Belmont Tonic Herb Bitters – Philadelphia
23 January 2015 (R•053017)
If you are wondering why I have used cigar label art above when I am writing about the Belmont Tonic Herb Bitters, it is because Benjamin Labe was primarily a tobacco dealer in Philadelphia who took up a very brief moment in time to put out a bitters product. The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:
B 63 Belmont Tonic Herb Bitters
BELMONT / TONIC HERB BITTERS // ESTABLISHED / 1840 // BENJAMIN LABE & CO / PHILADELPHIA // f //
9 5/8 x 2 5/8 (7 1/4) 3/8
Square, Amber, LTC, Very rare
This is another extraordinary bitters that Jeff Wichmann had on his American Bottle Auctions For Sale page, also for just a very brief moment in time, like 5 minutes as that was how fast it sold. I might rate this bitters extremely rare. I have not seen an example before. Jeff’s wonderful pictures are below. Notice the Carlyn Ring sticker.
There is scant information on Benjamin Labe other than that he was born in Bavaria Germany on 28 November 1839. Both his parents were German and his father was named Jacob. He probably came to America like many German’s fleeing the political climate and revolution and settles in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The earliest business listing I could find for Benjamin Labe was when he was selling liquor on Front Street in the City of Brotherly Love in 1870. The following year he is a partner at Newbold Labe & Co. at 219 S. Front and selling liquor on his own at 337 N. Front. In 1873, his directory listing says he is selling bitters. This would be our date for making and selling the brand though the bottle is embossed “Established 1840“. This is odd. Where did Belmont Bitters come from? It certainly wasn’t from Benjamin who was born a year earlier.
By 1876, Mr. Labe is selling tobacco. In 1879 and 1880, Jacob Loeb & Co. (Joseph Loeb & Benjamin Labe) are selling tobacco at 62 N. Front Street. He next brings on his son Jacob and the company is called Benjamin Labe and Son. Later his other son Sydney joins him and it is Benjamin Labe & Sons selling tobacco. Benjamin Labe dies in 1893 and his sons carry on the tobacco business deep into the second decade of the 1900s.
As a side note, I did find a reference to General Frank Cheatham’s Belmont Bitters in Nashville in 1870 in the advertisement below. This is a different, and possibly unlisted brand though bitters collectors are probably aware of the great and extremely rare General Frank Cheatham’s Bitters in a semi-cabin form (see above). These could be the same bitters. Possibly another story.
1839: Benjamin Labe born in Rhine Bavaria Germany on 28 November 1839. Father Jacob Labe.
1870: Benjamin Labe, liquors, 219 S. Front, 64 N. Front, – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1871-1872: Newbold Labe & Co., (prob J. Lowndes Newbold and Benjamin Labe), liquors, 219 S. Front, 337 N. Front Benjamin Labe, liquors- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1873: Benjamin Labe & Co. (Benjamin Labe), bitters, 127 N. Front – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1874: Benjamin Labe & Co. (Benjamin Labe), liquors, 127 N. Front – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1876: Benjamin Labe, tobacco, 56 N. 2nd – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1879-1880: Jacob Loeb & Co. (Joseph Loeb & Benjamin Labe), tobacco, 62 N. Front – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1892: Fire at Benjamin Labe & Son resulting in loss of stock notice (see below) – The Times, Monday, March 28, 1892
1895: Benjamin Labe & Son have the Cincinnati Drug and Chemical Company on a bill exchange for $701.35 – The Pharmaceutical Era, Volume 13
1900: Benjamin Labe & Sons, tobacc0 (Benjamin, Jacob & Sidney Labe), 231 N. 3rd –Boyd’s Co-partnership and Residence Business Directory of Philadelphia City
1900: Benjamin Labe, merchant, age 61, born in Germany in 1839, wife Harriet, sons Sydnet and Darvin, Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – United States Federal Census
1906: Death Benjamin Labe at 68 years old.
1910: Heavy Tobacco Deals notice (see below), 600 cases of tobacco sold to Benjamin Labe & Bro.. – The Citizen, Honesdale, Wayne Co., PA., Wednesday, November 2, 1910
1914: Benjamin Labe & Sons, Wholesale Tobacc0 (Jacob & Sidney Labe), 236 N. 3rd –Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory