Dandelion Bitters – The Great Herb Blood Remedy
John H. Sheehan & Company, Utica, N.Y.
03 February 2015
The other day I noticed a Dandelion Bitters advertising trade card on eBay that I was not familiar with. The bitters was put out by John H. Sheehan & Company in Utica, New York. There are quite a few Dandelion Bitters, a number of them we have posted about before including:
Dr Grant’s, Dandelion Bitters, New York. (Unlisted)
When I saw this trade card image, I contacted bitters ephemera collector Joe Gourd who promptly provided most of the trade cards for this post. The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles Supplement is as follows. The listing will need to be updated with the bottle information.
D 10.5 DANDELION BITTERS, John N. Sheehan & Co., Sole Agents, 155 Genessee Street, Utica, N.Y.
The Mohawk Valley Antique Bottle Club (MVABC) has this low resolution example pictured above posted on their website. Thanks to Marianne Dow for reference. According to the club, this aqua example was dug in a Utica dump and they caption with the pictured example, “Could this have been a Sheehan Dandelion Bitters bottle?” Probably so.
Here is another listing in Bitters Bottles that is also supposed to be related to John H. Sheehan. I believe this bottle should not be attributed to John H. Sheehan but should be attributed with the XXX Begg’s Dandelion Bitters of Chicago.
D 12 XXX DANDELION BITTERS
XXX / DANDELION / BITTERS // f // f // f //
Manufactured by John H. Sheehan & Co. 155 Genesee St. Utica, New York
7 1/4 x 3 1/4 x 1 1/2 (5 1/4)
Rectangular – strap side, Amber and Clear, LTC, Tooled lip, Scarce
Lettering reads base to shoulder.
Trade card has art work by Kate Greenway. Directory of Utica 1906.
John H. Sheehan
John H. Sheehan was born in County Clare, Ireland on 16 March 1838. He lost both of his parents at an early age and came to America when he was about six years old with an elder sister and settled initially in Troy, New York. He attended public schools in Troy and finished with a higher education degree in Utica, New York. When he was fourteen years old, he worked in the drug store of Uriah H. Kellogg as an errand boy. Grove & Hamilton druggists succeeded the Kellogg drug store four years later where Sheehan worked for a short time after. Next Sheehan, in 1857, worked for Dickinson, Comstock & Company who were wholesale grocers and druggists. In 1865, Sheehan became a partner. He worked in this capacity until 1868 when he formed a partnership with his father-in-law, Peter Vidvard. Vidvard & Sheehan sold wines and liquors and were located at 45 and 47 John Street. They continued in business until 1878.
In January, 1878, Mr. Sheehan started his own wholesale and retail drug business located at the Oneida National Bank building. This building burned down along with his drug business on June 10, 1886. In 1884, Sheehan partnered with an employee, Charles S. England and Philip Sweeney and the firm name was changed to John H. Sheehan & Co. In the fall of 1886, John H. Sheehan & Co. relocated to 167 Genesee Street, purchasing the site from one of the heirs of the late John Carton. The Dandelion Bitters would have been made in this time period.
Their drug store business was described as follows in The Mercantile and Manufacturing Progress of the City of Utica, N.Y. and Environs in 1888:
The premises occupied for the business are newly constructed, and have been built with a special reference for the conduct of the enterprise. The building is substantially constructed of brick, is very handsome and striking in its appearance, and has every convenience about it which in the least degree would facilitate the advantageous display, or the economic handling of the stock. The lot upon which it stands is 170 feet long with a width of 231 feet in front, and 33 feet in the rear. The front floor is devoted to the retail trade and offices, and in the rear to the wholesale operations. The prescription business is also attended to on this floor. The second floor is devoted to the storage of the stock of proprietary medicines, perfumes, chemicals, fancy goods, &c., and the shipping operations are here carried on. The third floor is used to store powdered drugs, herbs, roots. barks, &c., and on the fourth floor may be found a large stock of druggists’ glassware and sundries, and in addition here is the laboratory, where a variety of elixirs, tinctures, &c., are manufactured. The fifth floor and basement are used for general storage. Messrs. John H. Sheehan & Co. are importers and dealers in everything in the way of drugs, chemicals and pharmaceutical preparations from the most eminent manufacturers, also standard proprietary medicines, dyes and dye stuffs, druggists’ sundries, glassware, fancy articles, paints, oils, varnishes, brushes, the finest wines and liquors for medicinal purposes, and indeed everything required for the complete equipment of a first-class drug establishment. In each and every department the stock will be found ample, varied and of the highest quality and selection. The firm supply a trade throughout Central and Northern New York, and the exigencies of their business require the services of about thirty assistants, including three commercial travelers on the road.
In 1891, Sheehan would partner with a fellow named Martin W. Kelly and the business was called Sheehan & Kelly at 167 Genesee Street. Later in the 1900’s the business was again called John H. Sheehan & Co. and they were still located at 167 Genesee Street.
A profile from the period said that Mr. Sheehan was a Democrat in politics, a successful business man, and was charity commissioner for one year, being appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Joseph Fass. He was a member of Fort Schuyler Club and took an active interest in the welfare of the city of Utica. On September 13, 1865, he married Josephine Francis Schaler, step-daughter of Peter Vidvard, and they had six children: Dr. John P., a physician of Utica; Edward J., of the Sheehan Fruit Syrup Company, of Utica; Robert S., who died April 15, 1894, aged twenty-one; Frederick Paul, a student at Fordham College in New York city; and Josephine Catherine and Agnes Emily, students in Mrs. Piatt’s Ladies’ Seminary of Utica.
John H. Sheehan retired in 1908 but kept an office, from which he managed his real estate holdings, which seem to have been extensive. His wife passed away in 1920 and he followed in 1924. According to Fred Capozzella at the Mohawk Valley Antique Bottle Club, several of Sheehan’s children are also known to collectors. One son, John P. (1868-1945), was a physician and liquor dealer, best known from his Sheehan’s Malt Whiskey bottles, in several sizes. He was also a malt rectifier and dealt in drugs, medicines, and paints. He was educated at Georgetown University and the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, but seems to have been primarily a merchant. He was involved with the Sheehan Fruit Syrup Company, along with his brother Edward J. (1870-1919).
John H. Sheehan & Company was also selling a DeWolf’s Dandelion Bitters in 1885 and 1886. At first I suspected that the DeWolf’s was the predecessor of Sheehan’s own version of Dandelion Bitters. This may not be so as there are advertisements in the early to mid 1900’s for DeWolf’s being sold by Sheehan. The advertisement for the DeWolf’s does say, “The Great Herb Blood Remedy” just as the Dandelion Bitters so I suspect, after all, it is the same brand. Thanks to Marianne Dow for this lead.
Read about another bitters from Utica: Dr. Sawens Life Invigorating Bitters