Sarsaparilla & Tomato Bitters – Boston

BrownsSideMeyer

Sarsaparilla & Tomato Bitters – Boston

20 November 2014 (R•112314)

Apple-Touch-IconAHere is a bitters bottle that could be the most underrated and undervalued bottle in our hobby. The Sarsaparilla & Tomato Bitters from Boston rarely sell for more than a few hundred dollars which is surprising. First of all, look at the form and beauty of the bottle. It sums up what bottle collecting is all about. Crude, aqua, applied top, rough pontil, ample embossing and in this case, the words “Bitters” and “Sarsaparilla” on the same bottle. It also dates from 1844 to 1855. Shut the door!

SarsandTomBitterslabel

What prompted this post was seeing these graphics above for the Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters that Chip Cable posted on Facebook. Chip said that this was found on the inside of a box made in 1842. Pretty cool! This doesn’t guarantee it is the same brand, but there is, what looks like “Devereaux & Brown” wording beneath the tomato. A label noted by Ring and Ham say, “Two red tomatoes and stem with four green leaves covers the entire bottle”. Bingo. All this is odd because Frederick Brown put out the bitters in Boston. As you can see, F. Brown is embossed on the bottle. The “1842” date might explain why Brown was at first, an agent for the bitters. Where did it come from?

The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:

S 36  SARSAPARILLA & TOMATO BITTERS
F. BROWN BOSTON / SARSAPARILLA / & TOMATO / BITTERS // c //
9 1/2 x 3 3/8 x 2 1/2 (6)
Oval, Aqua, LTCR, Applied mouth, Rough and Metallic pontil mark, Common
Label: Two red tomatoes and stem with four green leaves covers the entire bottle.
Advertised in 1856 – for the blood
S36Browns_Meyer

F. Brown Boston Sarsaparilla & Tomato Bitters – Meyer Collection

S36BottomMeyer

Pontil on a F. Brown Boston Sarsaparilla & Tomato Bitters – Meyer Collection

Frederick Brown

Frederick Brown was a druggist and apothecary and was located prominently at the corner of Washington and State Streets in Boston, Massachusetts. The first reference I could find puts him at that address in 1840. The first advertisement I could find (see below) said that Frederick Brown was an agent in New England for Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters located at 68 Washington Street, corner of State Street in Boston. This was in the Boston Post, on Thursday, October 14, 1841.

BrownsTomsars_Boston_Post_Thu__Oct_14__1841_

Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters, Frederick Brown, 68 Washington Street, corner of State Street, Boston, agent for New England – Boston Post, Thursday, October 14, 1841.

This means the listing in Ring in Ham is correct under “S” for “Sarsaparilla” though it could, I suppose, have been listed under “B” for “Brown”. Brown changed his advertising in 1843 and put “F. Brown” before “Sarsaparilla & Tomato Bitters”. These advertisement were usually placed in New England newspapers (though I did find one in New Orleans) and ran through early 1847. Brown also advertised that the product did not contain any alcohol and was based on “Spanish Sarsaparilla” and “Extract of Tomato”.

I believe Brown stayed at the Washington Street address until the late 1860s when he died. I did find this passage in from the “Boston Herald,” on 31 October 1895 about Capt. John P. T. Percival. “In 1867 he returned to Cohasset, where he resided during several years, and on the death of Frederick Brown, who was at that time in the druggist business at the corner of Washington and State streets, he bought out that business in connection with Mr. J. O. French. Later, Mr. French sold out his interest to Capt. Percival about the spring of 1869, leaving the latter in sole possession, with Dr. A.K. Tilden as manager. Not long after this … removal was made to the present store of Percival & Tilden.”

As far as information on “Devereaux” if that does say “Devereaux and Brown” on the crate sticker, I can only find a later listing in Boston in the 1860s.

BrownEmerald

As an aside, there was also a F. Brown, Druggist (see bottle above) in Philadelphia who parallels the F. Brown in Boston. Lots of info on this guy. I can not tie them together.

Washington Street

Look at this really neat illustration of the east side of Washington Street in Boston showing F. Brown at the corner of Washington and State Streets. I have included the entire illustration and a few detail enlargements. Look at the soldiers parading and the dog on a leash. Lots more if you really look close. See original print.

Grandr_panoramic_view_of_the_east_side_of_Washington_Street_Boston_Mass_commencing_at_the_corner_of_State_Street_and_extending_to_No_206

Grand panoramic view of the east side of Washington Street, Boston, Mass., commencing at the corner of State Street and extending to No. 206. – Boston Athenaeum Collection, 1853

StateStreetPanoramic

Illustration detail of F. Brown at the corner of Washington and State Streets – Grand panoramic view of the east side of Washington Street, Boston, Mass., commencing at the corner of State Street and extending to No. 206. – Boston Athenaeum Collection, 1853

DetailFBrownOnState

Illustration detail of F. Brown at the corner of Washington and State Streets – Grand panoramic view of the east side of Washington Street, Boston, Mass., commencing at the corner of State Street and extending to No. 206. – Boston Athenaeum Collection, 1853

FBrownRightOnR

Illustration detail of F. Brown at the corner of Washington and State Streets – Grand panoramic view of the east side of Washington Street, Boston, Mass., commencing at the corner of State Street and extending to No. 206. – Boston Athenaeum Collection, 1853

 Advertising

BrownsSarsaparillaBitters_Boston_Post_Mon__Apr_3__1843_

F. Browns Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters, 68 Washington Street – Boston Post, Monday, April 3, 1843.

BrownsSarsBitters_The_Middlebury_Galaxy_Tue__Dec_23__1845_

F. Browns Sarsaparilla & Tomato Bitters, 68 Washington Street – The Middlebury Galaxy, Tuesday, December 23, 1845

F. Brown Druggist and Apothecary, 68 Washington Street, Currency and Receipt

FBS&TBCurrency

Script note during Civil War: F. Brown Druggist, 68 Washington Street, 1 January 1863, 03c. – Heritage Auctions

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Receipt: F. Brown, Chemist and Druggist – Agents for F. Brown’s Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters, 1844 – Meyer Collection

The New Orleans Connection – Dr. Stillman

After thinking about this further and looking at New Orleans newspapers around 1840, I now believe that the birth of Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters started here with Dr. Truman Stillman at his Southern Chemical Laboratory at 96 Customhouse Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. Note that the advertisement below says he is the “proprietor and discoverer” of Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters. The advertisement format is very similar as they use an abundance of product testimonials. Frederick Brown must have been the New England agent as I said before. Then he took over the brand. I would bet two tomatoes. Dr. Stillman, who was from New York, must have drank too much of his bitters, or not enough as he was admitted to a Lunatic Asylum in New Orleans in 1847 at the young age of 34.

Read More: Dr. Truman Stillman’s Temperance Bitters – NOLA

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

Advertisement
S 196.4 DR. T. STILLMAN’S SARSAPARILLA AND TOMATO BITTERS
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.
SarsandTomato_The_Times_Picayune_Sat__Aug_13__1842_

Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters, Sold only by Dr. Stillman, No. 96 Customhouse Street, proprietor and discoverer. – The Times Picayune (New Orleans) Saturday, August 13, 1842

Tomato&Sars_The_Times_Picayune_Sun__Aug_30__1840_

Dr.Truman Spillman on the cusp of discovering his Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters – The Times Picayune, Sunday, August 30, 1840

Select Milestones:

1840: Frederick Brown, druggist and apothecary, corner of State and Washington – article passage.

1840: Dr. Truman Stillman in New Orleans, Louisiana at his Southern Chemical Laboratory at 96 Customhouse Street. Working with tomatoes and Sarsaparilla.

1841: Advertisement, Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters, Frederick Brown, 68 Washington Street, corner of State Street, Boston, agent for New England – Boston Post, Thursday, October 14, 1841.

1842: Sarsaparilla and Tomato Bitters, Sold only by Dr. Stillman, No. 99 Customhouse Street, proprietor and discoverer. – The Times Picayune (New Orleans) Saturday, August 13, 1842

1855: Frederick Brown, druggist and apothecary, 68 Wasington – Boston City Directory

1863: Script note during Civil War: F. Brown Druggist, 68 Washington Street, 1 January 1863, 03c.

1867: Reference to Frederick Browns death.

From the “Boston Herald,” 31 Oct 1895: Capt. John P. T. Percival — Prominent Business Man Drops Dead on the Common.
Heart Trouble Follows an Accute Attack of Indigestion — Was the Senior Member of the Druggist Firm of Percival and Tilden — Followed the Sea in his Early Life.
Capt. John P. T. Percival of Percival & Tilden, the well known druggists of School street and City Hall avenue, dropped dead on the Common yesterday morning. He had an accute attack of indigestion, and it is believed that this superinduced a heart trouble, which occaioned his sudden death.
Capt. Percival was well known and highly respected, and very popular with all the patrons of his store, as well as with all who enjoyed the pleasure of his acquaintance. He was not himself a druggist, that part of the business being looked after by Dr. A.K. Tilden, his partner. He was 77 years of age, and was born in Hanover. In his early years he followed the sea, and was soon made master of a vessel, and during this pariod of his life he was in the Crimean war, trading in the Mediterranean. During the civil war in this country he was in the merchant service, and engaged also in trade with China, doing business in Shanghai, Foo Chow, Hong Kong, Formosa, etc. He was very popular and successful with the Chinese trade, and a massed considerable of a fortune therein.
In 1867 he returned to Cohasset, where he resided during several years, and on the death of Frederick Brown, who was at that time in the druggist business at the corneer of Washington and State streets, he bought out that business in connection with Mr. J. O. French. Later, Mr. French sold out his interest to Capt. Percival about the spring of 1869, leaving the latter in sole possession, with Dr. A.K. Tilden as manager. Not long after this … removal was made to the present store of Percival & Tilden.
Capt. Percival, though 77 years of age, was much younger in appearance. There was no one in the druggist business in this city more popular than he; every one seemed to know him, and he was esteemed by all. Yesterday, after his sudden death, his store was the mecca of not only old friends but many seafaring men, all anxiously inquiring about him and expressing sorrow at his sudden demise…. He leaves a widow (Sarah) and two daughters (by his first wife, Drusilla Snow). The arrangements for the funeral have not yet been made, but the remains will be interred in Cohasset.

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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