Times Picayune (New Orleans) Wednesday, July 21, 1841
Frederick Brown was the New England agent.
Prepared only by Dr. Stillman, 96 Customhouse Street, N.O. La., proprietor and discoverer.
The Times Picayune (New Orleans), Tuesday August 16, 1842
The Times Picayune (New Orleans) Sunday, August 30, 1840

Advertisement for T. Stillman’s Temperance BittersThe Times Picayune (New Orleans), Tuesday August 16, 1842

When you say “New England agent” that means the bitters is coming from some place outside of the region. Further research takes us to New Orleans and Dr. Truman Stillman who first started advertising Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters in 1842 (see advertisement below).


Advertisement for T. Stillman’s Sarsaparilla and Tomato BittersThe Times Picayune (New Orleans), Saturday August 13, 1842

Prior to advertising his Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters and his Temperance Bitters, Dr. Stillman was heavily advertising his Stillman’s Sarsaparilla Syrup and Blood Pills (see advertisements below).


Dr. Truman Stillman’s Patent Medicines advertisement – The Times Picayune (New Orleans) Sunday, August 30, 1840


Dr. T. Stillman’s Sarsaparilla Syrup and Blood PillsThe Times Picayune (New Orleans) Wednesday, July 21, 1841

There is scant information on Dr. Stillman, but what I do find is that Truman Stillman was born in Oneida County, New York about 1815. He next shows up in 1840 as a doctor in New Orleans at his Southern Chemical Laboratory at 96 Customhouse street. He is totally engrossed with the value of Spanish sarsaparilla and tomatoes and says that his bitters are natural without the need for alcohol. He is aiming for the female market and by using the word “Temperance”. The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826 and within 12 years they claimed more than 8,000 local groups and over 1,500,000 members. One advertisement says his product is “extremely pleasant as well as effective, and may be resorted to without the imputation of dram-drinking”.

He sells his products in a variety of places using agents like Frederick Brown in Boston. Other agents were in Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Natchez, Vicksburg, New York, Charleston, Augusta, England and the Island of Cuba (Don Pedro & Co.). He also places many advertisements warning of counterfeit imitations.

There are signs of trouble in 1845 when Dr. Stillman is arraigned for violently assaulting is wife.


Stillman assaults wife – The St. Landry Whig (Opelousas, Parish of St. Landry, La.) July 03, 1845

In 1846 Dr. Stillman is listed as a doctor, surgeon and proprietor of the Louisiana Lock Hospital Institution at 37 Bourbon st. He must have moved on from his Southern Chemical Laboratory business. You went to the Lock Hospital for the “most speedy and permanent cure for Gonorrhoea, Gleets, Strictures, Affections of the Kidneys, Diseases of the Bladder, Gravel, Seminal Weakness, Involuntary Seminal Emissions and Impotency”. They offered “a perfect and permanent cure for certain secret habits and secret diseases” too. They also sold “Lucina Cordial” or “Elixir of Love” to restore vigor. Love this stuff.

I am wondering if he did not have good ventilation in his chemical laboratory of if he was putting mercury in his bitters because in early 1847 he is committed for a spell to the Lunatic Asylum in New Orleans for Delirium Traumaticum (see 1830 definition below). He dies in New York City later that year.


Delirium Traumaticum – The surgeon’s vade mecum, Robert Druitt, 1839

Below is a new picture that I came across showing an extremely rare Dr. Stillman’s Sarsaparilla.


Dr. Stillman’s Sarsaparilla New Orleans from an anonymous New Orleans collection.


Dr. Stillman’s Sarsaparilla New Orleans – Gene Baudouin Collection


Dr. Stillman’s Sarsaparilla New Orleans – Gene Baudouin Collection

Select Listings

abt 1815: Truman Stillman born in Oneida County, New York.
1835: Truman Stillman, M.D., 233 Broadway – New York City Directory
1836: Truman Stillman, M.D., 422 Broadway – New York City Directory
1837: Truman Stillman, M.D., 359 Broadway – New York City Directory
1840: Dr. T. Stillman, Free White Person, New Orleans Ward 1, Orleans, Louisiana – 1840 United States Federal Census
1842: Dr. Trueman Stilling, 96 Customhouse St. – Orleans Parrish Louisiana City Directory
1843: T. Stillman, occupation Doctor, passenger on Empressario from Havana Cuba to New Orleans, Louisiana, 27 March 1843 arrival date, age 28 – New Orleans Passenger Lists
1845: Dr. Truman Stillman violently assaults wife (see clipping above) – The St. Landry Whig (Opelousas, Parish of St. Landry, La.) July 03, 1845
1846: Dr. Truman Stillman, proprietor of the Louisiana Lock Hospital Institution (also listed under Doctors), 37 Bourbon st. – New Orleans annual and commercial register of 1846
1847: Admissions to Lunatic Asylum Orleans Parish, Truman Stillman, physician, from Oneida County, New York. Age 34 years. Delirium Traumaticum
1847: Death, Dr. Truman Stillman, 27 January 1847, death place, New York City, New York – New York, Genealogical Records, 1675-1920

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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